The news round-up for Manchester this last week, 6-12 March
A regular column charting some changes and news in Greater Manchester, highlighting stories that interest us and will hopefully interest you.
University of Manchester’s don't tell ‘mother’ controversy
The Steerpike column in The Spectator magazine had a big shock-horror headline this week. It read: ‘Manchester University scraps the word ‘mother’. The article went on to state: ‘From now on gender-neutral terms are in vogue in Manchester, which means that ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are no longer appropriate for use in university materials, to be replaced by ‘individuals’ and ‘guardians’. Things might become tricky on Mother's Day this weekend, which will presumably now have to be styled 'Guardian's Day'.
We asked the University about this and it said: “The University hasn’t scrapped or banned any words, we have simply produced a guidance document for our staff that encourages the use of more inclusive language to avoid bias or assumptions. In that, we recommend the use of the term 'parent/guardian', this is well-established terminology and does not in any way mean that we are banning the words 'mother' or 'father'."
Odd one this. On the one hand, given its political bent, The Spectator has been mischievous, bashing the notion and massively downplaying the fact this is ‘guidance’ only – they also cite recommendations such as ‘synthetic’ or ‘artificial’ should be used rather than ‘manmade’. They've in effect spun a story to appeal to their audience's prejudices.
On the other hand, whilst trying to be more ‘inclusive’ and prevent people from feeling offended such University guidance might give offence to other people who believe that words such as ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are completely inclusive and also intellectually precise. In the final analysis, such ‘guidance’ might be voguish and well-meaning but it can be divisive and easily prone to ridicule – a temptation The Spectator couldn’t resist.
Peterloo Memorial and the rushed meeting
A clearer cut case of institutional error lies with the Peterloo Memorial unveiled in 2019. This commemorates the 18 people killed peacefully protesting for the vote and parliamentary representation in Manchester in 1819. The work is in the form of a stepped stone mound and was the work of international 'star' artist Jeremy Deller. Peculiarly for a monument that is fundamentally about the fight for equal opportunities and human rights, access to the top is impossible for disabled. This led to the validity of the monument being questioned from way before its erection.
Last week a virtual meeting was held to discuss the access question with the artist and one of the architects, Peter St John, of Caruso St John Architects, in attendance. We’ve read the transcript. It didn’t go well. As Morag Rose of the Peterloo Memorial Access Campaign told Confidentials: "It was unclear what the meeting was for and, even though it had clearly been planned for a long time, we had less than a week’s notice and had to argue for the right to give decent length submissions.”
It became clear the favoured plan from the artist and architects was to deliver a ramp for safe access on the anniversary day of Peterloo, August 16, each year. In other words one day out of 365. To campaigners, this adds insult to injury and compounds the discrimination with a gesture that is nothing more than a sop. They want a permanent solution.
“It’s the principle and the process of how we got here that needs to be examined,” says Rose. "Given the way the meeting ended, no-one is any clearer as to what happens next."
Up up and away on First Street - 44 storeys and counting
HOME arts facility is going to get some lofty near-neighbours. The presently empty site bordering the Mancunian Way to the south is about to get a huge £300m cluster of 1,113 apartments of 1-5 bedrooms and more than a thousand studio apartments. The tallest building will be 45 storeys. The developer is Downing Living and the architect is…guess who? As anybody who knows the city well and this southern central area, in particular, will anticipate, it’s SimpsonHaugh. It’s quite astonishing how successful that practice is in this area – see story seven on last week’s round-up. One of the towers in the Deansgate Square development is 44 storeys and gives us an indication of the height of the new skyscraper which will be around 140m (460ft high).
By the way, the development is a co-living proposal. Co-living is defined as ‘a modern form of communal living in which residents get private bedrooms in a furnished home with shared common areas’. These may include a cinema room, a space that converts into an events venue, perhaps a library, café or bar and so on. Others think these developments involve skimping on the private space and cutting costs with the distraction technique of funky add-ons.
We all count – when it comes to funding
Amid pandemic problems, Brexit bickering and Meghan emoting, councils are concerned many people will fail their legal duty to complete the census return by Sunday 21 March. Manchester City Council is appealing to people to complete the census, which is held every ten years, not just because it ‘provides a valuable opportunity to show just how many people are choosing to call Manchester home’ but because of the dosh.
The City Council know: ‘It will provide a clear image of the size of the city which will shape central government funding (and) ensure that essential services like transport, education and health remain to the highest possible standard for all residents.’
Manchester’s population is growing and MCC wants the money coming from central government to reflect that. It's a sound argument and since census returns can't be used by any other institutions of governance, police, HMRC and so on, it's perhaps best people do their duty, so speak.