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?


Adrian Slatcher said...

Great list Kate. I reckon a bookshop like the American Book Centre in Amsterdam could work well, but as you say, who'd be mad enough? Green space yes, and I'd like there to be less emphasis on events and more on the every day (I'm now working in the town hall and its just bizarre after 2 months of xmas markets we've now got absolutely nothing)

Kate Feld said...

That's a good point Adrian - less emphasis on big festivals and markets and more on smaller-scale, humble and regular events would be very welcome. Sometimes I think we spend so much time chasing the tourist pound with big glitzy things that we forget about the stuff that make the city a better place to live and work day in and day out.

Jenny Wren said...

Hear, hear, Kate! Especially number 3, the bookshop. If I win the lottery, it's top of my list of things to do. Also (from your blog, not if I win the lottery)an emphasis on Greater Manchester - it's a strange, fragmented conurbation we live in: Manchester council does some things really well but hop over an invisible border separating it from one of the other local authorities, and swoosh, you've leapt back in time 15 years. I'd like all the greater Manchester authorities to work better together and learn from each other(handing over empty premises for artists to use, ahem, I'm looking at you, Bury). In the meantime, keep up the good work. - Ebba

Kate Feld said...

Thanks Ebba :)

Anthony Johnson said...

Some interesting ideas on your list Kate. I agree about using empty spaces and buildings. It creates a buzz and really gives the city a boost.

Literary Relish said...

Fab post :-) Particularly big on the book shop front (though Paramount book isn't that stinky!?) I'd open one myself if I had a)heaps of cash, b) balls big enough to do so.

Kate Feld said...

Oh I didn't mean Paramount Books was stinky, I was more thinking of those dodgy-looking used book centres that all seem to have adult bookstores upstairs. Paramount Books is okay, it's just that the damned place is never open.