Sunday, January 27, 2008

Comment is Free: Dr Rupa Huq on Suburbia

Far and away the best of the Huq oeuvre on CiF. Well done professor.

"Suburbia" is of course associated with a very distinct Betjemany, one-foot-in-the-gravey, shaun-of-the-deady, bend-it-like-Beckhamy "universal" and not with all places that are in fact sub-urban. But it's a living language of course. The term didn't use to be used much to cover council estates for example. Now it probably does cover some. Right to buy and all. If not all of them.

But there is another way, towards which some - like Ken's friend Trevor Phillips - say we may be tending in real life, in futurist literature like The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. He has "burbs" which are by and large ethnically specific ghettoes or, to try to be a tad more positive, culturally homogenous gated communities.

Stephen Patrick Morrissey was dragged up initially in Hulme and neighbouring parts of Stretford, four almost five decades ago, when I'd say they URBAN rather than, as now, tending to SUBURBIA. Though Aidan O'Rourke, whose pages provide the line drawing-like view of New Hulme under construction, calls the old Hulme "a Victorian working class suburb".

Did Alf Garnett live in a suburb? Or in a District? Is Coronation Street in the Suburbs? Eastenders' Albert Square?

Yet in boho flight Morrissey looked west, all of a mile down the road to Bed Sit Land in the latterly socialist republic of Whalley Range, then Tory I think - which now of course has a defected Lib-Con, a Lib Dem, and a Socialist as councillors - and further west again and again. Via Timperley to Los Angeles or wherever it is.

Was he suburban when he lived in Hulme and Stretford back then? One mile from the City Centre? Yet drawn out not in? Was he suburban as he wandered among Whalley Range and Chorlton HMOs? (Which had been distinctly suburban in their better Vicwardian days and have returned or aspire to return to that) He was certainly located in suburbia in Timperley.

But does being located in suburbia make a person suburban? Or can people in fact remain or become cosmopolitan, urban, urbane wherever they happen to be?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes Morrissey's pad in King's Road (v.swinging London sounding that) is a landmark of Smiths tours in Manchester - deeply suburban in appearance. "In my bedroom in htise ugly new houses I danced my legs down to my knees". Meanwhile the stuff that's replaced the crescents in Hulme maybe represents the suburbanisation of the... erm urbs. If you know worrImean