Posted by: Richard Frost | January 28, 2014

Supper clubs in Chorlton

Desserts at a south Manchester supper club

Supper clubs

Until a couple of years ago, supper clubs were a rarity in Manchester. Now they’re everywhere.

So much so, in fact, that many are popping up in the suburbs, including some right on my doorstep in Chorlton. So I thought I’d take a closer look at the area’s supper clubs.

Hang on, what’s a supper club?

A supper club (also known as a dinner club, or a fine dining club if you’re posh) can take many forms:

  1. House-turned-restaurant – where a budding chef offers to cook dinner in their own home for a group of guests, often including people they’ve never met before
  2. Foodie group – where a gang of like-minded food lovers get together to visit different restaurants/pubs/cafes/bars and taste what they have to offer
  3. Foodie event – where a restaurant/pub/café/bar puts on a special set menu for foodies, which is usually much more ambitious than the standard menu

Now as far as I’m aware, Chorlton doesn’t have any house-turned-restaurants or foodie groups but it does have more than its fair share of foodie events.

How much does a supper club cost?

Prices vary but a ‘house-turned-restaurant’ or ‘foodie event’ supper club in south Manchester usually costs about £20-£30 per head for three-, four- or even five-courses, and some also include drinks. Not cheap, then, but I’ve yet to leave feeling short-changed. ‘Foodie group’ supper clubs are usually free or a nominal amount to join – then you pay for what you order.

List of Chorlton supper clubs

Here are the Chorlton supper clubs I know about…

  1. Tea Hive – Tea Hive, on Manchester Road, seems to be the most prolific organiser of supper clubs in Chorlton. Last Friday, for example, the cafe ran a January Comfort Food Supper Club (which is where I took the photos for this blog). In the past few months, it’s also done an All American Thanksgiving Supper Club (which was great), a Scandinavian Supper Club and a Pan Asian Supper Club. They’ve also got a Valentine’s Supper Club coming up next month.
  2. North Star Deli – I think I’m right in saying that North Star Deli, on Wilbraham Road, was something of a trailblazer. It organised the first supper club that I know of in Chorlton, back in July 2011, and it’ll host another on 27 February 2014. This supper club’s being organised by a pair of chefs called Season’s Eatings, who run supper clubs throughout Manchester, and it’s their first venture into Chorlton so fingers crossed more will follow.
  3. The Post Box Café – The Post Box Café, on Wilbraham Road, hosts loads of events, including supper clubs. I went to one last summer in which diners were given a three-course meal – followed by a question-and-answer session with the farmer who produced the pork! (the farm was Porcus in West Yorkshire, in case you’re wondering). The Post Box Café is also hosting a surf-and-turf dinner club on 21 February 2014 and an intriguing-sounding Chorlton history dinner on 28 March 2014.
  4. The Hungry Gecko – The Hungry Gecko is a business run by Jackie Kearney, who was a finalist in BBC One’s MasterChef in 2011. It started out as a supper club in September 2011. The Hungry Gecko still does occasional supper clubs, with the website saying they serve five-course Asian-inspired menus for private parties and occasional posted dates. If you can’t wait, the Hungry Gecko’s also set up a street-food stall, which can be found at the back of the Beech Inn on Beech Road.
  5. ElectrikElectrik, on Wilbraham Road, used to organise lots of supper clubs. Those supper clubs even had their own catchy name, Guestrant, but I’ve not heard of any new ones lately. Then again, the bar’s owners (Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey, better known as DJ duo The Unabombers) have just opened their first restaurant, Volta, on Burton Road in West Didsbury so I imagine they’ve got enough on their plate right now.

Please sir, can I have some more?

These are the Chorlton supper clubs I know about, but I’m sure there are others. Feel free to drop me a line if I’ve missed one. And now the secret’s out, hopefully we’ll see a lot more popping up in the coming months.

Update: Hayley Flynn (creator of Manchester-based art, architecture and history blog Skyliner) tells me that the Spoon Inn, on Barlow Moor Road, also runs pop-up restaurant nights in the style of supper clubs. I tweeted the Spoon Inn who confirmed, saying: “We have hosted pop-up restaurants in the past and have spoken to supper club runners about the possibility of hosting an evening.” So now you know. (29 January 2014)

Note: All the photos on this post were taken at Tea Hive’s January Comfort Food Supper Club.

Photo of toad-in-the-hole

Individual toad-in-the-hole dishes


Pie with chicken, leek and chestnut mushroom filling

Chicken, leek and mushroom filo pastry pie


Apple and pecan crumble

Salted caramel apple and pecan crumble


Mousse cake served with coulis

Triple chocolate mousse cake with mixed berry coulis


Glass of sloe gin

Homemade sloe gin

Posted by: Richard Frost | December 10, 2013

Best view in Manchester – Manchester Town Hall clock tower

Albert Memorial in Albert Square

Where can you find the best view in Manchester?

There are several contenders. Some say the Cloud 23 bar in Beetham Tower, others prefer city-centre skyscrapers such as City Tower or Manchester One (it’ll always be Portland Tower to me). I’ve even heard people rave about the view from Shudehill Interchange car park (yes really).

Manchester Town Hall

For me, though, the city’s best viewpoint is at the top of Manchester Town Hall. This huge Gothic building, completed in 1877, cost the city £1m – a real statement of intent back when Manchester was riding high on the Industrial Revolution. In shape, it’s basically a giant triangle built around the cavernous rectangular Great Hall (venue of the latest Manchester Wine Festival):

Triangular Manchester Town Hall

The best place to appreciate Manchester Town Hall and its Great Hall is from above – and specifically its 85-metre clock tower. You can only climb the clock tower for a few weeks around Christmas and, with Christmas just around the corner, I decided to take a look.

Manchester Town Hall clock tower tour

The Manchester Town Hall clock tower tour, run by Manchester Guided Tours, lasts for just over an hour and tells you plenty about the history of the building. You might even get a chance to poke round the Great Hall if you’re lucky:

Manchester's Great Hall

On your way up the 173 steps, you’ll see the antiquated clock mechanism that’s powered the clock since it started ticking in 1879:

19th century clock mechanism

You’ll also see inside the clock face:

Inside the Manchester Town Hall clock

And at the top you’ll get to stand next to the giant bell, named Great Abel after the Lord Mayor who opened Manchester Town Hall, as it strikes the hour:

Great Abel bell

View from the clock tower

But the best bit is simply admiring the 360-degree view from the top of the tower. On a clear day you can see from Kinder Scout in the Peak District to Fiddlers Ferry Power Station near Widnes. You can see all the city’s major landmarks. And if you time it right you can look directly down onto the luminous Santa and into the Manchester Christmas Markets hub at Albert Square.

For me, this is the best view in Manchester:

View from clock tower into Manchester Christmas Markets

Clock tower tours run three times daily on alternate days until 2 January 2014. Tickets, priced at £9 per person plus booking fee, can be reserved on the Manchester Town Hall Clock Tower Guided Tour EventBrite page.

Posted by: Richard Frost | October 23, 2013

Metrolink outlines plan for Cornbrook point failures

Manchester tram on the move

Manchester’s tram network is in a right old mess.

At the start of last week, the Metrolink director apologised for the disruption following technical faults at Cornbrook station. Since then, Manchester’s tram service has steadily deteriorated.

Rush hour?

Things came to a head at 715am yesterday (Monday, 21 October 2013) when a points failure at Cornbrook (again) left commuters stacked up in stationary trams for more than an hour at rush hour. This ruins everyone’s day because Cornbrook is Metrolink’s most important stop, used by trams to and from East Didsbury (including trams to and from Chorlton), Altrincham, MediaCityUK, Eccles, Bury and Rochdale.

I can’t normally be bothered to make a formal complaint (otherwise I would’ve complained about the lack of double-trams to East Didsbury a long, long time ago…rather than right this second). But yesterday morning I cracked and did just that.

Metrolink sign for Chorlton

Complaint to Metrolink

As I was stuck on the tram, I wrote a message to Metrolink customer services with three main gripes:

  1. The points have failed several times in the past fortnight at this precise point and at this exact time.
  2. Almost no information about the reasons/likely duration of the stoppage was provided to users. The driver only explained when a passenger confronted him. And even then, the information given was contradictory.
  3. The Metrolink website says there is a bus replacement service available yet this was never relayed to users.

Manchester Metrolink station at Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Metrolink response setting out Cornbrook plan

Today, Metrolink customer services replied to me. The response is actually pretty interesting and includes details of Metrolink’s proposed short-term and long-term fixes, which I’ve not seen anywhere else. Feel free to refer to it next time the points fail at Cornbrook:

Mr Frost,

The point’s issues experienced at Cornbrook this week and previous have each related to separate point sets and each fault has come with its own set of technical circumstance; there is not a consistent or persistent fault but we fully appreciate that they have collectively had a compound effect on passengers’ journeys.

The signal and points issue that has been, affect all services operating through Cornbrook. It has been a matter of utmost urgency to resolve the issues there is some urgency as it affects so many services south of the network. There is a plan which involves night time work over the next few weeks to try and get to the bottom of the issues and resolve them. You will then hopefully see an improvement to the service.

Transport for Greater Manchester have set out a dedicated team today which will be situated at Cornbrook points from 6am each morning and they will stay all day until the end of service, so if there is an issue at any point, someone will be able to rectify the problem quickly and hopefully this will not delay any more of your journeys.

Until the root cause of the issue is addressed this measure will be put in place to reduce the number of incidents running through this particular junction.

Whatever the cause of the disruption to the service may be, the management of these situations is paramount so we can offer the best advice, information and if necessary replacement to the tram service. I am sorry that your recent experiences when travelling on the Metrolink system have not be satisfactory.

From your feedback it appears on this occasion we have failed in our commitment to customer care on. For this there is no excuse and we can only once again sincerely apologise and assure you that in response, we’ve undertaken an immediate review and updated our procedures to ensure that we are not affected by a similar event.

I sincerely hope that your recent experience will not prevent you from travelling on the Metrolink system in the future.

Yours sincerely

Lauren Jackson

Customer Experience Team

Posted by: Richard Frost | September 14, 2013

The Great Holland’s Bake Off

Chicken pie with gravyPosh pies are all the rage in Manchester these days.

In June 2013, Pieminster opened its first Manchester pie shop on Church Street in the Northern Quarter. In August, the Bakerie followed suit with the official opening of its Pie & Ale restaurant at the Hive on Lever Street, also in the Northern Quarter.

And that’s before we even mention the people who clog up Twitter every Tuesday with declarations of love for Paul Hollywood and his pies on the Great British Bake Off (you know who you are).

Holland’s Pie and Ale Tasting Event

Even mainstream pie companies are getting in on the act.

Holland’s – which is sold pretty much everywhere from supermarkets and stadiums to cafes and chippies – organised its first Pie and Ale Tasting Event in Manchester last year. On Thursday night it came back for seconds, taking over the rather swish Albert Square Chop House to show off its forthcoming pie collection, as well as a few established heavyweights like these:

Holland's pies in their packaging

Guiding us through the menu was chef Tom Bridge, who’s made a living cooking and writing about pies. Nice work if you can get it:

Celebrity pie chef Tom Bridge

This time round, there were six pies on the menu. Pictures speak a thousand words so here’s a photo of five of the pies (in true Prisoner fashion, Number Six has disappeared):

Five of the six Holland's pies

The taste test

What with this being a Pie and Ale Tasting Event, happily all of the food was paired with specially selected drinks. Each ale was meant to bring out the flavours of the accompanying pie, although to be honest the choices felt a bit random to me.

Anyway, here are my scores out of ten:

  • New Holland’s Hunter’s Chicken Pie 9/10
    (accompanied by Morland’s Old Speckled Hen)
  • New Holland’s Chicken and Gravy Pie 8/10
    (accompanied by Beartown’s Kodiak Gold)
  • New Holland’s Steak and Stilton Pie 8/10
    (accompanied by Bragdy Conwy’s Clogwyn Gold)
  • New Holland’s Peppered Steak Pie 8/10
    (accompanied by Holt’s Dark Mild)
  • Holland’s Potato and Meat Pie 4/10
    (accompanied by Tetley’s Cask)
  • Holland’s Cheese and Onion Pie 4/10
    (accompanied by Albert Square’s Best Bitter)

To me then, the best pie was the new Holland’s hunter’s chicken pie, which is so new it doesn’t even come out till next year (what an honour). It’s got a super-rich filling of chicken, bacon, pepper, mushrooms and spicy barbeque sauce and they’ve even added cheese to the pastry, so it’s not going to win any awards for healthy eating but it is one hell of a pie and well worth the £1.85 price tag.

Let’s take a closer look at that cholesterol-busting pie in all its messy goodness:

Chicken, bacon and barbeque sauce pie

As for the beers, my favourite was Beartown’s Kodiak Gold, which was smooth, easy-to-drink and slightly citrusy:

Pale ale from Beartown Brewing Company

Manchester’s pie charts

So where does Holland’s stand in Manchester’s pie charts?

Well I was impressed by the quality of the four new pies on show, although I must admit I really didn’t enjoy the current pair – the potato and meat pie, and the cheese and onion pie, were way too mushy and bland for my taste.

Yet taken as a whole, they were much better than the pies I tried at the launch of the posh Pie & Ale restaurant, which really surprised me. They still weren’t quite as good as Pieminister (although I’ve not been to the Pieminister shop, the Pieminister pies at Pi in Chorlton are delicious). I’ve also heard good things from fellow Chorltonite Gill Moore about Great North Pie Co, which I’m told you can buy at Out of the Blue fishmongers in Chorlton, although I’ve yet to put those to the test.

For now, though, I’d say Holland’s is more than pulling its weight when it comes to giving pies a bit of good PR in Manchester. They may not be posh enough for Paul Hollywood, but these humble pies hit the spot for me.

Posted by: Richard Frost | August 29, 2013

The Whisky Shop Manchester launch

Typical single barrel whiskey

Manchester now has its very own whiskey shop.

Last night was the official launch of the Whisky Shop’s flagship Manchester store so I went down to take a look (and try to score some samples, obviously). I may as well admit now that I’m not much of a whiskey drinker – give me a wine tasting or a wine festival any day of the week – but even so I was impressed by the quality of the drinks and the knowledge of the staff.

A spirited effort

I’m told the Whisky Shop is the UK’s largest whiskey-only retailer. And I doubt the Whisky Shop Manchester, its 22nd and newest store, will let the side down. It’s immaculately laid out with 600 sq ft of retail space full of sleek fittings, timber floors, glass displays and under-shelf lighting that makes the whiskey bottles positively glow.

Also, the store couldn’t really have a more central location than 3 Exchange Street (on St Ann’s Square).

Manchester Whisky Shop store front

The retailer’s big idea is trying to make whiskey accessible to everyone. Andrew Torrance, managing director of the Whisky Shop, explained: “Our aim is to inform and entertain our customers. Whisky is a wonderful and diverse drink that should be enjoyed rather than revered. We look forward to bringing the Whisky Shop experience to Manchester.”

Now if I’m being totally honest, I’d say the Manchester store’s almost too stylish for its own good – its whiskies are very much presented as something to be revered. There’s a fine line between enticing and intimidating, and I certainly wouldn’t have felt confident wandering in off the street armed with nothing more than my ignorance. Any store selling top-end spirits – one of the bottles pictured below costs £17,370 – inevitably feels a bit elitist.

Top-end whiskey priced at £17,370

From whisky to whiskey

All of which is totally unfair because the staff are some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable people I’ve met in the drinks trade. They’re approachable, well-informed and happy to answer even the dumbest questions I could think of. Like what’s the difference between Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey (apart from the extra e, Ireland’s version is lighter and more often comes in blends).

Shelves of whiskey bottles

The Whisky Shop’s retail partners, Irish drinks giant Diageo and Kentucky equivalent Brown-Forman, also put on some whiskey experts for the launch, which was a nice touch.

Tom Vernon, brand ambassador for Brown-Forman (cool job), showed us how to make a mint julep (pictured below), a manhattan, an Old Fashioned straight out of Mad Men and a whiskey sour. And Colin Dunn, whisky ambassador for Diageo (very cool job), did some tastings of neat whiskeys that even an ignoramus like me could tell were pretty special.

Classic mint julep whiskey cocktail

Among other things, I learned that my favourite whiskey cocktail is the Old Fashioned (pictured below), possibly because it’s Don Draper’s favourite whiskey cocktail, and that the taste of a good whiskey really does change over the course of a minute or more.

Old Fashioned Bourbon cocktail

I’ve always thought eye-catching events like these are the best way for new stores to get people talking and, when there’s alcohol involved, so much the better. If the Whisky Shop Manchester wants to encourage novices like me to take the plunge and step inside, they’d be well advised to do plenty more.

Posted by: Richard Frost | July 26, 2013

Oddbins Chorlton tastings – sparkling wine

There were 10 sparkling wines to tryThe nice thing about tastings is they push you out of your comfort zone.

Oddbins Chorlton is doing a series of drink tastings at the moment designed to do just that – in the last month alone, they’ve covered beer and gin (not together thankfully), and yesterday was the turn of sparkling wine.

Now I’m not a huge fan of sparkling wine. I’d rather have full-bodied reds than Champagne from France, Cava from Catalonia, Prosecco from Italy or, um, sparkling wine from England (they really need to think of a name for that).

10 wines for £5

There were 10 sparkling wines to try on the night – not bad for £5. All the above regions were represented, as well as a couple from Australia and Tasmania to broaden our horizons or something.

Unlike some tastings I’ve been to, the Oddbins Chorlton tasting is very laid-back and there’s no hard-sell involved, which is great. You can take your time over each drink and, when you’re ready to move onto the next one, you simply go up and ask. Store manager Dan Lovedale or his colleague, another Dan, do the pouring and give you a bit of info about the producer and the end product so you’re not left completely clueless.

Oddbins Chorlton sparkling wine tasting

Oddbins Chorlton best sparkling wines

So what about the important bit – which wines sparkled on the night? Here are my top picks:

  • Best sparkling wine for a tennerProsecco Ca’Rosa Non-Vintage (£10). As a rule, good sparkling wine isn’t cheap but this best-selling Prosecco is crisp, super-fizzy and won’t break the bank.
  • Best traditional sparkling wineGusbourne Estate Brut Reserve 2008 (£26.50). Kent-based Gusbourne is one of a number of English sparkling wine producers making a big name for themselves and this example, which won gold at the 2013 International Wine and Spirit Competition, has a deeper citrus-y aftertaste despite still being very refreshing.
  • Best quirky sparkling winePeter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2008 (£18). Almost all sparkling wine is white but this sparkling red from Australia is more than just a curiosity, it’s a revelation with a flavour of sweet red berries and light bubbles replacing the usual tannins you get from Shiraz.
  • Best overall sparkling winePeter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2008 (£18). A high-quality sparkling wine for people who prefer reds, what’s not to like?!

The next Oddbins Chorlton tasting is a whisky tasting session from 7pm-830pm on Thursday, 29 August 2013. Tickets are £10 and can be booked in advance by calling Oddbins Chorlton on 0161 221 2441.

Cheap Prosecco
Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve 2008 bottle
Peter Lehmann Black Queen Shiraz 2008 sparkling red wine bottle
Australian sparkling Shiraz

Posted by: Richard Frost | July 14, 2013

Premier League Twitter Table 2013-14

Manchester United FC Twitter account @ManUtd

On Wednesday, 10 July 2013, the new Manchester United FC Twitter account @ManUtd announced its arrival with the tweet “New era, same spirit. The season starts here. Let’s do this. #mufc”.

In so doing, it became the last Premier League football club to create a Twitter account for fans.

I can’t believe it’s taken this long. I’m not a United fan but, as someone who lives in Manchester, I find it incredible that the biggest brand in Manchester has been so slow off the mark.

Fergie Time – and then some

Way back in the mists of time (2010), I did some proofreading for a report looking at the best Twitter accounts in Manchester. Even then, it amazed me that Manchester United FC weren’t present (for the record, @MCFC was the best sports account followed by @FCUnitedMcr). But the general consensus was that it was surely only a matter of weeks before United responded.

Three years later and it seems they’ve finally woken up to the potential of social media marketing. The @ManUtd Twitter account looks decent with exclusive news and behind-the-scenes photos – pretty much like every other sports account really – and it’s picking up followers at record speed. But it’s still got an awful lot of catching up to do.

Premier League Twitter Table

Speaking of which, I’ve put together this list of the official Twitter hashtags, accounts and follower counts for every Premier League football club in the 2013-14 season. In terms of followers, @ManUtd is already sixth after a phenomenal first week but it’s still miles behind @Arsenal, @ChelseaFC, @LFC and @MCFC, which are all in the Million+ Club.

Here’s my Premier League Twitter Table 2013-14 in full (as of Sunday, 14 July 2013):

Position Club Hashtag Account Followers
1 Arsenal FC #Arsenal @Arsenal 2,517,307
2 Chelsea FC #cfc @ChelseaFC 2,405,956
3 Liverpool FC #LFC @LFC 1,783,100
4 Manchester City FC #mcfc @MCFC 1,004,487
5 Tottenham Hotspur FC #THFC @SpursOfficial 526,178
6 Manchester United FC #mufc @ManUtd 437,652
7 Newcastle United FC #nufc @NUFCOfficial 259,265
8 Everton FC #efc @Everton 217,700
9 West Ham United FC #WHUFC @whufc_official 192,069
10 Aston Villa FC #avfc @AVFCOfficial 182,888
11 Fulham FC #ffc @FulhamFC 146,257
12 Sunderland AFC #safc @SAFCofficial 144,996
13 Swansea City AFC #swans @SwansOfficial 133,772
14 Norwich City FC #ncfc @NorwichCityFC
15 Southampton FC #saintsfc @SouthamptonFC 122,911
16 Stoke City FC #scfc @StokeCity 119,500
17 West Bromwich Albion FC #wba @WBAFCofficial 84,457
18 Cardiff City FC #CardiffCity @CardiffCityFC 50,477
19 Crystal Palace FC #cpfc @Official_CPFC 47,183
20 Hull City AFC #hcafc @hullcityteam 39,236
Posted by: Richard Frost | June 11, 2013

Revisiting Darley tennis club in Old Trafford

Danger demolition in progress keep outDarley tennis club. Five years ago, a local newspaper called Old Trafford News asked me to investigate a dispute brewing at Darley tennis club on the border between Old Trafford and Chorlton. At the weekend, I decided to check out what’s happened since 2008. I’m glad I did.

It turns out tennis is no longer played at the Darley and, in April 2013, developer Branley Homes submitted plans to build “14 new residential dwellings” on the land – eight four-bedroom semi-detached properties, two three-bedroom semi-detached properties and four three-bedroom terraced properties. Trafford Council hasn’t yet confirmed when the proposals will go before the planning committee but it could be as early as Thursday, 11 July 2013.

For more info, check out the Darley planning application lodged with Trafford Council (comments can be submitted until Thursday, 20 June 2013), as well as the Darley Tennis and Social Club and the Save Our Darley Open Space sites.

Now the Old Trafford News website has changed a lot down the years and archived stories seem to have disappeared completely. So what follows is the original article I wrote in 2008, which explores the events leading up to the Darley dispute, along with photos I’ve just taken showing the (rapidly deteriorating) site as it stands today:

Wood Road North housing development

Darley tennis club faces match point

(first published in autumn 2008)

A tennis club has issued a plea for help after learning of a controversial plan to sell its courts to property developers.

Darley Lawn Tennis and Social Club, which has played on the Wood Road North site in Old Trafford for almost 90 years, was asked to leave last year by the landowners, the Carlton Lawn Tennis Company Ltd (CLTCL). In September 2007, the CLTCL board of directors voted 7-6 to invite outside bids for the site rather than renew the Darley’s lease in 2010.

It means local residents could soon lose the only Lawn Tennis Association-affiliated club in Old Trafford. The CLTCL was established in 1921 with the stated goal of supporting tennis in the area. According to a mission statement drawn up at the time, entitled the Memorandum and Articles of Association, the private company was formed to ‘acquire lands, buildings and premises in or near the City of Manchester for use as a ground for lawn tennis’.

Jac Murray, Darley’s acting treasurer, argues that the board’s decision to sell contravenes the spirit of this document. She said: “We feel very strongly that it goes against the Memorandum and Articles. It is all about protecting the land for playing tennis. But legally that is not enough.” The current CLTCL board is made up of 13 directors. Before they can accept an invitation to sit on the board, each member pays a nominal £1 fee to buy a 1/13th share in the company and its assets.

One director, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that every shareholder stood to profit from selling the land if the company was subsequently wound up. He said: “The articles state that on liquidation, the net assets will be shared equally by the shareholders. That is the legal situation and there is nothing hidden about that.”

The 0.9-acre site is likely to be worth a considerable sum of money. A detached house on Ruskin Road, which intersects Wood Road North, sold last month for £233,600, according to UpMyStreet. Meanwhile, three and four-bedroom apartments on neighbouring streets have asking prices of between £192,500 and £275,000.

The director added: “It is an acre of prime land. You could build a number of houses on that site.”

Run-down tennis facilities in Old Trafford

However, Graham Thomas, a CLTCL director who voted in favour of the sale, said some members of the Darley tennis club failed to appreciate that the facilities had become unusable. He said: “They are trying to make a stand on the existing site but it is totally not viable. To make it viable, they would need to knock the existing facilities down. The site is virtually derelict, one of the courts is practically a jungle and the clubhouse is derelict too.”

In March 2008, a delegation of members from the Darley were invited by the CLTCL on a tour of tennis facilities at Longford Park, Stretford with a view to moving permanently. This proposal was rejected by a majority of Darley’s 50 members in April 2008 despite a CLTCL offer to provide financial support to help the club bed in.

Mr Thomas described Longford Park as a “fantastic facility”. He added: “I am a tennis player myself. I am 65 years old but I would have taken it up again at Longford Park. We are not ogres. We would like to aid and promote tennis on the Darley’s site but that has not proved possible.”

It is unclear what the future holds for the Darley and the CLTCL. Although members from both organisations predict that the Darley will continue to play tennis at the Wood Road North site until the end of the lease in September 2010, there is no consensus on what will happen after that date.

In the meantime, local residents are urged to take advantage of the facilities while they still can. Jac Murray, Acting Treasurer of the Darley, called on the local community to come forward and help the club.

She said: “It is absolutely scandalous that a handful of people are trying to close the club. We will be having a proper meeting of all the members soon. But in the meantime we would like to hear from anyone who could help.”

Darley tennis club gateway to courts

Posted by: Richard Frost | May 22, 2013

Stand-up to the noise – Chorlton Comedy Showcase

Chorlton Comedy Showcase performance from Phyllis Von HoistHow do you review an event you can’t hear?

Since setting up my blog a couple of years back, I’ve covered a fair few events round south Manchester – festivals, exhibitions, gigs…But I’ve always taken it for granted that I could hear what I’m supposed to be writing about. Not any more.

Over the weekend, I went along to South West Manchester Cricket Club to review five acts performing at the Chorlton Comedy Showcase as part of Chorlton Arts Festival 2013. At a rough guess, I probably only caught a quarter of the show. And not because I got there late or because I had too much to drink (though both have happened in the past…).

So what went wrong?

Put simply, it was just too noisy. Fair play to the Manchester PR people tasked with publicising this event because they did a stellar job, to the extent that you could barely get through the door for most of the night. Unfortunately the constant stream of people making their way to the bar and back created a near-impenetrable wall of sound.

Now we can all forgive the odd hushed exchange, but people were literally shouting across the room. True, it was a Saturday night and half the crowd weren’t there to watch stand-up (some watched Eurovision on the big screen instead!). However, the fact that members of the audience and even the acts themselves were making incessant pleas for quiet told its own story.

Oh yeah, what of the acts?

It feels strange reviewing comedians when I couldn’t hear most of what they said, but what the hell. First up was Edinburgh Fringe Festival alumnus Joshua Seigal:

Stand-up comedy from Joshua Seigal in Chorlton

His confident delivery allowed him to hold his own against the noise, even though his aggressively intellectual poems didn’t always connect with the audience.

Next was Sam Smith. I honestly couldn’t hear any of his set so let’s move on.

The standout performer on the night was act number three, Phyllis Von Hoist (see top-right photo). As the only one to keep the crowd quiet, she deserved a medal. But this hilarious portrayal of a deluded girl from Salford – convinced her calling is to teach women to behave like ladies – was character acting at its best and will surely get the rewards it deserves.

Fourth on was Daniel Hutchings:

Daniel Hutchings covering the Beatles

He bounded in after the interval with a Beatles cover that, as I’m sure you can see, was hard to ignore. But the rest of his set struggled to keep the crowd’s attention as the lure of Eurovision proved too tempting.

The final act, The Tourists, only fared marginally better. Despite being filled with surreal sketches that were funny in isolation, the set clearly hinged on how the skits joined together to make a complete story – and I’m afraid I couldn’t hear enough of that to judge whether it worked or not.

It’s important to point out that this venue is staging other events at Chorlton Arts Festival 2013 so I really hope it gets the sound issues sorted. Maybe staff could ask people to keep quiet, or turn up the volume on the sound system (and move back the speakers so everyone can see). Failing that, at least the next acts won’t have Eurovision to contend with!

So there you have it – a review of an event I couldn’t hear. Turns out it is possible after all.

Posted by: Richard Frost | May 12, 2013

Bicycle Village festival photos

Bicycle Village in Sale - welcome signLast month, I did a round-up of all the festivals in Chorlton.

This month, I thought I’d broaden my horizons and try a festival further afield. Well, I say further afield, it was only Sale. And not even proper Sale, but the Jackson’s Boat pub on the banks of the River Mersey, only a 20-minute walk from the centre of Chorlton.

Bicycle Village 2013

The festival in question was Bicycle Village, which took place on Saturday, 11 May 2013. Now Bicycle Village is a free annual event organised by Arek Bartnickaz, founder of the Bike Barn – an independent Manchester bike shop nestled right next to the Jackson’s Boat pub. And if you haven’t guessed already, cycling very much takes centre stage.

Just like last year, the 2013 Bicycle Village festival had a variety of things going on in the spacious beer garden of the Jackson’s Boat pub – cycling stalls, live bands, a bicycle jumble, quirky bikes, face painting and a charity auction of refurbished bikes to raise money for Simply Cycling and the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust. I particularly enjoyed making my own smoothie on the pedal-powered smoothie makers over at the Manchester Friends of the Earth stall.

It’s not a big event by any means. But it’s a good excuse to walk over to Jackson’s Boat, which for my money is one of the best pubs in south Manchester. Here’s hoping Arek Bartnickaz and the Bike Barn decide to organise another Bicycle Village in May 2014.

Bike festival photos

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took at the 2013 Bicycle Village festival in Sale:

Beer garden at Jackson's Boat pub in Sale
Penny Farthing bike
Arek Bartniczak runs the Bike Barn in SaleBicycle Village live bands

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