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