Written as I moved around during the day and published on the evening of the same day, some field notes from utopia.
9:15 – Liverpool, Lime Street
I’m on my way to Utopia, or at least some versions of it that are in an exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. Having a Saturday out on my own, a one day holiday in a part of Manchester where I haven’t been since early days of knowing my partner Sarah, when she lived near the Whitworth in Daisybank Road.
I remember the gallery then as grand but tired. But now I know it’s had a lot of glass and newness added to it, and so I’m looking forward to seeing the place itself as much as I am their ‘Utopias’ exhibition.
It’s sunny this morning here in Liverpool and before I came into town for my train I was listening to Elizabeth Alker, broadcasting perfect morning music on Radio 3 from Salford like she does, already making me anticipate an over there kind of day. So let’s go.
12:30 – Manchester, Whitworth Gallery
The train here was ok actually, despite the fact that the condemned operators are now in their final weeks before their franchise is re-nationalised. On time, got a seat and it dropped me off at Oxford Road Station exactly when my ticket said they would. Must have known I was on a utopian day out.
Then I walked along Oxford Road, much changed and new now with the BBC gone and the university buildings much added to. The Gallery here, where I’ve been for an hour or so now, is much changed too, though getting myself deliberately lost not long after I arrived brought me up a pre-renovation staircase to the Grand Hall, empty and still looking much like the early 1990s in there, or still in the 1890s for that matter.
Here in ‘Utopias’ it’s an exhibition of two halves. One based loosely on responses over time to Thomas More’s original utopia. And the other, more interestingly for me, curated by the Whitworth Young Contemporaries and containing the table where I’m writing this now.
Of immediate interest to me is that the Contemporaries have collectively grouped the art in their half of the exhibition into themes, much as I’ve been doing in my own Utopian work recently. They’ve got seven themes, shown in colour on this list I’ve just written out. And I’ve roughly, very roughly, been able to group their themes with my own four categories, shown in black.
Spending time in here with their energy has made me think about my own work, which was one of the points in coming. About doing some public discussions, events or utopian somethings (I’m shying away from the degraded word ‘conferences’) as part of what I’m up to. Because people might like it, including me, and because pulling off an event about utopianism is a challenge. A challenge I’m not sure the other half of this event has quite risen to, with its looking backward linking of Thomas More and Brexit.
Leaving me with the thought that it’s the young people’s work I’ll remember from here. The work of young people growing up in an increasingly dystopian society who seem to have put their hearts and imaginations into seeing if utopianism might help them create some better options for their lives than the ones society has inflicted on them so far.
3:00 Manchester – On the Eighth Day
The café in the Whitworth was crowded and noisy and anyway I felt like having my lunch somewhere more utopian. On the way here, by an indirect route, I had a walk through Daisybank Road, Sarah’s old neighbourhood in Victoria Park. Deliberately walking through an imagined life we might have had if I’d moved to Manchester rather than Sarah coming to Liverpool all those years ago.
Remembering all those years ago when ‘On the Eighth Day’ was a much newer co-0perative vegetarian café and shop. But all is well. They still do small or large salad bowls you mix yourself and it’s been a treat to be in here for the last hour. Having my lunch and reading my Benedict Anderson book about ‘Imagined Communities’ on an imaginative kind of day.
8:00 Liverpool – Back home
So now I’l sort the photographs from the day and have all this ready to be a blog post during the evening of this same day. My day out in in utopia.
‘Utopias’ in on at the Whitworth until 27th September. Thanks to friends Kate Rodenhurst and Gerry Cordon for telling me about it. I had a lovely day out wandering around and thinking, the best kind.
More of my university work and thoughts here at Field Notes for Utopia.