“Originally characterised by dingy sex shops, run-down pubs and a sad depravity is now the pulsating heartbeat of the city’s music and fashion scene” – The Independent, April 2011.
Here’s an admission from New Manchester Walks’ Ed Glinert. “I didn’t like the term “The Northern Quarter” when it first appeared in the 1980s. I didn’t like the way it had been contrived by a council committee rather than arrived at organically like Castlefield or Ancoats. To me the area was Smithfield near the old markets or Piccadilly by the canals. I also didn’t like the shabbiness and lack of obvious history compared with, say, the two places mentioned above.
I was wrong. Now I love the place. It has worked. It’s no longer a land of sex shops and car parks. Now it’s all cheesey retro outlets, hi-tech bars, downhome curry cafes, preserved weavers’ cottages, West Side Story-ish warehouses, the last remaining back-to-backs (I’m not saying where; you’ll have to come on the walk), the settings from Life on Mars, the swish new eateries, especially Bakerie, Affleck’s of course… And after doing some serious research I’ve now unearthed some hardcore history:
* The spot where the Fenians were arrested in 1867, which led to the last mass public hangings in Britain.
* The recording studio that perfected the Manchester sound of the late ’80s – “Pacific 202” still unbeatable for a gorgeous melody wrapped around electronic beats.
* The pubs where the Chartists were accused of insurrection in the 1830s.
* Demonstrations in Stevenson Square.
* The hilarious Stolen exhibition at Affleck’s.
* The ingenuity of Dry Bar when it first opened. So I’ll be fighting John Alker for the right to guide there. And to get first in the queue at Oklahoma at the end.”