It’s hard to believe it’s a year since we were up in Manchester. Lovely niece Sarah had bought tickets for the Buena Vista Social Club’s Adios Tour. We went up by train. Astonishingly there is a direct service from rural Church Stretton to Manchester Piccadilly. The venue was The Bridgewater Hall. It was a great night out: Omara Portuondo, still singing at 85, gave us her all. But it was a little sad too, with film tributes on screen, commemorating past members of this life-affirming ensemble; it left one with a bit of a hum-ho feeling.
And the antidote to such feelings is a trip round the city’s Northern Quarter.
Early on the following Monday morning we set off there. It was once the heart of Victorian Manchester’s cotton trade (there are family connections here: my Hickling grandfather and great grandfather were cotton merchants), now it is a hive of quirky, alternative, creative, innovative, vintage, left-leaning city living. As in the first photo, there is a lot of what architectural conservationists (if they were feeling generous) might call ‘adaptive re-use’.
There is still much recycling to do and the place is not pretty. The streets display layers of multi-period dilapidation from the nineteenth century onwards. But there is a vibe here, in the same way there is a vibe in London’s Camden Market. People are doing interesting and creative things. There are independent boutiques and craft-beer bars. If you are into vintage then there are many shopping opportunities, and most especially at Affleck’s Palace emporium:
If you are a maker then Fred Aldous provides a whole department store of art and craft materials to keep your fingers busy. And if you want to see what local artists and designers are up to, then the Manchester Craft & Design Centre, located in a former Victorian fish and poultry market, showcases their work:
But my favourite piece of juxtaposing is the new development that allowed the survival of the facade of the old wholesale fish market. Aesthetically some might say it’s uneasy union of old and new. But I like it. Mostly because someone had the wit to think it possible. If you look inside the entrance you can see the apartment block has a courtyard garden that has retained the original cast iron columns of the market hall:
And finally, after all the hiking around, what is most needed is a nice cup of tea with some of the finest cakes on offer. In fact they cater for all tastes and food requirements at the Teacup Kitchen.