Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Football elbows Urbis

The National Football Museum is relocating to Manchester's Urbis.

A city which struggles to separate its identity from football has decided to spend up to £8million of public money on ensuring the opposite happens. The National Football Museum (http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com) will be relocated from Preston to Urbis in Manchester's city centre.

Designed by Ian Simpson (who also designed Beetham Tower), Urbis opened in 2002 as a "cultural museum" in the heart of the redeveloped city centre. After a year or two of ambiguous purpose, Urbis eventually found its feet and the visitors started to come through its doors. Indeed, last year was its most successful, with more than 250,000 people visiting its numerous exhibitions.

Despite it being the aesthetic equivalent of chemical self harm, Urbis holds a position of significant cultural importance in Manchester. There have been exhibitions on The Hacienda, Punk Rock, Hip-Hop and Urban Living and development. Last year, the museum even engaged with the emos who famously loiter in the adjacent Cathedral Gardens by curating an exhibition on Manga cartoons (Japanese cartoons popular within the emo subculture). Not only has Urbis documented the social development of Manchester, but it has actively engaged with it.

The Emos who spend their time nearby are seen as a social problem by many who are intimidated by their presence (despite the subculture's generally pacifistic and self-centred nature). Council dispersion orders and the like only add to the feelings of alienation and distrust of authority that many members of subcultures often feel (Massey, 2006). The fact that Urbis sought to actively engage with these people shows its awareness of contemporary social issues and is to be commended.

The National Football Museum (which drew 100,000 people through its doors last year) had been struggling for funding and was facing closure. That is until Manchester offered an £8million deal to tempt it from Preston to Manchester.

Despite the fact that Urbis welcomed two and a half times the number of visitors the National Football Museum did last year, Manchester has opened its arms to a city-centre Mecca for visiting drunken football fans whilst giving a cultural institution with an active role within the community and space that it occupies the boot.

The Football Association has already pledged to commit £10million to develop a football museum at Wembley Stadium. Why then, has the City of Manchester spent £8million of its own money on the same thing? Are they going to share the artifacts between sites? This massive capital investment, despite its philanthropical nature, will take years to see a return on. Meanwhile, Urbis is kicked to the kerb - evicted with no plans for its future.

- http://www.urbanalternatives.org.uk/documents/music%20and%20place.pdf
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-1093350/Mawhinney-caught--8216-obscene-8217-storm-bring-national-football-stadium-Wembley.html
- http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1182980_national_football_museum_to_move_to_urbis
- http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/jan/24/urbis-manchester-cultural-football-museum


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