The big idea

The big idea? Nothing more and nothing less than excitement: Manchester is the most forward-looking, dynamic, evolving and innovative city, with a truly pioneering spirit. There’s an ongoing feeling of relentless change here, of pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo. It’s a city built on change and ideas, but also a city of contrasts, where opposing views can sit together.

There’s always been a tendency to shock, to reinvent, to regenerate and to promote a sense of identity – never has the saying ‘more of an attitude than a city’ been more apt.

Optimistic, individual, relentless? That’s Manchester.

The cutting edge

Manchester has always taken advantage of every opportunity it’s been given and has secured a reputation for great ideas and being first. What more would you expect from a city at the heart of the Industrial Revolution; a city that played a global role in the textile industry in the late 18th century; and was arguably the first modern city on the international map.

The list of firsts and achievements is pretty impressive: as well as boasting the first commercial canal and commercial railway, Manchester can also lay claim to the UK’s oldest professional orchestra, the Halle. And let’s not forget the pioneering work that was undertaken here that would not only change the way we look at the world, but how we live: John Dalton pioneered atomic theory here in the 1800s; the atom was first split in the university here; and it was in Manchester where the world’s first computer was developed.

And the big ideas don’t stop there; this is, after all, the birthplace of the Manchester School of Free Trade – which gave birth to the saying ‘what Manchester does today, London does tomorrow’; the Anti-Corn Law League, the country’s first ever TUC; and the Suffragette movement. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the leading social thinkers of the 19th century, also studied the ‘city at the centre of the industrial world’. And when Charles Darwin wanted a city in which to launch his ground-breaking On the Origin of Species exhibition 150 years ago, he opted for Manchester as it was the only one provocative enough to be able to handle it. Wow!

Creative juices

As pioneering music scenes go, you can’t really beat Manchester. Where else can you find such diversity of talent and influence? As well as bands such as 10cc and the Bee Gees, Simply Red, New Order, Buzzcocks, The Smiths, The Fall and Joy Division, Manchester was home to infamous club The Haçienda (sadly now defunct, this most infamous of clubs was founded by Mr Manchester himself Tony Wilson) and the hugely influential Madchester movement of the late 1980s/early 1990s, which was responsible for bands such as Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets. They certainly made their mark and without doubt paved the way for the Gallagher brothers’ band Oasis (aptly, one of their album titles is Standing on the Shoulders of Giants). But wait, there’s more. Manchester continues to produce some of the most respected bands and artists of today: Badly Drawn Boy, The Tings Tings, The Chemical Brothers, Elbow, The Verve; the list goes on and on, and will for some time, if we’re any judge.

Oh, and let’s not forget Take That, the original British boy band, who formed here in 1989.
But it’s not just about the music, Manchester’s home to some cracking museums and also boasts the Cornerhouse, an international centre for visual arts and film. A Clockwork Orange, Slumdog Millionaire and Coronation Street all emanated from the city).

Sporting achievement through pushing boundaries

Manchester seems to push the boundaries in everything it does, and nowhere is this more relevant than in sport. And we’re not just talking cricket, either, although it is home to Lancashire Cricket club.

Take football. Which football club has been the most successful in the country over the last twenty years; one that has constantly had to break up and rebuild significantly every few years? Manchester United. And which has broken all the rules to become the richest club in the world? Manchester City, of course.
Then take cycling. For Manchester is the home of British cycling, with the fantastic Velodrome, Britain’s first indoor cycling track and now with an additional £20 million BMX track. And it doesn’t end there: the British Taekwondo squad, Great Britain’s Water Polo and Paralympic swimming teams, the International Federation of Netball Associations and even the English Institute of Sport are all based here.


Individual, innovative and provocative

Who’s it ideal for/how it can make you feel

Anybody that wants to get the creative juices flowing: innovators, creatives, musicians, artists, musicians – this is the place for you. It’s also perfect for those who want to live a little (read ‘a lot’), to see and be seen, to be part of a happening.
And that’s because this is a place that makes you come to life, makes you feel excited and inspired; a place that makes you feel that anything can happen (and it probably will…).

The interesting bits in the history:Interesting bits in the history

How long have you got? As arguably the first modern city on the international map there’s a wealth of history here.

The Romans had a small fort here, and named the place Mamucium (which means a’ breast-shaped hill’ – they don’t name ‘em like that any more...), but once they’d left, the place became a ruin, probably until the 10th century, when a small town was established. However, during mediaeval times the town was a pretty insignificant player in the region compared with the likes of Salford and Preston.

It was during the 16th to 18th centuries however that the town would accelerate past the others in Lancashire to establish regional pre-eminence. Based on cotton and linen products, and being close to the port of Liverpool for imports, the city was not constrained by many of the guilds in other towns, and so had in-built flexibility and adaptability.

Transport routes converged on Manchester, the town’s population soared, and Manchester established an early reputation for innovation.

But from the late 18th century the city became the focus of international attention as the growth accelerated; the town became the centre for cotton production and warehousing (by 1835 90% of the country’s cotton production was in the region) and the huge urban growth and workers’ newly politicised appetite – including the infamous Peterloo Massacre in 1815 – alongside it meant the city became an indication of a new order of things – the modern city had arrived, both in scale and in conflicting views.

Cottonopolis was a much used nickname to describe the city at this time, but it actually underplays the huge role that Manchester played as a financial power across Europe. After all, this was where people came to trade, and it was smack bang at the centre of a revolution in the country’s machine-tool industry. By the middle of the 19th century it was one of the world’s great trading cities, as well as being the country’s fourth most important port – because of the hugely important Manchester Ship Canal – and boasted the world’s first industrial estate, at Trafford Park.

In 1853 Manchester gained city status; the retail scene was booming with the introduction of the department store, and the wholesale-and-branch distribution system pioneered by the Co-operative Movement. The city was also fast becoming a cultural centre of international note, with the Halle Orchestra and world-class art collections at its disposal.

But this was probably to be the peak, as during Victorian times the whole British cotton industry was facing terminal decline as cheaper imports came in. Manchester was well placed though to avoid the brunt, primarily because of the wider industrial base and Trafford Park, but the city needed to adapt again throughout the 20th century.

The industrial heritage has served as a great strength in the tourist trade, and the importance of retail led to the development of the Arndale Centre and, more recently, the Trafford Centre. Financial services continued to play a major role, but the character of the city was tested with an IRA bomb attack in 1996, the largest bomb detonated in Britain since World War II. The response, however, pretty much sums up the city: one of absolute reinvigoration, which led to an enlarged Arndale Centre, the Triangle, the Corn Exchange, and new spaces and districts like the Millennium Quarter and the Northern Quarter.

How to experience what’s different/get under the skin of

Let’s start at the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) on Liverpool Road (this part of the city was where the original Roman fort would have stood). Housed in the world’s oldest surviving railway station, with collections ranging from early textile machinery to modern x-ray equipment, this is not a fusty old museum but somewhere that successfully brings to life the city’s impressive past.

Head along the road and you’re on Deansgate. To the right is the Bridgewater Canal, but turn left and head up on one of the city’s most famous streets. Up here on the left make sure you pop in to John Rylands University Library, deemed one of the most beautiful libraries in Europe. On Deansgate itself you’ll also find several landmarks such as the Beetham Tower (tallest skyscraper outside of London), some great shops (Kendals stands out as a department store), and bars and restaurants (The Moon under the Water incidentally is the largest pub in Britain).

Look out on the right for both King Street, for designer label shopping, and St Ann’s Square for upmarket shopping; the latter being the city’s first conservation area, standing right in the centre of the city, and home to the fabulous Royal Exchange Theatre, which was previously the headquarters of the global cotton industry (phew). Beautiful on the outside, the theatre itself is a seven-sided glass-walled capsule suspended from huge marble pillars, which means theatre goers are never more than nine metres from the circular stage, giving everybody the most amazing views.

After the theatre head over the road along Corporation Street and you’ll come to the Triangle, with a selection of independent stores and bars, all housed in the old Corn and Produce Exchange. Behind here check out the much-restored Manchester Cathedral (following bomb damage several times); look for the Hanging Bridge, a popular attraction, and the detail of the carved misericords – reputedly some of the finest in Europe. And if this puts you in the mood for a bit of contemplation, just around the corner you’ve got Chetham’s School of Music, the largest specialist music school in the country set in the most fantastic mediaeval buildings, and Chetham’s Library, the oldest library in the English-speaking world, where Karl Marx once studied this most complex English city.

Head back to Cathedral Gardens and the impressive URBIS exhibition centre. Opening in early 2012 is the National Football Museum; the largest in the world, entirely fitting given the city’s status as home to the world’s most famous football club (and the world’s richest). Directly opposite is the Printworks Centre, home to a range of restaurants and entertainment venues, and one of the many entrances to the impressively rebuilt Arndale Centre, the country’s biggest indoor shopping centre with over 240 stores.

Behind the Arndale Centre make sure you check out the area known as the Northern Quarter. Historically this was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and buzzing with activity. Over time however, especially following the bombing of the city during World War II, attention focused on rebuilding the new centre of the city, and the low rents in this area attracted a new type of business; in came the smaller, alternative shops, bohemian bars and cafes: it’s now a mecca for independent music and DJs, with a buzzing creative scene. As a testimony to its funky laid-back nature it was even awarded the Great Neighbourhood of the Year 2011 for Britain at the Academy of Urbanism Awards.

Head from here towards Piccadilly Gardens, and stroll down Mosley Street, down here on the left is the Manchester Art Gallery, featuring six centuries of world-class art with over 25,000 pieces to admire. From here head down Princess Street and into Albert Square, which is dominated by the magnificent Town Hall. Look out also for the Albert Memorial Statue, the first of several statues built in memory of the Prince Consort; it’s remarkably similar in style to the London version.

Head south from the square down Mount Street and you’ll find yourself opposite the Bridgewater Hall, the city’s international conference centre, and home now to three resident orchestras (the Halle, the BBC Philharmonic and Manchester Camerata).
Carry further down and you’re near to where we started, at the Deansgate Locks, once home to the Haçienda , and now a vibrant bar and restaurant area.

When to visit

City pics