Manchester – Pt 1: The Old Made New

I am a Mancunian by birth, although I now live on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire.  I moved out of the city 18-years ago and while I rarely regret that decision, I am drawn back to Manchester’s streets more and more in my quest for photographic inspiration not to mention, actual images. Manchester is, to use a local colloquialism ‘buzzin’; certainly a far more exciting and vibrant place then it was when I was growing up there through the 1970’s and 80’s.  However it appears Manchester has had some fairly far-sighted leadership in more recent years, married to the natural energy and drive of its populace.

The decision in the late 80’s to pursue a new tram infrastructure put the city ahead of many of it’s national and regional competitors in recognizing the need for clean, efficient local transport.  While campaigns were fought and lost to secure the Olympic Games for the years 1996 and 2000 (Atlanta and Sidney won those) it did lead to a successful bid to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the redevelopment of the run down post-industrial landscape of the east of the city.  This has continued through the generous investments by the Abu-Dhabi royal family who now own Manchester City Football Club and have spent literally tens of millions on rebuilding this part of Manchester.

Finally, and in a very unintended way, the city when given a regeneration ‘leg-up’ when it was bombed by the Provisional IRA in 1996.  That event, which could have been terrible in terms of lives lost, actually resulted in no deaths (and very few injuries even) and, notwithstanding the devastation caused to the city centre business community, allowed the council in partnership with central Government, to effectively re-build the centre of Manchester from the rubble caused through what was a huge explosion.   All is not perfect however.  While the city booms and re-generates itself as a ‘regional powerhouse’, many are left behind and Manchester’s homeless population continues to grow, while the economic prosperity enjoyed by some is certainly not enjoyed by all.

The point of this essay?  Well in one sense it is this; I barely recognize the city centre now.  So much has changed and there is so much activity it is difficult to know where to start or where to end when I set out on one of my frequent trips into the city for some street photography.  However, what I really find interesting is just how little I really knew my home city – there are places, streets, courtyards and the like I have never trodden in until recent times when I have been out walking, seeking creative opportunities.  I grew up in the suburbs south of the city centre and there is so much about the centre of which i know little or indeed nothing. It is full of surprises and full of opportunities I am only now discovering.

My image here was taken in the underground car park of the Great Northern Warehouse complex off Deansgate.  I love the light and the brickwork on show in this image.   This part of the city, perhaps more than any other has changed beyond recognition in recent years with formally derelict Victorian buildings brought back to life and use. These brick arches and underground spaces were probably closed off for years but now, in their own quite and still largely hidden away, signify the regeneration of the city as much as any glitzy office development or skyscraper.

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