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Weirdly morbid festival: the anniversary of a suicide

The 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death will be 'celebrated' this summer

Published on May 17th 2010.

Weirdly morbid festival: the anniversary of a suicide

So we got this message on Monday. It shouted in capitals: 'PRESS RELEASE 17th MAY - EMBARGOED UNTIL TUESDAY 18th MAY'.

It read: 'Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death - the enduring appeal and mystique of the band (Joy Division) and its singer Curtis, who committed suicide on May 18 1980, will be celebrated in the Unknown Pleasures festival in Macclesfield (named after the group’s first album); funded by the local authorities, it’s the first time his achievement has been recognised by his hometown.'

Er....ok. But wouldn't this have been better in 2016, the 60th anniversary of Curtis' birth or 2018, forty years after Warsaw changed their name to Joy Division?

Probably. But beside the morbid timing – which as someone said, fits with the mood of the band if nothing else – there's something to be said for such an event. Curtis was important as a musician and important for the impact he made on people's lives. People still make pilgrimages to Macclesfield to see the man's supremely modest grave - see the picture below.

And thankfully, the organisers seem to have given it some serious thought and thus involved original band members, and recognised writers and industry figures.

The main focus will be the exhibition held at Macclesfield’s 1813 Sunday School Heritage Centre building. The exhibition will run from 29 July until 7 August and is timed to coincide with a new wave of interest sparked by the release of a boxed set of 7” Joy Division singles in the summer.

The exhibition will feature a serial chronology and items from the late 70s including original record sleeves, posters and handbills, as well as set lists, collectable vinyl singles and albums, music business memorabilia, and letters from Factory Records impresario Tony Wilson and band members to manager Rob Gretton.

Macclesfield, celebrates its major local landmark, Ian Curtis

Let's hope their's a bit of cheer in the story too, a bit of 24 Hour Party People fun. Not that you get this from the press release. One sentence reads: '(An) item sure to be of special interest to fans is a handwritten letter from Ian Curtis unhappy at Closer, the group’s second album. He writes: “this LP is a disaster.”'

Good lord.

Stephen Morris, ex-Joy Division guitarist, and music writer Jon Savage have curated the exhibition. There is also a whole series of community events too, including the Northern Chamber Orchestra working with school kids to produce a Joy Division symphony based on Curtis’ songs for final recording in June.

And it doesn't stop there. There'll be linked talks, screenings and tours in Macclesfield, including a special film screening on 31 July in the town’s independent cinema, Cinemac, featuring the three Joy Division related films: 24 Hour Party People, Control and Joy Division and a celebrity panel discussion.

Festival Director Richard de Peyer says: “Macclesfield has never had the opportunity to celebrate Ian Curtis’ work in a way which benefits the communities of the town and also attracts music fans from far and wide. This summer seemed like the right moment to do that.”

Best fact from the Festival so far is that there are more Google searches for Joy Division and Ian Curtis than for Oasis and in any one hour, there are 20 Tweets on Twitter around the world about the band and its music. Let's hope some of them are humorous.

Anyway people can jump onto www.twitter.com/joydivision2010 and join in that conversation with the Twitter hashtag #JD201. For full details of films showing at Spinningfields Click here.

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SpinningfieldsMay 18th 2010.

You forgot to mention that Spinningfields is also showing Control (15) this Thursday 20th May at 8.30pm as part of their free Screenfields season. See http://www.spinningfieldsonline.com for more details or follow @Spinningfields on Twitter.

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