Photography by Katie O'Neill
Tony Walsh is a Mancunian poet, performer and writer, widely known for his poem ‘This is the Place’ - commissioned by community charity 'Forever Manchester' - which captured the public mood and galvanised civic pride in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bomb in 2017. Tony was born in Denton, a working class area of East Manchester in 1965, overcoming childhood poverty and illness. After working in everyday jobs around the city, he became a freelance writer and performance poet in 2004 and full-time in 2011, adopted the professional name ‘Longfella’ in allusion to his height (almost 6 feet 5 inches).
Photo credit: Visionhaus
Tony has performed widely around the UK and Europe, at festivals and workshops in a wide variety of educational institutions, including schools, colleges, universities, prisons and care units. In 2011, he was Poet in Residence at the Glastonbury Festival. His first collection of verse, Sex & Love & Rock&Roll, was published in 2013 to great acclaim.
In May 2017, he came to wider attention for delivering his poem "This Is the Place" to the crowds gathered in Albert Square in Manchester on 23 May for the public vigil following the bomb attack at the Manchester Arena. His performance was described as "the perfect symbol of the pride, passion and defiance of Manchester's people". Tony later performed the poem at the One Love Manchester Concert, held in benefit of the attack's victims and their families.
In recent years Tony has become one of the UK’s most widely recognised and most in-demand professional poets and a spokesman for the city.
"There’s a spirit of collaboration in this city that’s very rare, I think. There’s a palpable energy spanning all the art forms but science and academia and sport and business too, and an exciting cross-pollination between them all. 'There’s hard times again on the streets of our city' but it’s a resilient place and we’ll work together and come back stronger, I’m sure".
Choose love, Manchester
THE SHOOT: Holland St, Denton, Manchester
"The location meant a lot to me as it was the site of a terraced house that we lived in when I was a toddler in the late 60s. I became very ill with rheumatic fever due to the damp there and we were rehoused to a council house because of that. I was nearly five when we moved but I still remember playing in the terraced street and cobbled ginnel there and against the Rotunda factory railings."
Student reflection: Katie O'Neill
Photographing poet Tony Walsh was a really enjoyable experience. We travelled to Denton to base the shoot where his childhood home once stood, the street is now dominated by light industry, but the gritty backgrounds gave me the opportunity to be creative with my photography. The shoot itself was very relaxed and Tony was up for doing everything - even bringing along some props. I was extremely happy with the final images and believe I managed to capture his down to earth and fun personality. It was great getting to know Tony throughout the shoot and enjoyed hearing about his work and life stories and was very supportive and really impressed with the way the shoot worked out. Only a few challenges to overcome during the shoot, the main one being the height difference, although Harry kindly supplied a ladder to help with that!
Tony & Katie
A message from Tony
The photo shoot was great fun and I was really impressed with Katie. She has a great eye, knew what she wanted and did really well at directing me and setting up the shots. She’s clearly excellent with the camera too and I’m delighted with the images. I’m sure that her talent will take her a long way. Well done, Katie!