In Manchester for another Ginsberg ‘Howl’ event; an all-day symposium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first reading of ‘Howl’, held at Wander Inn, a venue that I at first thought must be a hotel, but which turns out to be an arts centre. Quite a funky one that that.
I was put up at the Islington Mill, another arts centre, this time in Salford, but still close to the city centre. It was more like living in an old style hippie commune, only with better facilities: the communal kitchen was stocked with every type of food possible, huge selection of cereals, teas, proper coffee, even coconut water in the fridge. My room on the ground floor opened onto what used to be an industrial alley between two huge factory blocks but is now filled with potted plants and flowers. The residential section is designed for ‘arts’ people and I would certainly recommend it to anyone wanting to drop straight into the scene in Manchester.
I was on a panel discussion together with Steven Taylor, who is from Manchester but who has lived in New York for 40 years. He was Allen Ginsberg’s guitarist for about 25 of them. Michael Horowitz was there, both on the panel and to do a separate reading in the evening. It was wonderful to see Peter Hale there, the man who runs the Allen Ginsberg Estate and its wonderful website. Peter is doing a fantastic job in keeping Allen’s name and work in the public eye. Simon Warner, the organiser of the symposium was unfortunately struck down by illness and so the panel was moderated by Oliver Harris, who happened to be in Manchester. Simon was also supposed to interview Steven Taylor on stage but was still feeling unwell so I did it for him. Fortunately I knew Steven from New York, when I was working on Allen Ginsberg’s biography in the early eighties and so knew a bit about his background and his experiences though Simon’s notes helped with his more recent career. He wryly commented, you should “never be the one with a credit card in a punk band.”
I was surprised to be invited to two events to celebrate the first reading of ‘Howl’ – as opposed to its publication by City Lights – but it is true that it was the first reading that gave Allen his first celebrity and notoriety. I include here a couple of pictures, taken of 1010 Montgomery in 1991, where Allen was living when he wrote ‘Howl’, and the premises of the 6-Gallery: a carpet shop when I was there.
The Manchester event ran from 2pm until 11pm, and as the venue had no heating, we were all frozen by the end of it. The evening segment featured several local poets, including a very good rendition of ‘Howl’ itself and Michael Horovitz singing Blake’s Songs of Innocence & Experience, accompanied on guitar by Steven Taylor, just as Allen used to do. I enjoyed the whole event very much, including the driving and walking around Manchester, a city that I barely know.