Best thing about Manchester? I love Manchester because it feels like a supportive place. I wanted to work in the arts after graduating and was able to stay and support myself financially, paying cheap rent and by-passing a culture of free internships. There’s a sense of being able to get to know everybody and make progress; it’s a place full of do-ers, from artists and writers, to musicians and promotors who won’t let you get lost. It’s also a place that’s immensely proud of its northernness, which I love. Manchester is wonderful city for walking too, with lots of interesting buildings to look up at- from the Victorian warehouses of Ancoats, metal fire escapes in the Northern Quarter, small-hidden away parks and modernist university buildings to the gothic John Rylands library.
Worst thing about Manchester? We’re missing a few things. As a city Manchester has a tendency to punch above it’s own weight; I love this and find it endearing but I think we’re missing some really interesting independent shops. A handful of playful but grown-up womens boutiques that don’t stray into footballers wives territory and a lido wouldn’t go a miss.
Favourite secret spot? For some quiet time I like to nip into St Ann’s Church in St Ann’s Square. It’s a lovely 18th century neo-classical church with a wooden balcony. You might find a lunchtime rehearsal going on ahead of an evening recital, or you can just enjoy the beautiful stained glass windows. The Holy Name of Jesus Church on Oxford Road is even more stunning and was immortalised by The Smiths in Vicar In A Tutu.
five. What was your newest discovery in Manchester? I’m surely the last person to ‘discover’ it, but I’ve only recently visited Paramount Books, which is sadly the only independent bookshop remaining in the city centre. They have speakers outside the shop and I was drawn in after hearing Mozart’s Violin Concerto No.5 in A Major carrying out onto the street one balmy evening. One of those places that you could stay for hours and feel right at home.
six. Where is the best place for.... morning coffee/pick-me-up? meal with friends? romantic rendez-vous? late night drink? even later-night boogie? The Whitworth gallery, which is due to reopen later this year after a very exciting refurb should be the first port of call for art. A gorgeous space built onto the edge of a park, expect works from Cornelia Parker, Cai Gui-Qiang, Sarah Lucas, Laura Provoust and Richard Hamilton. Head to the Northern Quarter for Teacup on Thomas Street. The madeleines are out of this world and made to order so ask for a table by the kitchen hatch and you can watch as they’re piped into the shell-grooved tins. Just around the corner on Tariff Street is Icelandic coffee shop Takk. A piece of poppy seed stolen is obligatory. The Northern Quarter also houses great cheap curry canteens leftover from the days when South Asian immigrants worked in the local textile trade. They’re perfect for eating on the go, or dining solo. Head to This & That, down an alley on Soap Street. Order Rice and Three grab yourself a red molded plastic chair and linger for as long as you like. Later on head to Common for an evening drink. A bar with good beer, good ale and mean margaritas. Afterwards go for a late night boogie at Keep It Unreal, Mr Scruff’s monthly residency at Band on the Wall, Hoya:Hoya at Roadhouse for top notch electronica and dance music for serious music fans who like gurn-free DJ sets, or Dancers Wanted at Soup Kitchen for good times, disco and deep house.
Whitworth Gallery | Teacup
Where are Manchester's style spots? Where is the best shopping? In the Northern Quarter there’s menswear boutique Oi Polloi. I love it for handsome trainers, one-off collaborations and overpriced knitwear. Grab a copy of their free magazine Pica-Post. Piccadilly Records for record thumbing and enthusiastic tip-offs from the staff. Take their recommendations to the listening deck. Magma for glossy magazines and artbooks, Fig + Sparrow and Oklahoma for homewares and then there’s the Cos concession in Selfridges, and Topshop in the Arndale Centre for two-stories of stock and an impressive range of their Boutique label.
eight. What is something you can get/read/experience/eat that you can only do in Manchester? One of my very favourite things about this city is the Manchester International Festival, the bi-annual arts festival. Three weeks of mostly new commissions spread across the city. The quality of the work is incredibly high, with Marina Abramovic, Tino Seghal, Adam Curtis and Massive Attack, Lou Reed, Steve McQueen and James Murphy’s Despacio project all having featured. Not technically in Manchester, but worth a short trip over the river is the Salford Lads Club. An old-timey recreational club for kids which has been running since 1903. Take a free tour of the building, visit the gyms, peruse the trophy cabinets and impressive shrine that is The Smiths room. Seek out Manchester Modernist Society; they run walking tours, magazine launches and produce lovely print-things for lovers of modernist architecture.
ten. How would your describe Manchester to someone who has never been there before? It’s a sprawling city in the North of England perhaps best known for it’s prolific music scene, football culture and iconic terraced houses immortalised by soap opera Coronation Street and Morrissey’s melancholic lyrics. It’s steeped deep in Labour history; inspiring Marx and Engels to write The Communist Manifesto and kick-starting the Suffragette movement. There is eternal disagreement about who holds the title of ‘second city’ in the UK, but in my eyes it will always be Manchester.
You can read more in our This Is My City series here.