Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Manchester of the North

Last week we went on holiday to Manchester (The exchange rate being a victim of the Credit Crunch we decided not to go abroad this year). It’s a city we’ve visited before, it’s also a city that I grow up near to. Over the years, though, it’s a city that has meant different things to me.

As a child Manchester was a student town to me, because my brother went to university there. All I knew of the city was the route along the Mancunian Way (The elevated road that runs along the south of the city) to the university and the block of flats that was the student accommodation. The rest of the city was a mystery, we only went there is see my brother. Those visits were special to me because, as a six and seven year old, riding the Mancunian Way was so different, nowhere we went to had roads that were elevated, it was like the freeways I saw on American TV shows.

After my brother left university we rarely went back to Manchester, my mother didn’t like the shops there and that was the main reason to visit any place for my parents. My mother had a belief that the quality of something automatically went up if it was bought in an open air market. The few times, as a child, I did go to Manchester all I remember is the tall and dirty concrete buildings there.

Coming out as a teenager in Liverpool, the 1980’s, Manchester seemed like a gay paradise. It had a wide selection of gay bars and clubs, it had its own lesbian and gay centre, and there were even lesbian and gay shops. It made Liverpool’s tiny amount of gay resources seem even more pitiful. The only problem was that I had no transport, replying on public transport and trying to enjoy gay night life wasn’t always easy, the rush back to the station for the last train.

When I left home and moved to London I almost forgot about Manchester, London offered all I wanted. Then, in 1999, Channel 4 aired Queer as Folk, set around Manchester’s gay village on Canal Street. This opened my eyes to a lot of the changes Manchester has undergone over the years, and it reminded me what Manchester had once been to me. That was the year we had our first holiday in Manchester.

For us, it is the perfect place for a holiday. There’s culture, there’s shopping, there’s so many places to eat we were swamped for choice, easy public transport links, and more on top.

Over the years this city has changed so much for me, or is that I’ve changed? I think it’s something of both. Places do change but what we want from a place changes too.


P.S. The pictures illustrating this blog were taken by my partner Martin, while we were in Manchester. More of them can be found at his blog,

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