The Stench of Capitalism

The Stench of Capitalism

In June 1996 an IRA bomb wrecked the central commercial area of Manchester and almost destroyed the Irish peace process. What not many people know is that ten years prior to this there was a bomb attack of a different kind on Deansgate. The weapon of choice on this occasion were little glass phials filled with bright yellow liquid, known to Fantasy Bob and readers of The Beano as a stink bomb. And when you keep them kicking around for six or seven years to ‘mature’, the effect can be truly devastating. A powerful defence against capitalist abuse, no less. A well known expensive knitwear shop in a prominent location between Deansgate and St Ann’s Square had commissioned us to design a leaflet. There was no written contract, but as was the usual practice, the project was accepted in the good faith that the work would be remunerated. In later years it became commonplace for designers to enter into an unpaid ‘pitch’ for business. Three or four parties would speculatively put foward ideas, in the hope of being selected to do the project ‘proper’. We were never aficionados of this way of working which completely devalues the profession. Imagine saying to Tesco ‘No, I want to eat your buns but I won’t pay for them until I’ve sampled some from Asda and Morrisons before making a decision’. We weren’t fools, we would take the brief, submit our ideas and expect to be paid for our time and expertees. Whether the client chooses to use them or not is their business. Well, we presented the designs to this lot and they were all smiles and told us how great we were. Then presumably the bright spark that we’d dealt with went upstairs and a different story emerged. When we sent in our invoice and failed to get a response there followed some awkward phonecalls. The gist was ‘there appears to be a misunderstanding’. We went through all the proper channels to seek redress including letters to the big boss. A sniffy missive from their solicitor signalled the end of the matter. Or was it? On a very busy Saturday at about 3pm, two fully-primed softlads, freshly-permed and resplendent in Adidas, walked nonchalently into the shop and launched the first bombs. We watched from across the road as customers spilled out of it and onto the pavement. Among them, holding her nose in disgust, Ron Atkinson’s wife, expensively attired and all the way from Wilmslow with a new hairdo. Rotarian ladies from Marple on a mission to kit themselves out for the Conservative Club Fundraising Ball stumbled into the street looking confused and bewildered. Other customers dropped their Prada bags in order to clamp bejewelled hands upon faces and protect themselves from the malignant odour emanating from the fine knits and cashmere. It was as if Kelloggs, Goblin Pies and Scottish and Newcastle Breweries had all momentarily relocated their processing plants to St Ann’s Square, such was the stomach-churning sulphurous stench coming from these perfectly matured mini-missiles. The not-so-happy shoppers shook their heads in disbelief at what was happening and sought refuge and the opportunity to flex their purchasing power in one of the many rather more sweetly-perfumed neighbouring boutiques. An hour later, when it would appear that everything had returned to normal, as if by a miracle of coincidence, the same thing happened again. From our vantage point across the road we took great pleasure in watching the manager, hands-on-hips, staring into the middle distance wondering how often this incident was likely to recur – or perhaps what he’d done to deserve it. I never saw who the second set of bombers were, though apparently one was a chinese man and the other was clutching a copy of the Beano.

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