Hailed as the ‘London of the North’, Manchester is a thriving UK city with a population of over 530,000 million people. If you count Greater Manchester, which has an astonishing population of approximately 2.55 million people, it is regarded as the third biggest city in the UK after Birmingham. It is also one of the leading cities which is part of the Northern Powerhouse; a proposal to boost the local economy, skills, innovation, transport and culture in the UK’s Northern cities (Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield and Hull) and consequently decentralise the immense economic power in London and the South East. As the largest city in the North, Manchester is enjoying huge investment and growth from this initiative.
The first recorded settlers in Manchester was the civilian settlement associated with the Roman fort of Mamucium or Mancunium in 79 AD. The fort was built in the Castlefield area of the city centre and seems to have been abandoned around the middle of the 3rd century.
Throughout the medieval period, Manchester was regarded as a manorial township and was not a major city in the UK. However, during the 19th century Industrial Revolution it rapidly expanded and underwent unanticipated urbanisation. Built on the cotton and textile industry, Manchester became one of the biggest and most productive centres for processing cotton in Britain and was commonly known as the UK’s ‘cottonopolis’. One of the biggest cotton exchanges in the city is now in the incredible building of the Royal Exchange Theatre today. In 1830, the Manchester to Liverpool railway opened up and this was the first time-tabled intercity passenger railway in the whole world.
While industrialisation made Manchester a much more successful and prosperous city, there was also a huge amount of poverty and famine in this period. This led to much political and social unrest amongst the working classes and in 1819, 70,000 people gathered at St Peter’s Field to ask for reform of parliamentary representation. However, this event turned extremely sour when the police charged into the crowd on horses, killing fifteen people and injuring hundreds. This event is known as the Peterloo Massacre and has become a defining moment in history.
By 1953, Manchester received city status and the port of Manchester opened up in 1894 to connect the city to the Irish Sea 36 miles to the West. At the time that this was built, it was the largest navigation canal in the world. However, during the 20th century, Manchester’s industry and economic success was on the decline; it was badly hit by the Great Depression of 1929. Its cotton industry also massively suffered during WW11 and kept declining afterwards. It was not until the late 1990s that many sporting, broadcasting and educational institutions came to Manchester and the city saw a huge revival. Following the 1996 IRA bombings, Manchester enjoyed huge redevelopment after many buildings were destroyed.
Today, Manchester is a wealthy and modern city and although it is not as large as Birmingham in terms of population, it is known as the nations ‘second city’. Typical industries in Manchester now include financial, legal and business services, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing, environmental technologies, tourism, global sports brands, media and real estate.
As a vast and up and coming city, Manchester includes many artistic and alterternative areas which boast incredible street art and a vibrant urban feel. One of the most famous areas is the Northern Quarter, where many old warehouses and squats have been transformed into hipster cafes, basement clubs and alternative clothing shops. Some of these hipster cafes are also art galleries during the day. While the Northern Quarter has built up a reputation for being the ‘hipster’ area of Manchester since the 1990s, Ancoats is thought of by many as the most alternative and artistic area with its art galleries, live music venues and clubs. With trendy bars and smaller live music venues like the Dulcimer, Chorlton has sprung up as a popular hotspot for a night of entertainment.
However, Manchester is not limited to alternative hipster areas; there are other music venues, clubs and theatre districts. Salford, which is just outside the city centre in Greater Manchester, has also become a hub for theatre, art galleries and creative industries. Yet the older theatres, such as The Palace Theatre or the Royal Exchange, are located in the city centre.
Boasting both small and large theatre venues, Manchester has a flourishing performing arts sector with some of the biggest national and international tours visiting it.
Built in 1891, The Palace Theatre, which was originally known as the Grand Old Lady of Oxford Street, was designed by Alfred Darbyshire. Unfortunately, the theatre was demolished during the Blitz in September 1940 and has since been rebuilt. After major internal refurbishment and renovation by the Arts Council during the 1970s, the theatre became much more popular and is now one of the biggest and best equipped theatres outside of London.
Sister to the Palace Theatre, as both institutions are owned by the Ambassador Theatre group, the Manchester Opera House welcomes touring musicals, ballet, concert and Christmas pantomime. Having opened in 1912 as the New Theatre, it was then renamed the New Queen’s Theatre in 1915 and finally the Opera House in 1920. In 1979, it was closed down and became a Bingo Hall for five years but was then reopened as a theatre by The Palace Trust in 1984.
Located in Salford, a part of Greater Manchester which is just West of the city centre, The Lowry is an excellent theatre space which has a capacity of almost 2,000 people. From the award-winning production of War Horse to the much-loved West End musical Wicked, The Lowry hosts some of the biggest productions in the country.
Boasting an exquisite old building which is worth a visit in itself, The Royal Exchange welcomes a variety of theatre productions. Before becoming a theatre, it was a huge cotton exchange and thus an important part of Manchester’s thriving cotton industry up until 1968. While the building was extensively damaged in both the Blitz and World War 11, it officially opened its doors in 1976 as a theatre and has since been hosting very successful productions.
Having opened recently in 2015, HOME boasts an incredible new building which is not only an innovative new theatre space, but also includes an art gallery and five cinemas.
Regularly hosting huge live comedy tours, such as Jack Whitehall and Jimmy Carr, Manchester also offers many comedy clubs which host hilarious comedy nights such as Best In Comedy. These smaller comedy nights are also incredibly popular and famous comedians made their debut at these venues.
Hosting some of the finest stand-up comedy in the UK, the Comedy store is home to the regular ‘The Best In Stand Up’ event which happens every saturday. Located within the railway arches of Deansgate Locks, The Comedy Store is not only an auditorium purposely designed for comedy, but also boasts a restaurant and three bars which makes it a fun-filled night of entertainment.
An award winning comedy club, The Frog and Bucket hosts a range of general comedy nights and also special, themed night such as solo touring shows, the Laughing Cows all-female comedy night and charity nights. Having hosted some of the biggest names in the industry, often at the beginning of their careers, the Frog and Bucket has welcomed the likes of Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas who often performed as a double act and sometimes on their own. Located in the middle of the bustling Northern Quarter, the Frog and Bucket is an incredible space to nurture new talent and an opportunity for comedians to hone their skills and perfect their art.
Home to some of the most iconic UK bands such as Oasis, The Smiths, New Order and The Chemical Brothers, Manchester has a rich musical heritage. Described as the UK’s best live music city, it has built up an impressive reputation in this sector. While huge venues such as the Manchester Arena receive international tours, there are also smaller, more intimate venues which still offer a wide range of musical genres and artists.
Attracting over one million visitors a year, The Manchester Arena, with its 21,000 capacity, boasts the highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the United Kingdom. Having hosted acclaimed international artists such as Lady Gaga and Madonna, the Manchester Arena has also held historical music events for Manchester born artists such as New Order, Oasis and James as well as Manchester born comedian Peter Kay.
Despite offering a much smaller space than the Arena, with its capacity of 3,500, The Manchester Apollo still hosts impressive names in music and comedy. While its original purpose was a multi-room cinema, it has solely become a concert venue.
Given that Manchester has a huge student population and also an extremely high graduate retention of 51.5%, it is not surprising that Manchester boasts a varied and energetic clubbing scene. Home to many successful DJs, such as Solarado, Zed Bias and Mr Scruff, Manchester is one of the major cities outside London where DJs can integrate into the electronic music scene. From larger clubs playing popular music to dark, underground basements, Manchester really does have something for everyone.
Located on Deansgate Locks, Lola Lo is one of the most exciting and glamorous Tiki Bars that Manchester has to offer. With three-floors of music and delicious cocktails, this venue is a place to dance the night away.
Having hosted the likes of Aphex Twin, M.I.A, Disclosure and DJ Shadow, The Warehouse Project is one of the hottest underground music events in the country. Taking place every autumn, the venue changes each year but it generally located in a huge warehouse space, such as Store Street underneath Piccadilly Station. With a maze of different rooms and huge DJs playing in one night, The Warehouse Project is an exceptional and unique clubbing experience which is typical of Manchester.
Taking place in an incredible old Victorian building, Antwerp Mansion is an extremely popular club for students and locals alike. Creating a unique experience which is a fusion of a warehouse rave and wild house party, Antwerp Mansion hosts both local and international DJs and takes that urban, gritty Manchester vibe to the next level.
As an award winning music and arts venue, Hidden hosts exciting live music events and DJs in its impressive old warehouse. With an outdoor courtyard and hangar space, it is also extremely popular for day parties during the warmer summer months. You can also find exhibition spaces alongside the many dancefloors.
While many of the main music festivals in the UK are in the countryside, there are also some inner-city music festivals in Manchester and most notably, Parklife festival, which has become extremely popular for its incredible line-ups over the years.
Welcoming over 70,000 people per year, Parklife has built up an impressive reputation since its inception in 2010. Hosting a wide range of musical genres and some huge headliners, such as Snoop Dog, The XX and Fatboy Slim, Parklife festival has something for everyone.
A smaller, more intimate festival, Blue Dot takes place at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, an area just outside of Manchester. The festival fuses music, science and art to create a truly unique festival experience. Past headliners include Hot Chip, Kraftwerk-3D and New Order.
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