When the spring of 1990 rolled around, inmates had grown sick of the Victorian conditions at Strangeways. On the 1st April they launched a revolt; fighting off the guards and climbing onto the roof to stage a protest.
Not for the first (or last) time, every eye in Britain was on Manchester.
And one man watching the city vibe permeating prison walls was David Nolan – a young journalist covering the story for Piccadilly Radio.
“Madchester was the perfect backdrop for the riots; if you were to get the footage of the guys on the roof, you could cut it to a Happy Mondays song,” David tells The Manc.
“The whole thing had this psychedelic, surreal weirdness. It was quite rock and roll – and very much of its time.”
“It was weird how quickly you got used to the surrealness of it all; this carnival atmosphere.
“There were people selling weed, beer, even Strangeways t-shirts. Helicopters used to fly over and cast shining lights. Fire engines would be hosing down the rooftops.
“When the prisoners would shout messages they wanted to get to the outside world, the home office would try and stop them by playing music at a deafening level, and their favourite song of choice – this is the British government – was ‘Mr Blue Sky’ by ELO.
“The prisoners were forever taking their clothes off and getting naked on the roof, too – you never saw on that on the tele, of course.
“Can you imagine that as a mix: The drugs, the beer, the water jets, the light and the music?”
David was stationed at Strangeways morning, afternoon and night, but he and his fellow journalists were never alone.
This was the biggest show in town – and every man, woman and child seized each opportunity to come and take a peek.
“You’d have waves of people just coming down to watch,” David explains.
“Some would come before work, then bring their sandwiches and watch the rioters at lunchtime. At half past three kids would visit after school, then you’d have people visiting when the pubs kicked out at eleven o’clock.”
Whilst the public came and went, journalists were compelled to stay put as long as the prisoners roamed freely on the rooftops – scrambling to make notes whenever movement occurred above.
“It was a bit like lockdown in a weird way,” David recalls.
“Occasionally we’d go to a press conference, but for the most part journalists were stuck there.
“We saw a lot. Some it quite funny. There were so many bizarre things happening in and out of that jail.
“Sometimes they’d unfurl these daft banners – like one that said ‘Ken Dodd is innocent’.”
Dozens of prisoners set up camp atop of Strangeways throughout the month – but two quickly became the faces of the riot.
“Out of all the men on the roof, there were a couple that were most visually distinctive and easy to spot,” David tells us.
“Paul Taylor was seen as the ‘ringleader’, although he didn’t like that term. He was an extraordinary guy in some ways; very articulate with this flowery way of communicating.
“I remember him shouting from the roof: ‘This is my decision and I am steadfast in my decision.’ What a peculiar way of putting it.
“He would scrawl out all these long messages and some were quite lyrical. He was almost Shakespearean sometimes.
“When I interviewed him years later he told me the riot happened because he’d ‘decided it was going to happen’. So this must have been in his mind for some time.”
Taylor has since repeated this claim when interviewed by the BBC, but admitted he was “regretful” the protest had turned into a full-scale riot.
“As well as Taylor, there was also Alan Lord,” David explains.
“He was this big, muscular, good-looking guy who was serving a long sentence at the time.”
Lord was often caught on the cameras due to his sheer physique, and became well-known among the press after taking responsibility for carrying messages between the inmates and the Home Office.
The protest ran out of steam when Lord was captured en route to a negotiation on 23 April.
Two days later, the remaining protestors called it quits and descended the roof via cherry picker – bringing the curtain down on the 25-day “carnival.”
But of course, it wasn’t just three weeks of fun and games. The prisoners hadn’t battled their way to the summit of Strangeways just to put on a party for those below.
“We use the word ‘rioters’, but we could reframe it and change it to ‘protestors’,” says David.
“Conditions were bad in there. The jail was horrifically overcrowded and they were still ‘slopping out’ (defecating in a bucket).”
There were several explosions of violence during the riots that resulted in almost 200 injuries and even one death. But despite the prospect of larger sentences the longer they protested, many inmates couldn’t face returning to the squalor that waited for them down below.
The prisoners were up on that roof because they had something to say – although the authorities were reluctant to let them articulate it to the press; proceeding to crank the music up to eleven whenever Taylor began to reel off one of his infamous speeches.
At times, David said the scene was extremely sinister.
“One evening it was very loud. All these horrible noises were erupting in the middle of the night and as it started snowing I got quite upset.
“I was thinking: ‘‘What on earth is going on inside that jail?’ It doesn’t even bear thinking about.
“At times it was incredibly frightening.”
“Maybe it was coming. Twenty-four hours before Strangeways were the poll tax riots in London – which saw wooden polls being shoved through police car windows.
“Did that possibly tip it over the edge? I just think it’s a really interesting coincidence that it happened the day before.”
Whilst David has retold his experience of Strangeways on multiple occasions during a long writing career, he also used the setting as inspiration for the backdrop of his Manc Noir novel ‘Black Moss’.
“I cannot remember doing any other story of any description during Strangeways. Everyone was looking at that one place,” he tell us.
“That was partly behind the idea for my book. A child murder happens during a riot, and with the media, police, public all over in one spot, something horrible happens elsewhere.
“I also heard a story about a murder taking place during 9/11. Someone saw an opportunity to do something when everyone was looking the other way.
“It’s about distraction. But all the Strangeways stuff in the book is all absolutely accurate.”
On April 25, the Strangeways Riots ended. In the months and years that followed, Madchester, as a movement, fell into decline. Factory Records went bankrupt, and the scene gradually blurred into the ‘baggy’ vibe of the nineties, before the emergence of Britpop at the backend of the decade.
As David attests, the madness of the 1990 riots can be attributed to how it represented an uncanny little time capsule of a chaotic era in history.
“If the riot had happened in Gloucester or something, I just don’t think it would have had the same vibe or attention,” he says.
That infamous pandemonium at Strangeways was Madchester in the sky.
Unplugged – The stunning countryside cabin where guests are told to lock their phones away for a ‘digital detox’
We all know all-too-well that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to properly switch off – even when we’re on holiday.
With the constant pings and buzzes and flashes of digital technology begging for our attention every minute of the day, it’s not easy to properly step away and unwind.
Which is why the Unplugged countryside cabins were invented – and its first north west location has just opened.
Each of these stunning tiny homes includes a lock box, which guests are encouraged to lock their mobile phones in.
Over the course of each three-night stay, Unplugged guests are instead given other items to keep them entertained.
The Unplugged cabins include board games, books, and cassette players, as well as an instant camera with film so you can still capture your break – without the pressure to immediately shout about it on Instagram.
You’re also handed a classic Nokia phone (yes complete with Snake) in case you need to contact anyone, and a map and a compass.
They are also kitted out with a compact but fully equipped kitchen for cooking up a storm, a log burner and an outdoor fire pit, and comfy beds with luxury Piglet bedding.
There are several of these countryside retreats dotted around the south of England, and there’s now an Unplugged property here in the North West, just outside Greater Manchester in Cheshire.
The ‘Luna’ cabin has a huge panoramic window overlooking the countryside, and its location just off the Sandstone Trail.
The cabin is even pet-friendly.
You’ll find inside the compact wooden-clad space a powerful hot shower and toiletries, while outside are wellies and umbrellas to brace you for the great outdoors.
Unplugged was launched by two friends – Hector Hughes and Ben Elliot – who at the time both worked at a tech start-up and were teetering on the edge of burnout.
So after one of them took a two-week silent retreat in the Himalayas, they decided to try and create a few pockets of total, switch-off zen here in the UK.
They say: “Humans have always escaped to nature as an antidote to hectic city life. The issue is that now so many of us just wouldn’t know where to start.
“We’re glued to our phones, inundated with push notifications and respond to emails at all times of the day. We’re on a mission to help you unplug from your devices so that you can recharge.
“So we decided to build beautiful off-grid cabins just outside of city life that take less than an hour or two to get to.
“We also remove any of the woo-woo and stigma that might come with meditation and Buddhist retreats by creating beautiful cabins in nature for you to use the space and time to switch off how you want to.
“When we launched our first cabin, Koya in July 2020 we’d check in and out every guest, lock their phones away and take the key back with us to London. Now we have a lot more cabins, guests check themselves in and are encouraged to lock their phones away to benefit from 3 nights offline.
“We of course practice what we preach and all of the Unplugged team go for a digital detox at least once per year to help us switch off and recharge.”
You can book Luna, the Unplugged cabin in Cheshire, here.
Featured image: Pasco Photography
Neighbourhood Festival Manchester 2022 – tickets, line-up, venues and more
For those uninitiated, the massive city centre festival is Neighbourhood Weekender‘s sister event and has been running every October since 2016. Well, barring the pandemic, of course.
Springing from a fledgling one-day festival that boasted the likes of Circa Waves, Blossoms, White Lies, Twin Atlantic and Lonely the Brave, it has now become one of the biggest events of the year with over 100 acts spread across multiple venues dotted around the city centre. And just in time for the students.
Since its conception, crowds have seen everyone from Sam Fender, Easy Life and Holly Humberstone, to Mahalia, Declan McKenna, Miles Kane and many, many more of Britain’s biggest names take the Neighbourhood stages on their way to making a splash on the UK music scene.
Luckily for you, this year’s line-up looks an absolute whopper too.
Neighbourhood Festival Line-Up 2022
As well as those we already knew about such as The Snuts, Sundara Karama and local lads Everything Everything, Wigan-based indie band The Lathums have also confirmed that they will be joining the Neighbourhood headliners at this year’s festival.
You love to see it. You love to see everyone on this list, to be honest.
As you can see, there are big names everywhere – punters can also look forward to seeing the likes of Alfie Templeman and Baby Queen; Lauran Hibberd and Ten Tonnes, as well as Far Caspian and Brooke Combe, just to name a few.
There’s plenty of Mancunian music being represented as well, with Corella, Afflecks Palace, The Covasettes and The Stanleys all repping 0161.
Neighbourhood Festival 22 Venues
One of the best parts about Neighbourhood Fest is that aside from the acts themselves, there are some seriously mint venues on the list every year, from gig-going favourites to some locations you may have never seen live music before or even been full-stop.
Here is the full list of Neighbourhood venues we know of so far:
Manchester Academy 1 and 2 (14+)
Albert Hall (14+)
The Deaf Institute (14+)
O2 Ritz Manchester (14+)
Revolution – Oxford Road (14+ until 9pm, then 18+)
Bunny Jacksons (14+ until 9pm, then 18+)
YES – The Basement and The Pink Room (18+)
The Bread Shed (14+)
The Zombie Shack (18+)
That being said, it’s still worth keeping your eye out on social for any updates as more special guests and surprise appearances are expected, and who knows where they could pop up?
For instance, we already know that Hard-Fi will be playing their first gig in eight whole years at the brand-spanking New Century which we peeped not long ago. It’s quite an impressive space, guys.
Ah, the dreaded stage splits. They cause us inevitable headaches every year but they’re a necessary evil.
Want to know who’ll you manage to see and who’ll you have to prepare yourself for potentially missing? We do the dirty work so you don’t have to:
Are there any Neighbourhood tickets still left?
Put simply, yes, but you better get moving if you wanna snap the remaining few up.
Tickets for Neighbourhood Festival 2022 will set you back £39.50 face value (£43.45 all told with your booking fee) from their official retailer, Gigs and Tours. Wheelchair access tickets are also available.
Not only is that a much more affordable option for those who didn’t want to fork out more than £115 for the two-day pass at Neighbourhood Weekender back in May, but the wristband grants you access to every single venue on the list.
Even a one-day ticket at Weekender cost £59.50 + booking fee, whereas with Neighbourhood Fest you still get the chance to see some serious box office names at Neighbourhood Fest for less money. More spare pennies for food and pints, init.
It’s also worth noting that you can grab tickets on the day as a last resort, but we’d obviously advise getting yourself sorted before then.
As announced on Wednesday, this year’s box office and wristband exchange will be located at the University of Manchester Students Union building (M13 9PR) – the Lime Grove entrance, to be specific.
This will be open from 9.30am and will close promptly at 7.30pm, meaning there will be no wristbands issued after this time, so we would obviously recommend arriving as early as possible to avoid the large queues.
Organisers also had some important top tips to share with you:
Last but not least, make sure to keep a lookout on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram for the latest updates and, most importantly, grab your tickets HERE while you still can.