Modernising Manchester – Making it Mundane

This post was provoked by reading this thread – about Oxford Road and the “Manchester Corridor”.  The thread is meant to be about plans and general speculation about the proposed changes to Oxford Road Station and the surrounding area.

Most people (including myself) were struck in mid-2014 by the proposed removal of The Cornerhouse and its relocation to another new build, with the stick-in-the-back-of-your-throat-named-by-committee moniker of HOME.

What peaked my interest was the discussions about The Salisbury Pub being worthy of saving but there was less love for The Grand Central.

Manchester has a fine musical heritage, I’d argue the best and most diverse in the world (but I am biased) and we are used to seeing our musical institutions being converted.

The Grand Central crowd of rockers/punks & goths, etc. were left homeless (for a short time) after the closure of Jilly’s RockWorld and before that, arguably the most famous of England’s clubs The Haçienda was closed down and turned into the same boring red-brick flats you see in every major city.  Jilly’s ended up being a Tesco, or a Pizza Express – you chose the evil empire that fits in with the jist of this piece.

The Salisbury does CAMRA discounts, it also caters to the rock crowd too, but it is what you would call a proper pub.  The Grand Central is very much in the vain of the dirty, stale lager places that I frequented as a kid.  You know, the ones with character, because it wasn’t about what was on the outside that really mattered but who was in the inside.

I’m not trying to match the pubs up against one another, I enjoy both pubs, in fact the whole area along with Font and Thirsty Scholar is excellent for a very, very short-walk drinking crawl.

This comes at a time when there is a campaign to get more money to save the Ancoats Dispensary (direct link to funding is here).

There are also campaigns to save (from the clutches of absentee landlords Britannia) the London Road Fire Station.  A building left to rack and ruin by said landlords inability to do anything with it and a typically inept Manchester Council wishing to spend it’s money more on pot-plants and junkets abroad than pay attention to anything about Manchester centre that doesn’t involve driving (literally) people away to out-of-town shopping centres.

The Star & Garter – another Manchester pub with a massive musical heritage, has a doubtful future as a redesign of Piccadilly Station will see it either removed or forced to close when access to it is severely restricted during the proposed building works.

There are success stories, of a sort, with old buildings being saved.  The Victoria Baths by way of a BBC programme, now sees the venue used regularly for many different events, the most relevant to this blog being the Indy Man Beer Fest.

Case and point about design by committee which isn’t fit for purpose and is fast turning into a danger is Piccadilly Gardens (and its Wall).

People can talk about Grand Central being a bit of an eyesore but Piccadilly Gardens, the first thing many tourists would see from either train or bus, is an absolute shit-tip.  Granted it is a major transport hub now, but what used to be open and actually had something to do with a “garden” is now closed-off (walled-off if you will), claustrophobic and as crime begins to rise and austerity policy means police on the ground have to be cut so Councillors can still get their free holidays abroad, the rise of CCTV will continue unabated, along with that fucking horrible, massive wheel.  Whoo a city centre that doubles as a fairground park.

As I write this MPs have voted against a bid to tighten pub planning laws which really comes as no surprise.

This isn’t some Luddite rant – progress is vital to keep things moving and viable for the future – but taking a look around, everything that is new build, all it is is functional.

I’m struck by the cotton mills near me.  Some being put to use for a variety of things, others bulldozed and left either as wasteland (or a zombie car park) or….oh yes, another bloody big supermarket.  The actually lack of planning for the future is stark.

I could get into conspiracy theories about social engineering, the destruction of communities to build a mass of individuals with no collective power and without he ability to give a crap about anything other than the self, but that is not the point of this piece.

With little or no public consultation, buildings are being ripped down and their replacements have no character, no history (obviously), no romance, nothing artistic or photography worthy.

It seems that each city wishes to become a copy-and-paste job of every other city, not only causing a loss of history but also of identity.

Let us end with a oft-repeated quote amongst pub campaigners but that I feel can apply to all things touched upon…

“When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England” -Hilaire Belloc

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5 thoughts on “Modernising Manchester – Making it Mundane

  1. Is the Cornerhouse destruction not a done deal? That did upset me. And don’t get me started on those baths. What did Griff Rhys Jones do with all that money? You may have been in there for your beer festivals but where’s all the water? That’s what I want to know. Where’s the water?

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