Archive for the ‘History’ Category

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Blues and Gospel Train

The “Blues and Gospel Train” was staged on May 7, 1964 by Granada TV. 200 fans were instructed to meet at Manchester’s Central Station at 7:30 that evening for a short train ride to the abandoned Wilbraham Road Station in Whalley Range, where a huge platform sign displaying the word ‘Chorltonville’. They had seats on the platform. The opposite platform was decorated with bales of cotton, sacks, crates, broken-down farm equipment, washtubs, wanted posters and even some farm animals.

This was an offshoot of The Blues and Gospel Tour, organized by Granada TV producer Johnnie Hamp and 25-year-old TV director Phil Casson . It is regarded as massively significant in the culture and history of the blues. It was broadcast on 19th August 1964. Hamp had produced a concert on  Sunday 21st October 1962 at the Free Trade Hall which was attended by Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman & Brian Jones and featured  John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon and T-Bone Walker.

Muddy Waters: “Blow Wind Blow”
Cousin Joe: “Chicken a la Blues”
Cousin Joe: “Railroad Porter Blues”
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: “Didn’t It Rain”
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: “Trouble in Mind”
Muddy Waters: “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had”
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: “Talking Harmonica Blues”
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: “Rambler’s Blues” medley
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: “Walk On”
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

There was a re-enactment by at Chorlton tram stop 7th May 2014 and coverage by the BBC of the 50th anniversary.

CP Lee, and audience member Brian Smith recalled the event in 2017.

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by Costel Harnasz.

Some of the long-standing members of the Friends of the Fallowfield Loop will remember Rob Trueblood. This is a brief story of the part he played in the creation of the Loop and how the Friends came into being.

I knew Rob Trueblood from sometime in the late 1970s, when our paths first crossed, both of us living in Prestwich, both of us teaching at the time. We became friends sharing an interest in local and industrial history in which maps figured greatly. We both became active in local and community politics.

One Saturday, in the mid 1990s, after popping out to the shops I came home to find a note pushed through my door. It was a note from Rob about an old railway track, ending with the capitalised words THIS IS THE BIG ONE! We arranged to meet that day and over mugs of tea, the Manchester A to Z, and the OS Explorer map spread over the kitchen table Rob explained that he had been following the route of an old railway line, on his bike, crossing over bridges, and turning into whatever roads that led to the next bridge, and so on till he emerged not far from me.

I caught his excitement, and shortly afterwards we both set off together to repeat the journey he’d made, but in the opposite direction, after finding a gap in a fence, and down to the level of the trackbed where the railway lines had once been. The cuttings were overgrown, some parts quite wet underfoot where water had pooled. Embankments covered with self seeded trees, nature at work. It was exhilarating to feel like we were bush whacking – in the city – on top of which, we had plunged into another, hidden traffic free world coexisting with the one we had been familiar with.

What happened next? Rob discovered that an organisation called Sustrans had produced a document in conjunction with Manchester City Council, for something called The Fallowfield Loop. He obtained a copy, a cartophile’s dream, full of detailed maps. We blew the dust off the report and formed an association called Two Wheels Good, and began to breath life into its pages. He created a display to take round to events where we could set up a stall and advertise the possibility of a traffic free cycle route across south Manchester. It was fantastic collaborating with Rob (a one time geography teacher) and we had maps to show schools that could be linked, parks and open spaces, train stations.

We had an aim to try and get funding in time for the Millenium celebrations of 2000. There was a lot of money around for a multitude of projects but cycling was just not on the agenda at the time and the funding didn’t emerge. But we ploughed on. Two Wheels Good became a properly constituted ‘Friends of’ body and a year later funding emerged, from a different national lottery source. The forthcoming 2002 Commonwealth Games was a driver as we offered the prospect of a traffic-free route round the city to the venue, by way of the Ashton Canal. This was picked up by the press, and also, by then so many councillors knew from our lobbying that the line of the FLoop passed through their wards.

Round this time Rob had discovered that Sustrans had a local area volunteer ranger, Dick Venes, and in 2001 the inaugural meeting of the Friends of the Fallowfield Loop took place in a bar that occupied the premises of the original Fallowfield Station, now absorbed into Sainsbury’s. It was a packed meeting, standing room only with over 35 people attending. Rob was the first chair, Dick its treasurer, and I secretary. The following year the first section of the FLoop was officially opened. The council produced, in conjunction with FotFL, the first leaflet with map. It was called The Fallowfield Loop, but a year or two later the next edition quickly appeared, called The Manchester Cycleway. I think it had been picked up by some far sighted officials in the transport department and while it seemed a shame to me that the name Fallowfield Loop had gone (at least from the cover), cycling was now, literally, on the map in Manchester. I do believe that the FLoop prompted more cycle routes appearing on roads, and it was exciting to see signs pointing to how to get to the FLoop.

Rob’s involvement with the FLoop decreased as it took on a life of its own – to this day the Friends of the FLoop remains one of the very few ‘Friends of’ an off-road cycle route in the country. He became involved with driving new projects in the north of the city. He got more and more into wildlife, the environment of natural history, continuing that strand in our early lobbying when we would refer to the FLoop as a Greenway. Rob was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis last year, and this year contracted complications. He died in Prestwich, at home, close to where I first bumped into him.

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Members of the Friends have just produced a new and updated “Points of Interest” map!  The map has multiple layers which can be turned on or off by the user, showing the route of the Loop and points of interest on or accessible from it. Current map layers are:

  • Access points
  • Wildlife and natural features
  • Public resources and amenities
  • Landmarks
  • Historical interest
  • The railway 1891-1981

The Friends would like to continue to refine and update this over time so if you have suggestions for places to include on this map or notice any necessary corrections then please let us know!

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The year a DLR train visited the Loop

Here’s an interesting and informative blog post about the visit of a Docklands Light Railway train from London to the Fallowfield Loop back in 1987!

Project Light Rail ticket (source: www.ianvisits.co.uk)

Project Light Rail ticket (source: http://www.ianvisits.co.uk)

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Cos Harnasz writes: ‘There is so much history woven into the Fallowfield Loop, of all sorts, and one of the biggest surprises was discovering several years ago that a very special concert had taken place on 7 May 1964 near the present Athol road entrance. It was the site of the old Wilbraham Road station, already then disused, the line having been closed to passenger traffic but still having freight trains rumbling along it. On tour in Britain that year was the ‘Blues and Gospel Train’. It included musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Granada TV had the idea to film a show in Manchester and mock up a southern states style railroad station. Ours was the one. The programme was broadcast later in the year – and clips visible down the tunnel of time are available on YouTube. A memorable moment is seeing Rosetta Tharpe saying to the welcoming audience who had come on a chartered steam train from Central Station in the city centre: “England, we love you.” It was the time of Civil Rights back in the USA.

Blues and Gospel Train - Flyer

Blues and Gospel Train – Flyer

With all this in mind the idea kept coming up to celebrate the 50th anniversary as near the original date as possible. A venue was chosen, the Carlton Club in Whalley Range. Jo Banana gathered bands she knew and played in, plus inviting a Gospel Choir; and with Phil Busby, who in addition to being a blues player is also a historian of the blues, the original set of songs sung half a century ago had new life breathed into them, and were performed as a group again. There was a DJ, and (a new one for me) a VJ who projected video and images onto the backdrop and ceiling – including footage from the original concert onto the present day players!

All those who came – thank you – and sorry if you came but couldn’t get in. We never imagined we’d be turning people away shortly after reaching capacity at the Carlton Club. Maybe it was the mention on national radio, when Mark Radcliffe flagged us up on his Radio 2 Folk Show. We ran from 8 pm to 1 am. Thanks to Unicorn Wholefoods who donated food vouchers, Forest Foods who gave boxes of savoury snacks and the splendid Black Cat Cakery who made and gave the biggest chocolate cake I’ve ever tucked into. Poynton Players lent lights, and thanks also to Richard Rhodes who came with them as controller. And next year?’

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