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Sunday, 12 June 2011

Didsbury Festival 2011 & Manchester Mosaics at Queenston Arthouse

A friend of mine has just bagged herself an ace new job, and is looking to move into Manchester as a result; one of the areas she is considering is Didsbury. Is it a nice place to live? she plaintively cried, having foolishly looked at some crime figures and subsequently become worried she might be moving to some kind of ghetto rather than the hip, leafy suburb that irritating programmes such as Cold Feet would have us believe. Well, Didsbury has its problems like any other area, but a quick glance at yesterday's itinerary should give the concerned friend her answer.

(NB she asked me to "do something naughty" yesterday in honour of World Gin Day (who knew?) and thereby bring house prices down in the area; I'm not sure the following really qualifies.)

First stop, the annual Didsbury Festival at Didsbury Park. Now, at the risk of sounding like I'm ninety five million years old, Didsbury Festival is one of my very favourite events of the year, purely and simply because it is exactly the same every year, but in a really nice way. The first festival was held back in 1980, and from what I understand the format has changed very little over the years; the day starts with a procession of local schools (this year dressed mostly as Disney characters) down School Lane and Wilmslow Road into Didsbury Park, and then unfolds exactly as you might hope - there is a dog show populated by splendidly over-excited and ill-behaved canines, a range of stalls selling the kind of food that you would secretly want to live on if it weren't for the food-police (Mr Liz was actually jingling his money in impatient excitement whilst waiting for his hog roast - please note there are NO euphemisms included in this statement), stalls selling books, plants, jewellery and cakes, and always, always, people dressed up in spectacular costumes dancing away come rain or shine.

The very nicest thing about the festival is that everybody in Didsbury goes, every year, even if it is raining (or hailing, as yesterday) and even though it's so wildly predictable. After all, there are few circumstances where you can have pig-in-a-bun, an ice-cream, and then be having a pint in the Fletcher Moss by 2pm, safe in the knowledge that whatever you do is perfectly permissible, as you are demonstrating community spirit AND raising money for charity (TWICE in one week *directs reader to Tuesday's post and awaits knighthood*)

Then, something even more exciting to attend. A short walk over the border into West Didsbury brought us to Queenston Arthouse, a gallery like no other I have seen - a gorgeous family home generously opened up to display the works of talented artists in a unique setting. Frankly, once you've stood in a beautiful kitchen, drinking a glass of wine and admiring a range of stunning mosaics, all the while petting a passing dog and eyeing up the brie on the worktop, a conventional gallery is simply not going to cut it.

The art works in question of course belong to Amanda McCrann, the ridiculously talented lady behind Manchester Mosaics. Her witty and beautiful mosaics can be seen at Queenston today until 7pm (Amanda herself will be around between 2 and 5pm) as well as next Saturday and Sunday 18th and 19th June between 11am and 7pm. Each of these "open days" allows you to admire the art work whilst talented musicians serenade you; yesterday we were privileged to be sung to by the charming James Reith as I skipped merrily round the house mentally selecting all the mosaics I can picture looking just right in my own (rather smaller) home - his music is well worth checking out.

We were also lucky enough to see wood sculptor Andy Burgess in action - or "champion of doing clever things with chainsaws", to give him his official title. We watched, mouths actually agape, as he wielded his flashing blade in the vicinity of a distinctly unpromising looking lump of tree trunk; half an hour later, a living, breathing (well, almost) owl sat in its place. I am, frankly, astonished to have discovered such a gem of a place, and plan on attending more events at this haven of good taste and general all-round loveliness over the summer - the full programme is on the website, or you can call Laura on 0161 445 5901. She is the enterprising lady behind all of this, and welcomes all-comers as if they were old friends - I felt incredibly at home in the house of someone I have never met before, and am quite tempted to simply move in (although I should perhaps keep this quiet, lest she become distinctly less welcoming as a result.)

So yes, Didsbury is a GREAT place to live...although not without its disadvantages. Mr Liz fancies he might take up a new hobby, and is asking for a chainsaw - let us hope he never reads this blog, and safely forgets all about it.

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