Old Manchester, New Manchester – A Work in Progress
Last week I spent three days in Manchester for work reasons. This involved one overnight stay where I had some time to go for a walk and take a look at some of the city centre and take pictures. The reason that I started to take the pictures of Manchester was because of the remarkable contrasts that I found there. I’m no stranger to cities, I’ve spent 23 years living and working in London, and grew up on the western edge of Glasgow’s urban sprawl. I’ve also visited most of the other major cities in the UK for both work and pleasure.
Manchester – First Impressions
At first sight Manchester is no different from other older cities I’ve visited. Most of the shops and restaurants are the same chains you see everywhere else.
There are a mix of Victorian and modern buildings. People are everywhere. By the standards of many cities the city centre traffic seemed light, mostly what I saw were trams and buses, with the odd taxi. Not much in the way of car transport. Certainly when I was crossing roads I didn’t need to wait much on traffic, and the side roads I was walking on had way more pedestrians than cars.
Poverty & Homelessness
Once I’d gone a few streets I started to see some homeless people. Not just one or two, like is normal in London, but little groups. The other thing that they had in common, which is relatively unusual in London, is that they were all gaunt and ragged. A number of them showed clear signs of substance abuse problems, including some passed out in shop doorways.
This wasn’t the usual background level of begging I’ve seen in London, Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham etc. It was like a homeless convention. I began to notice this more and more as I wandered about.
I left my phone charging cable behind in the office on the Friday evening. So I needed to go find a replacement cable when I finished work on Monday evening so that I could keep the work phone charged up. My walk from the hotel (on Portland Street) in to the Manchester Arndale Centre took about 15 minutes, and I counted over 50 homeless people.
The other thing I really noticed in Manchester is the number of building sites. There is a really strong construction industry in Manchester.
On any randomly chosen angle there are cranes on the skyline from most of the city centre. There are also a lot of buildings with scaffolding around them or which are holes in the ground being built on.
The building that I was working in is brand new, only finished in December last year. Right next door to it is another building site, it looked like they were finishing off some archeology before building another office block.
Alan Turing Memorial
Part of my walk, after I’d got my phone cable, was to go find the Alan Turing memorial in Sackville Park in Manchester. As I discovered when I got there the Alan Turing Memorial is in a small leafy square in the heart of Manchester’s gay village. To make it more quintessentially Manchester the park is bordered on one side by a canal!
The Turing Memorial shares the park with the Beacon of Hope (another LGBT memorial to those affected by HIV/AIDS) and is also bordered by the University of Manchester’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Faculty. So it really is the ideal place for a memorial to the father of modern computing.
My last few photos are of Albert Square, which is on the other side of the Town Hall from St Peter’s Square. It has a much older feel, very Victorian. It is essentially a memorial to Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, and there’s a cut down version of the Albert Memorial in the middle of the square.
One other thing that you might also notice with these pictures is that it was splendidly sunny and warm. This is not the reputation that the city has, I’d expected drizzle…