Manchester doesn’t have city walls like Chester or York. In the past it was never big enough or important enough to afford or warrant them. By the time Manchester was big and important, the need for defensive walls had passed. In lieu of the walls, Manchester city centre is surrounded by a ring of Victorian railway viaducts which, until recently, has acted as a barrier to the expansion to the city centre. On the south side of the city centre this does not hold true where the viaducts give way to the barrier of the Mancunian Way, a high level 1960s road that takes traffic around the southern part of the city centre. It was meant to be the first of a series of motorways that were supposed to surround and bisect the city centre. The rest were never built which means we can have horrendous traffic but at least they didn’t rip down a lot of our wonderful Victorian buildings (the Town Hall was on the list of buildings to be torn down).

The Mancunian Way crosses Oxford Road and separates the city centre from the universities. It’s not a thing of beauty. And the ground underneath is a ‘no man’s land’ that seems to attract litter and some of the city’s more colourful characters. And it was this bit of land that I wanted to see.

The people behind Affleck’s Palace (alternative shopping ) in the Northern Quarter have taken the area over. Instead of litter and colourful characters they have brought in some old shipping containers, piled them up under the road and painted them in bright colours. Local, independent businesses have been invited in to take them over and a community of them is developing bringing some life to a dead part of busy Oxford Road. I’ve seen them do this kind of thing in some of the cooler bits of London.

Called Hatch, it’s in a great position. It was quiet yesterday but, once the universities are back in a few days, the passing people traffic, mostly students who like this kind of thing, are going to keep it busy. Not all the units are up and running yet as it only began to open before Christmas. But the units are all, mostly, let and later in 2018 they will bring more containers in for more businesses. It’s being used as an incubator for businesses that might transfer to the Circle Square development, just a few metres away, when it is finished. Developers love these schemes where, like in Spinningfields, there is a mixture of businesses, preferably independent and not just corporate giants. The containers will stay here for three years. But in other places where this kind of thing has happened, the containers and their communities have become permanent. 

Green walls are a ‘thing’ all over Manchester these days.

One of the containers will have a micro brewery, called ÖL. Beer, brewed in one part of the container will be sold in another part.

I had a coffee in TAKK. I’ve posted about this place before. They have a much loved, Scandi Noir/Icelandic themed coffee shop on Tariff Street in the Northern Quarter. I go a lot. Sometimes work has me meet people at Piccadilly Station and, if I judge they are the type of person who will appreciate it and there is time for a coffee, I take them on a five minute walk, past all the chain coffee shops, and take them to TAKK. I like to see their reaction especially if they are new to the city and have arrived with preconceptions of what it’s like here. This TAKK in Hatch is a new venture for them. I don’t think two branches make a chain do they? It was interesting to see how they have done the containers. They have taken the metal box and punched holes for windows and doors. TAKK was lined with wood which helped insulate the metal box and dampened down the noise you might have. There seemed to be a little kitchen out back, the counter with the coffee machines and then the public area. Very simple and very cool. I had a flat white coffee and a kind of Bakewell Tart Flapjack thing that was delicious. I pulled some cash out but this business is card only. I think this is the first business that I have come across that does this. 

« »