England isn’t the first choice people make when they’re considering their summer break destination, or any time of the year destination, for that matter. The weather can be really nasty, the women are not considered to be very attractive and also about the local food opinions differ a lot. Recently I heard someone saying that there should be a special place in hell for the person who invented vinegar-flavoured crisps. Apart from that I love them, those are just the stereotypes. Underneath those unappealing covers lies something very unique and interesting, for those that dare peek inside. London? No, Manchester! Locals say it’s the place to go for the true explorers, those that aren’t afraid to get their feet dirty, they even say that it is, in some aspects, superior to the capital. Manchester was a small, medieval town with nothing special about it until the Industrial Revolution boosted it to the top 10 of the most prosperous cities in the world. One day someone went for a walk and thought: “Hey, this horrible weather, this humidity and low temperature would be awesome for spinning cotton!”. And thus history was made, a revolution begun. With industry came workers, with workers came abuse and socialism was born. Manchester was frequently visited by Marx and Engels and many other persons crucial to modern history, and was also the birthplace of charity and philanthropy. The importance of this city is largely undercut, but if you look close enough it appears that Manchester is the backbone of our civilization. Mark Twain once said that he would like to move to this city for his final days because there is not much difference between living in Manchester and dying, he wouldn’t even notice the passing.
The city experienced quite some rough times: gritty, grey and foreboding. In 1996 it was hit in its heart by a 1500kg IRA bomb in 1996; the biggest bomb detonated on British soil since World War II. Over 200 people were injured but for some miraculous reasons there were no fatal casualties. How different from a horrifying event more recently, on 22 May 2017, when a madman committed a suicide bombing in the Manchester Arena, just after a concert by Ariana Grande. So many innocent young lives were taken away on an evening that should have been one of the happiest in their lives. Killing children at a concert; who could ever think that terrorists could get as low as that? But the Mancunians, as the city’s inhabitants call themselves, always demonstrate a remarkable veracity. No matter what they rebuild, show their strength and do their best to see some light even in the darkest times.
The local concert venue and night club The Haçienda in Manchester centre was such a beacon of the local ups and downs on its own. This legendary club opened its doors in 1982 and wasn’t all that legendary at the beginning. In fact, people used to say they have never performed in such a dump. But only a few years later the club was packed every night it. Factory Records, the label behind iconic bands such as Joy Division and New Order, and more specific its manager Tony Wilson kept the entire establishment financial alive. Throughout the years an endless row of famous rock artists, pop stars and DJs performed in The Haçienda. To mention just a few: Madonna who sang her Holiday in her early days, The Fall, The Smiths, and of course the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays who represented a new wave in the Manchester music scene at the late 80’s. New Order basically lived in The Haçienda: without New Order there would have been no Haçienda and without Haçienda we would never have heard of New Order. Of course Oasis had its gigs there too. As the city’s most famous sons the Gallagher brothers say “It all started in Manchester”. 1986 was the year that the British rave scene started with the full package of teenagers popping ecstasy pills, loud music, neon lights, lasers, and stroboscopes. Techno and early house music were all about love and connection and so was ecstasy. But the reckless dealers and other aggressive low-lives who were after the money started to spoil the scene. The Haçienda became an even shadier spot than it was before. People were beaten up, people died of overdoses and other unfortunate incidents started happening. The club had some narrow escapes but in 1997 it finally lost its license. Shame, really, but the legacy it left behind is undeniable. If you want to know more about Factory Records and The Haçienda it is highly recommended to watch 24 Hour Party People. It’s fun and to my knowledge not any other movie captured so well the spirit of the Manchester music scene.
Music isn’t the only religion that Manchester is known for. Even if you would be a football-hater you would have heard about Manchester United and their home: the legendary stadium Old Trafford. United has over 3 million fans all over the world. Both on local and international level United’s fan base is bigger than the one of that other world-famous club of the same city and eternal rival: Manchester City. I can only imagine how much of a pilgrimage site Old Trafford is for the fans. There’s the compulsory shop, cafes and all the good stuff and this temple of sport is open to visitors during most of the week. Ancient history is also an important part of this revolutionary city. Ruins of a Roman fort are gradually being restored to their former glory, while the Manchester Museum houses even older relics. Exhibits include goodies such as the skeleton of “Stan” the Tyrannosaurus Rex or a collection of Egyptian sarcophagi. All sorts of art and curios from the past are also stored in the Manchester Art Gallery, those include paintings and a fair share of modern art. The Town Hall is also an interesting landmark. It was built as an answer to London’s architecture it looks like a huge lounge with stained wood interior and leather chairs, a place where you’d sit down with a glass of whiskey and a cigar.