The morning after the Edinburgh event and the evening interview was definitely a morning after. Having pulled ourselves together somewhat, we went off to do interviews – notably at BBC Scotland, where some Gardener Hymns punctuated the proceedings and the interviewer got converted, at least to the idea of playing the music in her car. The Mole Day Hymn was especially popular. Then we took the train to Manchester, and, true to our green intentions, walked across the street to the Malmaison Hotel, hauling our increasingly heavy bags.
Who knew that Manchester is going green? Having been the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution, it is now on the forefront of this new revolution. Locally grown Bangers and Mash with recommended wines (I thought it was always beer with the bangers, eh? No more!), organic and vegetarian choices on the menu – and there were all the hearty Manchester United fans, not blinking an eye over it! A green airport (??), building regeneration to cut energy expenditure, recycled-clothing shops – for instance, “Rags to Bitches” (will Edinburgh have a challenger for the title of Queen of the Recycled Shops?), and on a larger scale, Affleck’s Palace and the Trafford Centre – all have, as it were, taken the pledge. Give the Mancunians a goal, and they’ll shoot for it. “We like being first,” they said, with the confidence of a city that has a top football team. Perhaps because it rains so much in their city, Mancunians are bluff, warm, and strangely jolly, “Can’t complain,” they say, although actually they could.
The next day, off we went to the 15th century cathedral. We had an organic veggie lunch, with organic fair trade coffee, in the cathedral café, where a Tinnie made by artist Paul Harrison from recycled pop tins sat reading a tin newspaper. (See picture, and also MySpace.com/demonlinks.) There were genial Canon Andrew Shanks and also Michael Schmidt – a literary connection — and we had a catch-up. Then we went into the cathedral proper to rehearse. Damaged during the war and again by the 1996 IRA bombing, the cathedral is still miraculously standing, though during the rehearsal the heavens opened and so did a hole in the roof. Water poured through, making a noise like a hundred tin pans falling down the stairs. “Has it leaked before?” I asked anxiously. “Not there,” they said, with restrained stoicism..
This performance was very different from the Edinburgh one. Again, the participants had jumped into the general idea with great enthusiasm and had given it their own spin. After gracious introductions by the Mayor—Chancellor Allison Firth — and the Canon, the sellout 600-strong audience heard the Gardeners singing before they saw them. Then they came in procession from behind the rood screen, in two files – one on each side – carrying the stellar banners made by the Literary Festival’s Cathy Bolton and Ali Wilson from cardboard scavenged from skips (dumpsters, to North Americans), with UK endangered species lovingly drawn onto them. The singers were a capella – no instruments – assembled by the astonishingly energetic Musical Director Jeff Borradaile from the Blackburn Community Choir, the Ordsall Acapella Singers, and the Lesbian and Gay Chorus. Their voices echoed beautifully in the stones spaces of the cathedral.
Samantha Giles gave a thoughtful and beleaguered Toby, and Samantha Sidall a tremulous but resourceful Ren. Both also did severa other voices, to great effect. Jeff Harvey was a fervent, strong Adam One. They all did Manchester proud. (If you don’t do Manchester proud, you’d hear about it!)
The RSPB volunteers were very happy. “We filled up our robins,” they told me. “What?” I said, wondering what new English quirk I had stumbled upon, before realizing that their collecting boxes were robin-shaped.