Salford tries to shake off its image of a 'dirty old town'

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The Independent Online

Salford has been a challenge to image-makers since it inspired Ewan MacColl's song, "Dirty Old Town", made famous by The Pogues.

But the birthplace of the painter LS Lowry is undergoing a transformation in a promotional push in which its industrial past is only part of the picture.

A series of maps and guides accompanying three new heritage walks aim to cater for the tastes of most visitors, and include a trio of beverage-related attractions.

Salford, the guides reveal, was home to Copperheads, the favourite drinking haunt of George Best, the Manchester United legend, when he was at the height of his powers in the 1970s.

In the Crescent pub, on Chapel Street, the bar talk was of more elevated kind between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The German-born philosopher and communist thinker, Engels, ran a mill in the town for his father in the second half of the 19th century while researching his classic work, The Condition of the Working Class in England.

On the same street, between 1910 and 1927, the carbonated fruit drink Vimto was produced. Visitors taking the walking tour of Chapel Street will also note that it was the first in the country to be lit by gas and was scene of one of the first battles of the Civil War. The current site of a tax office was formerly occupied by DC Thomson, printers of The Dandy and Beano comics.

Walking tours were introduced in the mid-Nineties and new guides were published last week to cover three areas: Salford Quays, Worsley and Chapel Street, the gateway to Manchester.

"We are not trying to divorce ourselves from our industrial past - far from it," said Karen Robinson, marketing and tourism officer at Salford City Council. "The council simply wants to change some of the preconceptions about Salford as the 'Dirty Old Town' ... We are not miserable people; we are happy and we are proud of our links with history."

Heritage trails have become popular in the region, a trend towards self-promotion from the most unlikely sources that was highlighted last month when the London borough of Southwark published a tourist map called "Discover the Real Peckham".

Salford's rebranding has been backed up by a campaign, entitled "One Shocking City", intended to change public perception. Contrary to its industrial image, the city comprises 60 per cent green space, the campaign claims, while trumpeting the renewal of the docks area.

Central to the city's story of post-industrial regeneration is Salford Quays, which is now a mixture of modern apartments and the remnants of the old docks. After hosting events for the Commonwealth Games in 2002, its also stages international triathlon competitions and has its own luxury hotel, The Copthorne.

Worsley, the "birthplace of the transport revolution" also gets its own guide. The building of the Bridgewater Canal linking coal mines in the village with Manchester halved the price of coal overnight and fuelled the Industrial Revolution.

Council leader John Merry said: "Salford is a modern and forward-looking city but its past has an important role to play in its future."

... and the plan for Slough

As Salford relies on communism and football to enhance its image, Slough, whose image has been battered by The Office and the author Sir John Betjeman's poetic call for "friendly bombs" to fall on it, is also attempting to present a new face to the world. The town launched a campaign in March aimed at rejuvenating its centre. Three leading landscape design companies have been invited to pitch for a contract to transform the pedestrian-only High Street, and to stage exhibitions of their schemes for residents to examine and comment on. A council spokesman said the plan was to make Slough a "vibrant and appealing place to visit, work or live in''.

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