A timely and moving reminder that all can be well

 

10am an empty green, splashed with sun, outside a restaurant, across a bridge, a stones throw from the theatre and television studios. Children clamber on metal shapes, geometries of light and colour shining. Couples barelegged talk and knock-knees. A man runs, a girl stands still, lifts and shakes, climbs his leg, he kisses her and then the woman sat next to him, public displays of play and affection. 

Girls in pink skirts and shorts for summer, racing and screaming beside the quay, passing swans and canoes, two boys jog beside their grandmother in her power-chair.  Along the bayside silver circles glinting, each with different words, one reads Ordinary people build worlds within worlds, ordinary people make a good life out of living.

In streets, in houses, in pubs and clubs and gardens, parks and islands, different histories of touch and dancing, different cultures of openness and protection, different lives, day-to-days, bodies of water, side by side and blocks apart.

A few roads up from the theatres, the quays, bars and cafes, up from Salford Lad’s Club on the corner of Coronation Street, a doctor’s surgery, a chinese take-away, a corner shop, a garage, a church, a wedding, the Angel Centre, the Creation Cafe, full of heads and hearts.

During our time in Salford we talked with people over cake and coffee, with people here and at The Lowry. About families and touch and not being afraid and not growing up too soon. About summers of fun with friends, playing games, children running about in their knickers in gardens, bouncing on trampolines.  

And Our kid dancing with abandon at parties and weddings and we heard from young women about being so shy, that they might not get up and then, that being made okay when your Dad came over to put you on his feet to do what they called a penguin dance.

We heard about favourite nights out, queuing for clubs, the places to dance: the Tiger Lounge, Crazy Pedro’s and Revolution de Cuba; decades of dancing, in the 60’s and 70’s, the 80’s and 90’s and now down the Lowry in a big warehouse where they do the flea market for raves or for salsa in the Northern Quarter on a Friday night.

 

Down near the Royal Picture House, Pinkies, we’d sneak in and go dancing

The Hacienda,

House

you could just turn up

and dance on your own all night

We used to dance in the Ritz

with a live band

Dance isn’t the contact sport it was

 when we were young

We learnt at school, ballroom in the 40’s 50’s,

That’s where we met,

Foxtrot’s our favourite

 

And we heard about cultures of closeness, of familiarity, fathers near and far, generations of men and women and softness seen as weakness. Memories of when folk would pop to the shop in their pyjamas, one woman always in a fuchsia dressing gown and slippers. When mothers would send kids to pubs to fetch their dads, or if they didn’t come home, would take their tea down on trays.  Going through ginnels, to back yards for picnics and bonfires with jacket potatoes. When the street lamps were your curfew or you’d go by the weather and how, along the terrace, they looked out, everyone was an aunty.

 

My mum was born in the same street as me

 

We’d be outside drinking lemonade,

with a packet of crisps on the step

 

Come on, let’s have a sing-song

 

There are two photos of my Dad

holding me as a baby

 

There’s no time for all that silly nonsense

 

I wonder what it was like to never have been hugged

 

Men are participating more, in raising children, today

 

And now we ‘keep’ children, they grow up too quick

 

We heard of streets and neighbourhoods, filled with African dress. Where everyone knows everyone, open houses and open parties, where the kids are always with them, where parents don’t feel inhibited, where everyone is dancing. Of different islands and dance halls, different styles of dancing, looks and costumes, ways to dress, movements of the hands and hips, the dances, the music and the people grown up with.

 

I can’t touch my toes now,

but I still love to dance

 

We used to live in the Solomon Islands,

there was always African music,

 always dancing

 

You can feel that joy, its infectious,

they are all dancing 6 to 60

 

We used to make fun of my Dad’s dance - the twist

My father used to do cartwheels

 

It brings people together

 

Her Granddad, he’d dance in Asda in a one-sie,

she’s grown up in a world where that’s normal,

it’s really important she’ll dance and she’s free

 

We heard about times at Hope Hospital and Salford Royal at night where Mums were always there for their boys, no matter what. And about big groups today, running on Sundays, together in Heaton Park, men with buggies and daughters and we heard about the weather, the traffic, new buildings, new blocks, new green-spaces, the movement of folks, of neighbours, of work and communities of care.

 

People have really got their kids backs

 

If someone goes missing, everyone is out

 

When the river Irwell flooded, a whole community was out,

they all mucked in

 

The thing is they love their kids,

that’s unconditional love

 

We heard some say that if you saw a child in distress in the supermarket today, you’d be afraid to care, because being kind is seen as suspicious, that you can’t play conkers in the playground or probably shouldn’t hold an older hand to help cross the road because of risk and fear. Then there were thoughts about safety and transparency, about information, what it is to know and what it is to understand, the public and private, the places where we play.

 

We were kept a bit more naïve, a bit more innocent, and now it’s all on that social media and you cant turn that off now, that’s a dangerous place to play

 

There’s too much fear mongering

 

Those rules, makes them more suspicious

 

Having too much knowledge,

Sometimes it brings fear

 

It makes people scared,

It kills community spirit

 

People don’t see the innocence,

we look for negative things

He used to build us great dens,

when we were kids, after school and in the summer,

 the most fun I had

And now he’s grown he’s a youth worker,

so wonderful,

but you wouldn’t anymore

 

And we heard some more about school and dances, for boys, for girls, for men, for women, for folks all over. We heard about lessons, in houses, on greens, in theatres and in halls and at what teaching and dance can do. We heard about things that give children freedom, confidence and voice and how dance feels, what dancing does, where ever you are from whatever your age.

 

We used to drive 9-10 miles once a week

 to the attic of Miss Silcox’s house in Pontypool for ballet,

it’s the one thing I could really do

 

and once a year was May Pole dancing

 

 We used to do a dance…

the North Salford Boys and the North Salford Girls,

She, taught me dance

She was the one

who told me I wasn’t stupid

 

I think it’s very good for the mood

 

 

When I’m cleaning at home, and dancing about the house,

by the end of the day I’m feeling better

 

Dancing is good for relationships

 

We don’t think about it enough, dancing, what it does for us,

I don’t think there is enough of that in schools these days

 

When he’s dancing, music, is his heart beat

You see how much love and emotion is there,

you switch off completely,

 you get lost in it

Words isn’t the only way,

 you see it when they dance

it’s like talking

If we didn’t have dance in our lives,

we’d be in a big black hole

 

We heard thoughts about the importance of touch and about different kinds of touch, what touch means for family, for community and care and what touch comes with birth, with life, with death, with tears and laughter, who touches who and how.

Some folks floated ideas of how we should teach touch, to better understand our own sensations, to be cautious, careful and most of all to be kind. And others wondered what that would mean amongst different realities, different relationships, with religion and culture and class, with presence and absence, with people and place, sadness and shame, joy and celebration, with the tender and the tough.

And so through all these remarkable gatherings and conversations, with folks from Salford, Manchester, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Wales, Australia, the world, we wondered where we might find listening spaces, some more spaces where it’s possible to say the unsaid, or unsayable, the un-thought but felt, to really be heard, not judged, to wrangle with what’s been placed in our heads and what is felt in our hearts. Some space where it's okay, where it's possible, to be apart in opinion, because of different experience, but still together with love. And in those moments, those conversations, those dances, in that space, that place of touching, sharing, trusting, we are reminded that all can be well.

 

I’ve never seen anything like this

 

This eye contact, just being…

met

 

I wanted to get in and dance with them 

 

When did it change, when did it become wrong for men to dance with girls?

 

How can  I distinguish, 

if I don’t know touch?

 

I saw genuine happiness and trust 

 

Very tender, touching

 

That’s what education should be

 

 

 

 

 

 

All quotes participants of The Talking Place Salford