Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
‘This was once a graveyard,’ Morag tells me as we walk past St John’s Gardens in the city’s ‘regenerated’ Castlefield area. ‘Most of the green spaces in the city centre were.’ She adds that Angel Meadow, a park at the other end of town, is ‘the site of a mass cholera grave’.
Her tour of Manchester is very different to the official, sanitised version of its history – the one the council and its PFI marketing companies and development agencies espouse. ‘You get the industrial revolution and then the IRA bomb and the redevelopment that followed,’ she says. ‘It’s as if there’s nothing in between. But lots of things are happening, all at the same time.’
Morag is part of the Loiterers Resistance Movement (LRM), a Situationist-inspired psychogeography group that roams the city sharing knowledge and experiences of the ever-changing urban environment. The LRM tries to piece Manchester’s lost stories together by interacting with the city and other people. ‘I want to complicate the official narrative and deviate from the official tour,’ she says. ‘For me the city is about multiple narratives, diversity and personal history.’
She continues: ‘The dominant narrative is one of triumph [of the Industrial Revolution]. They never talk about the squalor.’
On one official walk they don’t even mention the famous Suffragette sisters the Pankhursts, she tells me – and ‘they never mention the Burns sisters’.
I look at her blankly, revealing my ignorance. ‘They were companions of Engels,’ she says. ‘They helped him gain access to the slums while he was writing about and living in Manchester. A dandy like him couldn’t just walk in there, he would get killed.’
We head down an old cobbled side street off Oxford Road. Among the gaudy new facades of the bars that line the street sits an ornate doorway dating from the 1920s – and some superb graffiti.
This is the first example of what Morag describes as ‘resonances’: the blurring between the past and the present. History, she says, ‘is not linear… things seep out of the past into the present.’ These resonances are what the LRM is all about. Their aim is to connect people with them, to give individuals a better sense of their environment, themselves and others.
At the end of the road is what she really wants me to see. It’s a plaque commemorating Little Ireland, one of the many slums that defined 19th century Manchester. Morag is clear she doesn’t want to fetishise the bleak conditions that were prevalent here – but nor does she want to ignore stories that are often hidden from the official histories of Manchester and other industrial cities. ‘There was one toilet here for 400 people,’ she says, grimacing.
‘These places still exist,’ she says. ‘We’ve just globalised them.’
We continue our walk, crossing Whitworth Street and then heading onto the path alongside the canal, passing new flats and converted mills along the cobbled towpath. This is one of Morag’s favorite places – one of the few areas in the city that’s free from the constant bombardment of advertising. But we are still, it seems, constantly watched by CCTV. ‘We asked for the footage once after walking down here,’ she says, ‘but most of the cameras were turned off.’
Morag tells me how the LRM play a game called ‘CCTV bingo’ by walking in the gaze of one camera until they find another. ‘It’s sooner than you think.’ This game-playing is central to the LRM. It may be silly and fun, Morag says, but such games help to give you ‘an emotional relationship with the city’.
Last year the group made an edible model of the city. ‘We took over 400 photos of buildings around the city and then constructed them out of cake,’ says Morag. ‘It wasn’t topographically accurate,’ she adds dryly. The cakes were then devoured in an afternoon. ‘The city is always changing,’ she says with a smile.
‘Whatever the council do with places like this, people will always adapt and appropriate them.’
The LRM meet every first Sunday for some sort of wander around Manchester. It’s free and everybody is welcome. You can follow and contact Morag on Twitter @lrm and Tim @timinmanchester
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Nick Dowson looks at the new wave of co-ops and community groups where people are building their own truly affordable homes
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali
To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi
Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun
Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh
With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook