As a proud born and bred Mancunian, and those who know me will not be surprised, I jumped at the chance to write this article in honour of one of my heroes, Anthony H Wilson.
My formative years during the 70s and 80s growing up in ‘The People’s Republic of Mancunia’ were a typical microcosm of the ups and downs of an exceptional city.
Let’s face it, in the 70s most of Manchester was a shithole. It was no surprise that Joy Division were originally called Warsaw, another place that I have intimate knowledge of. It was a grey, miserable, horrible, concrete jungle that seemed to sap all the energy out of its inhabitants. This was especially true of the city centre and some of my old stomping grounds, Moss Side, Hulme and Longsight.
The city that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution, established the UK’s first free public library, had the world’s first steam-powered mill, was the birthplace of the women’s political movement, and where the world’s first computer was built in 1948, had lost its way.
But out of this ‘grey’, a magical transformation happened via a burgeoning music scene, a cutting-edge record label and a nightclub. Manchester suddenly became the place to be, and the heart and soul of this was a certain Mr Wilson. The metamorphosis was simply amazing.
Rather than describe it in any detail, I can sum up the changes I saw to our city through Mr Wilson’s name changes over the same period. From Tony to Anthony to Anthony H, he redefined Manchester’s concept of culture from something that grew in a discarded yoghurt pot into a real, sophisticated global city of cultural note.
Due in no small part to his role, Manchester once again became Cosmopolitan, Confident, Courageous, Creative and Entrepreneurial.
So love or hate Manchester, one thing that nobody can argue with is our creativity, and our desire and ability to influence the world.
Therefore, for this edition, I am incredibly proud that we are featuring a poem written in Tony’s honour by Mike Garry, set to music by Joe Duddell, and released to raise money for specialist cancer hospital The Christie in Manchester where Tony was treated. We lost our youngest team member Rob, who was only 21, this time last year to cancer after barely a six-week battle, so for the whole team this is an especially poignant charitable cause.
I leave you with one of my many favourite quotes from Anthony H Wilson: “I don’t care about the second city title – London and Birmingham can fight it out themselves.” Top Manc!
Mr Manchester, thanks for the music and the amazing memories. RIP.
St Anthony: An Ode to Anthony H Wilson
The poem in the video below was written by Mancunian poet and lifelong Wilson fan Mike Garry, who took it to music composer Joe Duddell (New Order, Elbow). On the first read, Duddell immediately heard elements of New Order’s ‘Your Silent Face’ and decided to base the music on that song. ‘St. Anthony: An Ode to Anthony H Wilson’ was born. The music has been released by Skinny Records and was made available late last year to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Anthony’s passing.
Copies of this record and other merchandise being sold to raise money for The Christie cancer hospital in Manchester can be bought here.
Alternatively, to donate direct to The Christie in Tony’s memory, visit the St Anthony Just Giving page.
For more on Tony’s impact on Manchester and beyond, watch “Who is Tony Wilson?” by Steven Lomas.