The real Mr Manchester
Photography by Rose Baylis and MJ Smith
Words by Harry Potts
Bruce Mitchell is one of the most enduring and best loved Manchester music characters... christened ‘the real Mr Manchester’ by music impresario Tony Wilson. Bruce was the drummer in post punk band The Durutti Column, Greasy Bear and comedy rock band Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias and has participated in six decades of British music. Born in Didsbury in 1940, he was surrounded by music as a child, his father was a drummer and a bass player. Bruce learned to play the drums in his early teens and started playing in jazz groups, sometimes deputising for his father. Bruce recalls that, “drummers had to be showmen, and saw the musical revolution when the "beat groups" that had been supporting them suddenly became the headline acts an observation made from his experiences playing show’s at The Cavern in Liverpool.
Duruitti Column were the first act to be signed to Factory Records by label founder Tony Wilson in 1978. Bruce doubled as co-manager with Wilson throughout their career on Factory for many years.
"There aren't many people in rock 'n' roll like Bruce, with his monocle and his hats, Bruce’s reputation is a result of his total unselfishness and willingness to muck in... he sees helping bands as a civic duty” - Peter Hook
Inspiral Carpets. Clint (left) with his trademark haircut
Moo... the Inspiral's logo
Alongside his career as a musician, Bruce founded and runs the ‘Manchester Light and Stage Company’- which supplies sound and light systems for gigs and events in Manchester and beyond. A parallel career which began after his band Greasy Bear supported The Who in the early 1970’s. Bruce was transfixed by The Who’s revolutionary stage lighting and the dramatic way Keith Moon’s drum kit was illuminated.
It was at the Bruce’s company depot in Ardwick where we caught up with him to complete the photography.
THE SHOOT: Manchester Light and Stage, Ardwick
Bruce's company depot
Student reflection: Rose Baylis
"This was my second shoot for the Greater Mancunians Project. My partner works in the Event Industry and had told me that Bruce was a bit of a local legend so I was eager to meet and photograph him!
We were photographing him both in and outside which meant the light altered quite drastically in each location. This lead to some of the shots exposure differences which I had to correct post process. His depot was a great location, the stage decking provided an interesting backdrop and gave the images context. I felt more prepared this time a round, the first shoot had definitely helped my confidence a little and Bruce was fantastic to work with… what a character! It was great talking to him and seeing how passionate he is about his music and the industry he works in. I’ve even come away with some wedding tips!
I’ve loved working on this project, each shoot has brought something different and i’m really enjoying the process of being pushed out of my comfort zone, trying new things and dealing with any challenges that come up. Thanks for letting me be part of it."