A Weekend In Manchester Straight From School, 7 to 9 March 1980

My memory for this piece was triggered by a very enjoyable reunion with Mark Lewis at Simon Jacobs’s album launch in September 2017.

Mark Lewis is now one of the top media and libel lawyers around – a man who did not fear taking on the Murdoch Empire in the Millie Dowler phone hacking case, nor did he fear Katie Hopkins in the Jack Monroe Twitter libel case.

So I’d better be very careful indeed what I say…

…and agree in advance to amend any part of this Ogblog piece at Mark’s request…

…and use the word allegedly at frequent intervals, even though I know that the addition of that word serves no defensive purpose whatsoever if the statement to which it refers in libellous…

…but I digress.

At Simon’s launch, Mark and I had roughly the following conversation, from which I have recovered some memory (and the relevant diary pages):

Mark: I remember the first time I met you. I had recently joined my local BBYO group in Manchester and you came to stay at our house for for the weekend. You were on the National executive, so it felt to us that you were a visiting dignitary…all the more so, because you came straight from school and you were wearing a three-piece suit when you arrived. Were you wearing tails too?

Me: Was I heck wearing tails. I’ll confess to the three-piece suit though; that was the school uniform for sixth-formers.

Mark: We thought you must be incredibly posh.

Ian: I wasn’t incredibly posh. I was just a scholarship boy at Alleyn’s School…

The conversation continued. I promised to dig out the trusty diaries and try to establish exactly when that weekend happened and see what else the diary might reveal.

So here it is:

I’ll transliterate the relevant bits for any reader who doesn’t read the rarefied script otherwise known as my handwriting:

 school OK, -> Euston -> Manchester -> Prestwich, Mark Lewis, stayed up till all hours -> shule -> lunch -> open house -> Nat Exec meeting -> party -> bed -> North v South soccer -> lunch -> Installations -> Piccadilly -> home (exhausted).

…and who wouldn’t be exhausted after that. I feel exhausted now just typing those words and thinking about it.

I like the Monday message too, by way of echo: “school OK”.

I’d just like to reflect for a moment on the early part of that adventure. The bit where I left school in my three piece suit, went to Euston and up to Manchester. The easiest/quickest route would have been to take the train from North Dulwich to London Bridge and the tube from there to Euston.

But that would have meant me venturing, more or less alone, on the Billy Biro’s (pupils of William Penn School) side of the station/platform, which, while wearing an Alleyn’s three-piece suit, would have been a form of attempted suicide. I don’t remember doing that.

More likely, I left school a little early, probably with Anil Biltoo, most likely (if with Anil) stopping at his house for a couple of cigarettes and an earful of some trendy music served up by his rock chick older sister Benita. Or, if Bi wasn’t around, we’d have probably listened to Innervisions by Stevie Wonder. Then, I guess, on to Euston, either by bus or by picking up the train from the relative safety of East Dulwich.

At no point in this trek from school to Mark Lewis’s house did it occur to me to change clothing. I must have had changes of clothing. But perhaps not a suitable suitcase/bag for my three-piece whistle.

Based on Mark’s 2017 description and my reflections on how I came across, I must have seemed like a Judaic Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Postscript: I have subsequently found a picture of me in my Alleyn’s three piece suit a few month’s later – written up and linked here & through the picture below:

Me And Wendy Robbins On Westminster Bridge

I’m not sure whether that visit was my only stay at the Lewis house or whether I stayed there again on subsequent visits to Manchester that year. I certainly do remember discourse late into the night.

I recall Mark’s sister, Mandy, introducing me to the delights of the Manchester music scene, at least to the extent they were represented in her record collection and narrative. I think her main thing was Joy Division, but I might be mistaken.

It was only decades later I learnt that Joy Division weren’t Manchester at all, they were Macclesfield. I also recall hearing Spandau Ballet a few months later and confusing them with Joy Division, much to the derision of friends at the time. I don’t think I needed to confess that foible – I think it might have vanished without trace if I hadn’t raised the matter again. Perhaps Mandy talked about Spandau Ballet, but I think they came later and were quintessentially London. Perhaps none of us knew what we were talking about – I certainly didn’t – I only went to my first proper gig a few weeks later – click here for that debacle.

I hope this piece triggers some of Mark’s memories about that weekend. Or indeed memories of other subsequent weekends if I did stay more than once. I don’t know why, but I think the Joy Division (or whatever “Manchester scene” stuff it was) conversations might have been a subsequent visit.

January 2018 postscript: I have found the second visit and tried to disambiguate the two weekends here:

A Second Weekend Visit To The Lewis Household, Towards The End Of My BBYO Days, 20 & 21 December 1980

Back to the March 1980 weekend:

The National Exec meeting would then, I think, have included Jay Marks, Ivor Heller, Paul DeWinter, Raymond Ingleby and the late, great Jeffrey Spector. We must have discussed matters of enormous import; I’m sure one of the others can fill us in on the details, all of which for some reason have slipped my mind.

I also have no recollection of the North v South football match – but that sounds like fun – perhaps someone out there does recall the match and can provide a match report and/or photographs.

This picture from a different BBYO football match, in Portsmouth. a year or so earlier, but the March 1980 one in Manchester will have looked a bit like this

The installation ceremony cannot have been for Mark Lewis’s new Sunnybank group – that was far too new. So perhaps it was the Sale group or more likely the larger Whitefield Group. Again, perhaps some people reading this can chime in with their own memories and/or diary notes and/or photographs…

Correction: David Nispel has written in to confirm that Sunnybank BBYO had actually been going for 2-3 years by that time and that this weekend was their inaugural installation weekend. Mark confirms that he was a newbie but the group wasn’t. David Nispel has also posted several pictures in the BBYO Facebook Group – members of which can see the chat and pictures by clicking here. One quite extraordinary feat of memory comes from Jay Marks, recalling the score as a 1-1 draw and describing the football match as, “an undignified kick about in 70s terrace attire…” and that…”wherever the party was in north Manchester later it would have been far more successful.”

If any of my old mates from Alleyn’s School are still reading this and had been wondering why I often looked so wrecked on a Monday morning during my last year at school – this piece explains a fair bit.

Anyway, Mark, I have done my worst (as lawyers tend to say) and now rest my case. Over to you.