After yesterday’s horrific news of the bombing in Manchester and the destruction it wrought to the families of the dead and injured and to the morale of the city’s citizens, I thought it time to revisit ‘up north’. I send my condolences to all concerned.
I visited last year after a 20 year absence – much had changed – and the good bits had stayed the same.
It’s been up, down, all around, picked itself up, dusted itself off , and started a new revolution. ‘Up North’, in England, Manchester city is an extraordinary metropolis that has its technological roots in the industrial revolution, political notoriety, social innovation, pop music and change. But no matter what is thrown at it, Manchester embraces and realises the vision of the future.
Since my last visit the landscape has altered dramatically and sad, rundown areas are now blossoming while playing host to the hip and happening locals and visitors alike.
The Northern Quarter, for a long time mostly decrepit, is now the new big thing. The Mancunian spirit is truly alive here. In the north-east of the city centre this for-a-long-time neglected precinct now oozes bohemian, creative, innovative and independent chutzpah.
Spruced up buildings, narrow lanes lit up and relic warehouses are sandwiched between the old red brick Victorian stalwarts. Independent fashion boutiques have sprung up; eclectic shops and foodie havens give the area a village vibe.
There’s the architectural star from the cotton days, the Craft and Design Centre (once a fish market and now an artisanal hub); the formidable neo-Romanesque Smithfield Market with its splendid arches and a smattering of weavers’ cottages that are part of the new-old mix.
After along slump in fortunes, the Northern Quarter began to bounce back in the 90s with the opening of small bars and music venues. There are still the old-school pubs as well as a host of cocktail bars and eating places muscling in on the territory. The area boasts (officially) the highest concentration of independent cafes and coffee joints in the city.
The transformation is almost complete and this vibrant part of the city centre is humming along – until the next change comes!
One of the most ambitious additions to Manchester is Salford Quays, a radical transformation of the old docklands – which is now a centre of theatres, residential blocks, snazzy offices and cool restaurants. But It’s the glorious, much admired and celebrated Imperial War Museum (below) that takes the cake.
The tremendous architectural feat embodies strength and boldness. The entrance to the museum, with its several floors and vast spaces, is a small door through a bland opening that replicates the entrance size of a bunker. Nice touch.
Inside are interactive displays and a moving diorama that shows old footage of the WWII era and the effects of the heavy bombardment of the city. Locals talk of their experiences and pulling together through those dark days.
In the same precinct is The Lowry, a spectacular waterside building housing galleries, theatres, restaurants, cafes and bars – and the main gallery that houses the marvellous, human works of the city’s favourite son. L.S. Lowry painted hundreds of scenes of everyday life for working class – at work and at play in the region.
This is just a little taste of what’s on offer and what’s new in Manchester, so when you’re ‘oop north’ spend a few days here to immerse yourself in the past, present and future of this great English city.
- The Great John Street Hotel (used to be a school – now far cooler than any school)
- Eat at Evelyn’s Cafe in the Northern Quarter for dinner
- Have lunch at the elegant Damson (on the Quays)
- Visit the Whitworth Art Gallery
- Before the theatre go to Albert’s Chop Shop (below) for some damn fine fish’n’chips
- Book for a show at the Royal Exchange Theatre, St Anne’s Square
- The John Rylands Library, a marvellous Victorian Gothic library to see a stunning collection of early books
- Old Trafford (Manchester United) Holy Ground, what more to say?
Writer, Bev Malzard visited Manchester last year with the assistance of VisitBritain, ate far too much good food, met cool, friendly people and left a little bit of her heart behind there.
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