"Explore your city like you're a tourist" - this is advice I give to everyone and it's something that I live by, this weekend I decided to be even more immersive and book a hotel and spend 24 hours in the city documenting my journey. Armed only with my camera I took to the streets and put together a photo journal of my day. Think of this as a tourist guide to Manchester, without any of the tourist sites.
I stayed central, at the Ibis on Portland Street to be exact, and from there headed over to New Wakefield Street to see the street art painted on the railway arches. The art here changes every year during Eurocultured Festival and is the largest collection of street art outside of the Northern Quarter. It was a surreal moment to turn the corner onto a normally quiet street and be confronted with a group of thirty or more photographers, it seems I had stumbled upon a Worldwide Photo Walk, but rather than join in I headed over to China Town (don't pass through here without a bun from Ho's Bakery) and then on to the Northern Quarter just as it started to pour.
Having forsaken an umbrella in favour of a camera I hid out for a while and had some lunch in Common on Edge Street. This is real go-to for me, it has plenty of seating, interesting and colourful art installations, and good food and cocktails, plus it's decked out with big windows for people watching. Across from here is Majolica Works, an art studio so important to the Northern Quarter that it wouldn't exist without it. I was lucky enough to catch both founding artists Wendy and Liam at work and we discussed abandoned market halls and the importance of arts to the city's heritage. The unique street signs of the area, and commissions such as the Lemm Sissay poem in the pavement are all products of Wendy and Liam at Majolica Works.
I had decided to stick mostly to the very borders of the city, and once the sun was out I walked over to the River Irwell via Ancoats. I find Manchester unique and a little bizarre in its shying away from the river. Where normally grand bridges, cycling routes, and tourist bars and restaurants would cluster together, in Manchester the river instead acts as the boundary between itself and Salford. In Portugal the Douro too acts as a boundary between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, but it's still also their star tourist attraction in the city. It's rather special then to walk besides the Irwell - our orphaned river mapping out the edge of two cities.
Contemporary Craft Fair
Autumn in Manchester is the season of festivals. The Food and Drink festival, Manchester Literature Festival, Manchester Science Festival, and this weekend saw the Contemporary Craft Fair in its new home at the Old Granada Studios which is where I was headed. The setting was interesting in itself, Granada Television's main building is a iconic modernist complex and old recording studio signs are dotted around the place. Each exhibition room for the Craft Fair is held in a former studio set.
Artists at the Craft Fair came from all over the country and spanned across all disciplines. From the Wes Anderson-like dapper animals of Emma Cocker to the etched apothecary jars of Vinegar and Brown Paper. There were impossibly delicate Japanese ceramic sushi sets and modernist-inspired textiles. My favourite artist was Katie Askwith, a product designer who had some atomic era light fittings and coffee tables.
This was no ordinary craft fair.
I ended the night, as all good Mancunians should, with a film at art house cinema the Cornerhouse (EDIT: now HOME), and on the short walk back to the hotel stopped off for a drink in the underground bar The Temple of Convenience. There's something a little Berlin-like about the Temple, what with the red lighting and unusual setting in a former public toilet. Space is limited so it's best to get here early.
The next morning I had plenty of time to myself (with the hotel check out not being until midday) so I took to the streets again for breakfast. I headed over to Gorilla, set within a railway arch on Whitworth Street West, another fine spot to sit in a window and people watch. This part of town is steadily becoming more popular, and the new cinema and theatre development HOME is due to open next year giving even more reason to stick around the Oxford Road end of the city. There's also the Sydney Opera House-inspired Oxford Road train station, it's a 1960s delight and worth admiring before redevelopment begins as who knows if those curvaceous wooden passenger shelters that currently punctuate the platforms will survive the renovation process.
Thank you to Ibis Hotels for providing accommodation for my 24 Hours in Manchester. The hotel is in a great central location by Manchester Central Library, thank you to the staff who went out of their way to look after me, and thumbs up for the free wifi which allowed me to write my article on the go.