Jonathan Schofield talks to Leo Stanley about ‘On the sixth day God created Manchester’

In autumn this year Afflecks the book came out, celebrating forty years of the seminal Manchester bazaar. 

I wrote the commemorative book, Paul Wolfgang Webster took the marvellous photos and Richard Shallaker of Bruntwood designed it beautifully. The book was commissioned by Bruntwood, who now directly manage and own Afflecks née Affleck’s Palace. 

“I have to give some credit to the Bible."

The book includes background information and a potted history of Afflecks and the site. The most entertaining bits are the interviews with forty people associated with Affleck’s. These folk might have either a recent connection to the ‘bazaar’ or a long-term one. The interviews were with traders, customers and performers and their stories are filled with humour, memory and are occasionally downright moving. The massive part Affleck's has played in Manchester life, how it's elevated itself to a national treasure and a tourism attraction these past four decades, jumps out from the interviews. 

Well-known names include Mike Joyce, Wayne Hemingway, Rowetta, Guy Garvey, Anthony Cotton, Jenna Gibbons, Elizabeth Alker, Sophie Willan, Onyi Moss, Lemn Sissay, Clint Boon and Peter Hook. Less well-known but long term traders include Vanessa Crawley of American Graffiti who has been there almost from the start, and Kim Turner who has been there from the very beginning in 1982. 

Img 4528
Vanessa Crawley of American Graffiti who has been at Affleck's since October 1982 Image: Confidentials

One of my favourite interviews in the book was with Leo B Stanley. 

In this section he tells me the story behind that famous Madchester t-shirt with the design that reads ‘And on the sixth day God created Manchester’.

Stanley had the ground floor Identity shop in Afflecks from 1985 to 2000. He was deep into the music scene at a time when it appeared Manchester was, as said, "the musical centre of the West". 

“By 1988, wow," says Stanley. "That scene. It was something else. I was DJing. I was raving. I was at the shop selling all the baggy stuff, the flares, the Madchester gear. I was getting in all this London stock too and selling loads, labels like Soul to Soul. One day in 1988, Tina Street, who worked with me, said we have nothing about Manchester.”

Leo B Stanley In The Afflecks Book
The Paul Wolfgang Webster picture of Leo Stanley in the Affleck's book Image: Confidentials

Leo recalled how he wasn’t feeling the freshest when Tina said this as he’d been to the Hacienda night club the evening before and was “still off [his] head”. But some of his grey matter was functioning, and one stoned evening Leo created an enduring trademark.

“What Tina said registered with me,” he says. “That evening I got my Filofax out and came up with ideas and then suddenly wrote ‘And on the sixth day God created Manchester’. No idea where it came from. I still have the Filofax page. It's got a big stain from a mug on it, sort of like a watermark."

20180703 123400 Copy
The leap of "off his head" imagination from Leo B Stanley complete with mug stain Image: Leo B Stanley

“We used to test new t-shirts with all the staff,” Leo continues. “The staff loved it so we printed twenty-four t-shirts at 1pm and sold them in an hour. I reckon more than 100,000 of those t-shirts have been sold since. At the height of the madness, I remember walking down the street to open up and saw a crowd around the shop door. It turned out to be about ten Dutch kids who had flown over just to get flares and the sixth day t-shirt. That was what it was like.”

Afflecks Book
Affleck's 40th anniversary book Image: Confidentials

Every now and then Leo goes along to the mosaic on the exterior of Afflecks by Mark Kennedy which commemorates the t-shirt and smiles as he recalls those Madchester days. Sometimes he takes his daughter. 

One time he was asked by some Japanese tourists if he could take their picture as they posed in front of his design. He didn’t let on he was the genesis (ho, ho) of the most famous t-shirt ever tagged to a British city.  

“After all,” Leo says with a laugh in his voice. “I have to give some credit to the Bible.” 

Afflecks 40th anniversary book is available from Manchester Books Limited at £30, or from Waterstones in Manchester and Manchester Art Gallery.

Affleck's Palace52 Church St, Manchester M4 1PW

Read next: Euro Car Parks' shameful treatment of city's heritage

Read again: Brand new VR Arcade is coming to Manchester in early 2023

Get the latest news to your inbox

Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!