What’s it about?
The north of England’s biggest city is extremely up itself these days. Having left its industrial past far behind it and put up a single tall building – the top-heavy Hilton hotel – it’s acting like it was always smart bars and never rough as fuck.
Groaning with students, awash with well-paid twentysomethings in non-jobs living in converted cotton mills, ready to be mentioned in the same hipster breath as Berlin, Reykjavik and Edinburgh, it’s not likely to happen because it’s still rough as fuck.
You can’t be one of the world’s coolest cities with as few nice bits and as many shit bits as Manchester. And it’s embarrassing to be so proud of your musical heritage when the last big band you produced was 28 years ago and it was Oasis.
Any good points?
There’s a lot here. From Rusholme’s curries to miles of shops to the open spaces of Albert Square, you can spend a day wandering round and get soaked but not bored. Affleck’s Palace, where everyone got their Joe Bloggs jeans in the Madchester era, is a vertical Camden Market.
The museum’s good, the art gallery’s small and run by twats who hate the art, the Royal Exchange theatre is an incredible building for underwhelming plays, and you can get run down by a tram any time you like.
And, if you consider it a good point, the place is overflowing with Mancunian pride. It blankets the city like the constant rain. Be careful not to slag off the place, the wrong football club, or any of the bands they canonise. Blunt humour or blunt trauma are never far away.
Also, the bees that are everywhere? The symbol of the city, hastily adopted when the city needed a symbol after the 2017 bombing. Previously to that they were only on bins and the Buzz Club.
All the great cities contain great green lungs: London’s Hyde Park, Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens, Cardiff’s Bute Park. Manchester’s got piss all. Heaton Park’s way out of the city, Piccadilly Gardens is just something you walk across to the tram stop and every other green space got built on.
There are impressive buildings, like Central Library, but they’re cheek-by-jowl with massive concrete ones and the Arndale Centre, squatted across the centre tiled like a municipal toilet but on the outside.
Hang out at…
You’re not short of places to drink. Whether the self-consciously alternative Northern Quarter, Deansgate where the footballers go with a fucking enormous Wetherspoons they avoid, or the quaint olde worlde and surprisingly violent Shambles Square, getting pissed is easy.
There’s also a plethora of gig venues from the tiny Pink Room to the cavernous AO Arena, but it’s not great for clubs and, despite the legend of the Hacienda passed down from rave dad to rave son, never has been. Once again there’s too many rough bastards.
Where to buy?
There are precious few nice bits in Manchester and they’re priced accordingly. Chorlton, West Didsbury but not East Didsbury which is a fucking dump, and that’s about it. Sale, Longsight, Crumpsall: all unpleasant and adjacent to places that are worse.
Hence the huge number of apartments in the city centre: reversing established tradition, Manchester’s a place where people flee from the suburbs. When you have kids you bugger off to Lancashire or Cheshire.
From the streets:
Jamie Bates, aged 29: “It’s a real achievement to have not one but two football clubs who absolutely dominate the country while each in their own way being utterly loathsome. But that’s Manchester.”
Tom Booker, aged 52: “Manchester’s the best city in the world! But in other cities it doesn’t piss it down 24-7, so I’m moving to Nottingham.”