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Manchester Musicians Collective

The Manchester Musicians Collective was formed in April 1977, inspired in part, by Dick Witts' involvement with musicians of the London Collective. However, from its conception, the Manchester collective took a very different musical direction. The first membership included members of Dick's Normedia group; Louise Alderman and Chris Griffin; Trevor Wishart, who was composer in residence for Northwest Arts. With the arrival of Mark Smith of ‘The Fall’ and Frank Ewart from The 'Manchester Mekon’, things changed forever. The groups had arrived. Frank, because of his technical knowledge, immediately became a central figure and The Fall played their first gig at Northwest Arts basement, where the original meetings were held. It soon became apparent that another venue was needed and THE BAND ON THE WALL had a free night. A pilot scheme was suggested to the owners Steve Morris and his partner. And they agreed to a few trial Sunday nights too see what would happen. It a brave move. (Steve played clarinet in trad jazz style and he found the music of the late 70’s difficult. However, he was a keen Musicians’ Union man and believed in encouraging young artists, whatever the musical genre.) The first few gigs were very mixed: different performance artists as well as bands and individual musicians. Dick Witts, Louise Alderman, Chris Griffin and David Pimlott, formed an improvisational group called, ’The Toy Town Symphony Orchestra’. They played a variety of instruments and wore frog masks. Gradually, the Bands took over. Though there was still sometimes an appearance by a collective orchestra of some kind. It was very exciting time musically, the mix of musicians brought something to each “camp” giving everything an edge somehow previously lacking and the gigs proved to be very popular too. As word spread more bands became members of the Collective; some for a short while, some for longer. A Certain ratio, The Fast Cars, The Not Sensible, Slight Seconds, Spherical Objects, Passage, Warsaw/Joy Division, were all Collective members. All the bands were friends and there was a rota of whose turn it was to play a gig and who would be headlined. Everything was organized by the Collective: members, printing, publicity (fly posting!).The press regularly reviewed the gigs and although this made them popular with musicians looking for recognition. It was never the driving force behind any event. People went to listen to the music share ideas and surprisingly (or not) to help each other. A year on, the idea of a Collective album was talked about. Steve Solomar already had his own record label Object Records and, as a collective member, seemed the obvious choice. It seemed to evolve naturally that it would be recorded on Object. He was given full artistic control to choose the line up for the album and to that end, attended many of the Band on the Wall gigs to see the bands performing live. The First collective Album A Manchester Collection was released in 1979 A Manchester Collection was released. A further album Unzipping the Abstract was released in 1980. (Submitted 03.11.08 by Louise Alderman)