Friday, 9 October 2009


Belle Vue 2, originally uploaded by mithering.

So, the second edition of Belle Vue finally rolls into town. I intended to review the sold-out first issue back when I finally managed to get my hands on one, but felt that it wasn’t fresh enough to cover as by then most of the print-run had sold out. The cynic in me also decided it was better to wait and see if they had the staying power to produce another issue. Which they have. Obviously. Good for them.

This time round, the cover features a view under the Castlefield railway arches, lovingly rendered by Neil Dimelow, who also provided the ‘view from Cornerhouse’ drawing on the front of the first issue. His finely rendered work looks like something produced by a slightly dope-addled Chris Ware. The magazine contains mostly illustrations, and one photograph. These work fine, but it’s not clear if there was any collaboration between the writers of the pieces and the illustrators.

The writers of this magazine consist of some people who I’ve known for a long-time, some people who I’ve known for a relatively short time, some total strangers, some people whose work I admire, some people whose work I dislike, and some people whose work just fails to engage me on any level. In the main, it’s well-written, and contains some interesting information and reminiscence, but there’s a huge problem with it. And it’s something that editor Joe addresses directly in his opening editorial; (so directly, in fact, that it’s as if his future-self wrote it as a warning message to an earlier incarnation, but past-self went and ignored it anyway), there’s too much nostalgia contained within.

Now, I’m as guilty as the next man for yanking the nostalgia chain. This blog contains several examples of it. But in this case, it is relentless, and it makes me wonder how the magazine would be received by an audience for whom the little details pored over in here are either exotica (I once put on a musician from Columbus, Ohio, who was thrilled to be driven through Prestwich, regarding it as some sort of northern Memphis, Tennessee) or just navel-gazing.

The real challenge for Belle Vue issue Three is not to come up with another dazzling cover, nor to maintain the already high-level quality of writing, it is to harness the talent evident in that writing and force it to look beyond the local history society and over-30s bar-room banter.

I’m already looking forward to it.

Belle Vue issue Two is available from Piccadilly Records on Oldham Street and Cornerhouse bookshop on the corner of Oxford Road and Whitworth Street West. Edit. I saw it on sale in The Britons' Protection this afternoon, so it may be available in other 'appropriate' hostelries.

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