Almost 24 hours in Manchester

Or just over 22 hours to be precise. Our train pulled into Piccadilly Station with enough time to settle into our hotel in Dale Street before sunset. The sun disappeared quickly behind the buildings and lights came on accompanied by the sound of distant fireworks.

This part of the city reminds me a little of the garment district in midtown Manhattan which we visited last year. There are even a couple of wholesale fashion houses in some of the side streets. One more recent addition is Chapter One at 19 Lever Street; an independent bookshop which opened in 2016. Their website notes that in 2013, over 1,000 bookshops in the UK closed down and from 2013 to 2015 not a single new UK bookshop opened. It is also a cafe, welcomes people who want to sit and work and has interesting decor. There are not a lot of books on display but they also sell online and host a weekly creative writing group.

The main reason for visiting Manchester was to see some live music recommended by friends we had made at Cornbury Festival in the summer. Rusty Shackle are a Welsh indie rock group who were performing at Gulliver’s pub on Oldham Street which regularly hosts live music. En route we had an early evening meal at Turtle Bay, a Caribbean restaurant near the venue.

We arrived at the pub before the venue door opened so had a beer downstairs in the bar. It had some interesting light fittings.

The venue upstairs appeared to have been made by combining three rooms with ceiling roses, chandeliers and painted a deep red colour. It chimed with Rusty Shackle who have standard lamps on stage and one by the mixing deck. The support act was a group from Colne called Folkestra who describe themselves as ‘a punk-driven rock-fuelled folk machine’. My musical preference was for Rusty Shackle who came on at 9.30pm. In addition to the usual guitars and drums, the bass guitarist also played a trumpet and one of the other guitarists did some percussion as well. Here they are setting up.

The next morning we headed wandered around the city centre doing a little Christmas shopping. The Christmas market stalls were under construction but it is likely to be after Christmas before we have another day in the city.

Meanderings and music in Manchester

It has been a while since I took the train to Manchester. Yesterday we were on the slow one which takes almost an hour to do the journey. Passing through the green of the south Cheshire countryside where the hawthorn is in full bloom it is not long before we pass the telescope at Jodrell Bank and then are in the part of the county beloved of premier league footballers. Alderley Edge consumes more champagne per head of population than anywhere else in the UK and a little further on we pass the Aston Martin Service Centre. There is always a wait just outside Manchester Piccadilly for a platform but we were soon there. The station approach is being re-vamped yet again so there is scaffolding everywhere.

After some shopping (only three books) we had a late lunch in a Northern Quarter pub. The landlord was on holiday and the lone chef struggling to cope with the orders. The waitress handled the banter from the other customers who said that we had been waiting so long, we would be malnourished. Afterwards I enjoyed some of the nearby street art, making a note to explore the area further on another trip. I was missing my SLR camera which I had left at home as heavy rain was forecast and I would not have been able to take in into the stadium. After 45 years of looking through the viewfinder, I do find framing a picture on a screen more difficult.
Street Art 1  Manchester 25 May 2016-1
We were heading to the Etihad Stadium to hear Bruce Springsteen and took the scenic route along the Ashton Canal. Some of the resident Canada Geese have are raising goslings and were feeding on the grass alongside us.
Geese on canal  Manchester 25 May 2016-1
At the stadium we were glad that we had booked seats as it poured with rain for the whole evening and the standing audience were drenched. He is a great performer and took a lot of audience requests. At one point, a guy wearing a Santa Claus outfit appeared which Bruce said was a first in the off-season. This led to ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town’ – the first time I have sung that along with 40,000 other people, in May. Bruce also had a child up on the stage to sing with him at one point. He is renowned for doing long sets but we could not stay until the end as we had our return train to catch after a wet walk back to the station.
Bruce Springsteen  Manchester 25 May 2016-1

Art and crafts in Manchester

A lazier day might have been a good idea after two quite busy days in London. However, we had decided some time ago to make a trip to the Great Northern Contemporary Craft fair in Manchester as I was not going to be in Edinburgh for the one I usually go to in November. I tried to have a long sleep while James was doing the flu immunisation clinic but the window cleaners put paid to that. Once he was back we headed off and had to contend with heavy traffic all the way into the city. The craft fair was being held in the Old Granada TV Studios and much of the peripheral structure has been left as it was.

Granada Studios 2 (1 of 1)

Craft fairs are always inspiring and encourage me to get back to making and designing things. I picked up a couple of Christmas presents and lots of ideas. There was also an exhibition ‘Ornament’ which contained items from various museums and galleries around the city curated by Victoria Scholes: artist, writer and Coordinator of the NW Craft Network. Needless to say, a lazier evening is following.

Ornament (1 of 1)

Art, Shopping and Comedy in Manchester

We set off mid morning to visit the Whitworth Gallery which has been reincarnated and it is several years since we had last been there. There were familiar Turner and Blake watercolours and many works by Cornelia Parker, Thomas Schütte and Cai Guo-Qiang with which I was not familiar but enjoyed seeing them and appreciated their many different modes of execution and communication. It gave me lots to think about and as soon as time and weather allow I will be out in the studio working on some projects of my own. The only irritation was the lack of information labels next to the works (it does detract from the display) but the information sheets provided seemed to run out and once you had waited and obtained one, then had to figure out which wall (A, B or C) then find the number of the painting before identifying it and reading about it. Slightly too much effort I thought.

Cornelia Parker Room for Margins from Turner paintings  (1 of 1)

Cold Dark Matter Exploded Cornelia Parker Whitworth Gallery March 2015 (1 of 1)

Thomas Schutte Whitworth Gallery March 2015 (1 of 1)

Then, it was into town for a coffee stop, some shopping and a late lunch in a burger joint. In Waterstones I grabbed a sofa and delved into a guidebook on the whole USA for the sections on states which do not appear to have easily obtained guidebooks of their own but which we will pass through on the Lincoln Highway (e.g. Iowa, Ohio, Nebraska) to pick up a few tips. We headed back to the car to move it over to near the Opera House and the late afternoon sun was just picking up the big wheel looking back from Oldham Street.

Sun on big wheel from Oldham St 3 (1 of 1)

On Dale Street some Canada Geese were swimming on the canal.

Canal near Dale St March 2015 (1 of 1)

Canada Goose on Canal near Dale St March 2015 (1 of 1)

We then had a drink in the Old Grapes while James got even more depressed watching Scotland lose to England (Ireland had lost earlier in the day). On the pub wall was a picture of Winston Churchill with Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand – only in Manchester. At the Opera House we saw Omid Djalili who was very entertaining and also challenging. I had heard Farsi spoken in the foyer and when he asked, there were several Iranians in the audience. I hope to see Iran on the London to Sydney overland trip at some point. However, our journey at the end of the evening was the 25 miles or so back home.