Manchester Evening News
Give us the Soap, Tracey
From club nights to words on a wall - Manchester Met's influence is everywhere
Friday January 15 1999
Artbeat by Rachel Pugh
Even if you were not a student at Manchester Metropolitan University chances are that you know someone who was. How about Simply Red's Mick Hucknall, artist Ossie Clarke, comedienne Victoria Wood or funnyman Steve Cogan for starters? Moss Side artist Tracey Sanders-Wood's fascination with the way MMU's influence has seeped into many diverse areas of life has inspired an idea which has grown from simple exhibition to a massive project incorporating a CD-Rom, a book and a television series - all under the umberella title of Soap. The whole scheme kicks off next Friday at the Alaska bar with the first of a number of club nights in venues around manchester featuring an art exhibition by a dozen current and ex-students of MMU, with music presented by an alumni, Matt Trigg (Fat City Records)
All this may seem a thousand miles from the terrace houses of Coronation Street or the intrigues of Neighbours, but Tracey sanders-Wood who is a part-time lecturer at MMU disagrees. She says: "Putting all this together has been just like a Soap. When you look at Coronation Street and the way their lives are interlinked, this is just the same-looking at MMU on a grand scale."
The idea arose out of a CD-Rom that Tracey Co-ordinated with students for last year's digital art symposium in Manchester ISEA98. She was asked to assemble a CD-rom of the art faculty of MMU, but found the project, like Topsy, it just grew.
A series of club nights with attached art exhibitions will take place around the city, including one at Alaska put together by 20 Tiwanese students, of whom five are no longer based in Manchester.
The Roadhouse is also a Soap venue, with music by Manchester bands presented by Dave Smiley, who is also an MMU ex-student. Pulp is being sucked into Soap, which is designed to focus as much on Manchester's music scene as its contribution to the visual arts.
Looking back at the history of Manchester Metropolitan University, even before it was the Polytechnic, to the Manchester School of Art, history is in the making.
The French painter Valette taught life drawing there and even tutored the young Ls Lowry, later to produce the meticulous match-stick peopled industrial landscapes beloved by so many. The fingers of influence emanate well beyond art into politics.
Sylvia Pankhurst - daughter of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst - was a student at Manchester Art School and had she not been pulled into fighting for women's rights, might well have made her name as a painter.
For the students taking part in the first Soap exhibition, the project is a chance to start getting their work seen outside the college, while they are still learning the ropes.
Brendan Williams - a second year fine art student - says: "We were bored with just waiting for people to ask us to do a show so we decided to do something ourselves."
Under the banner of showing the influence of MMU, they have stirred up interest among the clubs and bars and are keen to see city-generated work on their walls, and the creators on their dance floors.
The group has already had a show at Alaska called Reaction. Members believe that young artists have to be proactive in creating their own opportunities. The idea of the multi-link approach of Soap appeals to Brendan. He says: "The idea of net-working is something you are told and do and they try and teach it yo you at college - but you have just got to get out there and do it. We want to try and look at art not in a gallery-made institution. It has been a bit of a soap opera getting it all sorted out!"
PHOTOGRAPH: ARTISTIC licence ... artists Jai Moodie and Tracey Sanders-Wood