The Boardwalk on Hewitt Street features in the novelThe Boardwalk on Hewitt Street features in the novel
The Boardwalk on Hewitt Street features in the novel

Seven photos of landmarks in Manchester’s 1980s music scene and how they look now as new book published

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Chorlton writer Robert Graham has penned a book which takes readers on a nostalgic trip back through the 1980s and the venues and bands that made Manchester’s music scene great.

A Manchester writer is taking music fans on a nostalgic trip back into the 1980s with a new novel depicting the city and its music scene.

Chorlton author and creative writing lecturer Robert Graham’s second work of fiction is The Former Boy Wonder and is partly a love letter to the creativity and sounds of the city he has called home for the past four decades.

The novel follows the highs and lows of 49-year-old Manchester-based music journalist Peter Duffy as he increasingly finds work hard to come by, negotiates the re-entry into his life of his first love and falls into a midlife crisis threatening his relationships with his wife and son.

Old Manchester haunts revisited in The Former Boy Wonder include the San Marco cafe, which was located just off Spring Gardens, as well as band venues The Boardwalk on Hewitt Street, The Gallery on Peter Street and The Hardrock in Stretford, a short-lived 3,000 capacity venue that hosted gigs by acts including Bob Marley, Roxy Music, Led Zeppelin and David Bowie. The site then became home to a B&Q which closed in 2015.

Other historical hotspots namechecked in the book include the Free Trade Hall, where, in 1966, Dylan was barracked for abandoning folk music to go electric, while places without a particular musical connection in the book include parts of Chorlton and West Didsbury.

Robert worked for the now-defunct City Life magazine where he interviewed The Smiths, a band whose fanbase he later reflected on in his play If You Have Five Seconds To Spare which was staged in the city in 1989.

He said: “I moved to Manchester in 1984, and have seen the city shed its skin and reinvent itself many times. It’s what Manchester does best, and I don’t mourn the passing of the venues, bars, restaurants and neighbourhoods that are no longer there.

“Manchester is a future-looking city. It always has been, from the building of the Manchester Ship Canal through the Commonwealth Games to the creation of Media City.

“It’s been a lot of fun to recreate the Manchester I knew in the 1980s, though –West Didsbury house-shares, Fallowfield bed-sits and the many venues where I watched the bands of the day play. I think readers of my book will enjoy taking a nostalgic trip back in time, too. In fact Manchester looms so large in the book that it’s almost a character in its own right.”

The Former Boy Wonder by Robert Graham is out on 24 February, published by Lendal Press.

The novel follows the highs and lows of 49-year-old Manchester-based music journalist Peter Duffy as he increasingly finds work hard to come by, negotiates the re-entry into his life of his first love and falls into a midlife crisis threatening his relationships with his wife and son.

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