CITY SLICKER : MANCHESTER
Monday 20 March 1995
Appearance: Like a school trip, caught in the rain, waiting for a nice caf to open.
Obsessions: International sporting events. The city entered two Olympic bids with artists' impressions of world-class sporting facilities that weren't built yet. The 1993 claim that Manchester in July had less rainfall than its rival, Sydney, was said to have been delivered with a straight face by theatre supremo Bob Scott, who was knighted for his achievement.
Culture: From the perms of 10cc, through the pallor of the Smiths to the pounding of Oasis, the city is infested with lads with guitars. Manchester resounds with voices urging, "Shut that bloody row! Your Dad and me are trying to watch telly." Stone Roses' new album reminds the city of the ecstatic days of "Madchester" and A&R men still pile into showcases for several bands a week at Band on the Wall and The Roadhouse. This "left field of pop" thrives only a plectrum's width from the Halle, Camerata chamber orchestra and Chetnam's, the college for unbearably talented musical prodigies.
Football team: Manchester City. United is in Salford, as City fans love to remind their rivals. Unfortunately, it's the only superiority they can lay claim to these days, with United carrying all before them and struggling City rocked by the news that Nick Leeson, least successful trader in economic history, is a City fan.
Bars: Epidemic of chrome, cool and cappuccino in "the new Bohemia". For design and Euro-chic, Atlas is the pick of a lovely new bunch of bars; Isobar, is a quiet venue for weekday board games, at the weekend the music is loud and the interior dark; Night and Day is the hangout for the louche. The city council is in favour of 24-hour licences.
Restaurants: 38 curry houses pack a 400-metre stretch of Wilmslow Road, starring the formica table bustle of the Shezan, and, opposite, the posh Shezan, which provides tablecloths at no extra cost. Tapas bars are proliferating following La Tasca, along with Chinese, Armenian, Turkish, French and Italian. Chips and gravy are still available and not to be sniffed at.
Night-clubs: Londoners come to Manchester for the clubs - music to North- west ears. Newer hotspots, Paradise and Home, doff their caps to the Hacienda, now 12 years old, fast approaching the age of its gilded clientele.
Shopping: The yellow-tiled Arndale Centre, the largest shopping mall in Europe, has struggled admirably to shrug off its nickname as the biggest public toilet in the world, but Arndalophobia (fear of not finding the exit) is still a social problem. Barton Arcade is a pavilion of exclusivity, St Ann's Square is pedestrianised for brand names and Big Issue vendors, while Affleck's Palace is part of the establishment now, supplanted for used clothing, headshops and tarot readings by the heartfelt lunacy of the Corn Exchange.
Publications of note (literary): Tourist authorities were unhappy with Friedrich Engels, who based his Condition of the Working Class in England on Redbank, a slum to rival Manchester City's Umbro Stand. Elizabeth Gaskell didn't think much more of the place in Mary Barton, while Jeff Noon based his 1993 cyberpunk novel Vurt on a "decaying post-industrial city" unrecognised by members of the Olympic Bids Committee.
Publications of note (magazines): City Life for listings of absolutely everything. In business with one hiccup since 1983, it long outlasted Manchester Flash, flash by name, nature and 12 issues in the pan. Editor Andrew Jaspan couldn't stand the pace and ended up editing the Observer.
Celebrities: Mick Hucknall, Ben Kingsley, Bernard Manning, the cast of Coronation Street, a resting French footballer, Steve Coogan, Paul Calf and his sister Pauline. For celeb-spotting, try the Novotel, any of the above bars, or Safeways in Chorlton.
Coming soon: The International Concert Hall (1996), the Victoria Arena (July this year), a second airport runway (depending on the outcome of a public inquiry), better weather (June this year for a two-week run) and the Olympics (soon).
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