On the Trail of 24 Hour Party People
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As leader of England during the interregnum years, Oliver Cromwell famously addressed Peter Lely, his portrait painter."Use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me," the Lord Protector said to Lely, "remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts and everything as you see me."
It is this ethos which is at the heart of Michael Winterbottom's 2002 movie, 24 Hour Party People
; a paean to Manchester which is as complete a love letter to a city as anything you are likely to find in the history of British culture. It's unflinching, it's unsentimental, but above all, it's jubilant.
The film's portrayal of Manchester's post-punk and subsequent rave music scenes is more than fond; it holds up the two eras as paragons of England's cultural development, and leaves you thinking that such an artistic crucible could not have occurred anywhere else but in Manchester. At one point in the movie, Steve Coogan's Anthony Wilson – with trademark hyperbole – compares the city to renaissance Florence.
But there are warts too. The gang violence and drug crime which plagued Manchester in the 80s and 90s is portrayed in all its gory, corruptive horror, while the hearts-on-their-sleeves idealism of the Factory Records team is shown to bring the company to the brink of financial ruin.
This is a film which is light hearted yet intensely somber in places; tongue in cheek yet also deadly serious; fun and yet thought provoking – but more than this it is a film with a message: that this is a very special city, where very special things happen.
So, where to start on the 24 Hour Party People
trail? Surely the best way is to approach the city in the same way Steve Coogan's character Anthony Wilson does in the film, by car. In a narrative device similar to the one used in the TV series Marion and Geoff – which Coogan produced and Rob Brydon, who also appears in 24HPP
, starred – much of Wilson's soliloquizing takes place while driving through the city.
Approach the city via Stretford Road from Old Trafford. Heading north you will pass under the Hulme Arch, which appears several times in the film (despite not actually existing at the time in which 24HPP
is set). Upon reaching the city centre, head east onto Mancunian Way, taking the flyover directly through the centre of Manchester just like Wilson does in the film. Look out for the familiar sites of Manchester University and the Beetham Tower that appear in the background as Wilson drives, and feel free to drop in a few quotes from the movie as you see fit.
Meeting with Boethius
The central theme to the second part of 24 Hour Party People
hinges on Wilson's encounter with the classical philosopher Boethius, in the guise of a homeless man played by Christopher Eccleston.
In a thick Mancunian accent, Boethius drawls "mutabilit-eh is our traged-eh, but it is also our 'ope. The worst of times, like the best, are always passin' away", at Wilson as the latter walks by him beneath the railway bridge on Albion Street. Of course Wilson replies: "I know… I know".
This hefty dollop of creative license serves as a perfect metaphor for the tumultuous life of Factory Records and the Hacienda club. To visit the location of this meeting, approach the city centre through the industrial area of Albion Street heading towards Whitworth Street. The bridge just before you reach Whitworth Street West is the one used in the film.
%%The Hacienda and Wilson's Interview by the Canal
Emerging from the other side of the bridge brings you to Whitworth Street West itself. The building on the corner – across the road and to your left – is now a block of flats, but this is the site of the real Hacienda nightclub featured in the film, and the cornerstone of Manchester's burgeoning rave scene in the late 1980s. Continuing up the road a little way towards the city centre brings you to The Ritz, the club used for the exterior shots of the Hacienda in 24HPP
Walking up the road a little further you will see the canal footpath on your left. This brings you into the fashionable and charming Castlefield area of the city, and is the location for Wilson's – at this point a journalist working for North West Tonight – interview with the old canal worker, depicted in the movie.
This part of the city is also home to an outdoor mural, outlining some of the Hacienda's most era-defining moments. Although not featured in 24 Hour Party People
, this is definitely worth a look for fans of the movie.
The Factory Club and Wilson's Encounter with a Gun-toting Shaun Ryder
The original Factory Club, featured in the movie's early scenes, was in Moss Side and is no longer in existence. However, the Factory interior scenes were shot at Jilly's Rockworld, a night club on Oxford Road, only a few hundred yards away from the Hacienda.
While the building housing Jilly's Rockworld is currently not open to the public, there is hope that this will change in the future. Those who want to experience the spirit of 24HPP
's Manchester can try the Jilly's revival night, Back from Hell at Alter Ego, which is nearby, or FAC251 – a club that seeks to invoke the essence of those early Factory and Hacienda nights. Both clubs are on Princess Street, which runs parallel to Oxford Road.
Fans of the scene in which Shaun Ryder and his dealer Nathan hand over the ransomed master tapes to Wilson while Ryder brandishes a handgun (prompting Wilson to utter one of his many top-drawer lines; "you want to be careful with that Shaun, you could take someone's eye out") should turn left onto Portland Street and follow it up to Oldham Street. This is the location of Dry Bar - formally owned by Wilson himself - where this scene was filmed.
If you've timed your Manchester odyssey right, it should now be early evening and you can enjoy a bevvie in the atmospheric Dry Bar as Manchester's famous Northern Quarter fills up all around you. You might even hear the voice of the late, great Anthony Wilson in your head as you sip your drink."I love Manchester, that's what did it in the end. That is my heroic flaw: my excess of civic pride."
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