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Who will be the next Tony Wilson?

Philip Hamer asks the question soon to be posed in a debate at the Circle Club

Published on December 4th 2008.

Who will be the next Tony Wilson?

Whenever Manchester media’s great and good gather these days, they invariably share their favourite Tony Wilson anecdotes. It is almost 18 months since Tony died and all too often the stories, nicely honed into legend, obscure a question that should be asked: Where is the city’s next Tony Wilson? Will his shoes ever be filled? A forthcoming debate at the Circle Club will attempt to answer them.

For most of the city’s media folk, there is a feeling that another Tony Wilson will never arise. One of the reasons for this is the character of Tony himself: a cultural major-domo and but also wilful and abrasive. He kept the faith with his home area and was never lured to London. A brilliant broadcaster, an accomplished print journalist and pop entrepreneur, Wilson, despite his strong allegence to the North West, struck a chord on a national as well as regional scale. The way the decks were cleared to pay tribute on BBC2's Late Review on the night of his death bore testimony to this.

Wilson was born at almost exactly the same time that Manchester and Liverpool were becoming an important part of contemporary pop culture. At Granada TV, he took on the role of charming bully in promoting this aspect of regional identity – and his reputation as a trailblazer developed from there.

His outspoken character was also a crucial factor in his rise to prominence. Nobby Carr, himself a real Manchester character who has known many of the city's main players over the last half century explains: “Tony had a unique ability based on the twin sides of his personality, which was nurtured in Salford where he was reared, and at Cambridge where he studied English. This allowed him to trade verbal blows equally with Sean Ryder or Anthony Burgess.”

Many questions will be asked in the debate: How can we spot the next Tony Wilson? What qualities are we looking for? Are great things happening in Manchester and if so, where do we look for them? How do we cultivate creative talent and is culture necessarily the best way to boost Manchester’s status and economy? With the way we view Tony Wilson and his achievements, are we really just living in the past?

Perhaps Tony himself gave us a clue about the future of the culture in which he played such a pivotal role:

“You can never predict the next big thing. I never could. But I think I was able to recognise it when it arrived.”

Will we?

Tony Wilson: What Next!?

Xmas Special, Tuesday 9 December, 6.30pm till late.
After party including bands, DJs, and artists.
Tickets are free for Circle members, £6 for non members.

The Circle Club,
Barton Arcade,
Barton Square,

0161 288 8118


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

Emma BurnsDecember 4th 2008.

I wasn't suggesting for JS to be on the panel. I meant to look at what he's doing in the city through alternative mediums such as Manchester Confidential. Although the panel does sound an interesting mix.

johnthebriefDecember 4th 2008.

No need to descend to personal abuse, Alan. I'm just pointing out that a surprisingly large proportion of the people who went into business with Wilson somehow ended up losing all their money

johnthebriefDecember 4th 2008.

If you want to find the next Tony Wilson, go along to the next sitting of the bankruptcy Courts, find someone who's lost their money to a crook in a dodgy deal, and you'll have found your man. The hagiography of Tony Wilson becomes ever more unreal, as people forget the negatives and paint an increasingly false picture of the positives. He ruined more people than he made.

RebeccaWhoDecember 4th 2008.

Not another Tony as such, but another cultural dynamo who will move the city forward. Maybe they are here and we don't know? I think its still here but much more spread out - Does this mean more choice or a diluted options? I'm not sure.

Alan CleggDecember 4th 2008.

Hear, hear Brian. When Tony talked people listened simple fact that is if your ever heard him. He had gravitas, authority and no doubt didn't suffer fools. He probably wouldn't have much time for the Johntheinadequate.

The Circuit SeriesDecember 4th 2008.

THE PANEL:Chaired by John Robb, writer and cultural commentatorELLIOT RASHMAN – Manager of Happy Mondays and Simply RedDR DAVID A HOLMES - Media psychologist and participant in the Madchester scene.STEVE SMITH – From Manchester based events agency Ear to the Groundmore TBC ((Jonathan - Emma reckons you should be on the panel. We can squeeze you on again if you fancy!?))BANDS: 1913 and El Policia

Emma BurnsDecember 4th 2008.

There will never be another Tony, neither should there be. To even debate it is ridiculous. Perhaps the organisers should look to Manchester Confidential and individuals such as Jonathan Schofield, who are attempting to steer the city forward by providing an ambitious, alternative media voice whilst introducing innovative initiatives.

Brian JamesDecember 4th 2008.

That's a bitter little thing to say John. If this is a hagiography then that is because Wilson genuinely affected people's lives. Whatever the nature of the person the simple fact of the creation of hagiography shows that he/she was significant.

heatseekeerDecember 4th 2008.

Tony Wilson was a real man of the people who had a real passion for our great city.Sadly lost always remembered he was a man who wasnt afraid to take risks some paid off some didnt ,but at least he had a go.God rest you mate.

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