Manchester is in the middle of a cultural renaissance says Sunday Times


Sweep away clichéd thoughts of Britpop, footballers’ wives and Corrie. Manchester is experiencing a “cultural renaissance” according to the Sunday Times.

Writing in the Sunday newspaper’s Style magazine, Liam Freeman notes that David Waddington and Pablo Flack, the creative duo behind east London hotspot Bistrotheque, have decided to open a new restaurant in Manchester next month. Will the fashion crowd follow?

David studied fashion at Central Saint Martins at the same time as the designers Giles Deacon and Luella Bartley. He met his business partner in Shoreditch during the mid 1990s, where David followed Pablo as general manager of the Bricklayers Arms, a pub often credited as helping to establish the East End social scene.

By 2004 they had found, developed and opened Bistrotheque, which quickly became a favourite of the creative crowd, famous for its afterparties, starry launches and London fashion week dinners.

As well as featuring Bistrotheque, the new Manchester arrival Cultureplex at Ducie Street Warehouse features a lounge, coffee counter Klatch, events spaces with outdoor terraces and a cinema. At 15,000 sq ft, it will be almost three times the size of the London space.

Manchester was “the only city I wanted to open a place outside of London,” Pablo told the Sunday Times, “because it’s the only other city that feels like a proper city – there’s enough of an underbelly.”

Katie Popperwell, the Manchester-based creative producer who is leading Cultureplex’s cultural programming, observes that young creatives are now staying in the city after university rather than leaving, as they have done historically.

“While I was growing up, Manchester was hobbled by the fact that, aside from the music scene, its big cultural exports were two football teams and Coronation Street,” Katie told the Sunday Times.

Previously, if there was a new opening, it would have a glitzy footballers’ wives angle, she says. But what the influx of digital start-ups and MediaCityUK have brought with them is “a diversified set of tastes.”

Bistrotheque is the latest addition to a thriving culinary scene that has sprung up in and around the Northern Quarter and Ancoats in recent years, notes Liam in the Sunday Times; as well as speciality roasters Ancoats Coffee and acclaimed Pollen Bakery, there’s Mana – “hotly tipped to gain the area its first Michelin star” in decades.

Other new arrivals creating a buzz in recent months include seasonal restaurant Erst, independent English diner Street Urchin, and three-storey eating, drinking and lifestyle venue Wilderness.

Then there is the fashion, notes the Sunday Times. The “booming fast-fashion brands of Boohoo (revenue for 2018, £857m), Pretty Little Thing (now also owned by Boohoo, with revenue of £374m) and Missguided (revenue last year, £216m)” are all based in the city.

Manchester’s famous for its era-defining music, of course. But while the city has been associated with a “specific sound largely defined by all-male groups,” now there is “a burgeoning scene of progressive DJs” such as Annabel Fraser and the all-female collective Meat Free.

And though it’s long considered an urban sanctuary for LGBT people, Manchester is now arguably the community’s capital, writes Liam. He flags up that Homoelectric will host its inaugural Homobloc festival in November at the new 10,000-capacity Depot.

And come 2021, believes Liam, the city’s skyline will have a new jewel in its crown. New arts centre The Factory will be a permanent base for the Manchester International Festival, which this year saw David Lynch take over Home.

For the most part, though, says Liam, The Factory will provide a place for visual artists, theatre-makers, choreographers and digital designers “to create work and redefine what it means to be made in Manchester.”

So what’s the new Manchester scene all about? What’s in and what’s out?

According to the Sunday Times, Noel Gallagher and Band on the Wall are out, replaced by Love Island alumnus Tommy Fury and The Depot, Mayfield. Corrie is out, and Years and Years is in.

And when it comes to Manchester food, chips and gravy have had their day, according to the article. These days it’s all about Porky Pig‘s roast dinner wraps.


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