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

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006
    Shrinking Cities and the Gethsemanes of Manchester
    Interesting thinking again about the Manchester Passion, in the light of a report I spent an hour printing off earlier today. I blogged about the Shrinking Cities project last November - they're the ones who brought a herd of prize cows to graze the streets of Toxteth. Their interest: to imaginatively explore ways to address the fact that our cities are getting smaller and large gaps are appearing in the previous urban heartlands (like where the cows were) and outlands (like where I live now, illustrated - from the Shrinking Cities site - below).

    So, about the Manchester Passion. I loved it, its messy, punkish approach had more than a hint of authenticity about it, making it feel quite like the real events might have done. But - perhaps because of its success in that respect - I have gripes. It was a shame that they took the obvious option to depict the resurrected Christ spectacularly - up in the skies, or actually, up in the massively backlit tower of the Town Hall. For authenticity the Christ who walked the streets earlier should have been walking among the crowds again at the end, surprising people in Piccadilly Gardens, cooking fish from a fast-food van for the dispersing crowds.

    Part of the 175-page Shrinking Cities report on Manchester/Liverpool [download] makes it clear how 'regeneration' not only bypassed the vulnerable, it actually killed them off ('the arterial roads through Salford and South Manchester scythe through old neighbourhoods, destroying their local centres...'). And this made me think, again, about the Manchester Passion's authenticity. Gethsemane was one of those hidden places out-of-town: perhaps the event shouldn't have been held in Albert Square at all, but in one of the many dustbowl underpass sites where once friendly terraces used to be.