Just Backdated has decamped to the Palace Hotel in Manchester, a slab of Victorian architecture with public rooms tall enough to accommodate a herd of giraffes, great pillars that support these high ceilings and an atrium topped off with an illuminated glass dome. Built between 1891 and '95, it's a Grade 2 listed building, truly magnificent, and all hotels should be like this. The reason we're here is for Louder Than Words, a three-day rock writing extravaganza attended by the sorts of people whose paths have crossed my own many times over the last 44 years, ever since that fateful day when I washed up at Melody Maker's Fleet Street office eager and willing to do the editor's bidding.
          Opening the event last night, John Robb interviewed the DJ and writer Mary-Anne Hobbs who entertained her audience with tales of running away from Garstang in Lancashire to London where she lived on a bus in the employ of a group called The Heretics, the first step on the ladder to her eventful and uncompromising career. Though at times it seemed she was echoing Python's Four Yorkshiremen - 'at Sounds we wrote our reviews on old paper bags', 'ha, you were lucky, we had to write on used loo paper' - Mary-Anne spoke eloquently and endearingly about her relationship with John Peel who guided her through the labyrinthine protocols of the BBC, his wise counsel clearly as important to her as her ear for music. 
          Many things happen at once at Louder Than Words, and I shall be sending further dispatches as the weekend progresses. I'm on a panel myself this evening, talking about the best and worst interviews I ever did. Last night the evening ended with a music quiz which, shamefully, the Omnibus Press team didn't win, though did come second. 

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