Category Archives: Event

Rachel’s Wedding

We’re just back from our trip to Portugal and our main reason for being there – my sister Rachel’s wedding to Neil Gunn.

As well as the wonderful wedding, this event had special significance for me as it was the first time I was with all my Irish siblings at the same time (I‘m not going into the history here, wait for the movie), so we were all looking forward to it, but that’s enough about me, this was Rachel’s (and Neil’s) day.

Most of the guests stayed in Cascais, not far from Lisbon, and we all met at the railway station to be picked up by coach for the 40 minute trip north to Mafra and the Quinta de Sant’Ana where the ceremony and celebration took place. A stunning venue in a beautiful location.

The actual ceremony was fairly brisk, with a reading by my brother Peter, and yours truly, amongst others. Rachel looked stunning, as did the bridesmaids, and Neil looked very chilled – which was nice. The atmosphere was very relaxed all round in fact, with no trace of bridezilla anywhere, considering how much work must have gone into the day, that’s quite an achievement in itself.

Out of the church, a few photos and then a short walk through the town to the Quinta. This place was gorgeous, with the only Portuguese Irish Band I’ve ever heard, wine-tasting, great food and even white doves flying overhead at just the right moment – I have visions of guys hiding around the back waiting for the signal to chuck ’em in the air. It was almost too perfect.

It was great to be with everyone for such a wonderful occasion and I even got a few mentions in the speeches, so I feel especially honoured. The icing on the cake though was the chance to get a photo of me with my Irish brother and sisters after all this time, so it really was a wonderful day – thank you Rachel (and Neil obviously).

You now, we should do this every year!

Chris

 

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Manchester: A Week After the Bomb

This Bank Holiday Monday was exactly one week since the Manchester Arena bomb that killed 22 people and injured many more.

Lady Hughes and myself had arranged to go into town with friends a while back, and this was the first time I had been into Manchester since the bomb. I was curious what the mood would be and I was also keen to visit St Anne’s Square and pay my respects.

Getting off the bus in Piccadilly I was pleased to see that it was business as usual. Children were playing in the fountains, getting soaked and upsetting their parents, who would now have to take them into Primark to buy them some dry clothes – we did the same when our lads were smaller.

The Northern Quarter was still busy and bustling, but there were signs and street art showing their support for the victims and a desire to stand strong.

Walking through the streets, we found the police cordon very much still in force but people and the police were smiling and helpful in directing us around it.

We quickly visited Manchester Cathedral, lit a candle and signed the book of condolences before heading off to St Anne’s Square where all the flowers and messages were laid out.

The atmosphere here was very subdued and respectful, with people slowly shuffling around the square, reading the messages and taking it all in. I felt a bit self-conscious taking pictures, so I didn’t take too many.

There were police with machine guns standing around but they were chatting with people and looked relaxed. The media were still present but were keeping themselves to one end near the church.

It was quite sombre and emotional as you would expect, especially when you read some of the many messages, but still very colourful and vibrant with all the flowers and balloons.

On the way out back we past the entrance to a tattoo parlour where they were doing bee tattoos to raise money for the charity fund. One week later and people were still queuing down the stairs.

Liam Gallagher played a benefit gig in Manchester yesterday and he said, “normal business has been resumed“. Walking round Manchester, I think he might be right. We’re not knocked down, but we not forgetting either.

Chris Hughes

Manchester

It’s been a pretty rough week.

Last Monday a suicide bomber killed himself and 22 other people at the Manchester Arena, many more were injured. On top of that a close colleague of mine lost her mother suddenly (nothing to do with the bomb) and, perhaps not as tragic but still sad for me, Roger Moore died.

Monday, was coincidentally our 24th wedding anniversary. Now that date will have a second, darker, relevance. We had talked about next year’s silver wedding anniversary as a celebration, it will now also be the one year anniversary of the bomb. A time, like this week, where we reflect on the victims and effects of this senseless act.

Out of all the pain and suffering, one light of hope has shone bright though. The response from the people of Manchester.

I was born and raised in Manchester and I live there still, I love Manchester and I’m immensely proud of the way everyone has come together to try and help their fellow man. There are numerous stories, which you’ve probably seen on the media; taxi drivers offering free lifts, queues at the blood donation centres, the homeless man who ran in to try and help the victims and many more. One thing has struck me though.

Many of the people offering their support and love for the city have mentioned that they were not born here. I have been surprised by how many of the people I know came here from somewhere else. My wife is one of them. She was born on the Wirral but has lived more of her life here in Manchester than back where she grew up.

Some people would say that she isn’t a true Mancunian because she wasn’t born here.

Well, if you think of Manchester itself, how much has been built by people who were not born here?

In 1773 Manchester had a population of approximately 25’000. In less than twenty years that had risen to 95’000 due to the industrial revolution. That wasn’t down to more babies being born, that was because people came here. If they hadn’t, the prosperity of the city would never have happened.

When we think of Manchester, what do we think of? The Manchester Ship Canal was built by 12’000 navvies, many of whom were Irish. Chinatown and the Curry Mile are both the result of immigration from other countries. The Gay Village has drawn people from other parts of the country, looking for acceptance and tolerance, that is why it has grown. How many Manchester City/ United players come from here? George Best? Eric Cantona? David Beckham? Sergio Aguero? Pablo Zabaleta?

One of City’s most celebrated goalkeepers, Bert Trautmann, was German and fought on the Eastern Front. He was awarded the Iron Cross for bravery. Sir Matt Busby was born in North Lanarkshire. Sir Alex Ferguson was born in Govan.

People talk of Manchester as a vibrant, exciting, city, but where does that come from?

The city is kept young by the constant influx of young people. Over 9’000 students start at Manchester Metropolitan University each year (over 50’000 apply), and the MMU has a student population of over 35’000 – many, if not most, were not born here.

Media City has approximately 40 companies based there and the BBC alone employs over 2’000 people. One of the criticism’s has been how few came from the local area, so most of them, apparently, are not from here.

Noel and Liam Gallagher are from Manchester, but their father was originally from Ireland. Peter Kay’s mother is from Northern Ireland. Sir Charles Hallé, who started the famous Hallé Orchestra, was from Westphalia in Germany.

The Nobel Prize for Physics that Manchester won in 2010 was more specifically won by Andre Geim and Constantin Novoselov, both born in Russia. In fact Ernest Rutherford, who won the Nobel prize for Chemistry, back in 1908, for splitting the atom here in Manchester, was originally from New Zealand. Neils Bohr who won the Physics prize for Manchester in 1922 was born in Copenhagen. Look at the MMU’s list of Nobel prizes and there are quite a few, many of which were won by people not from here.

Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, who did much of his great work here in Manchester, was born in Maida Vale.

Manchester’s strength and prosperity is built by people from far and wide. It has been for hundreds of years and it will continue to do so. If we close the door to outsiders or we lose our famous warmth and welcoming nature, we will start the decline of this great city.

If you were one of those brave emergency services personnel who ran into the Arena last Monday, when everyone else was running out, or you queued to give your own blood to help other people, or you opened your home to strangers so they might have somewhere to sleep because they couldn’t get home – then you’re a Mancunian as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care where you were born.

Mancunians are Mancunians by choice, not by accident of birth.

Thank you,

Chris Hughes

 

Crawling Up Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick is a mountain in the west of Ireland, not far from Westport. It’s a holy mountain and a place of pilgrimage as Saint Patrick reputedly fasted on the summit for forty days in the fifth century. Well that’s the guidebook stuff covered – thank you Wikipedia.

Having travelled over to Ireland to visit family for years now, it had been suggested that we all climb the mountain together, on Reek Sunday, which is the one day of the year that thousands of people do it. We kept talking about this, but never actually got organised – until now.

Lady Hughes and myself flew over to Dublin and stayed with family in Slane before driving across Ireland to meet up with everyone else in Clifden. We had one brief stop half-way in Athlone where we met up with my brother Peter and his family for lunch and a quick look at the castle and the Shannon River.

In Clifden we all stayed in the same guesthouse, fourteen of us in total including four small children. It sounds hectic but it was actually very chilled.

On Sunday we drove through beautiful Connemara to the mountain, not really sure what was waiting for us. Most of our group travelled light, in running gear and trainers, but with my years of hiking experience I went prepared, with rucksack, boots, food, first aid and camera kit. This, along with the fact I’m really unfit, meant they all left me for dust within minutes. The only consolation was that they all got mild hyperthermia, waiting for me at the top.

Croagh Patrick is 764 metres high and the climb is classed as moderate. I found it fairly tough, mainly because the upper sections are steep and full of loose boulders as well as the numbers of people on the day going up and coming down – also, did I mention that I’m not very fit at the moment?

In some parts I was struggling to find a solid foothold and all the time people are stumbling and sliding around you. Having said that, the atmosphere was great, we were really lucky with the weather and the views were stunning.

One impressive sight was all the devout Catholics climbing the mountain in bare feet, some of them had painted their toenails specially for the occasion. A more depressing one was when I was overtaken by an 82 year old lady who was being held up by two men – but hey, she didn’t have a rucksack and camera to carry.

On the top there is a chapel and a priest delivering mass from, what looked like a bay window. On one side of the chapel there was a doorway for confessions and on the other a doorway for holy communion. By the time I got up there (approx. 2 hours – not bad going) the summit was shrouded in cloud and the rest of my family were shivering and keen to get moving again. Clare and myself put on our anoraks and settled down for a bite to eat as they all abandoned us for the warmer lower reaches.

As we recharged our batteries, the cloud lifted and we were rewarded with gorgeous views over Clew Bay with its 365 islands (one for every day of the year). I strolled around a bit and took a few pictures before we eventually packed up and started the careful descent.

Back in Clifden we had another great night out, celebrating our ascent and swapping stories about the various sights we’d seen, including the English mother, and her son who sat down and refused to move another step. She was trying to get him to stay with the mountain rescue, who had a team every hundred yards, but he was having none of it and they started having a bit of a domestic on the steepest section.

Driving back to Dublin, we stopped off in Athlone again for a bite to eat and a better look round the castle. We said our goodbyes and headed off to the airport.

It was wonderful to catch up with all the family, especially my sister Rachel, who had come over from Perth, Australia. Connemara is stunningly beautiful and we had a great time, especially climbing Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday – that’s an experience I’ll always remember. I suppose we’ll have to come up with a new adventure for us all now – but I’ll just let my knees recover from this one first I think.

Chris

Salford Dog Festival

After Saturday’s hike around Cartmel, Lady Hughes suggested something a bit easier for Sunday – the Salford Dog Festival at Clifton Park. Dogs 4 Rescue, who we got Ziggy from, would be there, so she thought it would be nice to show our support and we could take Ziggy and Bobby along too – because everyone knows dogs love organised community events!

If you like dogs, this is for you. If you don’t like dogs, then you’d probably best avoid it as there was every type you could possibly think of – I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea, there was a lot of dogs.

I like dogs so I found it really interesting. Not just the dogs, but the owners too – again, all types, us included of course.

I used the experience to do a bit of ‘doggy’ street photography (is it my dirty mind, or does that sound wrong?), if such a thing exists? Looking for interesting shots of dogs and their owners, something to illustrate the relationships, the special bond that they have.

The easiest option was the obedience display as they were doing a great job entertaining the crowd whilst also making us all feel guilty about how badly trained our dogs are.

The weather was changeable but the crowds were out in force and it looked like the event was going really well. We finished off with a walk round the lake before making our way home – via the Wharf pub in Castlefield to make up for missing out on a pint the day before.

Chris

Birthday Stomp up Harter Fell

This week was my birthday, 47 – I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. Anyway, it’s been a funny few weeks lately as the country gears up for the EU Referendum, which is in just two weeks. I must confess that I’m sick of all the debate and wish we could just get it over with now. I know what I’m voting for and I’m sure most people probably have a good idea what they’re voting for by now, so it just seems like we’re going over the same ground.

Anyway, to celebrate this momentous occasion (my birthday, not the EU Referendum) I was lucky enough to have number one son, Alex, come home from York ,and along with Elliott, Clare and a few close friends, we went out for a meal at the Tiffin Rooms in Cheadle. This lovely little restaurant serves Indian street food – think tapas but Indian. 

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The food was great and the company even better, I’m very lucky to have such a great family and some brilliant friends.

I’d booked the next day off to go for a hike with Lady Hughes and the weather was glorious, so we decided to head up to Haweswater in the Lakes and climb Harter Fell, a hill I’d not done before but it looked relatively straightforward and with it being a Thursday, we’d hopefully avoid the crowds.

Haweswater is not a natural lake, it’s a reservoir, created by the construction of a dam in 1929. This was quite controversial as the creation of the reservoir meant the forced movement of the local people to provide water for my city, Manchester. According to wikipedia it currently provides 25% of the North West’s water supply.

The route was pretty easy to navigate starting with a climb to the start of a steep climb, followed by a fairly steep climb, leading to a reasonably steep climb.

Once on the tops, the views are wonderful, if a little hazy on our day. It was hot and we found the uphill section a bit of a slog to be honest, but we only stopped a couple of times and kept on moving, even if we were puffing and panting a bit – hey, I’ve just turned 47, cut me a bit of slack will you!

Looking at the map I was a little apprehensive about the descent as it looked a bit steep, but in the end it was fine, bringing us down alongside a tarn. We were soon overtaken by a group of mountain-bikers carefully picking there way through the boulders whilst trying not to fall down the mountainside face-first. A few minutes later we overtook them as they had to deal with a snapped gear mechanism. I must confess to a little happiness as I strolled past the athletic twenty-somethings all decked out in lycra – don’t worry, they’ll get over it.

We got back to the car and checked out time. The guidebook had the walk down as 2½ hours and we’d done it in just over 4. I knew we were a bit slow but I don’t think we were that bad, ah well, it wasn’t a race.

Overall, great weather, great walk, great birthday – here’s the next 47!

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Chris

 

 

Back to the Globe

Last Christmas, as a gift, Lady Hughes gave me two tickets to see A Winter’s Tale at the Globe Theatre in London.

The Globe is the recreation of the Elizabethan Theatre that stood on the same site when Shakespeare was alive. We did the tour last year and I’d said that I’d love to see a show there. It was a wonderful, thoughtful gift – so after much thought I offered to take her with me. It was the least I could do I suppose.

Clare actually presented the gift to me in the form of a globe paperweight, she then asked me to guess where we were going. I guessed wrong, and I sensed she was a bit disappointed when I shouted out ‘round the world trip’ – but hey, this is good also.

As it’s the winter season they don’t use the open air theatre, instead they have new indoor theatre, the Sam Wanamaker Theatre. This is still a recreation of an Elizabethan Theatre but its inside.

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(Picture courtesy of Shakespeare’s Globe)

One problem we had was whether Clare would be well enough to travel as she was involved in an accident at work a week or two before, and had been poisoned. Just the day before we were supposed to go, she called the theatre to see whether it was possible to resell the tickets if we couldn’t go. In the end she felt that as long as we took it easy, she’d give it a go, so we jumped the train and headed off to ‘that London’ – as we call it in the North.

The theatre itself is wonderful. It’s small so you’re very close to the action and the whole thing is lit by candles. They’ve managed to do some deal with health & safety so there isn’t even the usual ‘exit’ signs to spoil the period mood.

The performance was excellent, lively, dramatic and surprisingly funny. The creative use of the limited staging and props kept it interesting, my only gripe was the cramped seating, but that’s the price of authenticity I suppose.

We stayed at the Hamilton by Hilton in Waterloo so everything was walking distance – which was nice.

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The next morning we wandered over the Thames to Somerset House for a quick look before sticking our heads in the National Gallery which was somewhere else I’d wanted to visit after we went to the National Portrait Gallery a while back.

We couldn’t do too much as Clare was still recovering so we kept it light and were quickly jumping the train back home.

Overall, if you like the theatre and/or Shakespeare, I’d heartily recommend the Globe, it’s a different experience to other, more traditional theatres (which is a bit ironic if you think about it) but it’s still a lot of fun.

 Chris

 

Summer 2015

I feel very guilty as I’ve not written a blog all summer and it’s mid-September now – don’t worry, I’ll get over it.

Not sure why not, I’ve been very busy but I also think I just wanted a break if I’m completely honest – but hey, I’m back so panic over.

What have I been up to?

Well the first part of summer was taken up with the Manchester International Festival. Every two years, Manchester hosts an arts festival where every performance is a premiere.

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Two years ago I was gutted to miss out on tickets for Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth, so this year we signed up to become a friend of the festival, which, for a small fee, meant we got advance notice of all the shows and priority booking. Despite some glitches with the booking website we managed to see some great shows, including; Damon Albarn’s ‘Wonderland’ musical (interesting), Maxine Peake in ‘The Skryker’ (brilliant), Charlotte Rampling in ‘Kneck of the Woods’ (disappointing), Adam Buxton (very funny), Bork, various exhibitions and two full days of talks called ‘Interdependance’ (fascinating). We also saw Professor Brian Cox talk about his upcoming ‘Age of Starlight’ show, which looks amazing.

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On the filmmaking side, I’ve been involved with Bokeh Yeah and we shot our latest short film in Cheshire last month- we’ve finished the edit and are waiting for my son, Alex, to complete the music – very exciting.

We have several other films in preparation including, at least two poetry films – watch this space.

The big project we’re considering at the moment is the Shining Tor Film School.

Can’t say too much at present, but we’re planning to run some basic film-making courses for absolute beginners, probably starting in the new year – if we can find a suitable venue!

Last week, Lady Hughes and myself came back from a rare holiday. One scorching week in Malta. More to come about that trip later, when I finally manage to organise the photos, etc.

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The main thing is, we’re okay (thanks for asking) and we’ve a lot happening so stay tuned for more adventures.

Chris

Feeling at Home, at ‘Home’

Manchester has a new arts venue, confusingly named ‘Home.

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Already, I’ve encountered the problem of statements like, “we saw it at home”, “we’re off to home” and “great time at home last night”. I get round this usually, by adding the preface, “the arts venue, not where I live“. Hopefully this confusion will dissipate once people get to know the place – the arts venue, not where I live.

This new centre, houses two theatres, a five screen cinema, exhibition space, bars and a restaurant, and it’s the new ‘home’ of the old Library Theatre and Cornerhouse cinema.

The official opening was last Thursday, but Clare and myself went to an early performance of the first play to be performed here, ‘Funfair’, the Saturday before, and we took Elliott to a screening of ‘Blade Runner’ the day after, so we’d had chance to have a look around before all the hoopla of the official opening.

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The venue itself is great, with a good location just on the edge of the city and lots of space to wander around and explore. Obviously, everything is shiny and new and the design appears to be very minimalist with bare concrete walls and lots of glass – very modern but perhaps a little cold and inexpressive.

But hey, maybe that’s the idea, after all the test of this venue, won’t be the wallpaper, it’ll be the stuff going on inside.

The opening itself was blessed with glorious sunshine and we were excited to hear that Danny Boyle, one of the patrons of Home, and Oscar-winning director of such films as Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire would be there to cut the ribbon. So, we stuffed our DVD of Shallow Grave in Clare’s handbag and popped down to see the show.

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There was lots of colourful characters and music so we had a great time, Elliott even managed to get a selfie with Mr Boyle and got him to sign our DVD – though Elliott did forget to take the pen we gave him, but Danny Boyle had one himself, which was lucky.

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Now we’ve been to ‘Home’ (the venue, not the …) a few times, I can say how much I like it. I love cinema and the theatre, so this is a welcome addition to the already vibrant arts scene in Manchester. Even though the architecture is new, shiny and a little cold for my taste, the energy and vibe is quite warm and exciting, which can only be a good thing.

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It’s actually quite ‘homely’.

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Chris

Scaling the Steep Steps to South Stack

A few weeks back, Lady Hughes and myself were invited to the beautiful wedding of Scott and Becca Parry (probably doesn’t mean a lot to you unless you know them). Anyway, the wedding was held at Treaddur Bay, Anglesey in Wales, which meant us booking a night at a local hotel.

The wedding was lovely and we managed to control our drunken revels enough to be able to function in the morning (unlike some others – not mentioning anyone in particular – Tony).

The day after the event was windy but there was clear blue skies and we were literally ten minutes drive from South Stack so off we went.

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South Stack is small rocky island off the north-west corner of Anglesey, reached by descending a thousand steps down the cliff face and crossing a small bridge.

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On the island there is a lighthouse and the whole area now is a haven for a variety of birds including gulls, puffins, chuffs, gannets and peregrine falcons.

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I really wanted to get a shot of a puffin, but we’d picked the wrong time apparently and we mostly saw gulls, but even they were impressive as they flew around the cliffs with the waves crashing below.

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Photographing the birds as they fly past requires good reflexes, catching them as they approach. If you hesitate, you tend to get them as they fly away and I didn’t want numerous shots of birds arses, if I could help it.

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The missed shot of the day was as we walked along the cliff edge and reached a spot where the wind was channelling up a corner, lifting the spray and creating a temporary water feature with a fountain of sea water glistening in the sunlight. We walked up to the edge and were immediately buzzed by a peregrine falcon shooting up through the water and over our heads. By the time I’d worked out what was happening and raised my camera, it was off into the distance, but please close your eyes and try and imagine a stunning shot of a falcon, only yards away, flying through a fountain of sea spray.

Can you see it? Great isn’t it? – see, who needs a camera?

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Chris

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