We spoke to Billy from Springfield Elementary about the Manchester music scene and the current political climate. Let’s start from the beginning: what was your perception of the city when the band started?
Billy: We had already lived in Manchester for quite some time by then, so our perception of the place hasn’t really changed that much. I’m only from Oldham, so it wasn’t a massive leap of faith, but I wanted to join a broader creative community. When we started the band, we were just buzzing to be part of it.
What is left of the previous Manchester generation?
Billy: If we’re talking about the generation that grew up with Factory Records and the ‘Madchester’ scene then there are still remnants of that ‘old school’ generation (Dave Haslam et al.) I feel like they not only set the foundation for a city that oozes creativity but enticed a new generation of creatives to move here. Now, maybe more than ever, there are so many artists, bands, producers, MC’s, filmmakers etc. making for a diverse environment, so I guess that was their legacy in a way.
Manchester is a small pool with a lot of fish, so its quite hard to succeed and pay rent from art, unlike somewhere like London, but I don’t think that’s a problem exclusive to our city. Yet many people move to Manchester from elsewhere (for University and not), they come with a broad range of influences that help to shape the scene and add to it. Competition is very healthy, and there has always been a sense of DIY here due to it.
How do you describe the city today, what is life like for the young Mancunians?
Billy: The skyline of Manchester is continuously changing, with massive construction companies pumping millions of pounds in the infrastructure of their expensive vanity projects, which rarely do much to help the socio-economic problems that are present, as the money generated ends up back with the investors or on the lap of the council. The council here has been a Labour stronghold for some time now, and rarely meet much opposition, except for a couple of Lib-Dems and now, a couple of Tories. Obviously, we don’t want the latter anywhere near the council chambers, but I think any council need to be met with as much opposition as possible, so they don’t have free reign to do whatever they want.
Sadly, that seems to be the case, as time and time again Mancunians anxieties are ignored, and the council leaders do as they please, sometimes even acting like Tories cause they know it is a safe seat. So, we have all these high rise apartments, student accommodations that local people will never be able to afford. All the while homelessness has skyrocketed as there is less help for low earners and people on the brink and they are met with hostility and seen as a nuisance, children allowed to live in poverty, more and more people on the outskirts of the centre are just forgotten about – not what I would usually expect of Labour. It probably doesn’t help when we are amid austerity, but this how I think about it on a local level.
That being said, most people in the city are very liberal and there are some excellent councillors but there a couple at the top that strikes me as shady (again, probably not a problem exclusive to Manchester).
This isn’t to say there aren’t terrific things about Manchester, but it’s the mix of cultures which add to the already vibrant culture, adding to the melting pot, the creative people and people from many different backgrounds which contribute to the cities uniqueness.
What does the future hold, in your opinion, given the current political climate?
Billy: The only thing for certain is that it will rain 90 per cent of the year! It is hard to say to be honest due to the abhorrent government, and the mystery that Brexit presents, but Manchester will still have that fighting spirit we have always had.
The pessimist in me thinks that the worst-case scenario would be that the cities artistic culture could be smothered and it becomes another bland version of London… I don’t think we will ever let that happen, though, and we will still see people, fighting, speaking out against oppression and sticking up for the oppressed as we have always done. We should see more bands and artists like Sleaford Mods and IDLES commentating on the current situation, and the worse things get then we will see a fantastic backlash from the people, it’d be great if more Manchester artists did this!