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The Loiterers Resistance Movement, Manchester

Natalie Bradbury looks forward to a psychogeographic ghost hunt

Published on October 31st 2008.

The Loiterers Resistance Movement, Manchester

PSYCHOGEOGRAPHY: mention that to most people and they’ll look at you blankly. But this weekend a Manchester pyschogeographic group will be leading an alternative ghost tour of Manchester’s scary places, based around Halloween and the Celtic end of summer festival Samhain.

The Loiterers Resistance Movement, a collective of urban explorers “loitering with intent to make Manchester wonderful”, is Manchester’s only local history and walking group watched over by the Greek goddess of chaos, Eris, and influenced by the flâneur, a dandy-esque Victorian figure who wandered the city as a detached observer.

In a manifesto-esque statement of intent on the internet, The LRM lists its likes and dislikes: “plants growing out of the side of buildings” are good, “gentrification” is bad. The LRM celebrates the “colourful and diverse”.

Although even most psychogeographers can’t agree what it means, psychogeography originated in the Situationist Movement and the Paris Riots of 1968.

The Situationists were concerned with how we relate to and interact with the city emotionally, and how we can disrupt it. They debated who is included and excluded in a city, and disputed its ownership: “the city is made up of a million different stories, and the official history is just one of them”, explains LRM founder Morag Rose.

The city is a public space with the potential for revolution and change. Loitering, therefore, is a form of political protest.

What does this have to do with modern Manchester?

Late music mogul Tony Wilson was influenced by Situationism, and hosted a Situationist International conference at the Hacienda in 1996.

Today, psychogeography is a way of making sure that “the spiritual history of the city” and its “mythical undercurrent”, isn’t forgotten.

The LRM is about going through doors you’re not supposed to.

It’s about serendipity: unearthing hidden treasures beneath the streets and forgotten ghosts lurking in dark alleyways you’re too scared to go down.

It’s about social history and the way in which the city’s past residents, such as communist Friedrich Engels and the mathematician and astrologer John Dee, live on, in places like Chetham’s Library.

It’s about finding the courage to visit “places never been before but you’ve always really wanted to, or the places you’ve been too scared to go to”.

Mainly, The LRM recommends setting off on a walk where you don’t know where you’re going. The best way to find out more about the city is to “stop and look at things, talk to people and ask loads of questions." Morag admits that one of her main motivations is that she’s “really nosy”!Morag bemoans the fact that “regeneration often gets rid of the interesting things”, saying we should be thinking about what it is that makes Manchester Manchester. She observes, “everyone loves Manchester for a different reason”, and has “their own sense of history and own stories”.

Taking place on the first Sunday of every month, each dérive, or drift, is different. Past excursions have included a pigeon’s eye view of the city, a stroll based around the ‘lost rivers’ of Manchester, and night time walks.

Morag is delighted when people bring stories with them. Old ladies who went on the tour of Ancoats shared anecdotes about the canals turning frothy with soap from laundry, and reminisced about being threatened with the prospect of a monster called Jenny Greenteeth.

Dérives often throw up myths and legends, such as that of the ice maiden in Salford who became pregnant at a time when it wasn’t socially acceptable and killed herself by jumping off a bridge. She got stuck in ice and people went to look at her. Morag says this story is probably “half-myth, half fact”.

Morag also offers intriguing titbits about Lincoln Square, ‘Umbrella Alley’, just off St. Ann’s square, and antiquated laws relating to the walking of cows to the city from the outskirts.

One walk took in masonic architecture and sacred architecture, looking at some of Manchester’s most famous buildings, such as the seven-tiered town hall. The LRM also educated walkers about how the Royal Exchange theatre, ‘the biggest room in the world’, was built on different religious ideas using Kabalistic and Rosicrucian dimensions. A caduceus walk explored the origins of the serpentine symbol, which used to be symbol of medicine, and is seen on lots of banks. September’s walk was based around CCTV cameras, and considered how being under constant surveillance affects our perception of the city.

Walks usually end up in pubs like the British Protection.

Morag never comes away without learning something, saying: “There’s never a wasted day.” She concludes: “look around you and there’s magic.”

The next dérive organised by the Loiterers Resistance Movement will take place on Sunday 2 November, and will last approximately two hours. Meet in the downstairs bar at the Cornerhouse, Oxford Street, at 2pm, wearing sensible shoes. Anyone dressed as a zombie or vampire will get a special treat.

www.nowhere-fest.blogspot.com loiter@hepzombie.co.uk

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dandyesqueOctober 31st 2008.

give 'em a regular column, i want reports of what happens on these walks. not enough people doing things their own way for love instead of money around here. we need an artistic critique of regeneration and the established manchester cannon.

AnonymousOctober 31st 2008.

Yes, give 'em a regular column - where to wander in the city!

seabeeOctober 31st 2008.

if you want a really scary trip get the 1120 last train to rochdale from victoria and take my advice dont use the bogs as there is a rent boy called russell brand dont be fooled by his boyish good looks? he is a waste of good money or in my case green shield stamps.i know i had enough for an ashtray and wasted them more fool me .p. does anyone else think emily bishop off coronation street is fit ? she can haunt me anytime she wants.

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