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Hulme Carnival ’87.Ah the wonderful Aaben cinema. For a long time I believe ,the lifeblood of Manchester’s art house cinema; long before The Cornerhouse was ever thought about and was still a carpet warehouse with a loyal dirty mac brigade entrenched next door. Well I’ve started so I’ll finish; hangover will have to wait....First recollection of going to The Aaben (meaning “open” in Scandinavian speak I think), was prob round Dec. ’78.I know it had been snowing and the buses were on a go- slow and/ or strike; “Winter of Discontent”, Moss Side firemen stood round those brazier things outside their station trying to keep the cold at bay etc.Well I went to see a Dylan film “Renaldo and Clara”, 4 hours long and felt like ten. The only good thing I remember about it was some of the live footage and what a breath of fresh air and top bloke Mick Ronson was....made it almost bareable. It was like stepping into a time warp, walking through the portals of that building. It had a sense of better days long since faded and passed ,and in its hayday must have served the community well along with the nearby Hippodrome. Saw a lot of films there as it was in the ‘hood and was well worth supporting since it was for the most part run by volunteers.
The toppest of the top thing about the cinema though was that in the winter months, because it was voluntarily run and therefore running on the smell of an oily rag, they would supply you with blankets for warmth as each cinema (3,4 ? Can’t remember...) only had one of those portable calor gas heaters on wheels, up near the front, to take something of the chill from the air. Then to cap it all off you could nip out for mugs of tea and slices of hot buttered toast to keep your core temperature at a vital level;( try getting that in one of those plush multiplexes!). If it hadn’t been for those people offering their services through the mid ‘70s to mid 80’s, Manchester, culturally speaking, would have been a poorer place. Not that I was an avid art house patron; I liked a bit of mindless sex and violence as much as the next, with the odd car/ spaceship chase thrown in. I once nearly sat through the whole Star Wars trilogy on Oxford Rd. till me arse protesteth too much from numbness and I had to leave; I hope it was a happy ending. I learnt a lesson that day and never attempted anything like that again.I’m drawing a blank on films I saw at The Aaben probably ‘cos I can’t get my brain properly into gear, but no matter; it’s not what this is really about; (oh yeah,Manon de Source and Jeanne De Florette spring to mind; tres Frenchy, tres chic....Steve Martin, Woody Allen films etc). They used to have a deal going with The Grey Parrot across the way so you could nip in there after a flick and have a bevy and a chat over the spectacle you’d just witnessed; occasionally local bands played there too.
The only time I saw bands play at The Aaben was maybe round ’88? when a Mr. Robb put a night on. It was on the upper level, a place that had hitherto been off limits for the movie going punters, ,but it turned out to be a great space with decaying grandeur and those plush old red velvet curtains and drapes around the stage they used to have in cinemas and theatres back in Granddad and grandma's day; shame it hadn’t been utilised more often. I don’t know if it’s still standing in some heritage listed kind of a way (doubt it....can’t stop “progress”/ development/ greed etc.,) but it can be seen in an old Lindsay Anderson black and white film from the ‘60’s “The White Bus”, with Arthur Lowe as the local Lord Mayor; more than that I cannot say......Other T.V./ films I recall featuring M/c would be “Hobson’s Choice” with Charles Laughton and based in Salford, "Taste of Honey", the film “The Lovers” which became a T.V. series and featured a scene on top of the Piccadilly Plaza building, “The Cuckoo Waltz” which was nominally based in Chorlton –cum-Hardy as they liked to call it. Then of course “Cracker” ,particularly the one where the girl and lad kill a cop in a flat and heavily featured the Crescents. There was another show where a woman lives in Hulme, keeps cursing Margeret Thatcher and has a scene where a lad nicks a frozen chicken in The Arndale and defrosts it in dryer in a laundrette....no idea what that was but it was funny. Well there’s loads of stuff and I think it’s kind of relevant as it’s part of a bygone era but also part of a living history etc....
Probably one of my all time top 3 films would be Mike Leigh’s “Naked” which has David Thewlis’s character on the run in London for some misdeed in Manchester; top film! dark, funny and disturbing....
I worked on what was really the beginning of the new development and revamping of Hulme just next to The Aaben and by The Mancunian Way, (near the Regent Rd. roundabout where Interarms, the biggest arms dealer in Europe were based; hope that’s long gone!). In my not greatly informed opinion Ken Loach is “the man” for me when it comes to storytelling and film of a certain ilk ,and has integrity in spades; (good to see he’s in part, put up the bail along with the likes of John Pilger through this whole Wikileaks debacle. ) Well while I was working on this site, turning three deck access flats into 2 story homes, one of the old chippies I was working alongside told me how he knew Ricky Tomlinson of Brookside and The Royle Family fame back in the early ‘70s when he was involved in the Unions and the whole of the building trade in the North of England came to a grinding halt. Many years later he played a role not a million miles removed in Ken Loach’s “Riff Raff”, another great film. Funny thing with Phil, the old chippy, he never showed up on a Friday and told us he would leave the house as usual in his overalls (very old skool) and the sandwiches his wife had made him and set off for work, but would always take a detour. Sometimes Blackpool , Chester or wherever the whim would take him; get changed into his civvies and just have a day out before getting changed again to driving back home in time for his tea. Well, like a lot of those old troopers he was knackered and worn out before his time and just a year or so out from retirement so I thought “ good on him”.....he taught me a few things and his outlook on life was one of ‘em. Pretty much every weekend that building site would be raided and kitchens, bathrooms and fittings we’d installed would be nicked. Still, in the end when the original tenants who’d stayed around moved back in, it became a nicer part of the district and boded well for the shape of things to come i.e. the demolition of the crescents and much of the high rise through that large swathe of inner city, that were an abomination and an insult to the families who were forcibly moved out from their old homes and moved back into that architects’ and city planners legoland wet dream. Great for the likes of me and multitudes of other young 'uns with no plans or responsibilities, but little else.
Carried away yet again....So as the flyer says, bands (of which I remember little or nothing) and tea dances aplenty with parachute games and community computing (!) for all and sundry.Lem Sissay used to do that poem about “shoulder pads as big as the Mancunian way...”. I’m sure he’s still writing and performing poetry.Phew, that’ll do, John Barleycorn's got me beat. Haven’t even uploaded any photos yet!
Artefact added : 23rd December 2010
by dubwise-er
OT Says –
i saw a film called 'shocking asia' about 5 times at the aaben. i think maybe the owner (john?) must've had his own print. as i recall it was about the sex industry in the east... also i remember a whole weekend of woody allen films. i went with my mate paul and we were the only one's in the whole place all day. a bit different to the many showings of batty blue they had - always a fistfull (!) of dirty old men sniffling and shuffling around to that!
COMMENT ADDED 24th January 2011
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