Sunday, 21 July 2013

Manchester, Museums and Macbeth: Part 1

I have just returned from a very enjoyable weekend in Manchester, visiting my brother and his girlfriend. They'd contacted me a little while ago to invite me, and to suggest that I come up this weekend which is the final weekend of the Manchester International Festival, and we could, they suggested, go to see the outdoor screening of a live broadcast of Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston's 'Macbeth'. (the live performances are in a small, deconsecrated church, and cost £65 a ticket, and sold out very fast, so that was never an option!)

It was also an opportunity for me to see R & J, and to see their new home.

I had a very hot and sticky drive up on Friday evening, but was greeted with mojitos, which is the proper way to deal with such trips!

Cotton Mill machines
On Saturday, after a leisurely and tasty breakfast, we visited the Museum of Science and Industry, which I haven't visited for about 6 or 7 years. They have some interesting exhibits about the cotton industry (which of course was one of the big industries in Manchester)

(replica of0 'Baby', the world's 1st stored-program computer, built in 1948
They also have exhibits relating to the history of computing, Manchester University having been at the forefront of early computing, and flight - the first closed-cockpit plane was built in Manchester.

However, the area where we spent the most time was the engine sheds - and (unlike on my previous visits) they had their replica of Stephenson's 'Planet' running.

The original engine was built in 1830, and was the first locomotive to be built in large numbers, rather than as a prototype- this replica was built by enthusiasts in the 1990s.

We decided that it would a shame to turn down the opportunity of a train-ride ( although I think we may have been the only passengers not accompanied by at least one small child!)

As the museum is housed in a disused station/ station yard, the tracks 'Planet' runs on run parallel to the lines still in use, running to and through Deansgate station, so you can wave at the trains as they pass!

A lot of the other steam-engines (most of them industrial, rather than locomotive engines) were also running, so the shed was full of the lovely smell of steam-engines, and rather warm.

So, logically, our next step was to find some of the best ice-cream on the planet, from the wonderfully named Ginger's Comfort Emporium ice-cream van, which was located in Albert Square, heart of the Manchester International Festival. I have to say, her 'Chorlton Crack' (salted caramel and peanut butter) was delicious, as was the coconut and lime, and i regret living so far from Manchester, which will severely limit my opportunity to sample more flavours!

Later in the day, after a very late lunch/early super, we visited another part of the Festival, a piece called 'This Variation', by Turner Prize nominee Tino Sehgal, at the Mayfield Depot.

The depot is a now-derelict railway depot, and the empty space we walked through to get to the Sehgal exhibit was actually quite striking.

'This Variation' however, was .... odd. And not a little disturbing. You walk into pitch darkness, surrounded by sounds - songs without discernible words, the thump of ?bare feet, people you can't see brush past you, and it's all rather strange and disturbing.

We did not stay long.

And so to Macbeth, which I think I'll give a post of it's own.

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