Odeon Ruins


The 2001 Pevsner Guide to Manchester, edited by Claire Hartwell, includes the following brief reference to the Odeon Cinema on Oxford Street:
“Opposite the inter-war Odeon by F T Verity and S Beverly, with flattened pilasters and stylised capitals above garish tiles.”

How many people have arranged to meet outside that picture-house on rainy Saturday nights? How many viewers went into the building to see Jaws or Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz or The Amazing Mister Blunden? Of course, back in those days it was perfectly acceptable to smoke cigarettes in the auditorium, so the on-screen action would be heralded by flickering cones of light. The choice of flattened pilasters might have been a nod to the Art Deco movement which had overtaken much of European architecture between the wars; in the Edwardian splendour of the town centre, this must have been a daring choice.
The centre of Manchester has been transformed in recent years; the ‘ponderous Portland stone Peter House’ with a gently curved front is still present on Oxford Street; but ‘the unattractive Elisabeth House of 1971’ (a masterpiece of post-ironic neo-brutalism) is no more, having been replaced by a soaring featureless office block called One St Peter’s Square.

This epic arrival has tall, narrow windows deeply recessed in a grid of white concrete (tall and narrow are relative terms; each immense pane of glass cost a fortune to manufacture and test and transport and install) which is also gently curved to match the building opposite. I tried to capture this intriguing topology in a photograph. The picture shows the curve of the building; however, I included – by chance – a piece of the most intensely blue blue sky (probably imported from Italy along with the windows) and a small corner of the Odeon cinema, which just a few weeks later would undergo demolition, ready for the building of another grand corporate edifice.

Journal Entry, 3 Aug ’98: Last night went to Freddie’s, saw my hunky straight guy. We chatted about horror fiction, Monster Club, careers etc. The Alan S turned up, we chatted away, I got drunk and came home.
Today at work we had a meeting – 8 of us from different departments, about process engineering and toll manufacture. We each have to create a skeleton account of the function of our dept.

To E M Forster

You suffered, and built a garden
Of strange delights that do confuse but
Not offend; I am not charmed
By your vanishing livestock, or dark
Blooms. Why not publish? Your
Loss of nerve cost a generation dear.

Some other country, perhaps; another name
Is all it takes to change
This temporal fabric that we call
The world, and like a smile
Your memory will endure beyond
The distant growl of an uncaring sea.

Journal Entry, 7 Dec ’97: Yesterday morning took the ‘L’ plates off my bike and shot away to Nott’m for the Lord Mayor’s Toy Run. Weather good. Got there early; about a dozen bikes there, then more turned up including a big bearded guy called Tim who parked his trike next to me, despite there being space elsewhere.

Over next hour or so, hundreds of bikes appeared; riders in fancy dress with stuffed toys on saddles, fairy lights, and a Harley done up as a sleigh. Ian arrived on his Drag Star – ‘What an ego chariot!’ I said.
Did the run in convoy; police escort, roads closed, pavements lined with cheering crowds, then off to County Hall for an address by the Mayor (who’s a biker himself).
After speeches and raffle, Tim came up & asked me if I was going to the Redliners Party at Bramcote Manor. WE chatted briefly; then he asked if I knew about the Bears group.

Me (much taken aback): ‘In what context?’
So we ended up going round Nott’m, buying AWOL, lunch at the Art Café, drinks at Newmarket Inn. It was a perfect day; I’m glad I spent it with you…


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