Friday, 18 March 2016

Where to get a great view in Manchester (and soak up the sun/rain)

 There ARE places you CAN soak up the sun (or rain) and get a great view in Manchester... and many are free!

Following some inspiring sunny days and a popular picture of bathers in the King Street Townhouse’s rooftop pool, overlooking the Town Hall – it seems that Manchester is the place to be for enjoying some Spring weather! You don’t have to spend any pennies to get a great view and see a new side of the city too. Whether you want a lunchtime walk or even just a bit of something different, there are some great places to relax and catch the sun close to the city centre which may well surprise you:

1)      The National Football Museum  - this glorious glass structure close to Victoria Station is still often known as ‘Urbis’ and fondly referred to as ‘The Ski Jump’; plus it provides a great view which captures the sunlight! Whether you like football or not, admission is free (and there are some marvelous exhibits) plus  you can take the GLASS LIFT (if you dare)  – which provides a great vantage point over Exchange Square, down Deansgate and beyond! The surrounding gardens also offer an area to relax, looking onto the impressive red brick building of Chetham’s School of Music.

2)      Greengate Square – sip coffee in Salford, moments from Manchester! This is public space complete with seating, water features and a tiny, cosy Barista Bar in the style of a log cabin (The really popular Grindsmiths Pod); right on the border between Salford and Manchester. With views towards the Cathedral and Deansgate on one side, over the other you can watch the activity of a whole different city; Salford. Situated just at the corner of Chapel Street and Victoria Bridge Street, it makes a great little nook to escape to for a workday lunch or just a reflective moment. In its time it has been a car park and a bus station, but now it has been beautifully landscaped, with light-up fountains from where you can watch the word pass by.

3)      Parsonage Gardens; a little oasis on its own  - just off Deansgate, close to The House of Fraser (or Kendals, as it is still commonly known) you can find a little green space it is great to escape to. Complete with a little lawn, flower beds and seating, it is surprisingly peaceful as set-back from the main road and surrounded by some impressive architecture. Designated as a conservation area in June 1985, it makes an ideal place for a quiet few minutes in the good weather.

4)      The Clock Tower Tour – get the ultimate eye over Manchester, from INSIDE one of its iconic landmarks, the Town Hall clock tower. This is an adventure allowing you to soak up the sun on a good day, but is interesting rain or shine! Join one of the Blue-badge registered tours and  take to the spiral staircase leading up to the clock which has been a bold  presence in Manchester for 133 years. At a height of 85 metres, you can expect impressive views as you climb the tower – home to the legendary bell Great Abel. This is the hour bell and you not only get the opportunity to see this, but also the mechanism room, ringing room and dial room; a diversity of nooks and crannies usually obscured from the public eye! After delving behind the clock face you will come to the summit which offers panoramic views – particularly good on a sunny day!  Look out over the city, and even across to the Cheshire Plain, The Pennines and beyond!

5)      Imperial War Museum North  - Located in Salford Quays and opened in 2002, this is visually striking building, designed to reflect the disorientation of war – as well as how learning from it can inform our futures. This is what the view from the building reminds me of in particular; an educational experience which shows us the past as well as informing our present. There is the opportunity to stand atop the Air Shard; a large tower which lets you look out over the area and see how it has transformed over time. The angular designs, carefully crafted by architect Daniel Libeskind, add to the experience. Take in views of the urban area – including the Manchester Ship Canal, The Quays and towards the city centre - once devastated by war, now thriving with culture. It is a sobering experience.

6)      Piccadilly Gardens  - this is a classic space to  sit and watch the city go by!  Whether you want to sit at the base of the Queen Victoria statue, make the most of the grassed areas or watch over the fountains; it offers a recreational area surrounded by activity – ideal for people-watching. It also is known to catch some great sun in the afternoons and invites the alluring aromas of the food markets too.  Look up and see some of the city’s stand-out architecture, from a whole number of eras. There’s the City Tower on Piccadilly Plaza – the fourth tallest building in Manchester, and offering some of the highest available office space-  and The Thistle Hotel on the South-Eastern side of the gardens, which was originally three cotton warehouses, key to Manchester’s industrial history.

7)      Station Approach – this is actually mused over by the local band Elbow, in a song of the same name; alluding to the walk up to  Piccadilly station from the Gardens. It may not be the most scenic route, but a great vantage point can be easily reached, close to the station itself. There is a modern-looking pedestrian bridge which crosses over London Road. Stand on here  and enjoy the sun (if the weather is being kind) but also impressive views of the old fire station and the traffic as it enters and leaves the city

8)      Castlefield and conservation areas  -  At the end of Deansgate, past the Hilton hotel, you can reach the historic haven of Castlefield; home to the city’s Roman roots as well as an industrial legacy. Here lies Mamucium – the Roman fort after which the city is named – and a criss-cross combination of canals, bridges, red-brick warehouses and listed railway structures. There are also a number of bars and terraces; emphasizing how scenic the area can be, especially on a sunny day. After all, a lot of these sites are within the Castlefield Conservation Area and Castlefield Quay, recognised for their historic properties. There are also a number of outdoor seating opportunities, including stone terraces close to Liverpool Road, not too far from the Museum of Science and Industry. All are well worth a visit and give a great view!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Why March is a month of unique events in Manchester

1)      International Women’s Day in Manchester – this is a city striving to  uphold equality, with International Women’s Day on the 8th March being turned into a month-long celebration of female achievement. A number of events have been organised which suggest Manchester as a melting-pot for women’s movements – after all, the suffragettes were established here by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903. Expect events as diverse as the women being celebrated; from cinema screenings as unique as ‘Girl Gang Manchester #1: Mean Girls’ to the ‘Wonder Women’ exhibition taking place in the John Ryland’s Library. You can go to the Manchester city council website and find out more about events near you:

2)      Cosmosis –four stages of some of the best alternate music, thousands of attendees, and all inside a factory warehouse –Cosmosis arrives on March 12th. It’s a unique festival which not only celebrates the industrial settings the city has to offer – the Victoria Warehouse – but also a range of psychedelic and rock and roll acts from around the world. 2016 is set to include bands such as The Jesus and Mary Chain and Sleaford Mods; whilst also drawing attention to Manchester talent, such as the female-fronted PINS.  It highlights the city as somewhere associated with quirkiness and creativity; with the organisers Remake Remodel and Interstellar Overdrive keen to emphasize the free-thinking, fantastical nature of the event. An old warehouse meets new wavelengths!

3)      DERT – The truly unique Dancing England Rapper Tournament (DERT)is set to take place in Manchester, over the weekend of 11-13th March. What? It’s a form of sword dancing; a Northern specialty which combines a form of traditional mining dance with folk music and plenty of pubs! ‘Rapper Swords’ are involved – flexible pieces of metal which the dancers co-ordinate themselves around – complete with costume, creative storytelling, and even somersaults! It’s an energetic event which celebrates the working class community and legacy of industry; therefore ideally suited to Manchester. Even though the dancing itself is thought to originate from the pit villages of Tyneside, the complete costume is sure to be welcome here; especially as the competition is taking place within some of the city’s favourite traditional watering holes - The Apple and Apple and The Gas Lamp  for example.  DERT is a competition open to all rapper sword dancing teams and attracts a range of participants as well as audiences. Held annually in the UK, it has already made an impression on cities such as Leeds and Bristol – and with famous names such as ‘Red Mum Rapper’ from Denmark having travelled from overseas to take part in the past, it’s now ready to storm Manchester.

4)      FutureEverything - this is a festival in the form of a cross-cultural laboratory coming to life on the 30th March (until the 2nd April); and it’s home-grown too. Set up in the city in 1995, FutureEverything has been at the heart of exploring connections between society, culture and technology   - something Manchester, gaining so much ground through industry, is famous for. The Guardian has already named it as one of the top ten ideas festivals in the world and FutureEverything prides itself on fostering creativity as well as focusing on how technology can develop to address growing issues such as climate change. All-year round the festival supports innovation, as well as communicating through wider cultural events such as concerts and conferences.  Engaging the audiences this year include Addie Magenknecht, award-winning robotics artist Darius Laemi and the famous ‘annual Friday night party’; which consists of a series of improvisational performances at Islington Mill. Be prepared to be plunged into a festival at the forefront of the digital age.

5)      Designs for Living: New exhibition at HOME  - an example of a place celebrating advancement and excitement here, as well as simple city charms, is the contemporary arts venue HOME. Part of the First Street development, it is forging forward with an exhibition which celebrates the changing nature of construction and how it pushes the barriers of painting– ‘Designs for Living’ brought together by artists Claire Dorsett and Cherry Tenneson. From the 11th March, a range of paintings on building materials could be seen to show how attitudes to construction evolve in a city environment over time; including a celebration of the ordinary and turning the ‘everyday’ buildings we pass, into pieces of art. This exhibition allows you to experience your surrounds in a new way.