I have lived in Manchester most of my life. I grew up in Stretford and now live in the centre of town. There is nothing unusual about living in the city these days, but during my childhood in the 80s, it would have been considered strange, or even unfortunate. The Manchester of today is a million miles away from the city of my childhood and I often think about how much the Mancunian landscape (or Manc-scape perhaps) has changed.
The Manchester of the 1980s was gritty, dusty and frequently derelict. I remember trips to the city centre on the 257 bus through Hulme, wondering who lived in this sad-looking jungle. The same area is totally different now, being subject to a focussed regeneration effort during the late 90s and 2000s. Manchester Metropolitan University has recently completed its amazing Birley Fields campus there, moving the area on again and diversifying the local populace to include students.
By the time I became a teenager in the 90s, something serious and fundamental had happened. Manchester had become the northern capital of cool and southerners wanted to come to university here. Suddenly it seemed that it wasn’t so grim up north, after all. Manchester became Madchester and the city acquired something nowhere else outside of London had: brand. It was the Mancunian brand, along with some excellent stewardship from Manchester City Council, which attracted the financial investment required to create the vibrant, exciting city of today.
The noughties saw the construction of some incredible landmark buildings, including the Beetham Tower and the Spinningfields development. I feel a very personal bond to Spinningfields. At the time, I worked for the contractor who built these great buildings. I feel very proud to have worked on the winning bid for 3 Hardman Street. I wrote numerous pieces of marketing collateral for buildings such as Manchester Civil Justice Centre and 3 and 4 Hardman Square. Given the turmoil we have all experienced since then, it seems at least two lifetimes ago!
Manchester is famous for many things, including inclement weather, stroppy women, being the crucible of the industrial revolution (Cottonopolis) and the birthplace of Baby, world’s first stored-program computer, as well as the cultural tidal waves of music and football. It is now becoming known for the quality of its architecture and is rightly becoming a very popular tourist destination.
My only fear that we lose all of the city’s glorious industrial grime, swapping it for the glamour of glass and steel. The canals and Victorian areas around Dale Street and the wider Northern Quarter are amongst my favourite places and I would be sad to see these sanitised or glamorised. The perfect happy medium for me would to be seamlessly integrate the old with the new, whilst accommodating the needs of this growing city. I’d also love to see more trees, flowers and general park areas. As much as I love the buildings, sometimes views would benefit from being softened.
On a final note, I’d like to point out the irony of some of the greatest Mancunians not being from Manchester at all. They became Mancunian through commitment, excellence and devotion. But people like (and this list isn’t intended to be exhaustive) Alan Turing (London), Tony Wilson (Salford) and Alex Ferguson (Govern, Glasgow) have made an unbelievable contribution towards Manchester being the vibrant city it is today. I once read something about Berlin in that its population isn’t necessarily born there, but they become Berliners. I think it’s the same with Mancunians.
As for me, I’m looking forward to another 40 years of watching this magnificent city grow and evolve.