The Mancunian Way: Dazzling basslines

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There was sadness across the country today when the death of The Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, 59, was announced[2] following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Growing up in Manchester, Rourke was into music from an early age and would often spend his lunchtimes at school with future bandmate Johnny Marr jamming together on their guitars. Leaving school at 15, he went on to play in a variety of rock bands including funk band Freak Party alongside his pal Marr.

In 1982, at the age of 18, his former schoolmate invited him to join The Smiths - a band which would go on to have a lasting impact on not just Manchester, but the British music scene as a whole. Rourke himself was noted for his melodic approach to playing the bass guitar, inspiring a whole generation to take up music.

After the band disbanded in 1987, Rourke went on to work on solo songs for frontman Morrissey and tracks for Sinead O’Connor and The Pretenders. In 2007, he formed Freebass with fellow Mancunian bass players Stone Roses' Mani and New Order's Peter Hook.

Marr announced the news of Rourke’s passing this morning, where he described him as a 'supremely gifted musician' and a 'kind and beautiful soul'.

Other musicians took to social media to share tributes to the star. Suede bassist Mat Osman wrote: "Aw man. RIP Andy Rourke. A total one-off - a rare bassist whose sound you could recognise straight away.

“I remember so clearly playing that Barbarism break over and over, trying to learn the riff, and marvelling at this steely funk driving the track along."

Folk singer Billy Bragg wrote: “Very sorry to hear that Smiths bassist Andy Rourke has passed away. I have great memories of him playing with Johnny Marr and myself on the Red Wedge tour. He was a lovely guy and an amazing bass player. My condolences to his family and friends.”

The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess posted: “Such sad sad news about Andy Rourke - He was an inspirational musician with a style that made so many of us pick up a bass guitar; and the driving force for Manchester Versus Cancer. Our thoughts are with everyone who knew him. Travel well x”.

In today's Mancunian Way, we'll be looking at the fears of university students, a novel new bin idea, and a £45m investment. But next up, we're looking at Johnny Marr's touching tribute to his bandmate.

'Genuinely something to behold'

In a tribute to Rourke, Johnny Marr posted on Instagram a heartfelt message about how his 'best friend' had gone on to 'reinvent what it is to be a bass player'.

Marr described it as a 'matter of personal pride' but also of 'sadness' that Rourke's last time on the stage performing was with Marr's band in New York last year.

He wrote: "Andy and I met as schoolboys in 1975. We were best friends, going everywhere together. When we were fifteen I moved into his house with him and his three brothers and I soon came to realise that my mate was one of those rare people that absolutely no one doesn’t like.

"Andy and I spent all our time studying music, having fun, and working on becoming the best musicians we could possibly be. Back then Andy was a guitar player and a good one at that, but it was when he picked up the bass that he would find his true calling and his singular talent would flourish.

"Throughout our teens we played in various bands around South Manchester before making our reputations with The Smiths from 1982 to 1987, and it was on those Smiths records that Andy reinvented what it is to be a bass guitar player.

"I was present at every one of Andy’s bass takes on every Smiths session. Sometimes I was there as the producer and sometimes just as his proud mate and cheerleader. Watching him play those dazzling baselines was an absolute privilege and genuinely something to behold.

He added: "We maintained our friendship over the years, no matter where we were or what was happening."

You can read the full tribute here.[3]

Concerns for graduation

The move comes as part of a bitter dispute over pay

Students at Manchester University could face delays to their graduation this year as teaching staff across the country are refusing to mark exam papers and dissertations as part of an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions.

University and College Union (UCU) members have been participating in the action short of a strike, which also impacts exam invigilation and the processing of marks, since April.

Some students, who already faced disruption to their studies due to the pandemic, have been speaking to M.E.N reporter Nicole Wootton-Cane[4] about the impact of the action on their education.

"It's just frustrating as we were the year that started in Covid and have had so much disruption to our studies,” final-year History and Politics student Joe McFadden, 21, said.

"It's definitely annoying as everyone's planned their life around graduation already - I've already got hotels booked - which just makes the confusion worse."

One Master's student claimed she had been told by a tutor that her graduation would be delayed. "I've not had any marks back since January," she said. "We have no idea how we are doing."

A UoM spokesperson said they 'understand that this situation may be causing concern' but wanted to 'reassure' students that they are 'committed to doing absolutely everything we can to minimise the impact of the boycott'.

The statement said most students will not be affected 'at all', and added that not all University staff are members of the UCU, and not all members will participate in action short of a strike.

'Tide is beginning to turn'

Earlier this week, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham unveiled plans for a Manchester Baccalaureate that would provide young people with the qualifications to get a well-paid job without having to go to university.

He said the alternative MBacc qualification would be focused on creative and digital careers, as well as health, social care and construction jobs. It could then lead to apprenticeships, T-Levels or even a degree with costs covered by employers.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham speaking at the Convention of the North

Since the announcement, some have expressed concerns that the new qualification would not help to break down educational barriers which young people from working class backgrounds often face.

Local Democracy Reporter Joseph Timan reports that Manchester-based charity RECLAIM, which supports young working class people, has argued that the path would be a 'dead end' if the pay, conditions and security of the jobs on offer, once completed do not match those of the professions dominated by middle class graduates.

Anna Dawe, who is the principal and CEO of Wigan and Leigh College, said that while she is concerned the ‘vast’ array of choices will make the system ‘confusing’ to navigate, she believes the 'tide is beginning to turn' with more students seeking alternatives to university.

Mr Burnham has argued the MBacc would offer a 'clear path in life' for all young people in Greater Manchester while helping fill skills gaps in the workforce. And he has called for an end to the 'snobbery' which looks down at technical education as a 'second class' option, saying that both routes should be deemed 'equal'.

"The technical route actually leads to the same destination, not one of lesser worth," he said. "It can lead to a degree qualification and actually without debt if you do a degree apprenticeship and you've got that employer support."

You can

Binned off

One of the ballot bins in Cutting Room Square, Ancoats, Manchester

Innovative cigarette bins fixed to streetlights in Cutting Room Square in Ancoats are allowing smokers to vote with their butts. In a clever way to combat litter, four ‘ballot bins’ ask smokers a question with their used-up cig being used to pick an answer.

One of the ballot bins asks smokers for their thoughts on whether Tom Hardy should be the next James Bond whilst another asks the controversial question of whether they love or hate Marmite.

A bin outside Halle St Peters asks smokers if they prefer playing air guitar or air drums, while another outside Rudy’s pizzeria asks if they think it’s acceptable to put pineapple on pizza (the answer is yes, by the way).

Hubbub & Common Works, the designers behind the Ballot Bin, say it has already reduced cigarette butt litter in areas where they’ve been installed by 46%.

M.E.N reporter Ethan Davies has looked[6] at people’s thoughts on the new installations, and it’s safe to say that opinions are pretty positive. “This is genius,” one person said. “I wish I smoked just so I could answer the question!”

Another said: “Love them, what a great idea to help keep our wonderful city clean and tidy.”

An additional £45m

The Freehold estate in Rochdale, Greater Manchester

A further £45m is to be ploughed into improving Rochdale Boroughwide Housing properties in the wake of the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak last year.

An inquest found that the toddler died as a direct result of 'extensive' black mould at his family's RBH home in Freehold.

The housing provider has said the investment will be spent on its existing homes over the next five years. With the company primarily focusing on improving existing homes, it has now parted ways with strategy executive Clare Tostevin after deciding ‘her role overseeing growth is no longer needed’ after 15 years.

Yvonne Arrowsmith, interim chief executive of RBH, told Local Democracy Reporter Nick Statham[7]: “We have committed to everyone having the right to a quality home, and as we deliver our recovery plan, we have been looking at the issues that we know need to be resolved.

"As a result, the RBH Board have agreed to invest an additional £45 million in our existing homes over the next five years. We are also accelerating our programme of replacement of kitchens, bathrooms, and central heating systems so that work scheduled to take place over the next seven years will instead be completed in four to five years.”

Earlier this year, Ms Arrowsmith set out details of a two-year ‘recovery plan’, which included spending £2m on a damp and mould ‘taskforce’ and £1.2m on improving ventilation at the Freehold estate alone.

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Weather etc

Saturday temperatures: Sunny. 20C.

Roads: The Great Manchester Run will be taking place on May 21. A number of road closures will be in place. Details here.[9]

Demolition work on the M56, near junctions 11 and 12, is taking place at the weekend. Parts of the motorway will be closed in both directions from Friday night until Monday morning. Drivers advised to plan ahead. More here.[10]

Contraflow and roadworks on A62 Oldham Way between B6477 Prince Street and A627 Ashton Road (King Street roundabout) until May 26. Delays expected.

One lane closed in both directions due to roadworks on A663 Broadway, near Chadderton, between Elk Mill Roundabout and Middleton Road. Until May 31.

Trains: On May 20 and 21, buses will run instead of trains on Northern services between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge stations due to engineering works.

New TransPennine Express timetable coming into effect on Sunday. There will be some changes to services. More here.[11]

Strike action on May 31 and June 3 will see disruption across England for most rail companies with a later start and reduced services across the network.

Manchester headlines

  • ID: Thousands of voters across Greater Manchester were turned away from polling stations because of the new ID requirements at the local elections earlier this month, according to new data[12]. The government says the measure was put in place to prevent voter fraud.
  • Social hub: A historic warehouse behind Piccadilly Station is set to become a series of ‘creative workspaces’ and a headquarters for developers Capital&Centric. It is hoped[13] Neptune Mill, on Chapeltown Street, will open in late 2024.
  • Anniversary: Council bosses have unveiled plans to mark the sixth anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing atrocity, which claimed 22 lives on May 22, 2017. The Glade of Light memorial, which is a 'focal point of remembrance and reflection', will be cleaned ahead of two one-minute silences that will take place on Monday at Victoria station at 12pm and 22.31pm, the exact anniversary of the attack. More here[14].
  • Corrie: A new ‘Coronation Street Experience’ opening in June will expand on the previous Corrie Tours attraction and will now be open seven days a week, instead of only weekends. The new visitor centre at the ITV studios site will feature a cinema and cafe alongside historic props, iconic costumes and a dedicated Corrie shop filled with souvenirs. Click here for details.[15]

Worth a read

This week marked the 80th anniversary of the Dambusters Raid.

Officially known as Operation Chastise, the mission saw 133 airmen and 19 specially converted Lancaster bombers take off from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire on the evening of May 16, 1943, to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley in the centre of Nazi Germany's industrial heartland.

LEGENDARY... This Lancaster Bomber made at Avro in Newton Heath was used in the Dambusters raid LEGENDARY... This Lancaster Bomber made at Avro in Newton Heath was used in the Dambusters raid

Flying at just 100 feet all the way and then dropping to 60 feet to attack the dams, the incredibly dangerous mission saw two dams successfully breached - but eight of the Lancasters failed to return home and sadly 53 airmen lost their lives.

The northwest had a significant role to play in the mission, with the Lancaster bombers being made by Avro, who had factories all over Manchester and the northwest.

As Lee Grimsditch reports, the bombers were built in sections at their Chadderton factory before being transported to Woodford in Cheshire for assembly and test flights. You can

The popularity of Oldham Street faded when the Arndale came to life in 1975 and many of the area's staple stores swapped their shopfronts for the flashy mall.

You can take a look at Oldham Street in the 60s and early 70s here.[17]

That's all for today

Thanks for joining me. If you have stories you would like us to look into, email [email protected][18].

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  1. ^ right here (
  2. ^ was announced (
  3. ^ You can read the full tribute here. (
  4. ^ have been speaking to M.E.N reporter Nicole Wootton-Cane (
  5. ^ You can