Tag Archives: england

Andy Blackledge

Manchester: the Heart of the North

There has always been, and will always be, an ongoing debate on where the South of England ends and the North begins. Many think of Crewe as the boundary, others consider Nottingham and Birmingham as ‘Northern’. If we consider Ashby-de-la-Zouch as the centre of England, surely everything above it is in the North? The divide is an enigma, and the North itself is even more of a mystery to many a Southerner.

What cannot be disputed, however, is that the crowning jewel of the North is Manchester: the British capital of music, art, science, and a true home for every hipster. The city gave birth to the computer, the cotton industry, the Suffragettes, the railway, the splitting of the atom, professional football, trade unions, the first library in the English-speaking world, and the first female bishop. It is because of this long and fascinating history that Manchester sits as a bright flame among the dank rain and fog of the North.

oatsy40

Deansgate-Castlefield, one of the most well-known stops in the city. (Photographer: oatsy40; Flickr)

Any trip into Manchester should start from the south end of the city, at the locally famous Deansgate-Castlefield Metrolink stop. The bumblebee-coloured Manchester Metrolink connects the city to its outer suburbs and beyond, and is affectionately known locally as the ‘Met’. From Deansgate-Castlefield you can marvel at Beetham Tower in all its enormity. The 47-floor Hilton hotel stands above the rest of the city like an oblong beacon, reminding one of the mysterious black cuboid in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. From here, Manchester Central is but a short stroll away; take in the architecture of the once-busy train station, now an event venue, and admire the grand scale of what was the entrance to the spectacle that was the North. As you look around you, notice the old warehouses that provide small hints towards Manchester’s industrial past.

It is at this point that you can submerge yourself in the city as you walk up Mount Street, past the grandeur of the Midland Hotel and into Albert Square (no, you’re not back in London, there’s one in Manchester too!) where you can admire the scale of the Town Hall. The square is packed with events and bars all year round for every occasion, from Saint Patrick’s Day to the Manchester Christmas Markets — the largest German markets in the world, outside of Germany.

Becca Swift

St Peter’s Square, Manchester. (Photographer: Becca Swift; Flickr)

Cut through Lloyd Street and you’ll find yourself in St Peter’s Square. Opposite you is the recently opened KPMG headquarters, to your right is Manchester Central Library — the largest library in the city — and to your left is the Cenotaph. Welcome to what many locals consider the gateway to the city centre and one of the busiest squares in the city. If you’re visiting during the week, take care not to get in the way of the hundreds of lawyers, financial advisors and office workers that flood the city; in traditional Northern fashion, they’ll storm through you with a cheeky smile and a ‘Hello’!

Take a left up Mosely Street and you will find the Manchester Art Gallery on your right, a free and exciting gallery, with a range of exhibits from traditional artworks to modernist and interactive pieces. As you walk through the gallery, take a look at not only the art on the walls, but the people inside; it is here that you will see the full variety of Mancunians (a native or inhabitant of Manchester, commonly seen wearing a football shirt or donning Dr. Martens boots), from the Northern family taking a trip out, to the office worker on his lunch break and the high art enthusiast peering at the L.S. Lowry painting on the wall.

Dun.can

Visit Manchester Art Gallery to take in some high art and do a spot of people-watching. (Photographer: Dun.can; Flickr)

Heading east to King Street will land you in the centre of Manchester’s financial district, overflowing with high end boutiques. If you’re visiting the city on a budget, be warned: this is an expensive and exclusive area so guard your wallet from impulse buying! After having admired the buildings of the Hotel Gotham and Agent Provocateur, following Spring Gardens northbound puts you in the centre of Market Street, home to many high street brands. What is most striking about Market Street is not the shops, but the people on the street itself. With street performers, pretzel stands, tightrope walkers, magicians, human statues and more busking musicians that you can wave a stick at, Market Street offers an extravaganza of noises, smells and sights.

At the end of Market Street is Piccadilly Gardens, a once vibrant and beating centre of the city now fallen into unfortunate misery. On the bright side, a recent petition signed by over 20,000 Mancunians has forced the council to take action, and new renovations to transform the gardens into a flourish of flowers and fountains and will hopefully be underway soon.

Walking from Piccadilly Gardens up Lever Street brings you to what defines Manchester: the Northern Quarter. With a plethora of vintage shops and boutiques, record stores, tattoo parlours, art galleries and all things indie, this truly is the living soul of the city. A visit here must be accompanied by a stop in the Nexus Art Cafe, a small, underground cafe centred around that which is at the heart of Manchester: creativity. Coming out of the Art Cafe, visit the famous mural of David Bowie by street artist Akse. Street art is encouraged in the Northern Quarter and on almost every corner will be a piece that catches your eye immediately.

The spirit of the Northern Quarter is captured in Affleck’s Palace, a self-professed ‘emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie commerce.’ An explosion of creativity and colour, Affleck’s offers a shopping experience like no other in the city. With tattoo parlours neighbouring cereal cafes, and wig stores across the way from steam-punk cosplay, there is nowhere else that more perfectly demonstrates the diversity of the city.

From the Northern Quarter take a walk to the Printworks, a printing factory renovated into an entertainment hub where you can catch a bite to eat, watch a movie in IMAX, or simply admire the the conversion itself. This leads you to the National Football Museum and Manchester Cathedral at the top end of Deansgate road. Walking along Deansgate, which spans almost the whole length of the city, will show you an array of clubs, bars, restaurants, shops and cinemas. Halfway down you’ll come across John Rylands Library, which houses literally millions of first manuscripts and works millennia old in a gorgeously Gothic 19th century library, and still serves as one of the University of Manchester’s many archival buildings.

At the very end of Deansgate is your starting, and now finishing, point at the Deansgate-Castlefield Met stop. While one day isn’t nearly enough to get more than a glimpse of the city, I hope that you will be able to appreciate its electrifying aura. There is a beat to Manchester that keeps the city alive and thriving, and never has that beat been stronger than it is right now. The city is blossoming into a new age and is finding itself, once again, at the centre of a cultural resurgence.

Featured image © Andy Blackledge

Share

Music at the Minack Theatre, Cornwall

Most people go on holiday to snorkel, ski, and catch some sun. This summer, we were not that family — ‘we’ being myself, my mum, and my dad. Oh no, we were the family who travelled all the way to Cornwall… to see a tribute act.

In our defense, and before you judge, it was a Fleetwood Mac tribute act, so I think we can be forgiven! The act in question, Fleetwood Bac (I wanted to make a joke about how witty this was, but I couldn’t bring myself to — they made enough of a joke picking that as a name anyway!) were performing at The Minack Theatre. Now that’s the main reason we were going — for the gorgeous, rocky, sea-salty theatre that is the dramatic heart of Cornwall. This may be turning slightly ‘Shakespeare’ in its romantic declarations, but it is a truly beautiful place.

Fimb

The Minack Theatre embodies drama, not just in the shows it holds but in appearance too.(Photographer: Fimb; Flickr)

The epitome of a British Colosseum, if such a thing existed, it flows in great stone circles — stone, grass, stone, grass — until it reaches a sandstone stage surrounded by arches and clear blue water. When the sun goes down they light the arch, giving it an angelic look, like some sort of three-dimensional stained glass window: a doorway to heaven if you will.

Before that though, and as I’ve briefly mentioned already, there was daylight, in which the theatre was just as spectacular. Flowers and trees, exotic and exciting, were planted around the entrance, hiding the winding flagstone paths so it looked like something out of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (if the book The Secret Garden was set on a tropical island somewhere far away from the real world). Continue reading

Share
Mark Ingle

Brexit: The day Britain left Europe and we left Britain

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Three Months, Two Students, One Motorbike

Being a university student, and so tied to one place for most of the year, it’s easy to get itchy feet. After our last minute decision to ride our motorbike from Wales to Marrakech last summer, my girlfriend and I decided this year to be more prepared: more savings, more planning, and most importantly, more time. The question is, will three months really be enough?

A year of talking, months of planning, weeks of preparation, and we were still running late the morning we were supposed to be leaving. We woke to the news that Britain had voted to leave the EU, and were still wrapping our sleepy heads around the idea that our savings, the fruits of nine months’ labour, were worth ten percent less than when we fell asleep the night before. After all the build-up to our departure, it felt like our balloon had been burst; money aside, we felt foolish getting ready to embark on this great European adventure whilst the rest of Great Britain collectively raised two fingers to our continental cousins.

TaxRebate.org.uk

Remember when the pound fell after the referendum result came through? The financial consequences of this affected more people than many care to admit. (Photographer: TaxRebate.org.uk; Flickr)

Hours after we had planned, we were finally ready to leave. We clambered onto the bike, our luggage making us hop awkwardly to get into place. I gave all our bags one last shake  to make sure they wouldn’t move, and twisted my torso to see Charlotte behind me.

“Ready?” I shouted through my helmet, despite the fact her head was inches behind mine.

“Yalla!” She shouted back, with a thumbs up for emphasis.

This was an Arabic word we had picked up in Morocco and continued to use. It simply means ‘Go’, and is something the donkey drivers shout to their donkeys to encourage them to move. Given how loaded our bikes always seem to be, it seemed appropriate that we took it for ourselves.

I slipped the bike from neutral into first, released the clutch, and we began rolling away. Like opening a window in a stuffy room, I could feel the cool breeze on my face blowing all the morning’s worries away. Nothing behind us mattered now;  we were away!  Continue reading

Share
kokorowashinjin

5 Tips for Cheap Travelling

Have you noticed that there’s nearly always one person that seems to be relaxing on a different beach on a different continent every time you check Facebook while you’re all snuggled up with a cup of tea in your hands, trying to escape the rainy weather at home? Do you find yourself just sitting there wondering how they manage to travel so frequently while you’re about to head to sleep as your alarm will go off in 6 hours?

Well, here are some tips that’ll help you travel more for less money and help you to not even bother about that alarm going off soon, as you’ll be daydreaming about your next trip while working.

murdelta

So you’re fed up of your alarm clock and checking social media, only to find everyone is having more fun than you. Do something about it: don’t be scared! (Photographer: murdelta; Flickr)

1. Stay up-to-date. Always.

Stay updated with travel deals, check the webpages of airlines, bus companies etc. regularly and you’ll find some mind-blowing deals. Figure out which companies/pages you like best and subscribe to their newsletters — that’s how I managed to fly from Germany to London and back for €1.98.

2. Don’t be picky

You found a great deal to go to Andorra next week? You might have no idea where exactly this place is, it might not impress your friends and you might have no idea what to expect, but the deal is amazing? Well then, go. Go and see it for yourself. If you’re trying too desperately to go to one specific place, you’ll find it hard to keep it cheap. Flying to Bangkok on the first day of your holiday might be super expensive whereas flying to Canada two days later might only cost a hundred bucks, and both would be an adventure. Besides, isn’t being surprised what travelling is all about? Continue reading

Share

‘Funny Girl’: experiencing the Menier Chocolate Factory

Recently, I had the pleasure of going to see ‘Funny Girl’ at one of London’s most unique theatres, the Menier Chocolate Factory. It is one of the best theatre experiences I have had to date, which is quite the claim considering I have been lucky enough to experience the world of stage and screen from a very young age.

Approaching the theatre is rather underwhelming; the exterior is in need of some serious renovation, the location is a fair distance from the glamour of Shaftesbury Avenue and the theatre district where its more opulent neighbours live, but don’t let this put you off. The multi-storey building, quite beautiful in its faded 1870s glory, is located in Southwark Street and is quite the local treasure. It has a very affordable restaurant on its ground floor bursting with character and charm; the walls are lined with vintage theatre posters and beautiful old light-fittings, giving the impression of having stepped right into the Doris Day-era of the silver screen.

The Menier Chocolate Factory may not be in London's most famous theatre district, but when you step inside you'll be more than pleasantly surprised. (Photographer: David Holt; Flickr)

The Menier Chocolate Factory may not be in London’s most famous theatre district, but when you step inside you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised. (Photographer: David Holt; Flickr)

The staff are wonderful and the fact that they serve proper food, including the glorious gourmet burger that I chose, makes this particular establishment a winner in my opinion — and we haven’t even got onto the show yet. Oh, and for dessert we had real Menier Chocolate Factory cheesecake with ice cream and swirls. It was good enough to make you forget about the unnecessary calories! Up in the auditorium they also sold Menier chocolate, but this time we passed. The in-theatre bar had far more appeal. I feel I need say no more on this front — how much explaining does a large glass of Chardonnay require?

My parents and I had seats in the third row, which remarkably were almost close enough for us to touch the performers. And the show — ah, the show! I don’t like to fangirl too hard, but it may be one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time. The music is something quite fabulous; the only thing that would’ve made it better is if we’d witnessed it sung by Streisand herself. The set was simple, but in the most satisfyingly understated way. There were mirrored wings allowing for clever ensemble illusions and, my favourite aspect, an ingenious piece of engineering: the rolling conveyers to take dressing tables, liquor bottles and suitcases on and off stage.

Continue reading

Share