March 4, 2020

7.30 am: Breakfast. I’d time to make a final trip towards Piccadilly Gardens, down the narrow gorge between the buildings either side of Mosley Street. When the trams travelled past, I imagined that I was somewhere in the USA – like San Francisco. (Is this why one of the street at right angles is called ‘New York’?) I enjoy this city. My sons studied at university here; the place has grown upon me, gradually:

9.15 am: I returned to the convention centre for a second day of standing for hours on end drawing students into conversations, like a dodgy second-hand car salesman. For someone who hates parties, I’m actually quite good at starting-up conversations with perfect strangers. I should get a job as a street-level marketing tout. Again, around 9.45 am, the first wave of bused-in students hit the shore. We were inundated. (All good.) Some universities were getting next to no interest. You can’t just stand there passively (as some stall managers were wont to do); this is missionary work. ‘Go into all the world …’, as it were.

I made myself known to a guy turning virtual DJ tables at the stand of an institution offering BAs in electronic music, composition, and industry management. He told me that Manchester was now the UK centre for electronic music. A vital scene, by all accounts. I wondered whether the type of courses he advertised would be among the first to be axed, once the government began rationalising higher education provision on a bang-for-bucks basis. The music industry was conspicuously present at the fayre.

The school students were eager for schemes either on environmentalism or that discussed that topic in the context of other academic subjects. The theme is very pertinent for their generation. I didn’t find any difficultly in conceiving of a course on landscape art and the environment that would be appropriate for both art historians and practitioners. Many were looking not to be rich and secure but, rather, fulfilled and happy. I admired that. Which is why the study of art remains popular. ‘It’s a small word with huge implications’, I yelled. Before they can change the world, they must first change themselves. An engagement with art may be the first step towards that end.

The second big wave struck shortly after lunch. By then, all the freebie drink bottles had been disposed. I’d received a number inquiries about graphic art during the past few days: the commercial as opposed to the fine art expression of that mode. It’s not something that the School has ever catered for. By 2.50 pm, things were winding down. I was given leave of absence to catch my train home. 3.31 pm: ‘Farewell, Manchester!’, for now.

En route, I caught up on admin, prepared my mind for tomorrow’s teaching, and returned to honing my ‘noisy’ paper. I reached home at 7.20 pm.

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