I’d a bit of a do in my own head last week, telling myself off, I guess, for spending too much time with my chin tilted looking at social media and not enough time looking up and doing. Granted, we do ‘do’ a lot, we fit tonnes into each week, but like most people, I’m finding myself caught up in other people’s worlds for far too long, scrolling, watching and wasting that most precious of commodities, time. Getting inspiration and connecting is one thing, but admit it, it’s way too easy to have eyeballs facing down.
Now let’s be clear, I’m not slating social media. Without it I’d never have ‘met’ Simon Buckley, the force behind Not Quite Light. The man is a creative whirlwind. He organises regular photography tours at dusk and dawn, finding beauty in the industrial half light and showing enthusiastic amateurs how to capture it, as well as regular exhibitions and events. Following a few DMs and calls in the last fortnight, I’m properly excited that he’ll be one of our new Experience hosts for Airbnb and I wanted to connect in ‘real’ life as well as online. Simon genuinely gets out there and does, and gets other people out doing too. This weekend’s NQL Weekend is an amazing example of that adventurous spirit, which we enjoyed just a snippet of last night but there are tonnes more completely brilliant mini-events on which you can pop along to today or tomorrow.Follow in Lowry’s Footsteps on Sunday, go Behind The Scenes at Blueprint Studios and see where musicians like Elbow record or enter the beautiful world of St Phillips church on Saturday night for Night Lights, an evening of art, music, poetry, ghost stories and cocktails. The most costly tickets are the princely sum of £12 but most are around the £4 mark. Brilliantly innovative events, unique experiences and all there – WAITING FOR YOU! Get bloody booking, you won’t regret it.
Me & my dad had an ace time last night exploring one of the North’s hidden treasures, the headquarters of Private White VC, strap-line “Made In Manchester, Worn Around The World”. This is how it was advertised, beautiful eh?The whole vibe drew me in to try out as a warm Friday evening mini-adventure. Now, Salford. Not too glam, you might think. Well, let me tell you that Golden Balls himself drew the spotlight onto this incredible building and company last week when he visited as newly appointed Ambassador for the British Fashion Council. Here’s David Beckham himself exploring the building last Friday. David’s the one on the left.
I know. It’s hard to tell him and dad apart. Just a few grey hairs and a hat in it really.
But we digress. Easily done with distracting photos of DB hanging around. Back to last night. We met up at the Eagle Inn, a slightly, um, salubrious drinking den in Salford, and set off on the short walk over the River Irwell, a stretch of water not usually known for it’s prettiness but last night, bathed in evening sunlight, dare I say it looked Northern industrial splendid.
Private White VC make beautiful clothing and have been operating as a garment manufacturer from the building above on the left for over 100yrs. When Jack White, a Private in the British army awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery, came back from WWII, he went to work at a garment factory in Salford, rising to become owner in the 1930’s. After many changes of ownership, the non-branded company hit problems in 2008 (didn’t we all?) when recession hit core customers cut back orders/ Rather than the end, however it was a new beginning. The grandson of Private White, James, who’d worked in the factory as a student but was by then 25 and working in the finance industry, came back to Manchester from London, working with owner Mike Stoll to reposition the company. They took Private White’s legacy as inspiration and rather than continue making for others, started making under their own brand name. It’s often the case that great companies are started and great ideas are developed during recessions. When you’re on the back foot, you either press forward or you fall.
It was a privilege, therefore be hosted by James and hear this story direct from him. The feeling of continuity and family is clearly sewn through not only the clothes, but through the factory, the staff and the very essence of the building. The passion for the brand which emanated from James was both captivating and energising, it’s easy to see why customers fall a little in love with the story behind this luxurious and high quality clothing.The building is little changed since it opened and it ‘makes’ in the same way it always has, using only the finest British fabrics, trims and components, sourced locally where possible. The Singer sewing machines (surely some of the last ones still working and not in All Saints windows?!), original fabric hoists, super sharp scissors and steamers were all lying still and quiet last night, but even so it was easy to feel the buzz of the building and imagine it as a hive of daytime activity.
Materials are sourced from Yorkshire, knitwear knitted in Scotland and patterns designed, played with, drawn up and finally made here in the factory. Every piece of fabric is cut by hand and treated with expertise and care. Fascinating to hear about.We got to have a nosey around the archives where pre-war garments hang alongside some more recent additions, interesting developments on a classic item maybe, or a piece of clothing made from a no longer available fabric. The company developed special fabrics for RAF pilots uniforms in WWII, designed to repel water and keep them warm should they be shot down over water. That same process, non-chemical and never bettered fabric, Ventile, is still used to make their contemporary water-proof outerwear today.
After the tour, there was a musical interlude before the panel chat and none of us quite knew what to expect. Cellist Liz Hanks and flute player Michael Walsh quickly silenced the room, mentally ferrying us out of a factory and off to a Celtic pub somewhere with evocative Irish folk music set against a background of Simon’s stunning dawn and dusk Salford photographs. Melancholic to begin with, then feet started tapping around the room as the pace picked up. It’s part of the reason I enjoy finding and supporting unique and unrepeatable events, because you never know what you like, until you like it, right? When you find yourself just smiling at being somewhere. It’s perfect.The panel discussion was a real insight into how PWVC operates, a fascinating glimpse into the passion behind the brand. You never really know what’s going to happen at events or pop ups like this, but often the access and insights available, when people are relaxed and comfortable, are pretty much unbeatable.
(I promise that Thom wasn’t asleep the whole way through 😉 )
All in all a completely brilliant two hours spent in the company of equally brilliant Mancs. And Salfordians, of course. Happy with myself that I acted on a whim and booked something which caught my eye, did something I wouldn’t normally do. Happy that I dragged my dad along too 🙂
I’ll leave you with strict instructions to whizz over to the Not Quite Light website and book onto one of the remaining events today or tomorrow, and also with the rather lovely PWVC Mission Statement framed and up on the wall for all to see. They’re often somewhat stale, or contrived, aren’t they. Not this one.
Rip Rap and I had a super evening but I’d probably not wear flip flops to go back. My toes were far too tasty for Brutus….