performing ferrets

When the Sex Pistols played the Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester in 1976, I was some two hundred miles away in the depths of Kent watching late night reruns of Champion The Wonder Horse on the telly. I like telly and did then, despite only having three channels in those far off days among the cherry blossom and hop gardens.

Later, I moved to Manchester and thus the Performing Ferret Band were no longer a Maidstone group. Actually I was a little tardy in moving up north, Coich, Brooks and Maguire having beaten me to it. Skillers rather sensibly remained in Nottingham studying for the Union Bar before upping sticks and moving to London, although we managed to coax him up to Granadaland occasionally.

The Ferrets thrived in Manchester, rubbing shoulders with The Fall, The Smiths, New Order and Durutti Column. Eventually this had to stop of course, following the injunctions and suspended sentence. Nevertheless, we were around at an interesting time and our posters graced the derelict buildings along with those of the truly great.

An early memory is of a visit to the Russell Club in Hulme (the Factory), an area we believed to be populated with more than its fair share of skinheads. And so it was, in a manner of speaking. Anyway, plimsoll clad we wandered westwards - not running - and on arrival at the Factory, handed over a quid before buying some flat beer and taking refuge in a corner. Ah yes, I remember it well.

Some of us had different tastes. Wandering along Whitworth Street one chilly Saturday, I heard a familiar southern accent behind me.

“Five quid for Kool and the Gang, mate?”

It was Maguire, ashen faced and emaciated begging on a street corner. Having spent his dole on a rare Gamble & Huff 45, he had gone without food for several days in an attempt to accumulate enough money to gain access to the Apollo that evening.

I left him in the company of some sturdy youths from Beswick, who set about stealing such coins as he had accumulated along with his kaftan.

A few months later, we hit on the idea of procuring a female vocalist. This seemed a splendid idea and we quickly set about sticking postcards around the Student Unions of the many universities to be found along the Oxford Road. Eventually we found a girl who for the purposes of this site we will call Amanda, although in fact her real name was Bridget Jenkins of 42 Rutland Crescent, Whalley Range, Manchester 16, e-mail

I'm sure there was a genuine intention to rehearse with the girl; unfortunately all of us (except possibly Brooks) were so preoccupied with who of us might get to do it with her that it never quite came to pass. I'm equally convinced of course that it would have been me (doing it, of course) and to this end, I accompanied Amanda to the Big Western after the Alexander Park Carnival. Much beer was quaffed and I seem recall the pungent smell of burning vegetation pervading the pub. Later as I tumbled out into the night, I had a distant vision of Amanda disappearing in the direction of Whalley Range.

"Thanks mate" I bellowed from my new home of the gutter "I'll do you later".

I became aware of another figure crouching over me.

“You're Curly Watts aren't you?”

And indeed, dear reader, I believe I was.


Maguire begging in Manchester
A malnourished Maguire in Blossom Street, Manchester