Category: N4


I liked how this shot of No1 Spinningfields turned out framed by the trees in Hardman Square. I love how the blue glass reflects all around it especially when it reflects the sky and almost disappears. They are fitting out the building for the new tenants at the moment. That includes the top floor restaurant with the garden terrace on the roof. I really am looking forward to getting up there, eating and enjoying the view. I WILL be taking pictures. And I’ve heard of another building planned for Trinity Islands. There are five towers planned and one will be 213m tall, 13m taller than the Owen Street Tower currently under construction. The Trinity Island Tower will have a restaurant at the top AND a viewing platform which we have been wanting for years. 

After my mini Mobike adventure I wanted some lunch so I went to Pret a Manger on Spinningfields. I got some of my favourite Smoked Salmon Sandwiches, some Smoked Chipotle Crisps, a pot of Lemon Pudding and a Grape and Elderflower Soda. I can recommend it. 

It was warm so I sat outside. I had a look around while I enjoyed my picnic. Work is still going on with No 1 Spinningfields. And they are giving Hardman Square its, possibly, final incarnation. It’s changed a lot over the years of its existence. Allied London seem to enjoy playing with it. Originally it was just a lawn where they were going to build another tower on some of the most expensive land in Europe. But people enjoyed the space so Allied London used it for pop up bars in summer, outdoor movie presentations and ice rinks at Christmas. People regarded it as permanent but it’s never really been. So we have a compromise. The wooden structure being constructed is a pavilion that with be occupied by a branch of London’s lauded restaurant, The Ivy. The rest will be turned into gardens.

I seem to have caught a lady who has found that the long summer school holidays are just a bit too long for her.

Lunch done, I had a mooch around the shops. In the Arndale Centre I went back to the VANS store to visit the red version of the shoes I bought last week. I resisted the temptation. It was a different story when I went into NOTE on Thomas Street in the N4. NOTE is one of the coolest shops in the city in the pink painted old Thomas Street Post Office. It sells limited edition cool clothes for guys. If you buy here you’re not going to see it on every other guy in the city.

Another brand I liked to wear when we were in California was Converse. There were a beautiful pair of Converse shoes in terracotta suede. I really wanted them but, as I haven’t worn the VANs yet, I couldn’t justify buying them. So I played a game. I stood in the store with one of them in my hand. If one of the guys working there noticed me and spoke to me I would buy them. If I was ignored I would put it down and leave the shop. Well….here they are on out kitchen counter a couple of hours later…

 

I found this wonderfully preserved, or beautifully restored, Bond Bug, in a street in the Northern Quarter in Manchester. They were built in the early 1970s as a fun town car. I think they have a fibreglass body and I know they have three wheels. I’m sure they are safe but they don’t look too comfortable and I wouldn’t like to take my chance in one in 21st century Manchester traffic. They do look quite funky in a 1960s way; you can imagine mini skirted girls getting out of them. They don’t have doors as such, the entire top lifts off on a hinge at the back. Interesting fact….Luke Skywalker’s floaty car thingy, from the first Star Wars movie, was based on the Bond Bug and they used the chassis of one to build the one he used hiding the wheels.

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Oklahoma, not the state or the Rogers & Hammerstein musical, but a shop on High Street in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. It sells all kinds of wonderful but kitsch bits and pieces that you probably don’t need but would like. Lots of bright plastics, ’70s lampshades, ornaments made from recycled materials, old tin toys you thought had been banned for health and safety reasons. It’s great for buying unusual presents for friends or finding funky stuff to decorate your home. 

It occupies the ground floor of an attractive Victorian office/warehouse building. Not one of the grandest buildings in the city but one of those that fills in the spaces between the big architectural set pieces and adds a great deal to the ambiance of the city. This building and business greatly add to the Northern Quarter.

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And if you are looking for an unusual present for a friend (or for yourself) here’s a selection on offer at the moment. And Christmas is a joy.

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I particularly like the chickens that seem to have been made out of old plastic shopping bags…

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And the flamingo corner was cool…

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Red Lion Street….

Red Lion Street is a little street in the Northern Quarter. I’m not sure how it got its name. I assume there might have been a Red Lion Public House on it at one point, now long gone. There are certainly no lions of any colour on it now. It’s just off Church Street which also confuses me as I can’t find any evidence of it ever having had a church on it or that it ever led to one.

Red Lion Street isn’t a thing of beauty. On one side it has an eyesore multi-storey car park thrown up in the 1960s when this part of the city was being eyed up for wholesale destruction. Thank goodness they never managed to get round to doing it. The Northern Quarter is one of Manchester’s most vibrant areas. I’d love to see that car park torn down and something more interesting put in its place. I’ve never worked out how you could get your car into this part of town anyway, the traffic system is so convoluted. I catch the tram these days and walk to it. The other side of Red Lion Street is a piece of wasteland. I’ve no idea what was there in the past, it’s just been a weed patch for as long as I’ve known it.

Bits of wasteland in the Northern Quarter are at a premium of course and it’s  this particular piece that’s attracted the developers who want to build some apartments on it.  This is what it will look like. Lots of glass and red brick to reflect the older buildings around it. You can see the car park as well. Not a thing of beauty.

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It’s a weird shape. While most of the building is on Red Lion Street it also includes a building on parallel Union Street. It looks as if it might have been a substantial house in the distant past. It’s very dilapidated at the moment but they are keeping it and restoring the facade.

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I suspect the back of the building will go though. It looks too far gone to save.

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This is what they plan to do with the Union Street house. Restore the brick, reglaze the windows.

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There has been a bit of controversy about the scheme as some people have objected to the plan because it hides a piece of street art on a close by building. The art work won’t be destroyed, you just won’t be able to see it as clearly as you do now. But it will still be there. We’ll see how that goes.

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However, if I lived in one of the apartments in an, already restored, building on Union Street, I might object to them building something literally a couple of metres form my large window and Juliet balcony. But, if you live in a busy city you have to expect this sort of thing. If you want space and no neighbours, move to Cheshire. 

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I went on the search for some more of the works from the Cities of Hope street art festival from back in May. I’d heard that there were two pieces behind Cord Bar on Dorsey Street, just off Tib Street, in the Northern Quarter. And so it proved.

One was a homage to a local writer, Anthony Burgess. He was famous for writing ‘A Clockwork Orange’ which was turned into a movie so violent that it was banned for years. In spite of being a classic you still don’t see it turning up on TV even now. A quote for the book in included in the art work…

‘You can destroy what we have written but you cannot unwrite it’

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Next to it is a huge art work called ‘War Child’. A blindfolded boy holds a rifle. The rifle pulls his blindfold tighter so he can’t see at all. His shadow fills the rest of the wall. It’s a very powerful piece.

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I spotted this image of Alan Turing. The guy who decoded the Enigma Machine that shortened World WarII, then moved to Manchester to develop the world’s first working computer, Baby, here in the city laying the foundations of our modern world. He committed suicide when he lost access to his work through being discovered to be gay. Manchester and the U.K. have moved on since those days but, as we have seen in Orlando in the last 24 hours, a lot of the world has yet to make that leap.

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And I liked this satellite on the wall.

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On Tariff Street I found this one. It’s across the street from the huge ‘iceberg’ artwork on the side of Hilton House. I must have spent so much time looking at the one on Hilton House that I failed to notice this behind me. There’s another one by the same artist of an elderly couple kissing but I couldn’t find it on this wander.

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There’s something of a housing crisis in Manchester. The population of the city is growing faster than the housing stock, forcing prices up and meaning that some people can’t find somewhere to live. Well I guess you can if you are prepared to take your chances in some of the more ‘interesting’ places. But if you want to live in places like Didsbury or Chorlton life can be difficult. In the city the Northern Quarter, with its hipster vibe, is very popular and developers are looking at even the tiniest pieces of land to squeeze a few apartments into. Fortunately the architecture of this area is eclectic so it can take a few modern buildings.

They’ve just released plans for such a development on Thomas Street in the N4. It’s one of the most popular streets in the area lined with cafés, restaurants and bars. Half way along are a few rundown, little buildings waiting for a new use. I thought that, eventually, they would have succumbed to the renovation fairy but sadly not. I’m surprised about this as the two smaller ones are of historical interest. They are the ones with the large, horizontal windows across the top floors. They are weavers’ cottages. 250 years ago a family would live on the two lower floors of the cottage, while the top floor, with the big windows and all the light, was where the the weaver (usually the father) would weave woollen and cotton cloth. It was in these cottages that Manchester’s future industry and incredible wealth, was begun. Later the weavers were moved into a purpose built factory, the first of its type in the world, on the site of the Royal Mills, ten minute’s walk away on Great Ancoats Street. That idea spread around the world and the modern, industrial world began here in Manchester. These are the buildings that will be taken down. They seem to be doing something to them already.

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They will be replaced by these buildings. Apartments will be in the upper floors while the ground floors will be given over to retail and more bars and restaurants no doubt. There’s a nod to the old buildings in the new development with the use of brick and those long windows again.

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Nearby I spotted the new piece of street art of Prince. David Bowie is two minutes away in Stevenson Square. I wonder how long it will be before Mohammed Ali puts in an appearance?

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I was in Manchester city centre early this morning for a big conference at the new Holiday Inn on Aytoun Street. I’m about to go into the busiest time of my working year. This year it’s coincided with a difficult time for me personally but I will be OK I think. Being busy helps and takes my mind off things and, as there isn’t a thing I can do to alter circumstances, all I can do is ride it out.

The new Holiday Inn is interesting. Obviously, it’s a big chain hotel but they have worked hard to give it a Manchester feel with the public areas filled with 1990s Madchester art and paraphanlia when the city’s music was heard around the world. Madchester isn’t a spelling mistake, it was the name the city gained through its music and drugs culture of the time. Not that I was any part of that of course. We had our conference in a meeting room called ‘Hacienda’, after the legendary club on Whitworth Street, epicentre of the Madchester sound and the site of Madonna’s first concert this side of the Pond. 

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The Euro 2016 football tournament in France kicked off last night in Paris. A month of football fun as an appetiser for the Rio Olympics in a few weeks time. And if that isn’t enough sport, we will have Wimbledon upon us soon as well.

There’s plenty of interest for us in these islands with three of the four home nations taking part; England, Wales and Northern Ireland. And if, like me, you have ancestors south of the Irish border, there is Ireland to follow as well. Only Scotland hasn’t joined the party.

The pubs and bars are expecting a lucrative summer especially if the teams progress beyond the opening stages. Each goal scored adds a phenomenal amount of money in bar takings across the country. Big screen TVs are being installed and bunting is being festooned everywhere. This is the Tib Street Tavern on Tib Street (bet you worked that out for yourself) in Manchester’s Northern Quarter getting ready for England’s first match this evening against Russia in Marseilles.

 

Back in 2013 there was a disasterous fire in the old Dobbins department store on Oldham Street. It destroyed a rundown, but attractive, Art Deco building. In its day back, in the 1930s, it was a must visit shopping experience when Oldham Street was one of the city’s premier shopping streets. World War II did it no good at all and new shopping developments, notably the Arndale Centre, caused Oldham Street to go into terminal decline. It’s now one the the main thoroughfares of the ubercool Northern Quarter and is lined with independent businesses. No doubt the Dobbins building would have an a renaissance but they think someone homeless got in and lit a fire that got out of control and the building went up and was beyond saving. Well that’s the story. At the moment it’s a surface car park but plans have just gone in for more apartments on the site. They look decent as well.

I’m not worried about losing a surface car park but I hope the plans take into account the  stunning new piece of street art that has been done on a wall overlooking it. It’s been executed by a local artist from Blackburn, a former cotton town north of the city. It’s of one of the natives of New Guinea in their full finery. I know Blackburn and the people don’t look like this. It’s another of the Cities of Hope Festival.

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Meanwhile, away on Hilton House, the huge piece of artwork has been finally completed. It’s about migration which is a thorny problem in Europe, and much of the world, at the moment.

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Halfway up King Street, at the King Street Fesival, was Frog Floral Artistry, an installation put together by FROG, a rather beautiful flower business on Turner Street in the Northern Quarter. It’s run by a French guy which might account for the name. The French are famous for eating frog’s legs which I’m told taste like chicken. I couldn’t comment as I have carefully avoided this delicacy (along with snails) on trips to that beautiful country. In The UK the French are sometimes referred to as ‘frogs’ while they call us ‘les Rosbifs’ after our liking for that delicacy. 

This guy has been in Manchester for nearly twenty years. He arrived and fell in love with the city and has been here ever since. I’m delighted he stayed and many do succumb to the charms of the city but I have to say I was stunned. He comes from the Alpes Martimes part of France. It’s right in the south next to Provence, one of the most desirable places to live anywhere in the world; great climate, great food, beautiful scenery, wine, enviable lifestyle. In Alpes Maritimes it is possible to ski in the mountains  in the morning and then sunbathe on Mediterranean beaches in the afternoon. The coast is lined with beautiful towns like Nice, Cannes, Antibes and, though not actually a part of it, Monte Carlo. He must have fallen for Manchester big time to give that lifestyle up to live in a city where we don’t see the sun for weeks on end in the winter. His English is faultless but does still have his French accent.

He has his business in the Northern Quarter, providing spectacular flower arrangements for the city. Every bar, restaurant, office seems to have wonderful arrangements of flowers in their foyers. They are pricey. Upmarket weddings aren’t complete without some stunning floral art. He’s worked with Dig The City. One of his biggest commissions was to turn the fountain in St Anne’s Square into a huge floral display with cotton plants and moving water, a celebration of Cottonopolis. It won a gold. I saw it being put together but I was busy with my own floral enterprise at the time and we didn’t get a chance to speak.

At the King Street Festival he did the hanging baskets around the lamp posts. I liked the ideas he came up with to display his plants on his installation. I’m tucking them away to use should I get the chance to do something else garden like.

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There’s an undistinguished, early twentieth century office building on the edge of the Northern Quarter where Oldham Street dog legs across Great Ancoats Street and becomes Oldham Road. It’s not a thing of beauty having none of the presence and attention to detail that the office buildings in the city centre had at that time. It has the words ‘Zen Offices’ stencilled on it in bright green. I can’t think that was its original name, they wouldn’t have been into names like that in those days. I’ve never really noticed it before. If I’m looking at buildings round there your eyes are naturally drawn to the magnificent curved glass walls of the Art Deco Daily Express Building and I’ve noticed some other little tiled Art Deco buildings in the area that need a bit of tlc.

But this building has got my attention because it has become home to two of the Cities of Hope artworks. Looming over Oldham Road is probably, in my opinion, the best of the ones that have been done. It’s a pictures of a man who looks like he’s in despair. The model for the painting actually lives in Manchester. I’m not sure what his story is but I saw a photograph of him looking at it with the artist. He was described as a ‘service user’ which implies he needs some form of help to get by in life. I’m hoping that this painting will give him a massive boost and help him overcome whatever problems bedevil him. I love the hands. Hands are notoriously difficult to draw or paint. The artist has managed to get them just right, get the colour and the texture of the skin right and do it on this massive scale while on a cherry picker suspended above the city. It’s a epic piece of work.

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On the other end of this building is this city in a bottle. A painter guy was getting out of his van dressed in paint spattered overalls. I asked if it was his. He laughed. Turned out he was here with his mate to paint one of the offices inside the building. We all have our talents I suppose.

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