Sunday, September 28, 2014

Restaurant review: 4244 Edge Street

Halfway through our meal at 4244 Edge Street, I’m reminded of that Woody Allen quote: “Is sex dirty? Only if it’s done right.” If you can come to the end of a plate in this restaurant without running your finger along its surface to capture the last drops of sauce, you’re doing it wrong. If you can finish your bread and then not go on to scoop up the last bit of the nut brown butter neat, you’re doing it wrong. This is food that demands The Full Nigella. Granted, I may have taken things a bit too far when I finished off a little dish of beef dripping and pan juices by pouring it directly into my mouth. To her credit, our server smiled and pronounced me her favourite customer of the night. “It’s so deliciously wicked, isn’t it?” she said. “Would you like some more?”

And to think this sort of thing is happening in the back of Teacup. When I heard the sainted Mary Ellen McTague was opening a pop up here while her Prestwich restaurant, Aumbry, was being renovated, I wasn’t sure how it would work. The answer is: fine. It doesn’t feel much like the back of Teacup, though you can see people in the cafe. The lighting from the open kitchen shines out like floodlights – but some German botanical prints and an antique dresser have been employed to good effect. As at Aumbry, the china and silver are old fashioned and mismatched, and the big, nubbly linen napkins look like the sort of thing a Victorian housewife might have done the washing up with. They probably cost about £45 each, but they’re intensely covetable.

4244 is serving a single menu, four courses for £50 with wine on top (pairings at £36). Eccentricities abound: The wine list is all Croatian as they genuinely love the wines and want to showcase small producers from the country. I’m on board with that as long as they’re all as good as the big, powerful Cattunar Teran, which knocked us sideways like a fist swathed in silk. They make their own bread from biodynamic flour – yep, grown according to the phases of the moon – no idea if this makes any difference, but it’s the chewy, rustic stuff I love. And there’s that butter (made in Bolton). And the dripping. Ah, the dripping.

The food is exactly what you'd get at Aumbry, but no need to do anything new as this is a different audience. A frankly ridiculous number of good amuses was followed by wild mushrooms with curds, hay ash and birch powder. The textures were punched up with crispy, soft rounds of homemade malt loaf – but the taste balance was edgy. McTague likes bold, at times downright peculiar taste combinations and I love eating food like this, but it’s dangerous cooking. With this many powerful flavours shouting at once the result is not always completely harmonious. I don't mind that, though. It's the opposite of comfort food, and I mean that as a compliment.

Hare consomm√© reminded me a lot of a dish I’d had at The French, which I’d argue is the only place in town serving better food than this right now: cubes of barely cooked turnip, daringly rare rabbit and a rich, tepid broth poured from a wee teapot. But the star of the night was a slow cooked partridge pie of unsurpassing loveliness. Again, the textures were so beautifully balanced, and here the taste combinations were spot on, with the mellow shards of savoy cabbage, flaky homemade pastry, cooked-to-meltingness meat and the sweet pan reduction mingling with the celeriac cream.

Ratafia pudding is one of those 18th Century dishes of the sort that McTague likes to ferret out of her vintage cookbooks. Given the choice, I’d never order it. Thankfully, I didn’t have a choice. A cube of Cox’s Pippin, clear red and baked until buttery perched on a slab of sweet pastry, like a deconstructed Tarte Tatin with a dash of intensely cidery sauce. My Cattunar Muskat Ruza was pleasantly dry and green for a dessert wine, though I wished I’d gone back and ordered another glass of that glorious red instead. Next time. For I’m going to be saving up to get back there again before 4244’s six week run is over. Greedy? Maybe. But when it comes to this woman’s cooking I have very little self control.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: Romeo and Juliet, HOME at Victoria Baths

I’m not gonna to lie to you: I walked into Victoria Baths ready to be disappointed by HOME’s production of Romeo and Juliet. I loved their debut outing with ANU, Angel Meadow, so much there seemed little chance the second instalment in their site-specific season could top it. And then there was the venue. People always want to use Victoria Baths for events and performances and, while it is a truly spectacular building, it’s still a big, echoey swimming baths; sound problems are inevitable. They’re still here, but with mics you can just about understand everything. It’s a reasonable compromise to see these spaces used so inventively – designer Ti Green has delivered with a staging that fully inhabits the baths, in three dimensions. 

And this is by and large a bold, assured production that delivers more than enough on pure vision to make good theatre, even if it falls short of truly connecting with the heart of the play. From the very first moment, when an Eastern European folksong came at us out of nowhere, and then the Montagues and the Capulets emerged singing from the striped changing cubicles arrayed around the pool, you knew we were in safe hands. 

With such a stripped-down set much rests on costume and music and these are strong: all tight Eurotrash spangles and the rackety gypsy barminess of an Emir Kusturica film (in an interview this spring, HOME Artistic Director Walter Meierjohann mentioned the Serbian director’s work as an example of the feeling suggested by the baths’ grand decay, and they’ve nailed it.) Props are employed with great efficiency: a little smoke machine and a wooden bench are brought on and then we’re in the Turkish baths having a shvitz with Capulet, splendidly arrayed in black towels and gold chains, as he barks out orders for his party. 

The cast is good overall, with an ensemble that slightly overshadows the lovers, who always felt a little aloof. Griffin Stevens as bumbling Capulet flunky Peter and Rachel Atkins’ as Juliet’s nurse stole every scene they were in. And Ncuti Gatwa as Mercutio moved so beautifully I could have watched him dance all night. There were a few missteps – Romeo breaking into Love Me Do and Crazy in Love during the balcony scene can be excused as a well-intentioned bid to shake up the lines we can all basically recite, and there’s more than a whiff of ham about the penultimate scene, where Romeo writhes on a platform covered with a picture of Juliet’s face. 

But when the windows opened to the third location and light and music streamed into the dark, it was a powerful moment. We were led into the final pool which has been filled with 86,000 gallons of water, and what we saw there – well, that would be a spoiler too far. It’s a difficult thing to breathe magic back into a scene where everyone knows what’s going to happen, but HOME have done just that. 

Romeo and Juliet, through Saturday October 4, Victoria Baths. (Sadly it's sold out, and the waiting list is closed.)

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Ramsbottom Festival 2014 preview

Summer has gone from the Pennine Hills. Stepping out of the door in the morning, you can see your breath. The blackberries have just gone past ripe and the woods are rich with the smell of dying leaves. All are sure signs that Ramsbottom Festival must be just around the corner, and here it comes right on schedule, the weekend of September 19-21 at Ramsbottom Cricket Club. It's always a friendly festival and a very good time, and luckily for me it's within stumbling distance of my house.

The big news this year is that they've added another stage, so we can all get more music in. What's on the lineup then? Topping the bill on Friday it's The Levellers, veterans of many a festival. Bet they've got some stories.

Saturday's headliner is epic indie outfit British Sea Power, one of those bands whose name perfectly fits their music, and always conjures up images of Sellafield under stormy skies. Hopefully the heavens will open and give us some driving rain during their set for added effect (I'm only kidding. Oh god, watch it rain now and everyone blame me.)

Sunday's traditionally the big day for folk, so it's a bit of a surprise that closing out the festival action is 1980s/90s R&B superstars Soul II Soul.

Lower down on Friday's billing you'll find Jimi Goodwin, frontman of Manc indie outfit Doves. His first solo album is out on Heavenly:

Also on Friday, Colne husband-and-wife band Bird to Beast do retro-inflected folky poppy stuff.

Scottish folk pop band Admiral Fallow are back again, on Saturday:

Sunday things get seriously folky with Irish singer Cara Dillon:

Also on Sunday: ultralocal (think they live in Ramsbottom?) band A Harp and a Monkey:

But of course that's just the music. With kids' day tickets from just £6, there's plenty in the way of arty amusement for  small members of your party, with performers including Artful Playground, Pif-Paf theatre company and a folklore-inspired shadowplay installation from events wizards Walk The Plank. This is a festival that always takes its beer very seriously, and this year it's going to be provided by Silver Street Brewing Company and Bury's Own Outstanding Beers, with the usual array of good street food. And if we're really lucky, we'll see that guy in the stripey jumper with the stripey-painted face dancing barefoot through the puddles. I love that guy. See you there.

Day tickets from £24, weekend tickets £66. They're laying on buses from Manchester and Chorlton, or take the East Lancs Railway steam train. Full info and tickets on the Ramsbottom Festival website.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wild swim at Gaddings Dam, Todmorden

On the website of the Gaddings Dam Group they describe the path to Gaddings Dam as “a steep, poorly defined footpath.” This doesn’t really get across the effort involved here or give you any indication of exactly how long it will take someone to hike up to the dam while toting an overstretched old carrier bag full of buckets and spades and jollying understandably hesitant three and six-year-old girls up what is definitely the biggest hill they’ve ever climbed. The answer: approximately 30 minutes. At the top be sure to point out your car which is now a tiny speck, parked outside the Shepherd’s Rest pub (not great, nice play area.) Pack a picnic and whatever else you think you’ll need because there's nothing but water and rocks and bleakness up there.

Gaddings Dam is billed as the highest beach in England. This is kind of a joke, but there’s enough sand to amuse a bunch of children and provide a soft place to sit in what would otherwise be a rocky, inhospitable moorland setting. The dam is a stone bowl of cold, clear, black water at the top of the moors. An industrial reservoir built in the early 19th Century, it was purchased in 2001 by a collective who preserve it to be enjoyed by the people of Todmorden and the surrounding towns. When you dive in the water actually smells like ozone, like the sidewalk after a summer thunderstorm, and it brings home the fact that you’re swimming in rainwater that’s probably closer to its original source than anywhere you’ve ever swum before.

On a hot sunny day in June the water was plenty warm enough to go without a wetsuit, but I pretty much always think that and am aware that other people have different ideas about what is and isn’t too cold. The reservoir is a very quiet place – all you can hear is the occasional bleat from a lamb somewhere on the fells and the soft lap of water against the stone. There are cows actually standing in the water at the far end, but at 4 square acres it’s a pretty big body of water, so don’t let that faze you. After you’ve swum, be sure to allow some time for lying in the long grass in the adjacent meadow and gazing in awe at the incredible views dropping down across the Calder Valley – cloud shadows and green hills and pastures disappearing into the haze. Weirdly, dam base camp is accessible by public transport, though with one bus an hour heading up Lumbutts Road it’d require crack timing. Highly recommended.

Monday, June 09, 2014

First Draft and Next Draft

First Draft is good. It's a Manchester-based cabaret event, with people performing music, poetry, stories, comic monologues and short plays on the same stage. Great idea that. One format nights are all very well, but for those audience members with shorter attention spans (hand going up) changing up the kind of work being performed can really help keep things engaging. Your brain does sometimes start to wander a bit after the fifth flash fictioneer takes the stage, or the seventh slam poet, no matter how fantastic they might individually be, and that's only natural.

The idea is that this really is the first place to perform stuff that's still very fresh, so there's an off-the-cuff, low-risk feeling about it that can be quite freeing. The organisers (including the lovely Abi Hynes, above) work very hard putting the regular night together, and they really took on a big project with last month's Next Draft: a two-day event at the King's Arms produced with Studio Salford, aimed at giving past performers a chance to perform works that were a bit further along in its development.

I went along and enjoyed Jez Hewes and Andrew Williamson's daft mashup of three songs, a lovely nonfiction essay from Nija Dalal, a funny performance from Anjali Shah, a cheesy story from Fat Roland and Faro Productions' one-woman play about the fascinating Mata Hari. Unfortunately I had to leave before the second half so missed out on Papermash Theatre’s Happy Birthday Without You, from playwright and performer Sonia Jalaly. But they're back to their bi-monthly-ish slot at The Castle next Monday night with a fresh batch of performers ready to rise to the Empyrean heights of the challenge set by the theme 'Songs of Praise.' Come along, or get in touch if you're interested in performing here, the next one's in August.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Writing and blogging workshops at Manchester Central Library

Just a quick one to say that we at writing organisation Openstories have just announced a new series of workshops aimed at emerging writers and bloggers looking to brush up on their skills and try new things. Held at the new and improved Manchester Central Library in June and July, you can take part in sessions on:

  • Making your blog or writing website look good with tech wizard Chris Horkan (17 June)
  • Marketing your writing with poet Jo Bell (24 June)
  • Re-invigorating your blog with ME (1 July)
  • New approaches to creative writing with writer Steve Dearden (8 July)
For full info on the workshop leaders, what you'll actually learn at the sessions and the rest of the whys and wherefores head to the Library Live site, where you can also see other cool stuff happening at the library. All of the above sessions will be held on Tuesday evenings at the Library from 6-8pm and will cost £7 per place. Places are limited so if you're interested get over to our Eventbrite page and book yourself on.

Image courtesy Greater Manchester Transport

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Short Short Story Slam (and why you should go see live literature in Manchester)

So. Manchester’s live literature scene, something happened to it while I was hibernating. It got awesome.

Last night was Flashtag Collective’s Short Short Story Slam at Gullivers. I’d heard great things about last year’s slam in Didsbury, but I wasn’t really prepared for the quality of the readings. Eleven writers all giving it their best shots, and there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. Standouts for me included Mark Powell’s surreal hijinks with Scoob and the gang, Mark Mace Smith’s deceptively simple stories, Joy France’s brilliantly filthy opener and runner-up Joe Daly’s bleak closer, which proved you don’t always have to go for the laughs. But there could be only one winner and Simon Sylvester was it with his strange, tightly crafted fictions and what was really a very fetching hat.

Much respect to these writers. It’s fucking terrifying reading your work before a live audience as it is, but to do so knowing that your story will be instantly judged right in front of you, that you will be either the winner or the loser... sheesh. And the Flashtag team were experts at wringing the maximum entertainment from the experience while also maintaining a friendly and supportive vibe throughout. It’s great to hear that they’re thinking of doing this every few months – judging by the big crowd last night it could do very well indeed.

But there's more. Next week, the ever-brilliant Bad Language is at The Castle next Wednesday, April 30 with Luke Brown headlining. Effed Up comes to The Castle on Sunday May 4 with a theme of outsiders’ views of Britain. Cabaret night First Draft is cooking up a special two-day showcase, Next Draft, at The King’s Arms on 5 & 6 May. Open mic  Evidently holds court at The Eagle in Salford every second Monday, storytelling night Tales of Whatever is at Gullivers every month…oh, I could go on. But you get the picture: it’s happening. Get in there.

Image courtesy of Flashtag.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A rant about girls and sport in Britain.

My daughter was in reception when we got the flyer about football sessions on Saturday mornings in the park. I got excited; my eldest daughter loves running around outside and has a competitive streak, this would be perfect for her. We bought tiny shin guards. We turned up, with a couple of her (girl) friends and their mums. Everyone else there, including the instructors, was male.

Molly did one session and told me she wasn’t going back. Neither of the other girls wanted to stick with it, either. It’s possible they just didn’t enjoy it, which is fair enough. But I’m pretty sure that at least some of their reluctance came from the message they picked up loud and clear beneath our encouraging pep talks: this was not the place for them. Where were the girls? Girls spent Saturday mornings swathed in pink, twirling in a ballet class, or maybe in gymnastics. But not on a muddy pitch running about with boys.

While I was writing this, my three year old daughter came up to ask for a cuddle. I gathered her up, kissed her peanut butter-smudged face, and asked: “Bell, do you think you might like to try playing football when you’re at school?”

“No,” she said immediately.

“Why not?”

She gave me an apologetic smile. “It’s for boys.”

When I was a girl I played soccer with girls and boys. I played baseball (see above) and pickup ice hockey, spent afternoons shooting baskets and roller skating. I grew up in America, in the golden age of Title 9, and I enjoyed sports, though I wasn’t good at them or considered “athletic.” In high school, I became one of the arty kids with too many rehearsals after school to go out for the cross country team, which I still regret. But in college, I rediscovered sports, playing intramural women’s soccer very badly but with great gusto. Since then, I’ve been as active as time allows, running and doing excercise classes. I do miss those things you only get from competitive team sports – the companionship, the spirit and the collective drive to win.

For girls to feel comfortable doing sport, they need to be shown that it is theirs as well – and if it takes girls-only football clubs, then that’s what we should give them. So I ask. There is some funding available for girls’ football clubs, I am told by one of the organisers of the boys’ sessions, but no girls seem interested. No one is bothering to try and get them interested, I point out. I offer to hand out flyers at the local schools for a girls-only session and help out with organising, but I am politely rebuffed. I live in Bury, where Sport England is spending £2.3 million on a big campaign, I Will if You Will, aimed at getting women active, and it’s fantastic to see all that’s on offer for us. But if girls don’t learn to love sport when they are young, teaching them to be active as adults will remain an uphill battle.

I feel bad for Sport and Equality Minister Helen Grant, who responded to a question that reflected some unappetising but very real pre-conceptions about sport, and promptly had her head bitten off, with commentators up and down the land quoting her out of context. It’s facetious to pretend that there isn’t something very wrong with women’s sport in this country, whether you like it or not.

But it’s a very welcome conversation to be having, the columnists say – maybe now people will start taking women’s sport seriously in Britain. Yeah, okay. Maybe now, they said, every time a women’s football or cricket team did well in international competition. Maybe now, they said, when female athletes won 22 medals for Team GB at London 2012.  Maybe now, they’re saying at this very moment, as women have won three quarters of the medals at Sochi.

While we wait, another generation of girls is learning that football is for boys. Another generation of girls is learning to value their bodies only for their visual appeal, not for their strength. Another generation of girls is growing up without learning the pleasures of physical activity, without building habits that will prolong their lives. Another generation of British girls is growing into women who will buy pretty pink ballet outfits for their little girls and football shoes for their little boys.

Apparently, it’s already too late for my daughters.

Friday, January 31, 2014

News flash: I am not cool

I am a fraud. I am misrepresenting myself, living a double life, guilty of perpetrating an online persona that is more than a little out of whack with reality. Actually, there is a gulf so big between the two things that you could drive a fleet of Mack trucks through it. But it’s so easy now, isn’t it? We all have these virtual aliases, a pocket full of glossy digital incarnations which only resemble our real selves if you squint really hard.

Writing about ‘what’s on’ is a young person’s game. Look at the Guardian Guide, with its slavish devotion to niche musicians you’ve never heard of and easy way with slang so laughably unfamiliar you suspect they’ve invented it (also see: The Skinny.) These publications are written by actual young people who care intensely about these things, with a few good fakers trying to hide in the back. And they should be. They know what they are talking about.

When I started this blog, I was young. I had just arrived in this city and was on a mission to map Manchester’s every hidden hangout, coolest surprise, weirdest place. I stayed up all night, so many nights, dancing around rusty machinery in an old cotton mill and then tumbling out into the bleak Mancunian dawn. I saw every important movie on release and plenty of not-remotely-important ones too. I had an insatiable appetite for new music, could go to three or four gigs in a week, and I didn’t even care if there was comfortable seating. Theatre press nights, restaurant launches, readings, art exhibition openings – any occasion attracting the same dubious band of Manc bohemians conjured, as if by magic, with the sound of the cork popping on a bottle of Barefoot (hey guys) – I was there, talking and swigging free horrible wine and going on to the pub to drink and argue and laugh some more, while smoking approximately 46 fags at once. But that was almost ten years ago. Much shit has happened.

So here’s my confession: I am not young. I am not cool, if ever I was. I am not urban. My finger isn’t exactly on the pulse. I listen to Radio 3 just as often as I listen to 6Music. I’m 40 years old, with two children who aren’t even babies anymore. I don’t really drink, and never do drugs or smoke anymore. I go to bed before 10, and get up at 6:30. If it's not on television before 10, I'm not going to see it until I grudgingly shell out for a secondhand box set years after everyone stopped talking about it. I watch Countryfile while wearing fleece (mostly for the excellent, in-depth weather report. But still.) Getting me to leave my house in the farthest reaches of exurbia on a January night, even for a trip down to the pub on the corner with some mates I adore, is like chiselling a barnacle off a rock.

The irony is, now that I’m settled in the hills, I get invited to everything. In UK blog years, Manchizzle (est. 2005) is like the Domesday Book, so I am on every PR list in creation. And then there’s the fact that my day job is also writing about interesting things to do and see and eat in Manchester. So for the past couple of years, the old/reclusive thing, plus the fact that I get paid to write Manchizzle posts for a living (just not here), has meant that I haven’t had much to say on this blog.

I feel like a fraud writing posts like this last one. Because those events were all genuinely enticing ways to spend an evening and I desperately wanted to go to each one of them. Just not as much as I wanted to sit in my perilously cosy red armchair and reread Gaudy Night for the 17th time. I didn’t go to them, and I knew I wouldn’t when I wrote that. But I still wrote about them, so that maybe you could go to them, if you wanted to. But there might be less of that on here for a while.

I’m not saying culture is only for the young. Hell no! It’s just that I’m hunkered down for the winter, and going through a hermitty time in my life, so it seems fake and distasteful to write a blog that doesn’t reflect that. I have no desire to break up with the 'chizz, and I miss blogging more often. So this blog may increasingly not do what it says on the tin.

How exciting.

Image: Guilherme Kardel via Flickr.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Good stuff: winter 2014

Lots of good stuff coming up in Manchester over the next month. Here's what's on my calendar.

January 22: Listen up! Radio geeks from In the Dark Manchester bring an evening of creative radio, soundscapes and audio documentaries from around the world to the Castle Hotel.

On January 23, ten-year-old Manc film collective Filmonik celebrate their 10th birthday by getting their first official home, in the vast Castlefield Gallery-run New Art Spaces site on Balloon Street.  But they need to raise money and collect stuff to furnish the place, hence this party. Bring that slightly wonky chair you've been meaning to get rid of, or just drink enough to buy a shitload of office supplies.

Scratch n' Sniff Cinema screens The Wicker Man at Cornerhouse on January 25. Watch with your own scented scratchcard enabling you to experience this classic of British horror with added sensory input.

On 2 February, #kittencamp comes to Manchester. You enjoy looking at pictures of kittens on social media, right (um, doesn't everyone)?  I'll admit that the title "Meme Master Meow" intrigues me. Also, there's free beer.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Manchizzle Manchester wish list for 2014

In 2013, some good things happened in this town. We got a listings magazine. We got our first playground in the city centre, beehives on rooftops and more trees in the Northern Quarter. We got several Mexican restaurants, the Rogan show arrived and you can now get a good burger all over the place (and pretty decent barbecue.) We had a glorious, sweltering, iced coffee summer. The Albert Hall opened, and last year's Manchester International Festival was a culturehound's wet dream. The Metrolink network expanded to join up different parts of the city, and though people complain about the trams ceaselessly we are pretty lucky from where I’m sitting. We also happen to have a council that seems to have its head screwed on properly most of the time, and a city that has (so far) weathered austerity better than many other places in the country.

I've already posted about some of the things I'm looking forward to in the city this year. But what would make me even happier? Well, here’s my wishlist for our city of Manchester in 2014. Equal parts possible, improbable and fanciful.

 1. Let the artists have it. What could be a more intelligent and creative use of an empty building than putting it into the hands of some artists who need space and will look after the place too (they’re handy folk)? The Tetley in Leeds looks set to be a huge success, and I’m very excited about the opening of Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces Federation House in March. It would be great to see more happening along these lines around Greater Manchester, in everything from shopfronts to tower blocks.

2. Off-street eating. We suddenly have loads of amazing street food vendors who are based in Manchester, but our weather is still inconveniently shit. So what we need is a place in the city centre for street food traders to come in out of the cold, like Camp and Furnace in Liverpool, or Chelsea Market in NYC… though rumours of Manchester Hawkers and Guerrilla Eats developments in 2014 are worth watching. Also, could Manchester Markets please sort themselves out? I’m not talking about the Piccadilly ones or stuff like Castlefield Artisan market, I mean the big seasonal, “themed” ones. Why do they suck so hard?

3. Shelf improvement. This is the Hail Mary request, as I don’t know who'd be mad enough to open one in the current economic climate, but Manchester would be so much better if it had just one really good, quirky, characterful independent bookstore. Or barring that, some better secondhand options than those stinky, vaguely menacing shops around Shudehill.

4. More green space. Yes, I am always harping on about this. I think I even mentioned it waaay back in 2009 during my an early hashtag experiment on Twitter with #mcrneedsthis, but there it is. A big High Line-ish groundbreaking outdoor public space project would get Manchester attention and tourists flocking, but most importantly it would make the city a nicer place to live. And how about another playground while we’re at it?

5. A lido. Come on, how cool would this be?

6. Trams/trains/buses running later (at least on weekend nights). This curfew is getting ridiculous in a city that is perpetually gunning for “world class” status. And don’t give us that guff about tram drivers needing to sleep too. There’s always some night owl happy to work late for extra money.

7. A more engaged citizenry. Apathy is so freaking tiresome. Let’s all make 2014 the year we can be arsed. More debates, more talks, more protests, more marches. I want a city crackling with dialectic, bristling with informed debate, ringing with ripostes. Some of this stuff happens on Twitter. I’d like to see it happening more in the flesh. You may be angry or depressed about what’s going on in this country right now (I sure as hell know I am) but disengaging isn’t going to do us any good.

That's my list. What's on yours?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

2014 in Manchester

Oh sacred magic eight ball, what will 2014 bring us? This year, Cornerhouse will empty out, that iconic curved marquee going dark or advertising cheap payday loans while the arty folk go west to First Street, where HOME is being built. Ah wait, no, looks like the opening has been pushed back to Spring 2015, so enjoy it while you can. I'm having a hard time warming to either the new name or the basic concept of  Cornerhouse not existing anymore, but who knows?  I'm also looking forward to seeing the new Whitworth expansion this Autumn, designed to blur the lines between the gallery and the adjacent, sadly underused park. For other arty upcomings across the North, see Creative Tourist's freshly minted Cultural Calendar.

Traditional pubs are closing, apparently. In recent days The Lass O' Gowrie, The Black Lion in Salford and chef Mark Owen Brown's Mark Addy gastropub have announced closures (at least temporarily.) The Fiction Stroker has a good analysis of the background to the first two closings and the consequences for the city's fringe theatre and performance scenes. What's opening this year? More Mexican, burger and barbecue joints, naturally. A new branch of the Leeds-based Red's True Barbecue is opening soon, and I've heard a rumour about a Pancho's Burritos restaurant that I fervently hope is true.

This spring the new Central Library will open. I'm pretty excited about this. Because, after all the controversy (Book purges! Public streets becoming glassed-in private property!) we get a new library, a more comfortable but still spectaculary old and fancy one with new space for events and children's activities. Let's just hope it's not the only library that's still open in Greater Manchester by 2015. How's yours doing? The little library in Ramsbottom, where I live, is going self-service, and they're apparently turning a substantial chunk of the big one in Bury into a sculpture centre. But hey, they're not closing. Yet.

Image courtesy of Modern Designers.