Friday, September 16, 2005


The Northern Quarter: formerly a down-and-dirty few blocks of Manc blight studded with sex shops, rough pubs and good curries. Now an acceptably edgy playground for creative types with silly haircuts.

About six months ago, the Northern Quarter's growth seemed unstoppable. In the last year or so, new bars have sprung up like psychedelic toadstools after rain ... first the big fat boring lounge Bluu, followed in short order by the more interesting Common, Bay Horse, Rodeo and Odd. On the food front, we got the Northern Quarter Restaurant and Bar, Dr. Livvy's and Soup Kitchen. Plus an anarchist bookstore/cafe, a health food store, not one but two annoyingly expensive fetish trainer shops, a florist, a roots record shop, a trendy hairdresser's and two new vintage clothing stores. I'm sure I'm leaving something out, but, um, sheesh, that's a lot.

But all is not well in Manchester's Greenwich Village. Two of the three-in-a-row clothes stores favoured by trust-fund hipsters on Oldham Street, Arc and Boxfresh, have shut down. However, they're both located in the Smithfield buildings, where Urban Splash's rent hikes have prompted quite a few departures over the last year or two. Perhaps they're only interested in supporting small businesses nearer their massive new chips development in "New Islington" (formerly known to us as Ancoats. Didn't have that aspirational ring to it, so they had to change the name of the neighbourhood. A small detail.)

It'll be interesting to see whether these empty storefronts fill up, and if they do, what kinds of businesses come in. Gentrification anyone?

In the meantime, I'd like to go on record saying that anyone who refers to the Northern Quarter as "The NQ", "The N/4", "The Quarter" or any variation thereof should be taken out behind Afflecks' and pelted with Arcade Fire and Goldfrapp CDs until they whimper.

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