#Urbis has left the building
The now ex-Chief Exec of Urbis stated on Radio 4 a while back that moving the National Football Museum from its present home at Deepdale in Preston to Manchester was “a no brainer”. I couldn’t agree with him more: very little brain power was used in this decision. Enslaved by their monstrous egos and blinded by their visions of grandeur, the top brass at the City Council simply pimped Urbis out to the financially failing NFM. Myopic, arrogant and undemocratic, once again the City Council have ignored any sense of regional equity or ongoing development in favour of its apparent God-given right to leach prestige from throughout the North West, whilst simultaneously undermining and rendering embarrassing any claims to supporting the creative economy. In a few years time their books by Richard Florida will be stained with tears as well as saliva.
I’ve said so much about this whole issue, and expended too much emotional energy, that I’ve become very tired of it. But there’s still more I need to get off my chest.
The decision to move the museum will only result in old mistakes being made again. When Urbis opened it had a fixed exhibit based on the urban experience. It was mildly interesting (too much like a busman’s holiday for me) yet tatty and worn by the time I got round to seeing it. And it was a one-visit attraction. The NFM will be exactly the same. Once again the phrase ‘white elephant’ will become a crushingly ubiquitous mantra in the local press despite it being banished to an occasionally heard mumble since Urbis’ much needed and successful rejuvenation of the last few years.
There has been much hyperbole expounded about ‘football being done in an Urbis way’. Perhaps, but this relies on keeping and/or attracting talented curators and managing to sustain exhibits about football into the future. There’s only so many ‘Footballer’s haircuts through the years’ and ‘Hoolie fashion in the 90s’ a public can take.
My suggestion is to clear the whole building, sit Danny Baker in the middle and let him broadcast to himself about ‘goals scored with weird parts of the body’, ‘the best pies in non-professional football’ and ‘who wore the tightest shorts in the 1972 West Ham Squad.’ Such a venture would be as (if not slightly more) entertaining as the collection of sweaty t-shirts, fading programmes and grubby ticket stubs that the NFM now holds.
However, across the intertubes there’s been too much new middle class snobbery in the debates surrounding this whole fiasco. Too often have discussions slid, sometimes only implicitly but often explicitly, into the ‘football is not culture’ territory. Adopting their apparent roles as cultural intermediaries and controllers of taste, ignoring the middle class colonisation of football and the 60 odd jobs that have been lost, these people should be ashamed and to put it bluntly, fuck right off. Furthermore, there’s been too much said on how brilliantly Urbis ‘did’ popular culture, whereas as other venues only ‘did’ ‘elite’ or ‘high’ culture. Surely, and ironically, this distinction was kicked into row Z when Pavarotti sang at Italia ’90? Tsk.
With that all said I will deeply and sorely miss Urbis. When I visited the last and brilliant ‘best-of’ exhibition ‘Urbis has left the building’ I spent a good 15 minutes watching a rare video from the Hacienda including the Arch-Drude, Mr. Cope. Watching him mess up the opening to ‘Passionate Friend’, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I was sat in a public museum watching this video. I’m pretty sure I will never do such a thing again. This bothered me to both sadness and anger.
Anyway, a few years back myself and DJ DCM played an Indie set at Urbis. Actually we played records in a bedroom in our house, but it was streamed via the magic of tech to the virtual world of Second Life and Urbis therein. It was a very weird experience: me and him DJing in a bedroom to a few avatars in a simulated world with our respective partners downstairs taking requests via a laptop. I fondly remember someone typing ‘I fucking love the Wedding Present’ somewhere in the real world and it being relayed to us through wires and Miss S shouting up the stairs. And the texts from a friend insisting that we played some Gaye Bykers on Acid – something we resisted.
We were meant to have a follow up gig in virtual St. Helens. It never happened.
So my tribute to Urbis comes in the form of three mp3s of Indie/Ska/Grebo/Punk/Mod Gold. Some of it’s obviously Mancocentric, some of it very much not and some of it new. Which, if it needs to be said, applies to Urbis equally well.
So listen to these (with the following warnings in mind) and pray that an Urbis 2 becomes a reality, somewhere, somehow.
Warning 1: these are one long mix mp3’s so they might take a time to download. Track listing here.
Warning 2: the mixing gets dodgy towards the end of the third session. I’m afraid we were very, very drunk.
Warning 3: this product may contain traces of Goth.