12 Comments
May 12Liked by Joshi Herrmann

Excellent article, I remember this as I was working in economic development at the City Council at the time, although I didn't get to meet them then. Later in 1991 my boss, who disliked flying, asked me to join a return delegation to St. Petersburg for the twin cities event which would celebrate the change of the city's name. The delegation was the Lord Mayor for 1991-92, George Chadwick, the Deputy Head of Education, me and Susan Causey, pictured in your article who was a Russian art expert and advisor to Bob Scott. The highlights included a ceremony in the St. Petersburg cathedral, with a 60 strong Russian Orthodox choir, the Partriarch of All Russia, some remaining members of the Romanov royal family and many Russian politicians (although not Yeltsin), "pop stars" and "businessmen" (the last being a very Russian term for entrepreneurs with 'interesting' connections and income sources). There was also the UK Government's Secretary for Trade, Peter Lilley with his wife Gail, and the UK Ambassador to Russia. There are so many anecdotes from that trip (although unfortunately very few photos) but, before we get on to meeting Mr Putin, some of the many things that happened included:

Tony Wilson giving me a suitcase worth of Factory Records cassettes and merch to deliver to an up and coming Russian DJ he'd once met, delivered alone to a very dodgy illegal club in a suburb of the city in the early hours.

Meeting Rocco Forte at one event who said he liked the city so much he'd just bought the two best hotels for a "very reasonable sum".

Our Lord Mayor, George (an engineering worker by trade), turning out to be a very good pianist and banging out a series of classics on the grand piano in the hotel foyer late one evening, with one of the US Trade delegates turning out to be a club singer in a previous career and having a brilliant voice to join the Lord Mayor in song after song, with Peter Lilley's wife, Gail, urging her husband to stay as she was enjoying her self so much. The UK Ambassador who had the poshest voice I'd ever heard and had ignored us since we got there suddendly cheered up and turned, as he was leaving, to say to me: "Oh. I say. Your Lord Mayor is a jolly good chap".

We finally got to meet Sobchak (who was so warm and charming) and his depuity mayors, including Putin, the following day. He asked if we'd like to have our photo taken with him, which we did, and then asked if we had time for some more photos with his deputies. We didn't as we had to leave so no photo exists. Throughout the visit Putin was as cold as anyone we met, in spite of having brilliant translators there the whole time, he never answered any of our questions and the few times he even looked at us it really was one of those looks you didn't want to remember. At least when (a few) people make pro-Russian (i.e. anti-Ukrainian) comments to me I can say, "Well, have you ever met Putin? Well I have and let me tell you ......". It's such a shame that the links between Manchester and St. Petersburg have soured since then, I last went on an official visit in 2010 and we met a whole new generation of young people involved in start-ups, making, tech innovation, creative projects and much more. So much talent, potential and warmth but so cruelly let down. Thanks again for reviving some of the best memories of that time.

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What a remarkable set of anecdotes, glad to have unlocked that box of memories Dave.

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May 11Liked by The Mill, Joshi Herrmann, Mollie Simpson

Yet again, The Mill publishes a story that I have never read or even heard about, from anyone or anywhere else. Absolutely fascinating reading and it has sent me off to find Sir Bob Scott’s book.

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May 11Liked by Joshi Herrmann

What a fascinating article. Thank you.

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I spent a somewhat joyless week in Leningrad with a Friends of the Soviet Union crowd from the North West, and the rather wonderful Kalinka Balalika Orchestra from Chorlton, the only one in the UK. It was 1987, around the time of the 70th anniversary of the Revolution. I stood in a slow-moving queue for a grey breakfast in a colossal tourist hotel (where you had to hire a bathroom plug from an unsmiling corridor babushka if you wanted to take a bath). In front of me was TV weather man Michael Fish. I presumed his visit was punishment for having failed to forecast the great October storm a couple of weeks earlier. My only joy was the Henri Matisse paintings in the vast Hermitage, many of which travelled to the great MOMA exhibition in New York five years later. Glasnost & Perestroika were not much in evidence on the icy streets and Winter Palace Square. St Petersburg was yet to be renamed. Gum department store looked like it had been looted and grim comrades licked on thin wedges of clotted ice cream in grey grease-proof paper, hawked on the wide regal pavements in wordless exchanges. I have never been back.

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Does this explain the Stalingrad memorial plaque on the Manchester Cenotaph on St Peters Sq?

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Sir Bob - magic! A lovely article.

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Bit late to the party but great article. Really enjoyed reading it. Excellent job.

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Fascinating article. Shame he flies so far below the ‘Mr Manchester’ radar. Bought the book after reading.

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Fascinating read.

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In the early nineties whilst working at the Greater Manchester Visitor Convention Bureau I remember sending lots of tourist posters and other helpful tourist info to St Petersburg and now I understand why …. I always wondered why we had this special tourism arrangement with them

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Quite a story, thinking about this will keep me sustained on my long dog walk this am.

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