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David McAlmont tells us why he loves Manchester as Fingersnap open Queer Contact

David McAlmont
photo by Lisa Johnson

'I have music to thank for my relationship with Manchester. I love visiting because I know good people here; it must be something about the city. Nevertheless, it is music that first brought Patrick & Karl, Hormoz & Robert, Phil & Matt into my life- or should that be brought me into theirs? Same difference. Anyway, they all live in Manchester.

Patrick and I met in London circa 1993. Thieves, the band that I was in at the time, had been compared to Patrick’s Kitchens of Distinction. At a rehearsal, the night before Thieves played The Falcon in Camden, we were listening to music and our bass player played a Kitchens B-Side, Two To Beam Up- an absolutely glorious instrumental. Patrick’s curiosity had been pricked because the music press invoked his outfit’s name whenever ours was mentioned, and so he had come to see what all the fuss was about Thieves’ Saul Freeman introduced me to Patz- as I have been calling him since Ab Fab. I was wearing pink chiffon, a silver jacket and a golden Florentine hat. The first thing he ever said to me was “What is she like?” Probably because I launched myself at him the minute I realised who he was. We became fast friends and drinking buddies. But one day Patrick had enough of London and went off on a long odyssey through Ireland after which he decided to settle in Manchester with Karl. They live out in Derby now, but on my first visits to Manchester I stayed with Patrick and Karl on Smalldale Avenue.

Great times: Karl is an artist, photographer and teacher, with a love for Edwardian colour, William Morris wallpaper, novelty items like plastic fried eggs and rubber severed fingers. He is also the kind of person who would read a Tennessee Williams piece, become inspired and create his own glass menagerie. I loved showering at their place: they had Olbas Oil shower gel- never seen it elsewhere- and I seemed to be the only visitor to use it. I emptied it over years. Not only that, but Karl had a shower curtain with Dorothy and friends on the Yellow Brick Road and curtain hooks that were ruby slippers. Together they had a massive collection of books and films- Patrick is a voracious reader. I could always find the space to catch up with a movie I had missed, or to read an author I had not: I read Cormac McCarthy’s 'The Road', Truman Capote’s 'Breakfast at Tiffany’s', and James Ellroy’s 'American Tabloid', all in Patrick and Karl’s spare room. Karl had a special glass for each of his fabulous cocktails and Patrick has impeccable music taste; much drinking and listening went on before the i-Age.

I met Hormoz and Robert on Facebook at first. They looked nice in their pictures and we had a few polite exchanges online. Then one day I received a message from Hormoz- one of the best messages ever. It read something like, “Hi David. I don’t know if you’ve heard of a singer, Jane Siberry, but she is going to be singing in our living room. Would you like to come?” I love that Hormoz had no idea how much I adore Jane’s work. Needless to say I reserved my seat immediately. By the time I arrived it was decided that Patrick and I would open for Jane with a few songs. As we first stood in the living room of Hormoz and Robert’s spectacular central Manchester apartment we realised that we had all of these “small world” connections, the sweetest of which was that when Hormoz and Robert first met they exchanged music by Jane, Patrick and me. So it was quite surreal for them to suddenly have the three of us in their front room. Eventually they invited us- Fingersnap- to perform. It has been my favourite venue of the last five years. Also, Hormoz was a life coach in training and offered me his services for free to develop his skills. The sessions were life changing and I hauled arse back to university as a result. Now I’m an art historian in training thanks to Hormoz.

Phil and Matt were often in Hormoz and Robert‘s front room too for Fingersnap shows. I’d known Phil for some years. I think I had attempted to chat him up at Barcode in London in the fledgling noughties- I never get anywhere with bloody fans! Chortle. Though Phil had been impeccably polite about it. I remember getting a text from an American road trip that Phil was on to tell me he could hear one of my songs on American radio. A few years ago he met Matt and then they asked us to perform at their wedding at the Town Hall; I was very impressed by the Gothic revival vaulting; it reminded me of Sainte Chapelle. It was a beautiful occasion, one of those where you are reminded of how good some people are by the quality of their friends.

Overall that was a special weekend. Manchester was aflame in a heatwave, the Manchester International Festival was on, as was Sparkle, I had sext on Scruff for the first time, which I mentioned loudly to Robert in the street, after he had arranged for Hormoz and I to see Maxine Peake perform Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 'Masque of Anarchy' in the sweltering Albert Hall. That weekend was a real odyssey in which we walked around the city in a blazing reverie, me finally seeing it in a way that I hadn’t, in the way it deserved to be seen, repeating to myself. “What a great town!”'

David McAlmont and Guy Davies are Fingersnap, Contact, Thu Feb 5, £15/£10

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