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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, September 19, 2002
    If he meant that then he really is a genius
    "If he meant that then he really is a genius", said Ally McQuoist on van Nistelroy's flick-on with the inside of his knee to set up a great European goal this evening. That observation could also apply to the entire career of Tony Wilson, Granada TV presenter and northern music acolyte.

    I'm blogging about Manchester again - this time because I hired 24-Hour Party People and enjoyed watching it this evening. It's not a great film. And although in it the Wilson character (Steve Coogan) states catergorically that it's not about him, it's about the bands, that's untrue. It is about him, as the catalyst for much of what made for the very lively music scene in that city in the early-to-mid eighties.

    If he really meant to run Factory not as a business but as an "experiment in humanity" with money leaking all over the place through worthy but failed projects, with bands free to walk away from a non-contract written in Wilson's blood - then he really is a genius. Because in a strange way, it worked. Maverick outsiders got their big chance and some of them really shone. Culture was enriched. A whole 'scene' flourished. Personal failures and tragedy were never far away - the suicide of Ian Curtis, the drug wastage of Sean Ryder, Wilson's own marital misdemeanours - but this was all part of the rich tapestry of life in that place at that time, and the emphasis was on the life.

    Why did he do it? van Nistelroy - because of his pure instinct for goal. No - Wilson. He did it because, he says, his fatal flaw is his civic pride. He knew his city could be a great centre for the greatest movement in music since rock and roll. Before the end, at the heyday of the Hacienda, he was proved right.

    I bumped into Wilson - literally - at the Imperial War Museum of the North in July. He was in the entrance lobby of that amazing building filming for a Granada series called The Works, which over recent weeks has highlighted some of the current noteworthy people and projects in the arts world, North West. He hasn't stopped being a great advocate for what is indeed a rich creative seam not always, or grudgingly, recognised outside the region which spawns it.

    Bit like a midwife then, Wilson. Helping outsider art blink into life. Nurturing it to greatness. Whether or not he meant to turn out like that, there is a touch of genius there.