As well as introducing the city’s famous sights, sounds and stories – and revealing its dark secrets – to more than 10,000 tourists a year through his business New Manchester Walks, Ed Glinert has embarked on his most daunting project yet – to write a Manchester encyclopaedia from scratch, covering everything from the Aaben cinema to the Zion Institute and all points in between.
Even for an accomplished author like Glinert – his credits include the excellent The Manchester Compendium as well as editing the Sherlock Holmes stories and the complete Gilbert and Sullivan libretti – the encyclopaedia is shaping up to be an epic task.
“London has one – though threadbare and dull,” he says, “so does Oxford, Edinburgh, New York and ever Brighton. It’s absurd that Manchester doesn’t have an encyclopaedia of its own. It deserves to compete with the best.”
So far he’s done ‘Acme Mill’ and ‘Adamson, Daniel’ and now he’s rifling through ‘Addy, Mark’ and ‘Affleck’s Palace’ – so expect the hardback to be on sale in about five years.
Ed bemoans the lack of a Museum of Manchester (Liverpool and London both have museums devoted their respective histories) and does his best to reveal the city’s character, past and present, though a comprehensive programme of guided walks, coach tours and talks covering aspects of Manchester from art and architecture, pubs and politics, football and music, science and industry to the weird and wonderful.
Given that Ed, founder of the original City Life listings magazine, is a Londoner, his dedication to educating visitors who come to Manchester with out-of-date, pre-conceived ideas about the city – “dark, industrial, Coronation Street” – is impressive. On the other hand, he has spent 36 years here.
“People are amazed by all the beautiful buildings they see and the stories connected to them; a reflection of Manchester’s huge national and international importance as an industrial and commercial centre in the 19th Century,” he says.
It’s the ‘Seven Wonders of Manchester’ – Central Library Reading Room, Chetham’s Library, Liverpool Road Station, Manchester Town Hall, Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the Art Gallery, the St John Fragment in the John Rylands Library and the Stations of the Cross Paintings in the Hidden Gem church – that enthral many tourists. But Glinert gives the impression that he personally savours the fascinating lesser-known tales.
The first two Secret History of Manchester tours this year are already sold out and a third date has been added on March 18 – testament to Ed’s relentless digging for intriguing subjects.
The ‘believe it or not walk and talk’ – and you gotta believe it – features the secret underground nuclear bunker beneath Piccadilly Gardens; tensions caused by white American GIs complaining about drinking in the same Manchester pubs as black soldiers – a row that went all the way up to Churchill; and a plan to demolish the town hall to make way for a car park.
The tour also casts light on the dark side of artist L S Lowry, whose sado-erotic pictures were discovered after his death; the attack on 13 famous paintings by suffragettes in Manchester Art Gallery in 1913 and the hushed-up story of the Royal Mail pillar box that didn’t survive the 1996 IRA bomb.