Manchester in books, drama and music

21 March 2016

Sarah Butler, author of Manchester-set coming-of-age novel Before the Fire, shares her favourite representations of her hometown. 

Sarah lives in Manchester and runs a consultancy which develops literature and arts projects that explore and question our relationship to place. 

Poem - Rain by Lemn Sissay

This poem is painted onto the side of a building on Oxford Road in Manchester (right near to St Mary’s Hospital where I was born). I have a long standing interest in the relationship between text and place, and also a long standing relationship with Manchester rain, so this poem appeals on many levels!

TV drama - Scott and Bailey

A great police drama, set in Manchester. I particularly love the opening credits which give a real flavour of Manchester’s urban fabric: red-brick, glass, concrete. This is one of the few TV dramas I’ve watched where the two leads are women, their boss is a woman, and her boss is a woman – very refreshing!

Book - The Penny Heart by Martine Bailey

The Penny Heart

The Penny Heart

Martine Bailey

A page-turning mystery set in 18th century Manchester which conjures up the city at the heart of the Industrial Revolution.

Find out more

TV drama - No Offence 

Another police drama (so many of Manchester’s representations in books and TV are associated with crime...). This was written by Paul Abbott, of Shameless fame, and is a sparky, funny, at times brutal but very watchable drama.

Film - Ken Loach's Looking For Eric

A beautiful, funny film starring Steve Evets as a Manchester postman having a rough time, and Eric Cantona as his imaginary life coach. I’m not a football fan at all, but this is a fantastic story about male friendship, love and finding your place in the world.

 Music - Oasis' (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

While this isn’t strictly a representation of Manchester, it is the epitome of my teenage years in Manchester in the late 1990s. Listening to it evokes the city so strongly for me. 

Before the Fire

Before the Fire

Best friends Stick and Mac can't wait to turn eighteen and escape their north Manchester estate. They've spent months planning a road trip to Spain, but the night before they're due to leave Mac ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and now Stick must face an uncertain future alone.

Resisting his family's well-meaning attempts to help, he focuses on seeking justice for his friend and then meets a girl he can't stop thinking about. When riots break out across the country, Stick is still burning with rage and grief and searching for a way to express them . . .

Read extract  

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