Urban smell enthusiasts
The cooling and restorative environment of Manchester Canal
I had a wonderful time yesterday afternoon smellwalking with a group of very interesting people as part of the International Congress for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, Manchester, 22-28 July 2013. The Congress is the largest in its field staged only once every four years, and attracted more than a staggering 1750 delegates from all around the world.
In our small but enthusiastic group of around fifteen smell-walkers, we had people from many different countries and it was fascinating to find out the similarities and differences between what people thought about the smells they detected. A student of mine recently undertook smellwalks in Birmingham with Chinese and English people (speaking in their mother tongues) and found that the way they experienced and described odours were at times, very different, although there were also many similarities.
sniffing out smells of ventilation in Manchester’s alleyways
But back in Manchester, we started at the Manchester Museum and sniffed out odours all the way from the University campus, into the heart of the city centre, walking along the Oxford Road Corridor. Once arriving in the Oxford Road Station area, we picked up the same route as the DIY Downloadable Manchester smellwalk, click here to download your copy so that you can walk the walk at your heart’s content.
And what were the favourite and least favourite odours detected as part of our tour? Well coffee appeared as both a favourite and a least favourite odour, highlighting once again the huge difference which can occur in individual’s perceptions of the same odours. Chlorine too was liked by many of the participants, associated with good times and holidays although for one participant, it was a dreadful smell! The least liked smells included traditional villains: urine, cigarette smoke, waste, exhaust fumes and… baby vomit! The most favourite included that emitted by an open air fruit stall on Oxford Road, wood chips, flowers, and perfume… and for the grand finale: green jasmine tea in Chinatown which I have to say, was an absolute olfactory treat!
Enjoying or being replused by the chlorine smells at Manchester’s Aquatics Centre
Thanks go out to my colleague Vladimir Jankovic from the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine for both inviting me to lead a smellwalk as part of the conference, and showing he is a man of many talents by kindly taking the photographs along the way.