There seems ongoing competition between Manchester and London, with the public often arguing over which place promotes the most ‘positivity’ or best ‘quality of life’ for the people there. These are popular tourist cities, commonly-called places to ‘lose yourself’. After all, going to the city is often seen as a time of ‘looking out’ for things; whether you are looking for a certain purchase, particular item of clothing, or even browsing a gallery or exhibition... yet what I want to draw attention to is the situation that selecting such language to refer to cities can actually be unhelpful. You are not just a consumer in an urban space, you are a conscious, capable individual. Therefore, you shouldn’t just be giving your time to cities, but cities should be giving time to you... and my minutes are in Manchester. With the recent opening of ... in Manchester, as well as the rise of social enterprise of Cathartic.co and the work of We Are What We Are, it’s certainly giving the people a peace of mind...
Why does considering the mind come into it? Think mindfulness; you’ve probably already heard it being talked about. It’s the concept which has been taking personal development by storm, especially amongst students and young people (with so many in Manchester): the technique is discussed by doctors, celebrated by celebrities including a recent article from Ruby Wax, and even resulted in a cross-parliamentary report last year. Focusing on the present and taking time to think about our own thought processes are two of its key components; a personal focus in order to achieve peace.
Yet cities don’t always seem like peaceful places. On the surface, so much of ‘enjoying’ Manchester seems marketed as ‘busy’ and ‘bustling’ – with the popularity of things evaluated on the quantities of crowd they pull in. Yet what it is important to remember is that there are still spaces in the city you can seek solace in. even if others are there, these are some nooks and crannies which never fail to give a bit of reassurance, allow you to reflect and look inwards. The city life is often celebrated as a tie to ‘lose yourself’ – but I believe in Manchester it doesn’t always have to be the case, hence this is place made for mindfulness, of a kind. Because, what I have found, is that Manchester is place where you can make yourself too; and have hope in it. It’s a city which celebrates the ability of the individual and their expression, no matter where they have come from; as seen in the regular open mic nights, integration of students and professionals and pride in place.
Yet when I was in London for example, there was always this unspoken pressure of making ‘it’ –whatever ‘it' is– aspiring for a socially-fuelled, high-flying ideal which never came any closer. My thoughts were always pre-occupied, reaching for the concept of ‘success’ which was so often discussed, seldom seen. Yet all I found in London was the reality of how alone this made me feel. I am not saying that London is a negative city, I am just writing to share my experiences that it is a place which boasts big dreams and aspirations, often marketed as a place people can ‘escape’ to from their lives on the outside. Yet escapism isn’t always the answer, because people’s original lives, thoughts and personalities deserve just as much to be recognised too. Hence why I see Manchester as a city of exploration rather than escape – and that’s a mindful thing. There are some quiet places, quirky concepts and creative initiatives as ever underway, which anyone can get involved in. Here in Manchester, there is the ability to take time for yourself, to ‘gather your thoughts’, as they say, and get to grips with you….
Some pieces of mine for peace of mind:
1) The peace of Parsonage Gardens – unlock a little oasis for you and your thoughts! Just off Deansgate, one of the busiest roads in the city, you may be surprised find this bit of green space, complete with flower plots and benches, so close to bustle. It certainly provides food for thought; as it was historically an area owned by the Le Warre family and used to cultivate food for a parish church. Little pockets left of history give great occasion to reflect. St Mary's Parsonage, Manchester M3 2LF
2) Considerations at Castlefield – another place you can gather your thoughts, as well as enjoy some great scenery. Particularly profound is the site of ‘Mamucium’ which marks the ancient Roman foundations of the city. Not far from Bridge street and the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester’s roman heritage rests – tucked away from traffic and tourists – in the form of a partially reconstructed stone fort. Unlike the attention lavished on the preened monuments of the capital city, Mamucium is comparatively quiet and provides perfect food for thought. Considering all that has happened around it, and yet parts still stand, complete with dedicatory Latin inscription, helps put things into perspective
3) Put yourself in the present at Ziferblat – a quirky café really focused on keeping things contemporary, and comfy too, is Ziferblat; the social space where you pay 6p a minute. I beloive that this accommodates mindful teachings of understanding the worth of the present; and that a price s attached could be considered surprisingly constructive rather than reductive. How so? The range of resources, free wi-fi and friendly facilities at Ziferblat is enough to motivate anyone to spend their time in the most worthwhile way possible to hem. You can help yourself to refreshments and the environment celebrates the self; you are responsible for your own washing up, just as much as you are responsible for what you create here, even if it’s plating the piano! Therefore Ziferblat doesn’t put a set value you on time – that is up to you to create – beyond money http://www.ziferblat.co.uk/ 23 Edge St, Manchester M4 1HW
4) Make a difference right now, with hats for the homeless – rough sleeping in the Manchester area has doubled in the past year, a deeply saddening suggested estimate. Paying attention to that and giving a real powerful piece of mind is ‘We Are What We Are’, a clothing retailer and ‘non-prophet’ organisation selling stock in Afflecks Palace. They are currently carrying out ‘Hats for the homeless’; for every hat bought in store they will donate one to someone living on the streets. These guys are articulate and passionate about their project; plus it’s charity you can see shaping the present day – mindful in itself. Rather than a big city conglomerate, this is intimate, honest Manchester at its very best http://wawwa.co/apparel/ Wawwa, 52 Church StreetNorthern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1PW
5) Hidden issues ; helping address the actuality of anxiety – there is a dance and performing arts group ‘Hidden Issues’, based in Manchester, which really deserves some attention in terms of the work it is doing to interact with those suffering from anxiety and mental health problems. In the fast-moving modern day, the source if our anxieties can seem pushed into the past, whilst worrying can have us fumbling over the future. ‘Hidden issues’ helps people face the present, through performance; running a number of dance and dramatic arts classes for people suffering with anxiety. It’s now even supported by the O2’s Think Big Campaign, which is initiative drawing attention to efforts made to uphold healthy minds https://twitter.com/hidden_issues
Instead of always looking beyond ourselves for entertainment, this is a city which allows you to work within.