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
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,
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,
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…
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