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Tony Wilson Sq (Or St) Planned. Is this fitting?

Jonathan Schofield reports how six years on, 'Mr Manchester' is to be squared off

Written by . Published on September 9th 2013.

Tony Wilson Sq (Or St) Planned. Is this fitting?

COUNCILLOR Pat Karney, lead member for the city centre, called Confidential for a chat last week.

The only question is whether naming a city street or square after him is appropriate for Wilson and his mercurial, brilliant character. By its very nature a square is a static space which doesn't seem quite right. 

“As you know, down at First Street we're putting in the new arts centre HOME so we’ve had an idea.”

We love it at Confidential when the council has an idea.

“Is it free on-street parking across the city at weekends and after 5.30pm during the week?” I asked hopefully.

“No,” saids Cllr Karney coyly.

“Is it the complete redesign of Piccadilly Gardens turning it into a real city square.”


“Is it turning the old BBC Oxford Road site into an urban park with a river front?”

“Not even close. Shall I tell you? Can’t chat forever, got to look through catalogues to sort this year’s Christmas decorations in the city centre,” joshed Cllr Karney.

“Go on then.” 

“We’ve decided to honour Tony with a street or a square down at First Street.”


“Anthony H Wilson. we think putting his name down there on one of the streets or squares, next to an arts centre, seems right given his outstanding cultural contribution to Manchester.”

A statue isn't very Tony but thanks to John Bright in Albert Square for lending us his body

A statue isn't very Tony but thanks to John Bright in Albert Square for lending us his body

First Street is just over the railway from the site of the Hacienda, and just down the road from Anthony H’s flat. The site seems right.

As Sleuth mentioned a few weeks ago following a Terry Christian panegyric, it’s about time this most fascinating of men should be remembered officially. With Factory Records, with his broadcasting, with his sheer force of character he gave the city international cultural credibility. 

The comments from readers following Confidential's announcement of his death six years ago convey the affection and awe with which Wilson was regarded.

Phil Griffin writing on Confidential, shortly after Wilson's premature demise at 57, said: 'For three decades the edge that Manchester has had over every other UK city outside London has been Tony Wilson. He has died, and he cannot be replaced. Without him and, he might suggest, Granada Television, the Lesser Free Trade Hall, the Internet and certain ex officio developments in pharmaceuticals, Manchester would not have the shape and quality it has today.' 

There used to be a nightclub here, but we've completely forgotten the name


There used to be a nightclub here, but we've completely forgotten the name

Wilson, unorthodox though he may have been, sometimes belligerent, sometimes a controversialist, was always stimulating, incisive company. He had the sharpest of sharp senses of humour, and a clear idea of what he thought Manchester might be and should be.

Nor was it all about this city either.

Wilson's vision was for a better North West, a healthy, prosperous, intellectually stimulating region, culturally and economically strong, with Manchester AND Liverpool dynamic creative centres backed up by robust financial muscle.

So yes, perhaps a memorial of one type or another to this remarkable man is overdue.

“We’ve had another idea too, one just for you,” says Cllr Karney.

Clearly an inspirational day at the council.

"We want people to suggest other names for the First Street development area. We want these names to be from the city’s cultural and arts world. People who have made a contribution to the cultural life of the city."

Confidential would be happy to receive suggestions for worthy names in the rant box below.

View from Wilson's flat on the right back towards the First Street building site of HOME

Looking down Little Peter Street with Anthony H Wilson's flat on the right, in the distance the First Street building site cranes rear

Back to Wilson.

Is naming a city street or square after him appropriate for his mercurial, brilliant character. By their very nature these are static spaces - they don't quite fit. No doubt a square could host events but it'll still be a static space most of the time.

So what might be more apt?

An annual lightshow - flashes of brilliance in the Manchester sky? A doctorate at the Uni? Apprenticeships created in Wilson's memory? A building? The Anthony H Wilson In The City Commemorative Musical Weekend? 

Certainly a statue like one of those nineteenth century worthies wouldn't work. Their time is over. Modern representational statues only function in three places these days: the front gardens of university-of-hard-knocks entrepreneurs in North Cheshire; the Trafford Centre; outside sporting stadia. Mostly they are badly carved or cast - the Alan Turing statue in Sackville Gardens is particularly bad. They may have cheesy appeal but Wilson was never cheesy.

Perhaps then The Anthony H Wilson Square will be enough of a memorial - although the Mike Garry poem is cute too. What is absolutely certain is that whatever choice had been made for a memorial some people would have heartily disapproved.

Now, that is wholly appropriate.

Anthony H Wilson was nothing if not polemical. He loved starting a row. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

First Street site for Anthony H Wilson Square or Anthony H Wilson Street


First Street site for Anthony H Wilson Square or Anthony H Wilson Street

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Peter JacobsSeptember 9th 2013.

Mrs Gaskell?

MSeptember 9th 2013.

By all means name a street after him but a street in a corporate development is a poorly cloaked attempt at cashing in on his name to gain some credibility in their marketing. Yes, First Street will have 'Home' but it will also have Grade A office space, a four star hotel, a multi-storey car park, some private student accommodation and a large supermarket. I'm not totally up to speed on Wilson's politics and ideals but I'm pretty sure it was near the exact opposite of what First Street aims to achieve. If you're gonna put his name to a street, use somewhere more subtle which takes a little effort to find and helps educate people about the man. It's not appropriate to use it as a lever to have the national press run stories about First Street.

MSeptember 9th 2013.

I don't know what his personal opinions of Granada were but if they were good and if putting his name to a street had to form part of someone's vanity project, surely it could be saved for what ever happens to the old Granada site. Now that ITV have ditched the name, Anthony H Wilson Street could sit parallel to or, depending on their relationship, jut abruptly away from Granada Way. Or you could just stick it in the middle of Hulme.

Richard HJSeptember 10th 2013.

Here's a thought - Ask the Wilson family. What would they like? Indeed would they like anything? Then do something. Or don't.

C McMullinSeptember 10th 2013.

But Richard sometimes personas are bigger than families and demand memorial whether the family wants it or not. Wilson probably is in that category.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnneJune 28th 2014.

I would be surprised if a family would say no to such a public display of love from the people of Manchester. However I agree that the people of Manchester do deserve to celebrate his life with a memorial

DerderderSeptember 10th 2013.

H Block

Calum McGSeptember 10th 2013.

Several years ago, Albion Street (next to the Hac) was to be renamed Anthony Wilson Way and there were even planning notices on the lamp posts. That never happened. Does anyone know why?

Ian MusgraveSeptember 10th 2013.

I always thought it strange that the site of the Hacienda is marked by a PRS heritage plaque, not commemorating "the most famous club in the world" but merely the site of James' first gig. In addition to an Anthony Wilson Square / Street, surely The Hac - and maybe also the Factory records offices at FAC251 and Wilson's loft apartment - deserve proper blue-plaque style recognition.

Poster BoySeptember 12th 2013.

How tawdry and provincial. Save your naming for suburban cul-de-sacs. Please do consult with the family, but in the absence any any better idea Mr. Karney, how about funding an annual scholarship in Tony's name to send a student from Salford or Manchester to MGS (in lieu of De La Salle), or to Jesus College Cambridge to read English. You may even find the next 'Tony Wilson'...

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2013.

Councillor Karney - can you stick to ensuring the streets of Manchester are kept swept, instead of hawking your latest piece of self promotion to the local meeja. Thank You. A Council Tax Payer.

AnneJune 28th 2014.

I am in full support of celebrating his life in some way. Consulting his family is essential but his impact on life in Manchester and the Manchester music scene should be acknowledged and commemorated in some way. He was a character, irrespective of his politics he was part of the bricks and mortar of a period of Manchester's history.

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