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Fun with the Crones

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City Fun fanzine began life as a collective venture (a bit like the MMC of print). Liz Naylor recalls buying the second issue in “about 1978: I was at a Fall gig at Droylesden Town Hall and bought a copy. It was Roneod [mimeographed] and it was kind of crude and it printed everything than anybody ever sent in. I was just 16 and a rather angsty teenager. So I wrote something I find incredibly embarrassing. And they printed it.”

Naylor then got involved with the running of the publication and also brought her girlfriend of the time Cath Carroll on board. “At that point we had collective meetings and it was all very open,” she says. The City Fun collective was founded by “a guy, Andy Zero – I’ve no idea what his real name was – who was a total hippy and lived in a place called Mossley which is on the outskirts of North Manchester and worked in a wholefood shop or something,” recalls Naylor. “There was a guy called Martin X who didn’t live anywhere, who was a kind of bizarre vagrant, who was quite old. He was probably in his late 30s then. And he managed The Distractions at the time. There was a guy called JC and a guy called Neil. I mean it was the culture where you’d have to have assumed names because everyone was signing on. And JC and Neil had a squat in Hulme, about two minutes walk away from The Factory. Anybody could crash there. So [City Fun] came out of a hippy/Hulme squatter type milieu.”

“[Andy Zero] secured distribution through this indie mag distributor who lived several bus rides away in North Manchester and who seemed to sell the stuff that more mainstream distributors would not touch, for reasons moral and/or economic,” remembers Cath Carroll. “After a couple of years, it was just us and Andy and we became so insufferable that he left,” she says. “I was a very young punk and I was utterly disdainful of his kind of hippyness,” admits Naylor.

After their power struggle with Zero (“makes it sound like the Conrad Black empire,” laughs Naylor), the two women decided to make City Fun more professional, publishing monthly rather than on an irregular basis. The content also became more focused: “It sort of emerged that you just got endless poems sent by people and Andy was very much like, ‘we print everything’ and we were like, ‘no, this is just shit, we don’t want people’s poems’,” explains Naylor: “A bit of quality control.”

Stuart James remembers Naylor and Carroll’s reviews of bands as being “Very funny – just very honest.”

City Fun held a couple of fundraising gigs, including Stuff the Superstars in the summer of ‘79 with a line-up that included Joy Division, The Fall and the Frantic Elevators. “Various bands were supportive of us and one of the big bands that was supportive of City Fun was The Fall because they were outside of the emerging power base of Factory Records. And they have remained so,” says Naylor. “There was a very close relationship with The Fall and there was quite a close relationship with New Hormones,” she adds.

“[City Fun] was a very important alternative voice in Manchester at the time,” believes Naylor. The only other ‘underground’ periodical was The New Manchester Review, “which was run by a load of hippies as far as we were concerned,” she says.

Carroll and Naylor took great delight in winding up the Factory Records crowd in print. “We always thought Tony [Wilson] saw right through the Factory baiting – we were clearly obsessed – but he [claimed] he took great offence, which is not what we wanted,” says Carroll. “We were particularly keen on writing about Vini Reilly, with particular reference to his hey nonny-no haircut and gentle minstrel-like persona. He came up to us when we were selling City Fun at the Hacienda- it had just opened- and asked if we were the ones who wrote the pieces. Vin may seem like a gentle creature but he had hard man Wythenshawe Slaughter and The Dogs connections and can take care of himself very nicely. We were wondering if we’d escape with teeth but he bought us a drink and said how much he enjoyed reading what we wrote. And thus began a delightful friendship.

“In fact, everyone at Factory took it very well. Peter Hook was always exceptionally civil, except when we were extremely rude and grumpy once backstage at a Joy Division/Distractions gig and he called us couple of bad names, which made us very happy,” grins Carroll.

As well as commenting on the music scene in City Fun, Naylor and Carroll soon got involved at the sharp end, badgering Alan Wise into giving their band Gay Animals some support gigs. They also started representing Ludus under the name Crone Management. The name came from Linder, recalls Naylor. “Linder was forever reading feminist literature both fiction and non-fiction and I think it came from one of those early feminist books about reclaiming language: ‘the word crone has always been associated with witches…’ The whole management thing was just complete concept. I don’t think we did anything. Linder just liked the idea of having us because me and Cath were very posey: Cath would wear a black cape and I would wear a full male suit. We’d go to the Beach Club absolutely dressed up and Cath took to wearing white face make-up to look more deathly.”

The Crones had an important role to play in Ludus’s notorious gig at the Hacienda on November 5, 1982, when Linder opened up a meat-lined dress to reveal a large black dildo. “When I saw Buck’s Fizz I was so angry. I thought ‘I’m going to take my skirt off at the Hacienda’, recalls Linder. “I wanted meat – I felt strongly as a vegetarian that eating meat was wrong,” she adds.

“With Liz Naylor from Crone Management I went to the Harmony Centre [one of only two sex shops in Manchester]. It was family run. We told the owner we wanted a dildo. I don’t think either of us really knew what one was. He asked what colour and at the same time Liz said pink and I said black. He asked what we wanted it for. I said it’s for stage. He disappeared and came back a few minutes later with a thing called ‘Spunky the spraying penis’ – ‘It’s a little too theatrical’, we said. Eventually he produced a fairly standard black dildo. So we bought it went for a cup of tea at Kendall’s. Liz got it out and said ‘looks fine’.”

On the night of the gig, a cocktail called the Bloody Linder was on sale in the club’s Gay Traitor bar. ‘Bloody’ tampons and cigarette stubs were left on each table. Naylor and Carroll handed out chicken gizzards wrapped in gay pornography. “The management of the Hacienda freaked out because they didn’t want their Ben Kelly designed floor to get bloody,” recounts Linder. “We were shown the door very quickly.”

“That was a great performance piece,” reckons Richard Boon. “Just a fantastic piece of work.”

COPYRIGHT JUSTIN TOLAND 2007/2008 – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Written by justintoland

February 3, 2008 at 1:32 pm