Manchester International Festival starts today; Check it out



Today sees the opening of the fourth Manchester International Festival, with events ranging from the staging of Macbeth, featuring Kenneth Branagh as Shakespeare’s protagonist to performances by bands such as TheXX to art exhibitions featuring the work of artists such as Tracey Emin.

The full program is here, but I wanted to pick out  three events worth seeing if you get the chance.

The first is Masque of Anarchy; a 91-verse epic widely regarded as the greatest political poem in British history written in response to the Peterloo massacre.

A new interpretation of this classic work will be delivered by actress Maxine Peake (Shameless, Silk) and director Sarah Frankcom (Artistic Director, Royal Exchange Theatre)  in the impressive Albert Hall. This will not be one to miss; bringing together Manchester's past with a contemporary vision and remembering that past shaped the country we know today.

The second is Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait with Mogwai performing live, the soundtrack they composed for the film. One of the most beguiling portrayals of an individual in recent cinematic history, this is a football film like no other. Using 17 cameras, the film tracks the legendary French midfielder Zinédine Zidane throughout a 2005 Spanish league match at Madrid’s imposing Bernabéu Stadium. Mogwai have earnt their reputation as a force in modern rock music and are known for the intensity of their live shows. This should be a definite for any music or football fans!

In response to rising food prices, climate change and growing urban populations MIF and The Biospheric Foundation are asking the question: how can we continue to put food on our tables? As an MP I think about these kind of questions daily and it's great to see another brilliant project aimed at getting more of the public involved in these debates. With guided walks through the city and along the River Irwell to The Biospheric Project building, and participants getting the opportunity to learn about the historical context of food and the city.
During the course of the festival, many parts of the City Centre will be transformed into entertainment venues. For example, the Albert Hall will be reopened for the festival and will provide a uniquely atmospheric venue for a restaurant, bar and numerous performances. Albert Square will also undergo a transformation into Festival Square which will be filled with venues such as The Glass House, the Festival Cafe and the Pavilion Theatre.

With many of the events free and tickets still available for a wide range of entertainment opportunities, I would encourage anyone who has a spare hour or two over the next couple of weeks to head into the city centre and see what’s going on!


Road Safety: Deaths down but more still to do, especially on cycling.

On Monday I asked ministers whether they would consider lowering the drink drive limits.

Regular blog readers know my views on this, my opposition to increase speed limits on motorways, and my support for the 20’s plenty campaign.

The Ten Minute Rule Bill I introduced to parliament last February was part of the work I have done in the pursuit of safer roads, and I have been Brake's MP of the Year.

This blog is mostly about good news. The latest stats show that road deaths, serious injuries and road casualties are all down.

  • The number of people killed in road incidents reported to the police decreased to 1,754 in 2012 from 1,901 in 2011 (a fall of 8%).

  • The number of people seriously injured decreased by 0.4% to 23,039 in 2012 from 23,122 in 2011. The total number of casualties in road incidents reported to the police in 2012 was 195,723, down 4% from the 2011 total.

Child causalities (ages 0-15) also fell by 11%, and the number children killed or seriously injured also fell, decreasing by 6% to 2,272 in 2012 from 2,412 in 2011.

Some of the stats are worrying. The number of cyclists killed rose by 10 per cent from 107 in 2011 to 118 in 2012.

This is bad news, and shows how important the recent announcements of £40million of new funding to improve cycling routes. Locally, there is £600,000 of improvements including a big scheme planned at the Wilbraham Rd/Wilmslow road junction.

Not only is cycling healthy and enjoyable but by getting more people out of their cars and on their bikes, we can ease congestion too and strengthen our local economy.

There is still much to do, but the general trend is in the right direction.



Guest Blog: Una Gordon: Why I support Equal Marriage.


I'm a pupil at Chorlton High School and I am doing work experience this week for John Leech MP.

Part of my placement involves writing a blog for John’s website on an issue I care about.

Here is why I support Equal Marriage.

The fact that in this day and age, after all the momentous things we have achieved together, we still can’t stand together and fully support a group
of human beings that merely want the choice that should be available to everyone, regardless of gender, is unbelievable. It is the choice to have a
binding contract between partners. The choice of marriage.

Gay marriage should not be an issue in 2013. People have progressed so much with their beliefs and acceptance of each other that it just shouldn’t
affect the way we see people any more. If someone is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, that is just a part of them. You don’t judge people for
being straight, so why judge them for being gay? Gay or straight, short or tall, fat or thin, those are the qualities given to us; we need to embrace

It’s not right that people should be defined by their sexuality, or rather that some people should be defined by it. Is seems that if you are straight then you allowed to be defined by your skills, interests and hobbies, but if you are a lesbian then that becomes your defining feature. That is all people need to know about you.

Love is a personal, intimate thing that goes on between two people. Who, or what, those two people are does not matter.

I am proud to have an MP who voted to support equal marriage. I am glad that the majority of MP's voted to support equal marriage. Until Equal marriage is legal, we cannot truly say that the LGBT community are equal to the straight community.

SMR column: MOSI closure threat recedes following Minister's pledge.

This article for the Reporter was written last Friday. Since then, we have had ministers announce a better than expected financial settlement for museums in the spending review, and promise MOSI won't close.

My speech in the Commons on Wednesday can be found here


I have had a busy couple of weeks campaigning to make sure the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) stays free and open.

Last week, I persuaded the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee of which I am a member to investigate the funding issues around MOSI and the Science Museum Group, which is made up of Museums in Manchester, York, Bradford and London.

I have also raised the issue with the Leader of the House, and BIS ministers (MOSI wants to come under their department as it covers Science, rather than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport); lobbied Vince Cable personally and, by the time you read this, there will have been a debate in the House of Commons which I spoke on behalf of the Liberal Democrat MP’s.

The week before last I submitted an early day motion calling for MOSI to remain open, and free, and congratulating the Manchester Evening News on its campaign to protect MOSI.

The Museums Group currently has a £2million deficit, and this will raise to £6million if a 10% cut in its national grant takes place, and the Group does nothing to make efficiencies or raise income.

My view is simple. I want MOSI to stay open and to be free. I have no problem with the Museums Group trying to raise money through more sponsorship, patrons, legacy work, bidding for grants, marketing the site better, selling more merchandise or charging more for refreshments. I have no problem with MOSI saving money perhaps cutting top salaries, or using energy more efficiently.

But charging the people of the Manchester to go to MOSI is a backward step.

Last year over 833,000 visited MOSI, including 100,000 school children. This compares to 277,000 visitors when there was a charge. 5 million visitors went through the doors of the 4 museums in the Science Museum Group in the last 12 months. Getting just £1.20 per visitor more would wide out the deficit.

In the last year before free entry, 7.2 million visited UK Museums. Last year, 18 million went through the doors. 8 of the 10 top visitor attractions in the UK are free museums.


And the people going through the door are more diverse than in 2000. More younger, working class and residents from ethnic minorities.

MOSI is worth fighting for.


Support Didsbury Arts Festival 2013: 22nd-30th June


Over the weekend, I was delivering my share of booklets for next weeks Didsbury Arts Festival. After working up a sweat, I spent half an hour picking out my favourites to attend between the 22nd and 30th of June.


The festival now in its fifth year and has become a fixture in the local calendar. the full guide can be here.


It is a registered charity and showcases community arts including everything from art exhibitions and musical performances to craft workshops. Taking place in venues all across Didsbury there is something for everyone at this year’s festival and here are some of my top picks:


On the opening day Loose Change Buskers, 3rd Urmston Scouts, Guides Marching Band will be providing entertainment for all ages at Didsbury Library from 12 noon. That same day The Manchester Chorale Summer Choral Concert is taking place at Emmanuel Church from 19:30-21:30 with a selection of secular and sacred choral music.


For comedy fans, ‘Doolally does Didsbury’ on Tuesday 25th at One bar on Lapwing Lane at 22:00-23:00 brings everyday things to life with funny songs and on Saturday 29th  at the Albert Club the Edinburgh Fringe is bought to Didsbury with ‘Do Not Adjust Your Stage’, an off the wall evening of physical and verbal comedy from 19:30-23:00 costing £5. There is also a ghostly theatre production of ‘The turn of the screw’ by Henry James taking place in The Parsonage and its gardens on various days.


Throughout the Festival there are also many workshops available suitable for complete beginners and anyone who is interested in craft. These include ‘Make Your Own Garden Party Decorations’, ‘Knitting for a Newborn’, ‘Butterfly Mosaic Workshop’ and ‘Juliette Hamilton Design Willow Workshop’.


These are just a few of the events planned but there are many more for Jazz lovers, wannabe poets and film buffs. So please do try to get down to support local business and community arts to make this year’s Didsbury Arts Festival the best one yet.


I am going to events on the 22nd, 23rd and 29th June and you should take this opportunity to support local businesses and the Arts. With many events being free and others priced at just £5 it is a good way to have fun whilst not having to pay through the nose.

Hope to see you there!

PS) On the subject of Didsbury, congratulations to Peter Gidman for his film "A History of Didsbury".  The DVD is on sale in Didsbury Shops. To get involved, click here





Guest Blog: Cllr Victor Chamberlain: Council should support "Meat Free Monday"




Most of this article appeared in yesterday's Manchester Evening News. Some of the political bits were cut. Here is Victor's complete article so you can make your own mind up!

John Leech MP


As you read today’s paper you may be having something to eat or thinking about your next meal. But have you thought about where that food comes from and the impact on the environment, your health and wallet? Your next meal will probably contain meat or fish. We think of that as normal, but we do eat far too much meat and fish in the UK and it’s having a huge impact on the environment; 18% of greenhouse gases come from meat production! Have you considered having a ‘Meat Free Monday?’

Vegetarian and Vegan diets have only a fraction of the carbon emissions of meat-based diets. The UN has said that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport. It also says meat production is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems. We can tackle climate change by simply eating less meat. If everyone in the UK gave up meat for one day we could save the equivalent in carbon emissions of taking 5 million cars off the road. The well-respected Environmental Economist and former Government Advisor Lord Stern has suggested eating meat could become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving because of the impact it has on global warming.

The Liberal Democrat Chair of the Development Select Committee has said meat should become an occasional product rather than an everyday staple. He warned that it is pushing up food costs especially in developing nations and the need for pasture for cattle feed and ranching is fuelling deforestation. In fact meat production is responsible for 70% of the Amazon deforestation. Poorer countries are producing grain for animals rather than for the nourishment of their own people.  Over the last 50 years the amount of meat produced has quadrupled while the global population has doubled; we can’t go on like this. If we continue to rely on the global meat market we run the real risk of food shortages in the future. Reducing our meat consumption would ease this.

There is an enormous amount of evidence to show that eating less meat is healthier and helps prevent disease. Oxford University showed that eating meat no more than three times a week could prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer and 5,000 deaths from stroke, as well as saving the NHS £1.2 billion in costs each year. Eating some meat can be healthy but sadly we’re eating too much poor quality processed meat which is really bad for us. The meat we eat nowadays has been farmed on industrial scales and the nutritional benefits are reduced. A standard supermarket chicken now contains significantly less protein and more than twice as much fat as in 1970.

Eating less meat will save you money too. The average family spends about £13 a week on meat and fish but just £6.70 on fresh vegetables and fresh fruit. We’ve seen the cost of meat rise by 10% in just the last 6 years. A meat-free diet is significantly cheaper and is just as nutritious. In fact most people in the world live on a meat-free diet made up of cheap foods like rice, corn and beans.
Most of the meat we eat is farmed in intensive factory farms. 2.5 million animals are slaughtered every day to feed our country. These intensively reared animals are often in poor health because of the unnatural living conditions. By eating less meat we can show these animals compassion and stop their suffering. We are also wiping out fish stocks because of intensive overfishing. Some people think there may not be any wild fish in the oceans by 2050 if we do not stop overfishing and eating so much fish.

Last year I put forward a Council motion calling for Manchester City Council to acknowledge that it has a huge part to play in tackling Climate change and creating a sustainable green City. I suggested the Council can do this by removing meat from the menu in council catering and services one day a week. The Council has little authority to help residents become more ‘green’ if they are not promoting sustainability in everything they do. Sadly this proposal was thrown out by Labour Councillors; despite some having promised to support Meat Free Mondays in elections just a few months before. Manchester’s Lib Dem MP John Leech has taken the idea to Parliament and is calling for meat-free Mondays in all cafeterias in the Houses of Parliament.

The Council and Parliament should be leading from the front and showing that it really is very easy to give up meat for one day a week. We should encourage all schools, Council partners, and businesses in Manchester to follow suit so that we can change the culture towards meat and fish. We should also introduce clear standards so that food paid for by public money is compassionate to the environment and our health and reduces reliance on meat, dairy and fish. Having a ‘Meat Free Monday’ or meat-free day is not about everyone becoming vegetarian or restricting people’s choice but showing we can make huge positive difference on our own and as a society by slightly changing our habits.

For more information and meat-free recipes go to  and

SMR Column: Let's work together for a 20mph limit across Manchester's residential streets.

Last week the Council’s Executive met to finally sign off a plan that will take the first steps in making the default speed limit on residential streets 20mph. 20s plenty speed limits will be piloted in parts of Hulme, Moss Side, Fallowfield, Miles Platting & Newton Heath and parts of Ancoats, Clayton and Gorton using £500k from Government Public Health money.  This is a welcomed first step, but well overdue. Chorlton’s Lib Dem Councillor Victor Chamberlain passed a council motion with all party support to see 20mph limits introduced on all of Manchester’s non-major residential roads some 17 months ago.

I’m proud that we have all party support and this is now being taken up in Manchester along with other urban areas across the country taking the necessary steps to save lives.   Since I became an MP I have been passionate about road safety and have pushed successive governments on the issue.  I worked closely with Norman Baker on the issue when I was on the Transport Select Committee, and, now he is a Transport Minister he’s cutting the red tape in Government and making it easier for local authorities.

I have long been an advocate of “Twenty’s Plenty”.  In 2008 I introduced a bill into Parliament which the road safety charity BRAKE thought was such a milestone in the campaign they awarded me Parliamentarian of Year in 2008.

The council are now taking the important steps to improve road safety; the areas they have selected are based on areas of high deprivation and where there have been accidents before.  However, what the council need to do is roll this out city-wide and not play a postcode lottery with people’s lives.  This is about making our roads safer and more accessible to all users.

There are ways of quickly spreading the message of road safety in a cost-effective manner and one idea put forward by Cllrs James Hennigan and Mary Di Mauro would be to introduce 20mph stickers on wheely bins.  Obviously this would not be the only way of introducing 20mph zones but it is a quick and effective way of spreading the message of road safety and creating ownership of the campaign.

The simple fact is that when a person is hit by a car at 30 mph they are 50% likely to be killed. If someone is hit by a car at 20 mph they are 10% likely to be killed.

I certainly don’t want to read about another victim of a road accident knowing it was preventable.  We all need to work together and roll this out city wide so all Mancunians can benefit from safer, cleaner and greener roads.



Guest Blog from Cllr Victor Chamberlain: 20's Plenty first steps


In February last year I put forward a successful Lib Dem Council motion to see 20mph limits introduced on all of Manchester's non-major residential roads. I am delighted that this week the Council's Executive Committee has committed £500,000 of public health money to see this policy rolled out in three areas: parts of Hulme, Moss Side and Fallowfied, Miles Platting & Newton Heath and parts of Ancoats and Clayton, and Gorton North and South. Sadly Chorlton will not be included in this first rollout as the Council is focusing on areas of high deprivation and accidents where 20mph have been proven to be most effective.

This is a really good first step and will save lives and make our roads more useable for everyone. I'm pleased the Council is using the increased Public Health money the Government has given to Manchester to make this possible. Many communities are going to benefit from this first stage but we need to roll it out citywide so that ALL Mancunians can benefit! The Council shouldn't be playing a postcode lottery with road safety as this has a huge impact on people's lives. The Government is fully behind this initiative; Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker MP has and is continuing to make it easier to introduce 20mph limits.
20mph limits work best where there is community ownership and establishment endorsement. This requires extensive community engagement and public education not just traffic calming. Where this is done well schemes are self-enforcing. I'm pleased that the Executive recognised this point but it is really important that we ensure the Council do this properly and citywide. My colleague Cllr Mary Di Mauro who spoke at the Executive suggested the Council should explore the option of putting 20mph stick-on-signs on wheelie bins as a way of repeating the limit and giving people ownership of Twenty's Plenty. I think this is a really good suggestion and there's potential to have these stickers sponsored which could cover the cost and even raise funds to roll 20mph limits out further.
A great first step but we must keep up the pressure to see 20mph limits on Chorlton's and the rest of Manchester's residential roads!

Councillor Victor Chamberlain is the Liberal Democrat Councillor for Chorlton.

His blog can be found here:

SMR Column: In Memory of David Lee Collins


Last week a man was sentenced for manslaughter having killed a young soldier in Cyprus following a bar brawl.  Disappointingly Mohammed Abdulkadir Osman was only given 8 years for the manslaughter of David Lee Collins aged 18.  David was stabbed to death after a fight broke out in a nightclub in the Ayia Napa resort of Cyprus, one day before he was due to fly out to Afghanistan to serve his country.  A police search of Mr Osman’s hotel room found marijuana, two brass knuckles and 11 switch blades that the defendant said he had bought from a local store to take back home to give to friends.


The story is a tragic one and I really feel for David’s family who I know personally having been his Mum’s MP for the last eight years and prior to that her local Councillor.  I’m sure his mum Lisa must have been on tenterhooks knowing he was flying out to Afghanistan and it was the last phone call she wanted to receive a day before he flew out.


When I first became an MP one of the first things I did was to get involved the first cross party Parliamentary Group whose sole aim was to tackle the issues around Child and Youth Crime and I was proud to be Chair of the Group for three years.  Child and Youth Crime is a huge issue particularly in our large towns and cities like Manchester.  We have made huge strides in tackling gang culture and youth crime but the work never stops.

19 year old Osman stated the 11 switch blades and two brass knuckles were for his friends in London.  Even if this was the case, the fact that this teenager bought these weapons demonstrates there is so much more work to be done to tackle the issue.


David Lee Collins was a credit to his family and they have taken the brave decision to ensure he did not die in vain.  Since his death, his mum Lisa has launched a North West campaign “Stop Knife Crime”.  She has been visiting Schools around Manchester to tell her tragic story; you may have read about this in the South Manchester Reporter.  This firsthand account will have a huge impact on pupils and will go a long way in helping young people stay on the right path in life.


Chorlton Arts Festival: Your Bank Holiday Weekender

CAF 2013


We are right in the middle of the 13th annual Chorlton Arts Festival (CAF). The complete guide for the festival is here .

The festival is a showcase for local and national talent in music, comedy, visual arts, performance and more. It is spread over 30 different venues in Chorlton and goes out with a bang this Bank Holiday with the festival weekender. Here are some of my picks and recommendations for the Bank Holiday Weekender:

Starting on Friday night the festival weekender will kick-off with a range of events, none the least of which is the SoundProof Acoustic Sessions at Proof Bar on Manchester Road. Or alternatively, you have the opportunity to catch a one-off, new and exciting piece of performance created especially for CAF following a week-long intensive performance project at Chorlton High School’s Blue Box Theatre. The organisers promise that the night will be topped off with wine and strawberries.

If Friday hasn’t worn you out Saturday promises to be just as exciting, with Art in the Park  in Beech Road Park offering a chance to have fun and be creative with the Friends of Beech Road Park and Community Arts. While later in the afternoon Red Deer Club at the Beagle will offer you the chance to see some music outside on the Beagle’s first ever outdoor stage alongside the Beagle’s  very special BBQ. Topping off Friday night is The Jeffery Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band bringing you a brand of twisted garage-indie-folk with support coming from Misty’s Little Adventure all happening at St Clements Church on Edge Lane.

Sunday afternoon features a unique opportunity to see Lyn Fletcher, leader of Manchester’s world-famous Halle Orchestra, perform alongside two of the Halle’s principal players in the intimate set-up at St Werburgh's Church on Sunday afternoon. But if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, and the sun is shining why not get yourself on down to Chorlton Green with picnic blankets and picnic baskets. The Day on the Green will feature Mazazik Dance and Drumming with a troop fresh from Europelia International Folk Dance Festival in Marbella, followed by Jamtan African Drumming and workshops.

The weekender comes to a conclusion with headline act Toy who will be playing at St Clements Church on Edge Lane. Toy are preparing to support The Vaccines on their UK arena tour and have also secured a sought after slot at Manchester’s Parklife Festival. Manchester-based girl band Pins will be supporting Toy with their brand of New-York punk.



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