Plaza: Dreams Without Frontiers
A small article originally published in Manchester Art Gallery’s Dreams Without Frontiers publication, curated by Dave Haslam. The theme is Sixties Utopia and my article is about the Piccadilly Hotel (now the Mercure) What does Piccadilly Hotel mean to you? To George Best it’s hiding in a cleaner’s cupboard from Matt Busby. To the ears of the city its cantilevered form straddles the...
Skyliner in The Skinny. A favourite read of mine whenever I visit Glasgow, The Skinny launches in the North West tonight at 2022NQ. I was interviewed for piece titled What’s Your Northwest, along with a collection of other people involved in the region’s art scene. You can read the full, unedited interview below (which might give you some insight into what the future of Skyliner will...
In 2012 the CIS tower celebrated it’s 50th year (as well as it being the international year of the Co-Op) and this year the new headquarters at Angel Place will open. In tribute and celebration Skyliner presents an exclusive look at the 1962 commemorative brochure. Thank you to S.L. Scott for the beautiful artwork in the image above and to the Co-Operative for allowing reproduction of...
It’s hard to place City Tower, formerly Sunley Tower, in the brutalist pigeonhole these days. It’s a white beacon of modernism guiding you across China Town, a siren of the 60s beckoning you towards it from its podium behind the classical architecture of King Street. It’s the third tallest building in the city, and remains the highest commercial office space. And set within...
Streetview - Road Sign Language
My latest article for the wonderful Now Then - the layout and naming convention of streets. Featuring a housing estate in Chorlton and a series of American grid-style streets in Trafford Park… There’s a long-vacated wine shop in Chorlton, the exterior of which is flanked by two huge bay windows and the blue frames are that kind of salt-eroded, windswept pastel found only on British...
The Demolition of BBC's New Broadcasting House
New Broadcasting House on Oxford Road was the location of the BBC headquarters for the North-West of England from inauguration on 18 June 1976 until it was demolished during the final months of 2012. Today a small part of the entrance wall still remains, and the road it once straddled is lined with bollards bearing the BBC logo in place of the standard Manchester bee. [[MORE]]During the...
The Midland Hotel's secret gallery
The art galleries of a city are larger in number than you first perceive if you look not only to the official institutions but to the galleries that are formed in the corridors of hotels and the stairwells of office blocks. One particularly exhaustive collection in the city is that of The Midland Hotel’s Wyverne Restaurant. Here in the Wyverne (every Midland hotel has a Wyverne restaurant) is...
My second piece for Twenty Two - the little-known permanent Eadweard Muybridge exhibition in Manchester.
The totems of Salford University’s Allerton Building, and other works by William Mitchell. “I don’t give a hoot if you don’t like them, just as long as you look at them” Whilst on The Crescent in Salford, continue towards Salford University’s Allerton Building and there you will find the striking Minut Men by William Mitchell. Perhaps the first critique...
Return of the Mancograph - Version 2 now available… I suspect that many of Skyliner’s readers will also be familiar with the architectural sage that is Eddy Rhead. Eddy is on my dream line-up in my imaginary quiz team, admittedly the quiz that we’re playing is Strike It Lucky but my imagination is too full up with concrete and Portland stone to make room for anything more...
Read the article I wrote for Now Then issue 2 about the Kardomah Cafes of Manchester. The full (and quite beautiful) version of the magazine can be read by clicking the image above, or read the article below. Cafe Cultured Upon arriving in Manchester during the 1950s to work for The Guardian, novelist Michael Frayn asked where in the city one could expect to find the artists’ quarter - he was...
The Arndale Centre’s lofty lookout Recent news that Zhuzhou, China had built villas on the roof of a shopping mall sparked excitement across the world with the concept being labelled as the future of urban planning, however, this future had already been realised, in 1981, on top of Manchester’s Arndale Centre. The Arndale Centre from above, circa 1980 Cromford Court, known to tenants...
Chapel Street, Salford
Photos by Jennifer Brookes. To celebrate Lowry’s 125th birthday; an article about the Chapel Street area of Salford originally published in May 2012 as the introduction piece for Skyliner From the Other City, an alternative venue guide for annual music festival Sounds From the Other City. Despite the obvious dereliction, beneath the surface Chapel Street is bustling. What it lacks in...
The first issue of the lovely Twenty Two magazine, for which I am a contributor. My feature all about art out on the streets of Manchester can be found on page fifteen.
A Wondrous Place
Last week I was asked to curate the Northern Spirit theatre company’s new project A Wondrous Place. The project is a collaborative piece from some of the best writers in the north of England and I am over the moon to have been chosen to be part of that. In the build up to a new show by Northern Spirit a collective of writers, whose own blogs and projects are fundamentally based upon a love...
Manchester's Public Art
From Lemn Sissay’s series of poems adorning the walls and pavements through to the classical Ford Madox Brown murals at the Town Hall, but what other artworks lie in wait of discovery throughout the city? What about off the streets and into the everyday; the negative spaces where you spend so much time? There is almost always art in these functional buildings, only it’s not usually very good....
The Albert Hall & Aston Institute
Inside the Albert Hall, Manchester Photos by Andrew Brooks The Albert Hall and Aston Institute, built in 1910 by W J Morley, was home to the Manchester and Salford Wesleyan Mission, though today it stands empty awaiting renovation. The ground floor was occupied as Brannigan’s bar for several years and many people have passed through these doors but did they realise just how ornate the...
The Ghosts of Stretford Mall
Photos by Shirley Bainbridge Stretford Arndale was renamed Stretford Mall in 2003 and modernised throughout, only it looks as though they missed a spot… Set within Stretford Mall is the market square, still gloriously sixties in appearance though sadly dying in trade. But there’s more than just these units who are struggling on despite everything; there’s a mezzanine level...
St Philip's Crypt, Salford
(photo by Jennifer Brookes. All other photos by Andrew Brooks) St Philips Church is perhaps the architectural highlight of the city of Salford, its beautiful bell tower beckoning you in off the road to take a closer look. The building is unassuming yet classical and unlike any other church in the region. The church was designed by Sir Robert Smirke in 1825 in a Greek revival style unique to...
Look 'Tup' - Musical Mancunian Way
Somewhere along the Mancunian Way there’s a small piece of graffiti that reads ‘tup’ and nestled in the loop of the ‘p’ is a tiny hole. Take your headphones with you and you’ll be able to plug yourself into the wall and listen to a specially commissioned song. Good art is effectively hidden within architecture all over the city, be it an accomplished mural...
Northern Quarter Stories
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Boardman's Entry, and other alleyways
For a short stretch of the city centre it’s possible to bypass the crowds and the traffic and to walk across several pedestrian areas and finally down a series of alleyways. In fact you can walk almost traffic-free from Victoria station all the way to Lloyd Street, and in doing so you might spot some rather unusual artwork. To walk this route you begin at Cathedral Gardens, down...
photos by Andrew Brooks These days a modern urban environment often makes it difficult to realise the origins of a town, of how it was formed, why its location was vital to its survival or even to properly step back and see the lie of the land. Stockport thrived because of the standstone cliffs it was formed around and there’s plenty of evidence of this all around you to this day. At...
The House on Ship Canal House
There are two things of interest on this aerial shot of Ship Canal House on King Street. The first is one you can see quite clearly from street level if you crook your neck enough, and it’s a rather grand sculpture of Neptune. Neptune, being the god of water and sea, is clearly a symbolic choice for the premises but it’s also a practical one. Neptune’s three-pronged fork...
Beneath Trafford Town Hall
with photos by Andrew Brooks If you’d ever looked closely enough at the shrubbery around Talbot Road you may just have uncovered an emergency entrance to Trafford Town Hall’s cold war bunker. The entrance, pictured above, led to a series of rooms and passageways with concrete walls and steel doors but is now just an open space devoid of any fixtures or fittings and, at the time of our...
The Onward Building
What on the face of things is a small commercial site on Deansgate, you’ll find a beautiful building complete with wrought iron balcony and decked out inside with personalised bottle green ceramics. Look above Topkapi and the model shop on the corner of Bootle Street and Deansgate and not only will you spot the golden sign bearing the name ‘Onward Building’ but below a tiny,...
With photos by Andrew Brooks Although you’d never know it from the rather dowdy, reclad exterior, inside this Hulme building you can time travel. On October 10th 1901, exactly 110 years prior to our visit, the Hulme Hippodrome as it is now known opened its doors as a spectacular melodrama venue. Originally named the Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall (which explains the neighbouring...
What we now know as the premises of Primark was originally built to house a Lewis’s Department store. By virtue of housing such a spectacular venture the building has some wonderful features that you wouldn’t expect to find when you’re fighting through the crowds on a sticky Saturday. What’s hidden on the rooftop isn’t actually visible from the street but you can...
Great Abel - the bell of Manchester Town Hall’s clock tower. Autumn in Manchester is one of my favourite times of the year for one reason only and that is the calendar of events. The Science Festival, Literature Festival, Food and Drink Festival, Comedy Festival, the Manchester Weekender and preceeding all of those, there’s the nationwide, National Heritage Open Days. And it’s...
The Godlee Observatory makes up part of the Sackville Building of UMIST on Sackville Street. It’s quite a large spectacle to overlook yet so many people are unaware of this treasure in the centre of the city. The Sackville building itself is one of imense beauty, with fine details like intricate glass etchings of the building itself carved into the grand doorways. The building is by...
Upper Walkways of Oxford Road
This time what we see when we look up isn’t so much an architectural quirk, nor is it an example of street art but it’s the ghost of an idea that was never executed. At various points along Oxford Road, the education mile, you can find recesses at first floor level that were intended, one day, to be the connecting points of pedestrian walkways. Pedestrians were to be put up in the...
John Street Birds
On John Street in the Northern Quarter, and around the corner on Tib Street, you may have spotted these ornamental birds and their neighbouring ceramic parrots. There’s no shortage of street art to be found in this area yet it’s surprising how few people know the motivation behind each installment. As Manchester moved into the Victorian Era this particular area transformed from...
Began in 1907 and completed in 1912 by A.H Stott & Sons, this is Stockport’s Pear Mill. The mill is Grade II listed and was one of the last cotton spinning mills to be built and to go into production. It ceased operation as a textile mill in March 1978. Although an usual feature to gaze upon now, the pear that nestles on the water tower wasn’t particularly out of character at...
The Thomas Street Pineapple
Thanks to Sam Newiss for the image. This old building on Thomas Street, sometimes known as the Binks Building, is on one of the busiest corners of Manchester when it comes to nightlife. The current tenant is Odd Bar and the neighbours are a collection of bars, restaurants, secret cocktail lounges and traditional boozers. But as well as all this the area is steeped in history, art and culture...
I’m featuring as this month’s highlighted blog over in issue 34 of Blank Pages. The Blank Media Collective champion emerging artists and run some fantastic events; the creative writing group (that I only ever made it to once - shame on me!) is a great place to meet and motivate each other and if you can make it down or support these guys in any way then you truly are a lovely...
The little men of Piccadilly
I was delighted to spot a little man, decked out in Alpine clothes and straw hat, catching some sunshine on the roof of 79 Piccadilly. Just around the corner, leaning on the balustrade, I discovered he had an identical friend. It was surprising to find that there’s no real information online about the figures and so I considered taking the story in another direction; talking about the O.K...
Piccadilly Mirror Ball
If you look up to the roof of what was Piccadilly 21 nightclub you might find yourself dazzled by the light. Up there is a giant disco ball. It’s mounted on a strange metal plinth that holds the surrounding spotlights steady and looks like a space age egg about to hatch. Thanks to Ian Pattinson for the image You might also notice that of the six floors, only one storey is currently in use....
Thoroughly Modern Winnie
To celebrate International Women’s Day this is an article for the Modernist Heroines edition of (the wonderful) Shrieking Violets, in association with the Manchester Modernist Society and the Loiterer’s Resistance Movement. Read the full zine by picking up a copy at the Town Hall this Sunday, or online here embroidered zine cover by Rosa Martyn At just 22 Winifred Brown became...
Big Boys Toy
How did I miss this? I mean, I walk around town often enough and like to think I know Manchester quite well. I am always on the lookout for the Space Invaders that are hidden about town so I do routinely cast my eyes vertically yet I’ve come to realise that I rarely bother to look up beyond the height of say, a first floor window. The twelve metre high tower that straddles the NCP car park is Big...