Jeremy Deller’s Procession passes through Manchester one more time

16 Jul

Interview with 2004 Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller on the launch of the Procession publication

Last night the People’s History Museum became the latest in a line of organisations to be associated with Jeremy Deller’s Procession – the 2009 Manchester International Festival commission that sought to bring together people across Greater Manchester by taking over Deansgate for a bizarre hybrid event that brought together an American Style Parade with the Northern tradition of the Whit Walks.

The 2004 Turner Prize winner was back in town to launch the Cornerhouse books Procession publication that will imminently be available online, in their own bookshop and possibly via other good arts literature merchants.

I got the chance to catch a quick interview with Mr Deller to see what his thinking was behind the parade and what he thought the impact of the event had been, before bringing him down by asking about what his outlook is for the arts now that all the money’s gone. As ever you can listen here.

Jeremy Deller with Steel Harmony

While Deller’s connection with the legacies of the project seem focussed on recording with Steel Harmony (who also got the well deserved opportunity to perform with Hot Chip at Glastonbury this year as a result of their Procession appearance), it’s fair to say the original event ignited something, for a moment, in the gathered people of Greater Manchester.  Not least with the City Council who made a wholesale carbon copy of the idea with this years inaugural Manchester Day Parade.

Deller’s original proved to be a wonderfully bizarre experience that whipped up people into a state of excitement and anticipation, only to leave them somewhat confused as to how to behave once the parade had passed – a state enhanced by the fact that the collection of heavily branded outlets normally attracted by such a public project were conspicuous in their absence.  It was in this disoriented moment of post-paradus, without a fully realised retail or commecrial agenda to pick up the pieces, that the intrinsic Britishness of the spectators came out as they returned to their inconspicuous meanderings and browsings socially encoded into how one experiences the city centre.  I can’t help but think that anywhere else in the world this would have led to people mingling with others that had just engaged in the same unusual shared experience and perhaps embrace the opportunity to make new friends, but unfortunately, through engrained habit, the opportunity was lost.

Somehow I can’t see this beautiful state of flux being allowed to remain, and perhaps eventually provide a space to change public behaviour for the better, in future iterations of the Manchester Day parade if it is to be considered sustainable by a cash-strapped council.  Sad really.  I just hope they start to include Shriners.

Jeremy Deller’s Process (ISBN 9780955047848) is available now from Cornerhouse publications priced £12.95.

Jeremy Deller's Procession now available from Cornerhouse Books

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