Saturday, 31 March 2012

The white blossom of Chinatown blooms everywhere

From Chinatown to the Green Quarter, St. George's Island to Ancoats, the white (and pink) blossom of spring is starting to bloom- and that's just in the city centre. The suburbs' and countryside's blossoming trees are starting to look spectacular too...

Friday, 30 March 2012

Davy Jones' Manchester Monkee Business

The world's first run of Monkee Business the musical is currently on at the Manchester Opera House, until 14th April.  How ironic that it should open this month in Manchester, the hometown of Monkee Davy Jones who died on Leap Day. Davy grew up in Openshaw and made his tv debut on Coronation Street in its first year (1960) playing Ena Sharples' grandson.

What's On Stage describes Monkee Business The Musical as having "fabulous costumes and sets, a madcap ‘Austin Powers-style’ plot featuring all new characters and a score packed with iconic hits of the swinging sixties."

Unsurprisingly the Monkees songs in the musical include "I’m A Believer", "Last Train to Clarksville",  "Hey, Hey We’re The Monkees" and "Daydream Believer". I remember enjoying the tv show when I was growing up (or maybe it was the repeats). In fact I'm off to YouTube now to watch an episode or two...

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Worshipping the sun gods in Piccadilly Gardens

The wonderfully hot weather with days of summer temperatures in March has seen all of us city centre workers making sure we take a lunch break and walk, eat, snooze, read or socialise in the sunshine. Personally I know many quieter, nicer places in the city centre to do this than the concrete horror and churned grass of Piccadilly Gardens, but I'm not letting on where they are...

Oh, go on then, maybe I will. Within the city centre there's greenery and pleasant scenery to be found at Parsonage Gardens,  St. John's Gardens, the banks of the Irwell, the Roman fort at Castlefield, many stretches of the canals, the greenery around the Vimto Statue and UMIST grounds to name a few. 

As you may have already read, from yesterday I am also a guest blogger at Smitten by Britain . My future guest posts there will appear once a month and feature aspects of some of my favourite places around England and Wales.

Advance notice: With the City Daily Photo Blog portal currently out of action, Julie of Sydney Eye has created a page where participants in the April 1st theme (Cobblestones) can register their posts on a linky. See CDPB theme day .

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

ABC Wednesdays: K is for Kidston of King Street

The retro typewriter and writing desk give a lovely 1950's ambience at the back window of the Cath Kidston store. It makes me wonder about the unfinished novel and unsent love poems that this little typewriter may have begun, back in the day... 

Linked to ABC Wednesdays , the Sesame Street of the blogging world. This week featuring the letter "K"...

I am now also a guest blogger at Smitten by Britain .
My first post is about classical music in Manchester and includes the city's three orchestras and the previously unknown Vivaldi pieces re-discovered in Manchester in 1973 Vivaldi’s Manchester Concertos. Future posts there, probably once a month, will feature some of my favourite places around England and Wales.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

British Spring Time: Narcissus is turned to a flower

It may have been a summery 20°C and hotter for the past week here in the north-west and the clocks are now on British Summer Time, but these daffodils in a proudly kept front garden are a sure sign of British Spring Time. Daffodils are a common name for the narcissus.  Linked to the Ruby Tuesday blog.

We turn to Wikipedia for more information on narcissi and daffs: The youth of Greek mythology Narcissus became so obsessed with his own reflection as he kneeled and gazed into a pool of water that he fell into the water and drowned. In some variations, he died of starvation and thirst from just sitting by the edge of the pool until he gave out, gazing at his reflection until he died. In both versions, the Narcissus plant first sprang from where he died.The other derivation is that the plant is named after its narcotic properties (narkao, "I grow numb" in Greek).

The name Daffodil is derived from an earlier "Affodell". The reason for the introduction of the initial "d" is not known, although a probable source is an etymological merging from the Dutch article "de," as in "De affodil."

Monday, 26 March 2012

A nod to N.O.D. urban art

N.O.D urban art is on at the art space in 4 Piccadilly Place until 30th March. The initials stand for Nigel O'Donnell, with this his début exhibition. I really like some of the striking images of women, men and skulls that are on display. This piece is on sale for about £300.

Nigel is a local artist and says the following about his art: "I draw inspiration from many styles of art that relate to the beauty of the human form and the darker side of city life with its controversial, hedonistic allures. I have a passion for the urban lifestyle and my main interests are urban art, street art, graffiti and visual forms inspired by urban architecture and fashion. Most commonly, I work with mixed media: multi-layer stencils, spray paints, acrylic and textiles. I aims to provide my customers with an original and competitively-priced alternative to the mass produced art available on the high street".

Although not strictly murals, I feel that there is an energy and inspiration in N.O.D that comes from the street art often seen from around the world, so this post is Linked to Monday Murals at the Oakland Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

All change at All Saints

All Saints Park has seen many changes through the years. The church that was demolished due to bomb damage in World War II has long gone, although other 19th century buildings remain. Here to the right is the 1970s Manchester Polytechnic library and administrative block. Dominating beyond that is the sloping new build of Manchester Metropolitan University's Business School, on what was the St. Augustine site, where the first year of my degree took place in what was once a primary school.

Personally I wonder why they didn't buy and reuse the old BBC building just across the road instead and save themselves several millions. Answers on a postcard please...

Linked to the Weekly Top Shot blog.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

A wealthy Windsor woman

A small crowd of 400 to 500 gathered yesterday to see Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. I gave up waiting as I had to get back to work.

She was in Manchester and Salford for a tea party with 1000 community champions at a hastily revamped urban garden at Manchester Central, and to unveil a temporary diamond garden in the square named after her great-great grandfather Albert. She also "opened" Media City (which actually opened a year ago) and visited a hospital or two. It's part of her 60 years of being a monarch tour.

Personally I would say that that about 25% of the UK are in support of a monarchy, about 25% are against and want a republic, and about 50% are apathetic with no strong view.

More facts the UK mass media don’t tell you about the Royal Family.

See also the Signs, Signs blog for a selection of diverse signs from around the world this week.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Weekend Reflections: Crossing the Rubicon, I mean Rochdale

Early evening, crossing the Rubicon Rochdale Canal in Manchester city centre.  Other Weekend Reflections bloggers' posts from around the globe are but a click way...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Holly Cottage at Stockton Heath

Holly Cottage, in the lovely Cheshire town of Stockton Heath.  
This post is for Holly who turns 16 today.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Marple milestone

Some of the milestones along the Macclesfield canal are in better condition than others. Dating from the 1830s many are unreadable or have almost sunk into the towpath although some have been renovated. This is one of the best examples seen so far, as we weave our way north, 16 miles from Marple and a little south of the silk town of Macclesfield itself. 

Linked to the Signs, Signs blog.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Gateway to spring

Gateway Cottage at North Rode near Gawsworth. You can often drive along the lesser taken roads in rural Cheshire and come across pleasant surprises such as this. It was the railway station master's house, built in the style of the North Staffordshire Railway Company.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Street Art: Spring in Stevenson Square

This small wall in Stevenson Square is regularly repainted by street artists. I have previously featured the spring summer 2011 look and that for autumn-winter 2011/12. Here we have the latest painting. My interpretation is that it's a combination of bubble shaped clouds, waves, hills and trees.

The wispy ghostly gentleman painted on the wall on the right is new. That wall's previous incumbent will appear on my blog on Good Friday, 6th April. Linked to Monday Murals at the Oakland Daily Photo blog.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

You've got to get in to get out...

 Treatment using FotoFlexer Heat Map (with thanks to Tim)

The Musical Box are a Canadian band who perform music from the Gabriel era of Genesis, with the band's blessing. Peter Gabriel himself has taken his children to their performances to show them what he used to sound and look like all those moons ago. The band use the orginal slide show too, and even physically resemble the classic Genesis line-up.

The Musical Box performed the double album Lamb Lies Down on Broadway at the Manchester Apollo on Thursday and I was completely enthralled. It's an album I would pick on Desert Island Discs (not that BBC Radio 4 would ever invite me onto that programme!)

If you don't know it, The Lamb is amazing tale of the toughness of urban life in the western world, an inner exploration of body and mind, the emotions we feel and the emotions we fear, and coping when life is out of our control. All set to some powerful and beautiful music and imagery. you can get a feel of this tour by The Musical Box on YouTube.

Genesis were using the term “multi-media” decades before it became fashionable. Their experimental use of props, lighting and slide shows might not always have worked, but The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway slide show did, and set to the wonderful music it’s a must-see 90 minutes. You really should set aside an evening to watch it all at Oquatanginwann’s YouTube channel .


"The rocks, in time, compress your blood to oil, your flesh to coal, enrich the soil, not everybody's goal.
Anyway, they say she comes on a pale horse, But I'm sure I hear a train.
O boy! I don't even feel no pain - I guess I must be driving myself insane. Damn it all!
Does earth plug a hole in heaven, Or heaven plug a hole in the earth?
How wonderful to be so profound, when everything you are is dying underground."
Linked to the Weekly Top Shot blog.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

St Patrick's Day

There has been a Irish festival on in Manchester the past two weeks, which included this Irish Festival Market. There are a number of events today at the Irish Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill, in Levenshulme and in countless pubs across the city, but the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade took place last Sunday, 11th March.

1,000 people took part watched by a crowd of 100,000 in one of the biggest St Patrick's Parades in Europe. There's a report, photos and video from the Manchester Evening News at St Patrick’s Day Parade 2012 Manchester 11 March

Friday, 16 March 2012

Oldham Street old and new

Oldham Street has had its ups and downs over the decades but as the main road linking the northern quarter to the centre of Manchester it is a thriving hub once more, with record stores, funky cafes, reinvented pubs, cool bars and trendy clothes shops. Plus Forbidden Planet on the right here, every sci-fi anorak's dream. You can also live above the street in the many varied apartment blocks.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

¡Viva! Spanish & Latin American Arts

As part of the 18th annual ¡Viva! film and arts festival at the Cornerhouse, Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas presents a selection of work called Landscapes.

"Using second-hand sources, industrial materials and early optical equipment, Cuevas takes us back to a time when early scientific research was linked to [our] desire to understand the world. At the same time, she assesses the motives of early scientific enquiry and questions the instinct to domesticate wild environments."

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Silver surfers, apps at all ages

The ubiquitous US coffee house Starbucks is offering the UK a free latte before noon today. You just turn up and say hello. I will be most amused if they are overrun and this marketing campaign backfires.

I rarely choose to go there myself but will happily take my laptop and have a free coffee, in a china cup please, not one of their massive and inelegant mugs, and certainly none of this disposable wastage caused by takeouts. Wonder if there will be a spare seat, I'm not quite ready to join these silver surfers yet...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Taphophile tragics: Man of York

Linked to the Tuesday Taphophile tragics  run by Julie at the Sydney Eye. This is not an overtly tragic tale though (nor a cemetery or graveyard as per Taphophile tragics regulations, sorry...). The memorial bench plaque by the Macclesfield canal in Cheshire celebrates a long and full life, of one Joseph Outhwaite from York who lived 90 years until October 2009, and was a man who "loved the countryside and cruising the canals."

The surname sounded rather northern English to me, and so it is. It's of Anglo-Saxon origin and is found particularly in the northern counties of England, especially Yorkshire, where there was a marked Scandinavian influence. "Outhwaite" or "Owthwaite" are locational surnames and derive from a place believed to have been situated not far from Ilkley in West Yorkshire.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Thirty One charity music collection released today for CALM

The Temple, converted from a public convenience to a bar in the 1990s. It's a favourite haunt of Manchester band

Today I am posting about a Manchester music charity CD and download entitled Thirty One Songs, available in shops from 12th March. Thirty One Songs is a collection of tracks from Manchester featuring rare and exclusive songs from both established and emerging acts. I was invited to the launch last month but was unable to attend, so I wanted to post about it today, as it hits the shops.

All profits from the release will go to CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) a registered charity with its roots in Manchester. The ambition of Thirty One is to raise sufficient funds to enable CALM to run their national freephone helpline service (tel: 0800 58 58 58). Suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK under 35.

Thirty One is "an amazing snapshot capturing the undeniable quality of the Manchester music scene. It features brand new material by artists with careers stretching back to the post-punk era. It is an album much like the city from which it originates: rich in musical variety". It ranges from the bass heavy sounds of Murkage, to the delicate stylings of Sara Lowes and the stunning, original new talent of Ruby Ann Patterson. The better known Manchester artistes on the CD include Elbow, I Am Kloot, Mr Scruff, Durutti Column, Barry Adamson (Magazine) and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

All of the songs have been donated by the artists for Thirty One and costs £10, £20 or £31, depending on what you can afford to donate.

This photo is linked to Lesley's Signs, Signs blog in Ontario.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

My white bicycle

Well, not mine, but an homage to the famous white bicycles of Amsterdam, a free bike sharing scheme set up in the 1960s. Many cities now have pay as you ride bike schemes, including Helsinki, St Etienne, Lyon, Arlington, Montreal, Stockholm, Washington D.C., Paris and London. (the latter thanks to former mayor Ken Livingstone and not current mayor Boris Johnson who wrongly takes all of the credit). 

Manchester awaits such a scheme but they are not always successful- initiatives in Cambridge (1994) and Bratislava (2001) were abandoned when all the bikes were trashed or stolen...

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Basquing in victory

The grey city streets had some added colour this week with the presence of thousands of friendly football supporters from Spanish- well, Basque, club Athletic Bilbao. At first I thought they might be here for the current ¡Viva! Spanish film festival.

I am sure they were full of life anyway as they won their match against Manchester Utd at Old Trafford, and doubtless returned to the Basque country with happy memories, and photos, of a midweek break.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Skywatch Friday: Happiness is looking up...

Whatever city I am in, I've always tried to look up, above the businesses, shop fronts and eye level entrances- while trying to not fall flat on my face or bump into inanimate objects -or inanimate people come to that. It's amusing when people look at you to try and work out what it is you are looking at. Likewise when you are taking a quick photo, especially if it is of a view less ordinary.
Click for more Skywatch Friday posts.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

International Women's Day: (Wo)manchester to St. Petersburg

The St. Petersburg Russian restaurant in central Manchester.

Happy International Women's Day to all women (and men!). There are a series of events going on in Manchester today and over the next weekend, with details at:

To celebrate International Women's Day the Manchester and St. Petersburg Friendship Society is running a half-day event on Saturday at the Zion Centre in Hulme for anyone with an interest in Russian culture, starting with Russian lunch (borsch and blinyi), followed by talks on various aspects of women’s lives. These include a round table talk about women peacemakers, a workshop on Russian costume, and a short Russian musical performance by members of the Balalaika Orchestras, Kalinka and Kalina, featuring a female Russian vocalist. 

The event will enable people who participate to celebrate and exchange culinary, linguistic and musical skills, and to learn a little about the lives of Russian women in Russia and Manchester. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the official links between the two cities– the “Ties of Friendship” agreement. Saturday 10 March from 1.00 to 5.00 p.m. at the Zion Arts Centre, 335 Stretford Road, Hulme, M15 5ZA:

This is something that would have been of great interest to me but I am already busy that day, going to a Batmitzvah in London. Rather than be too disappointed I'll just remind myself how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many varied and interesting options!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Shine on you crazy Australian diamonds

I saw the Australian Pink Floyd at the Manchester Apollo on Sunday.  It was an amazing gig by the band rightly considered to be the best Floyd tribute act, a 2½ hour ride on a rollercoaster of emotions.

So loud that every bass note resonated from my head to my chest, wonderful varied visuals, backing vocals from heaven and hell, guitars and keyboards producing such emotion that they seemed alive.

From the trippy Interstellar Overdrive and One of These Days, to angst at the world's tyrants, generals and leaders at the Fletcher Memorial Home and in Us and Them. The isolation of Comfortably Numb, the pain of loss and lost friendship in Wish You Were Here and Shine on you Crazy Diamond, the railing against the rat race on Brick in the Wall and Sheep, and the sadness of ageing on The Division Bell and Time (etc.)

Check out the Australian Pink Floyd YouTube channel.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Women like you: A portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst

Charlotte Newson was commissioned to deliver the first public artwork in Manchester to celebrate Emmeline Pankhurst, an international icon and famous Suffragette. It is a photo-mosaic created by collecting photographs of 10,000 individual images of inspirational women sent in by the public.

It took Charlotte two years to complete, stands 3 metres high and 2.5 metres wide and was on display this past week at the People's History Museum by the River Irwell. The photo below is a close up of part of Emmeline's ear and the background and illustrates how this piece of art was assembled. 

Monday, 5 March 2012

It's a small world at Event City

The Northern Modelling Exhibition was held over the weekend at Event City in Dumplington. There were dozens of models on display and in action, from very large aeroplanes, boats and trucks to slot car racing and trains. Plenty of fun for all the family, especially at those stands that allowed youngsters to try their hand at racing or constructing. This is part of the impressively realistic Timpdon Lake outdoor railway.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mcr Histories festival: Sweet Mandarin

Helen Tse's grandmother came to England from Hong Kong and opened one of the first Chinese restaurants in Manchester, in Middleton in the 1950s. Helen and her sisters grew up in a chip shop run by their parents. They later went into professions they would not have expected to land in, namely finance, engineering and law. 

Inspired by their maternal heritage they then opened the Sweet Mandarin restaurant in the Northern Quarter in 2004. It has gone on to win national awards, as well as lending its name to a best selling book by Helen. Sweet Mandarin the book tells the ups and downs of the family history from China to Hong Kong to England, with more than their share of racism, gambling, triads and servitude along the way.   I gleaned all of this from a talk Helen gave as part of the Manchester Histories Festival this week. Inspirational.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Weekend Reflections: Serendipity

Serendipity is the name of the barge on this wonderfully quiet and pretty stretch of the Macclesfield Canal, near bridge number 60. The 42 mile long canal was completed in 1831 at a cost of £320,000.

I wasn't 100% sure what "serendipity" means, so it was a pleasant surprise and happy accident when I looked it up and discovered it means a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise"; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for applies to this photo in fact.

Thanks to Susie for suggesting the angle, as I was going to photograph it from a different direction, which would have resulted in a very dull photo! Part of the Weekend Reflections postings.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Infra:MANC, Transport Cubed at Mcr Histories Festival

I have given a pop art treatment to my photo of the Futuroute, which is at one of the many fascinating exhiibitions on for the Manchester Histories Festival. Infra:MANC is a small exhibition at the Cube Gallery which revisits some of the post World War II infrastructure of Manchester projects. Some came to fruition and some inevitably didn't.

The Futuroute was a machine made to market the Picc-Vic. This was a regional transport system including a tunnel linking Piccadilly to Victoria. Looking to me like a 1970s pub jukebox, you press the name of the stations you wish to travel between and the best rail route lights up. It covered Lancashire (which Manchester itself was part of until 1974) and Cheshire.

This 1960s scheme for an underground railway in Manchester was approved by the 1972 national government, yet didn't happen (although it did lead to the Metrolink tram network some 20 years later). 

It was one of a few projects that didn't get off the ground, quite literally for some. Blueprints and artists' impressions I was salivating over were a 1950's network of city centre helicopter landing pads and moving pavements.

See also the Signs, Signs blog.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Theme Day: Electricity- The Green Building

The dawn of March and it's a beautifully sunny morning here in Manchester. Time to visit the Green Building on River Street. It consists of 32 apartments and, on the ground floor, a nursery and a doctors' surgery.

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants in City Daily Photo's monthly Theme Day.

I was pleased to read that the Green Building's main green features are:
  • Energy efficient thermal design encompassing renewable insulation.
  • Solar thermal water heating system providing hot water for domestic plumbing and underfloor heating.
  • Large full height triple glazed windows on the south facing side maximise solar gain. The north facing apartments have relatively small windows.
  • An internal central atrium interlinked with all apartments provides a passive air conditioning system. Warm air from each apartment passes into the central atrium and rises, drawing fresh cooler air in to the apartments. Computer controlled windows at the top of the atrium regulate air-flow.
  • Building electrical requirements are supplemented by a 2.5 kW push-type wind power turbine.
  • The cylindrical shape of the tower provides the least surface area related to the volume, further increasing thermal efficiency.
  • Integrated recycling facilities for glass, paper and aluminium. A communal composting bin.
  • All apartments only have showers in the bathrooms, there are no baths in the residential apartments. The taps are designed to use the minimum amount of water necessary to wash hands safely.