Posted by: Richard Frost | May 20, 2017

Chorlton Festival Calendar 2017

For the last few years, I’ve put together a list of dates of festivals happening in the Chorlton area of Manchester.

This year’s a bit trickier than normal because many of the usual suspects aren’t taking place, or they’re scaling back, or they’re just keeping their cards a bit closer to their chest. But where I have been able to find details, I’ve included them below.

Here is the Chorlton Festival Calendar 2017.

Chorlton Big Green Happening 2017

Deferred for 2017

A celebration of sustainable living at St Clement's Church

Chorlton Big Green Happening

The Chorlton Big Green Happening, the successor to Chorlton’s Big Green Festival, isn’t taking place this year.

This celebration of sustainable living was also known as the Chorlton & Whalley Range Big Green Happening when it last took place in April 2016 in recognition of the fact that activities were split between St Clement’s Church on High Lane in Chorlton and the Carlton Club on Carlton Road in neighbouring Whalley Range.

Here’s hoping the festival returns in 2018.

Chorlton Arts Festival 2017

19-29 May 2017

Logo for the annual Chorlton Arts Festival

Chorlton Arts Festival

Chorlton Arts Festival is ringing the changes in 2017.

The team behind the festival want to “create a more sustainable event and to work on new ideas to support artists, the local community and our creative programme” with a view to developing a bigger, better and more locally engaged arts festival.

As a result, it’s running a scaled-down version of the Chorlton Arts Festival in 2017 while the Chorlton Weekender, the mini music festival within the festival proper, and possibly some other fundraising events won’t now take place until later in the year.

Having said all that, there are still quite a few events planned in 2017 including a screening of classic vampire film Nosferatu with live organ accompaniment at St Clement’s Church, comedian Juliette Burton’s Edinburgh preview at the Lloyds pub on Wilbraham Road, and the tenth and final appearance of the Smallest Sculpture Park in the World on Corkland Road.

Some events are free while others are paid-for.

VON Manchester Vegan Fair 2017

Saturday, 27 May 2017 (11am-5pm)

What to expect at Chorlton's upcoming vegan fair

VON Manchester Vegan Fair 2017

The annual VON Manchester Vegan Fair, or just the Manchester Vegan Fair for short, is moving to a new home in 2017.

Formerly at the Chorlton Irish Club on High Lane, the 2017 edition is switching to a bigger and more central venue – Oswald Road Primary School. A host of family-friendly attractions are promised on the day including an outdoor stage, live music, stalls, film shows, a beer tent and of course vegan cuisine.

Tickets are £3 while under-16s go free.

Chorlton Open Gardens 2017

Deferred for 2017

A show garden on Claude Road in Chorltonville

Chorlton Open Gardens

The popular Chorlton Open Gardens event sees gardeners across Chorlton throw open their doors for one day only and all for a good cause.

Members of the public typically pay £5 in aid of Freedom from Torture to buy a programme that includes maps and write-ups of each of the 30+ gardens taking part, which you can then explore at your leisure.

The organisers are having a break this year but have promised that the event will return in the summer of 2018. For those who can’t wait that long, they’ve suggested checking out Burnage Open Gardens 2017 on Sunday, 4 June or Old Trafford Open Gardens 2017 on Sunday, 2 July.

Beech Road Festival 2017

Deferred for 2017?

The Family Fun Day has succeeded the Beech Road Festival

Chorlton’s Family Fun Day

Beech Road has played host to a variety of festivals in recent years.

First there was the Beech Road Festival which gave way to the more family-oriented Beech Road Family Fun Day and then in 2016 Living Local, a celebration of independents and shopping locally. Whatever it’s called, the event is traditionally held on the first weekend in July and free to attend.

However, I’ve yet to come across anything to suggest that a 2017 edition is currently being planned unfortunately.

Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival 2017

6-8 July 2017

Chorlton Beer and Cider Festival

Chorlton Beer Festival

The 13th Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival, more commonly known as Chorlton Beer Festival or just Chorlton Beer Fest, takes place once again at St Clement’s Church and is already shaping up to be a big one.

Organised jointly by Trafford & Hulme CAMRA and St Clement’s Church, the 2017 festival promises to offer more than 200 beers and ciders. There will be around 100 draught beers served from cask and key-keg along with bottled beers from around the world and more than 50 ciders and perries.

The event runs from 6pm – 1030pm on Thursday, 6 July, 6pm – 1030pm on Friday, 7 July, and 1pm – 930pm on Saturday, 8 July.

Entry each day costs £10 which includes a souvenir festival glass, a festival programme with tasting notes for the beers, and a £4 beer and cider token. And if you really want to test your stamina, a new addition for 2017 is the introduction of a season ticket giving entry to all three days for £20.

Chorlton Bonfire Night 2017

Early November 2017

The new logo of the Bootleg Brewing Co in Manchester

Bootleg Brewing Co

The biggest Guy Fawkes Night party in Chorlton traditionally takes place on Chorlton Green.

Admittedly there isn’t an actual bonfire, or a Guy Fawkes effigy come to think of it, but there are some spectacular fireworks.

A free event organised by the Horse & Jockey pub, Chorlton Bonfire Night typically involves two fireworks displays, one at 630pm for kids and one at 9pm for adults.

You can usually expect to find a couple of outdoor stalls doing a roaring trade in beer, hot drinks, barbecued meats, festive favourites and so on – or you can duck inside Horse & Jockey to try the beers from the pub’s onsite brewery Bootleg Brewing Co.

Chorlton Book Festival 2017

17-25 November 2017

Chorlton Book Festival in south Manchester

Chorlton Book Festival

The 13th edition of Chorlton Book Festival will take place at the end of November.

Details of what’s being planned for the 2017 Chorlton Book Festival haven’t yet been released, but based on previous years we can expect a range of events in Chorlton Library on Manchester Road as well as various other venues across Manchester’s most literary suburb. Events typically include poetry slams, author readings, literature talks, writing workshops and a literary pub quiz.

Some events are free while others are paid-for.

Chorlton Christmas Lights 2017

Winter 2017?

Christmas tree on Chorlton Green

Chorlton Christmas Lights

No word yet on whether there’ll be a Chorlton Christmas Lights event in 2017.

In recent years, we’ve had the Beech Road Christmas Lights Switch-On which features a lantern parade by local schoolchildren led by Father Christmas. The procession winds its way from Beech Road Park at around 545pm over to Beech Road, passing rows of children, parents and friends on the way, to Chorlton Green for the Christmas lights switch-on proper at approximately 615pm.

A free event, there’s usually a church choir, carol singing, mince pies and mulled wine to keep people entertained.

Chorlton New Year’s Eve Party 2017

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Exterior of the Horse & Jockey pub in Chorlton

The Horse & Jockey

Chorlton has a huge variety of bars and restaurants, and you can be sure that plenty will be organising special events and offers in an attempt to draw in paying punters on New Year’s Eve.

If it’s a free event you’re after, though, one of the most popular places to go is Chorlton Green.

Organised by the Horse & Jockey pub, the Chorlton New Year’s Eve Party typically features an impressive fireworks display. In previous years there’s also been a New Year’s Eve menu and bubbly on offer inside for those happy to spend a few quid to see in the new year in style.

Posted by: Richard Frost | February 25, 2017

Hispi owner Gary Usher – in profile

Chef Gary Usher at work in the kitchen

Gary Usher

As I make my way over to Didsbury to see the owner of the highly regarded new bistro Hispi, I can’t help but wonder which Gary Usher I’m going to meet.

Would it be the impulsive chef who makes a virtue of never planning anything, the guy who indulges in sweary tirades, boisterous banter and public spats via the @StickyWalnut Twitter account? Or the hard-working chef-patron (a title that he shies away from incidentally) who’s building up a mini-empire of bistros across the North West?

First came Chester’s Sticky Walnut in 2011, then Heswall’s Burnt Truffle in 2015 after a £100,000 Kickstarter campaign. And now we have Hispi on School Lane in Didsbury Village, a £350,000 bistro part-funded by another Kickstarter campaign that raised almost £60,000.

Hispi bistro restaurant open for business

Inside Hispi

Serious about food

In the event, I’m struck by how serious Usher is about what he’s doing. Sure there’s a liberal smattering of swear words, but this is clearly a man who takes genuine interest in the food produced by his kitchens, the team that makes it happen, and the customers that keep returning to eat it.

No dish is allowed on one of his menus until Usher approves it first.

It’s an approach that seems to be working. Sticky Walnut was given a rave review by Marina O’Loughlin in The Guardian, as was Burnt Truffle by Jay Rayner in The Observer and Lisa Markwell in The Independent on Sunday, and Hispi recently secured a five-star write-up from Simon Binns in CityLife.

Sticky Walnut also won Menu of the Year at the 2013 Catey Awards and AA Restaurant of the Year for England in 2014, and Hispi picked up two AA rosettes just weeks after its opening on 7 October 2016.

Gary Usher, chef-patron of Burnt Truffle in Heswall

Gary Usher in the kitchen

“Business is good,” he told me, “Sticky, Burnt and Hispi all make money. In particular, Hispi has got off to a fucking amazing start.

“We’re only a couple of months old but Hispi’s opening couldn’t have gone better. It’s been so well received.

“Getting two rosettes straight away in the kitchen after what fucking eight weeks, they’ve nailed it here, they’ve fucking nailed it here in my opinion. And then also, regardless of my opinion, financially they’re doing well. The place is making money, it was making money straight away.

“And Sticky’s a little machine, it just looks after itself. Burnt makes money as well, it’s still on the up.”

I spy an excellent bistro

I was already a fan of Sticky Walnut having paid a visit to Chester on the strength of friends’ recommendations alone, but I finally made it along to Hispi a couple of weeks ago (unannounced and paid for in full). I was bowled over by the quality of the place.

The homemade bread (£3) is worthy of any bakery it really is, and the hugely popular Braised Featherblade (£18.50) is hands down one of the tastiest dishes I’ve had in Manchester – melt in the mouth just doesn’t do justice to this perfectly cooked hunk of meat:

Hispi Braised Featherblade with Curly Kale, Celeriac Puree, Truffle and Parmesan Chips

Braised Featherblade at Hispi

If I was looking for faults, the desserts didn’t quite live up to the same high standards. Both the Barley Malt Beignets (£6) and Poached Yorkshire Rhubarb with Whipped Fromage Blanc (£6.50) felt unbalanced to me, oversized and slightly out of keeping with the finesse of the rest of the menu.

Hispi Barley Malt Beignets with Malt Ice Cream and Whiskey Sultanas

Barley Malt Beignets at Hispi

But that’s a minor quibble, it’s still one of the best restaurants in the steadily improving foodie destination that is south Manchester (alongside Greens, Chorlton Green Brasserie, Gray’s Larder, Bar San Juan and Thai Spice since you ask).

Wasn’t Hispi supposed to be in Chorlton?

The main problem with Hispi for many – the elephant in the room – is its location. It was never supposed to be in Didsbury.

Usher’s original plan was to open Hispi at a site near Oddest on Wilbraham Road in Chorlton. He launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £50,000 towards the opening costs, and ended up receiving pledges of £58,650 from no fewer than 718 backers on Kickstarter.

But then disaster struck – he was unable to secure the Chorlton premises that he’d crowdfunded for due to problems around the ownership of the site. He looked at more than 20 other sites around Chorlton and put in several offers but couldn’t get anything over the line – until somebody suggested he check out the former Jem & I site in Didsbury Village.

“What happened with us, we did a project for an area, a specific area and a specific site,” he said. “It fell through after we achieved our goal, after we’d successfully crowdfunded our £50,000 target the site fell through. There was nothing I could do, it was completely out of my hands.

“When we told the crowdfunders that we had to move it, a lot of them were justifiably really unhappy that we couldn’t then open in that area. It was only a few miles away but still it wasn’t what we’d told them.”

Hispi bistro mirror showing the names of Kickstarter supporters

Mirror featuring Hispi’s crowdfunding backers

The age-old Chorlton/Didsbury rivalry

At this point, I really feel for Usher. For a time he was public enemy number one on the Chorlton Facebook group – a Chester chef unwittingly wading into the age-old Chorlton/Didsbury rivalry – and it’s clear that the criticism he received back then still stings.

He apologised to those who pledged money to launch Hispi in Chorlton. More than that, in fact, he offered to reimburse any backers who didn’t want to support Hispi opening in Didsbury – around £700 of pledges were duly returned.

“Some people were really unhappy that it wasn’t in the original area that we’d crowdfunded,” he explained. “So I said anybody that’s really pissed off, we’ll give the money back. It was probably quite a dangerous thing to do because if £20,000 of pledges had to go back, we’d have been fucked.

“It made me feel really down because I thought I’d let everyone down. The thing about crowdfunding is that it’s such a positive thing and it’s supposed to be positive.

“It’s a group of people that you don’t even fucking know who are coming together to make something happen. For that to be overshadowed by people wanting their money back, it just made me feel quite down about it.”

Champagne bar anyone?

But time moves on, Hispi’s now up and running, and Usher’s already looking ahead to the next challenge.

At this point his body language transforms and he’s full of enthusiasm again. It’s obvious that he has big dreams for Elite Bistros of the World (the parent company for Sticky Walnut, Burnt Truffle and Hispi whose self-important name was meant “as a pisstake”). Turning dreams into reality is clearly a big part of what motivates him.

Hispi Bistro on School Lane in Didsbury Village, south Manchester

Hispi Bistro’s front entrance

One idea in the works involves transforming Hispi’s flat roof fronting School Lane into a terraced area, creating a champagne bar of sorts.

“At some point there’s going to be a terrace, we’re possibly going to do it this year,” he revealed. “We’d have it mainly for lunchtimes and summer dining. It’d be lovely if someone could have a couple of glasses of champagne before their dinner.

“Hispi’s making money. We’re only a couple of months in but we’ll have a look at the terrace idea and, if it works, we’ll do it this summer.”

Ushering in a new restaurant

There’s also the small matter of a fourth restaurant on the horizon, provisionally called Wreckfish, which is earmarked for a former watchmakers’ building just off Bold Street in Liverpool city centre.

If it comes off, the site would be by far Usher’s biggest restaurant to date. Sticky Walnut has 45 covers, Burnt Truffle has 60 covers with another 30 on an outdoor terrace and Hispi has 80 covers, but Wreckfish has capacity for a whopping 200 covers.

Gary Usher's Liverpool restaurant is provisionally called Wreckfish

CGI of Gary Usher’s Liverpool restaurant

Making this happen requires still more money so he’s going back to crowdfunding again. The 35-year-old’s just getting started with his latest campaign to raise an eye-watering £200,000 for the Liverpool restaurant (the crowdfunding page is due to go live soon).

It’s still early days, of course, and he’s not the sort of chef to wax lyrical about any high-minded concept for Liverpool other than to confirm that it’ll stick with the same ethos as Sticky, Burnt and Hispi.

In his words, “neighbourhood bistros, unfussy food, all prepared by us, in a relaxed environment”. Sounds like a plan to me.

Chef Gary Usher is the owner of the Hispi bistro in Didsbury Village

Hispi’s owner Gary Usher

Posted by: Richard Frost | February 11, 2017

Brewski bar review in Chorlton

Beer coaster at Brewski bar

Brewski beer coaster

At what point does a bar-restaurant really become a restaurant-bar?

It’s a question that immediately springs to mind at Chorlton’s newest bar-restaurant Brewski when I make a beeline for some empty seats with my pint only to be told that this area’s reserved for restaurant customers only. Which is strange considering it’s around twice the size of the bar area.

Despite the name, Brewski’s a bar where the restaurant very much takes centre stage.

What’s your beer?

But as I’m just here for drinks, keen to try what this swish new North American craft beer bar has to offer, let’s stick to that for now.

Brewski's restaurant area

The restaurant area

We don’t get off to a great start, admittedly, when I have to wait a good five minutes for the barman to finish off a big round of cocktails for one of the restaurant parties (cocktails and gin flights are a big part of the drinks selection here…). Just bad timing I guess.

Things momentarily pick up when I ask if they’ve got any good stout and am enthusiastically recommended Millionaire by the Wild Beer Co, a sweet chocolate and salted caramel milk stout, only to discover that they’ve run out.

Craft beers available at Brewski

Craft beers

Unfortunately there are no other stouts going (the closest they’ve got is a bottle of porter in the fridge). There’s also no cask beer at Brewski. So I’m left to choose between their many different North American pale ales and India Pale Ales on draught.

They’re all pleasant enough (I alternate between Sleeman Breweries and Stevens Point Brewery), but it’d be nice to have a wider range to choose from especially given they’ve chosen to launch in the middle of a cold snap in February that’s crying out for a big wintry stout.

Still they get plus points for giving tasters without prompting and for offering beer paddles to let you try a selection of beers in more manageable quantities.

Hunting for tables

I’m pleased to see that the bar area at Brewski has a good atmosphere. It’s been fitted out to a high standard with a sort of North American hunting lodge-type vibe (not unlike Canadian bar Elk on Beech Road).

The seating maybe feels a bit close together if you don’t know everyone on your table of four, but overall they’ve done well with the space available. It’s inviting without being overly fussy and they’ve not got carried away with the decorations, which is a trap that so many themed bars fall into.

The bar area at Brewski in Chorlton

The bar area

Chips ‘n’ gravy Canadian-style

The position of the bar area between the kitchen and the restaurant area also does a neat job of showing off the food offering, and I immediately regret having eaten beforehand after seeing some stunning pizzas come past. Personally I think £20 for a 20-inch pizza is too much, but I’d happily stretch to £4 for a slice – I just wish more places offered pizza by the slice.

The other big food options are all-American brunches and something called poutine, Canada’s national dish apparently, which is basically just chips, gravy and cheese curds with various add-ons. Not my thing at all I’m afraid but hey each to their own.

The Brewski bar-restaurant's food menu

The food menu

Brewski for two please

So that’s Brewski then. It only opened a week ago on a prime Wilbraham Road site opposite Morrisons (replacing the Jam Inn formerly The Shak formerly The Gallery formerly Abode…you get the picture) and it’s been packed every day since so they must be doing something right.

I’m sure I’ll give it another go soon enough – although it’ll probably be to try the food rather than just for beers. Anyone for pizza?

Drink rating: 6/10
Service rating: 6/10
Atmosphere rating: 7/10
Overall rating: 6/10

Brewski replaces the Jam Inn

Brewski on Wilbraham Road

Posted by: Richard Frost | March 28, 2016

Chorlton Festival Calendar 2016

Every year, I compile a list of dates for the biggest festivals in the Chorlton area of Manchester along with a brief overview of what you can expect to find there.

Here’s the 2016 Chorlton Festival Calendar.

Chorlton Big Green Happening 2016

Saturday, 23 April 2016 (1pm – 1030pm)

Chorlton & Whalley Range Big Green Happening 2016

Chorlton Big Green Happening 2016

The Chorlton Big Green Happening, the successor to Chorlton’s Big Green Festival, is back after taking a year off in 2015.

This year’s celebration of sustainable living is being promoted in some quarters as the Chorlton & Whalley Range Big Green Happening 2016 to recognise the fact that activities are split between St Clement’s Church on High Lane in Chorlton and the Carlton Club on Carlton Road in neighbouring Whalley Range.

Admittedly most of the action takes place in and around St Clement’s Church with live music, food and drink, stalls and so on in the daytime, followed by a varied entertainment programme inside the church including live music, dance classes and the Stitched-up Big Green Fashion Show from 6pm – 1030pm (early bird tickets £5).

Those with more stamina than me can then make their way over to the after-party at the Carlton Club.

Bootleg Beer Festival 2016

Sunday, 1 May 2016 (Midday – late)

Bootleg Beer Festival 2016 at the Horse & Jockey pub on Chorlton Green

Bootleg Beer Festival

A new addition to the Chorlton Festival Calendar, the Bootleg Beer Festival is being held by the Horse & Jockey pub and its in-house microbrewery Bootleg Brewing Co on Chorlton Green.

The Bootleg Beer Festival 2016 is promising a day packed with entertainment. There’ll be an outside bar serving ales brewed onsite between midday and 9pm, a chance to make your own cider or apple juice with the Moss Cider Project from midday till 4pm, brewery tours, food, giant games on the green, live music throughout the day in the pub and on the terrace, and a DJ set in the evening.

Bootleg Brewing Co is also brewing a special beer for the big day. Interestingly, the exact type of beer (fruity, lager, hoppy or dark) is being decided in true democratic fashion by a public vote on social media.

Chorlton Arts Festival 2016

20 – 29 May 2016

The Chorlton Arts Festival takes place in May 2016

Chorlton Arts Festival 2016

Now in its 15th year, the annual Chorlton Arts Festival is firmly established as Chorlton’s biggest festival.

The 2016 instalment is working with more than 30 venues across Chorlton. Expect everything from live music and comedy to visual arts and performance with a mix of paid-for and free events.

There’s also a welcome return for the Chorlton Weekender, the mini music festival within the festival proper. This year’s headline acts are Ren Harvieu and Romeo Stodart (The Magic Numbers) at St Ninian’s Church on Egerton Road South on Friday, 27 May (tickets £15 or £13 concessions), Owiny Sigoma Band at St Clement’s Church on Saturday, 28 May (tickets £10 or £8 concessions), and PINS at St Clement’s Church on Sunday, 29 May (tickets £10 or £8 concessions).

A Chorlton Weekender Wristband costs £25 and gives you access to all three gigs.

Manchester Vegan Fair 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016 (11am – 5pm)

Vegan Organic Network's Manchester Vegan Fair

Manchester Vegan Fair 2016

The annual Manchester Vegan Fair is being held for the third time at the Chorlton Irish Club on High Lane.

Organised by Chorlton-based charity Vegan Organic Network, more than 3,000 people attended in 2015. The 2016 edition aims to go one better with more than 70 stalls, live music and poetry, vegan speed dating, wind-solar rickshaw rides, films, talks, workshops, and of course lots of vegan food and ale.

Tickets are £3 but kids go free.

Chorlton Open Gardens 2016

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Programme for Chorlton Open Gardens 2015

Chorlton Open Gardens

Chorlton Open Gardens is an annual daytime event in which gardeners across Chorlton throw open their doors for a good cause.

More than 30 sites took part in the 2015 Chorlton Open Gardens, with most attracting over 300 visitors.

Members of the public pay £5 in aid of Freedom from Torture to buy a programme from places across Chorlton (Creative Recycling on Beech Road, Chorlton Bookshop on Wilbraham Road, Blossom Flowers on Manchester Road, and Chorlton Plant Nursery on Vicars Road), which includes maps and write-ups of each garden.

Then it’s simply a case of checking out as many as possible, or taking it easy and relaxing at the ones that put on homemade cakes, drinks and live music.

The 2015 event raised more than £8,000.

Update: Chorlton Open Gardens organiser Merryn Cooke tells me that the event currently has 31 sites lined up including six new gardens, a communal alley, the roof of Unicorn Grocery and a communal allotment.

Programmes will be on sale at Chorlton Bookshop, Blossom Flowers, Creative Recycling and Chorlton Plant Nursery from the end of May. They’ll also be available at Creative Recycling, Chorlton Plant Nursery and Unicorn Grocery on the day.

Festivalgoers are encouraged to buy programmes in advance to help them plan their day. (04 April 2016)

Beech Road Family Fun Day 2016

Deferred for 2016

The Family Fun Day has succeeded the Beech Road Festival

Chorlton’s Family Fun Day

The free Beech Road Family Fun Day, the family-oriented successor to the Beech Road Festival, won’t be taking place on the first Sunday in July this year.

In its place, it’s envisaged that there’ll be a celebration of independents and shopping locally on both the Saturday and the Sunday. Details are still being worked out.

Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival 2016

7 – 9 July 2016

Chorlton Beer and Cider Festival

Chorlton Beer Festival

Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival, also known as Chorlton Beer Festival or just Chorlton Beer Fest, is being held once again in and around St Clement’s Church.

This annual institution is organised by Trafford & Hulme CAMRA and St Clement’s Church. It features dozens of real ales from local and national breweries, as well as an impressive selection of world beers, ciders and perries. There’s also street food and live music.

The event runs from 6pm – 1030pm on Thursday, 7 July (which is usually a quieter preview night), 6pm – 1030pm on Friday, 8 July, and 1pm – 930pm on Saturday, 9 July.

Organisers say prices will be the same as 2015 so by my reckoning that means Thursday tickets will be £10 including £5 of beer tokens, while Friday and Saturday tickets will be £10 including £4 of beer tokens.

Chorlton Love Beer Festival 2016

Summer 2016 (presumably)

The organiser of the Chorlton Summer Beer Festival

Love Beer Festivals

Love Beer Festivals, founded by five beer-loving friends, usually stages one beer festival a year in Chorlton.

The Chorlton Summer Beer Festival 2014 took place at South West Manchester Cricket Club in June and the Chorlton Summer Beer Festival 2015 was held at Chorlton Irish Club in August but there’s no word yet on what if anything is planned for 2016.

The most recent instalment featured more than 30 cask and keg beers, 15 Belgian beers, 15 American beers, cider, street food, live music and family activities such as a bouncy castle and face-painting. Advance tickets were £5 and the event ran from 5pm – 1am on Friday, 12pm – 6pm on Saturday (family session), and 6pm – 1am on Saturday.

Chorlton Bonfire Night 2016

Saturday, 5 November 2016 (presumably)

The new logo of the Bootleg Brewing Co in Manchester

Bootleg Brewing Co

The largest bonfire night in Chorlton takes place on Chorlton Green although some local residents might argue that size isn’t everything.

Chorlton Bonfire Night 2016 is a free event organised by the Horse & Jockey pub. It traditionally comprises two fireworks displays, one at 630pm for kids and one at 9pm for adults, and the 2015 instalment also featured an outdoor bar and two outdoor BBQs in collaboration with Sailor Jerry rum.

The Horse & Jockey and its in-house microbrewery Bootleg Brewing Co usually sell a fair few beers too!

Chorlton Book Festival 2016

18 – 26 November 2016

Chorlton Book Festival in south Manchester

Chorlton Book Festival

An annual celebration of all things literary, Chorlton Book Festival is scheduled to return at the end of November.

Details are scarce about what we can expect at the 2016 Chorlton Book Festival, but there’s usually a range of free and paid-for events in Chorlton Library on Manchester Road and venues across the suburb including poetry slams, literature talks, author readings, writing workshops and a literary pub quiz.

Chorlton Christmas Lights 2016

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Christmas tree on Chorlton Green

Chorlton Christmas Lights

It’s still early days but it looks like there’ll be one Chorlton Christmas Lights event this year.

The free Beech Road Christmas Lights Switch-On traditionally involves a lantern parade by local schoolchildren, which is led by Father Christmas.

The procession makes its way from Beech Road Park at around 545pm and heads down Beech Road, passing lots of children, parents and friends along the way, to Chorlton Green for the big Christmas lights switch-on at 615pm.

There’s also usually a church choir, carol singing, mince pies and copious amounts of mulled wine.

Chorlton New Year’s Eve Party 2016

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Flyer for the Chorlton New Year's Eve Party

New Year’s Eve in Chorlton

Chorlton has so many bars and restaurants that you’re spoilt for choice over where to see in new year if money’s no object, but in terms of free events one of the most popular places to go is Chorlton Green.

Organised by the Horse & Jockey pub, the Chorlton New Year’s Eve Party features a spectacular fireworks display. You can also reserve a table inside if you fancy splashing out on the New Year’s Eve menu and bubbly.

Horse & Jockey festivals

Throughout 2016

Exterior of the Horse & Jockey pub in Chorlton

The Horse & Jockey

The Horse & Jockey pub holds an ever-changing calendar of events throughout the year. These typically include:

The Horse & Jockey Summer Solstice 2016 (June 2016)

The Horse & Jockey Winter Solstice 2016 (December 2016)

Check out their website and social media, or sign up to their email newsletter, for more details as and when they’re confirmed.

Important note: If you see anything that needs updating in the Chorlton Festival Calendar 2016, or you’ve heard of another festival that’s on the way, drop me a message in the comments section (below) and I’ll get it sorted. Thanks!

Posted by: Richard Frost | February 13, 2016

Whole lotta Lead – The Lead Station hits 20

The Lead Station recipe book

The Lead Station Cookbook

Bars and restaurants come and go in Chorlton with alarming speed but The Lead Station seems to have been around forever.

In fact, it’s just celebrated its 20th birthday. To mark the occasion, the Beech Road venue and its owner-operator Nick de Sousa hosted a small party to say thank you to suppliers, staff, regulars and friends on Wednesday and I was lucky enough to be invited.

Police encounters

Now The Lead Station may be 20 years old (21 technically – it opened in 1995) but the building itself is much older, built by the Lancashire Constabulary as a local police station way back in 1885.

What I like about the place is that it hasn’t abandoned its roots. Witness the 1885 datestone with the Lancashire Constabulary inscription above the entrance, the old police cells converted into a kitchen, and even the name (the ‘Station’ refers to its police station origins, while the ‘Lead’ relates to the material used within the bar apparently).

The Lead Station bar-restaurant on Beech Road in Chorlton

The Lead Station

Scramble on

I’ve been to The Lead Station countless times over the years, usually for lunch because their Eggs Benedict is the best I’ve had bar none:

Eggs Benedict with poached egg, bacon, muffin and Hollandaise sauce

Eggs Benedict – an old favourite

But really it’s not just a lunch place – the restaurant has a seasonal menu of “simple, classic and honest” food served till late and there’s also a well-stocked bar, which makes its own cocktails. What’s more, The Lead Station has just published a recipe book (RRP £20) showing how to recreate dozens of its most popular dishes and cocktails, as well as containing interesting facts about the place and random things like an old interview with Chorlton resident Damon Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy) about how much he loves The Lead Station.

There are also profiles of their suppliers (JB Richardson’s Bakers, Barbakan, Hill’s Bakers, Amato Products, Jack Wood & Sons, The Easy Fish Co and Cheshire Wholesale Fruit & Veg in case you’re wondering).

Trades and Tariffs

As an aside, if you like The Lead Station, you might want to try sister restaurant Tariff & Dale in the city centre.

Instead of a police station, this time Nick converted a former cotton spinners warehouse into a trendy Northern Quarter venue on the corner of Tariff Street and Dale Street. It’s been getting lots of good PR recently and was nominated for Newcomer of the Year at the Manchester Food & Drink Awards 2015 and included by The Times in their 25 Coolest Restaurants in Britain list.

Tariff & Dale in Manchester's Northern Quarter

Tariff & Dale

All about the bass

During the party, The Lead Station invited guests to sample some of their food and drink.

My favourite dish on the night was the Seabass and Scallops – difficult ingredients to get right but both were cooked to perfection and they were nicely offset by a minted edamame and pea puree (it would seem their definition of “simple” food is very different to mine).

So good in fact that it’s in danger of tempting me away from the trusty Eggs Benedict.

Mixed salad

The Lead Station Salad

Seabass and Scallops with minted edamame and pea puree

Seabass and Scallops

Chocolate Truffle Cake with strawberries and cream

Chocolate Truffle Cake

Posted by: Richard Frost | July 4, 2015

Chorlton Open Gardens

Programme for Chorlton Open Gardens 2015

Chorlton Open Gardens

Last weekend I went along to Chorlton Open Gardens for the first time.

What is Chorlton Open Gardens?

One day a year, Chorlton’s residents allow the great unwashed to poke round their gardens to raise money for a good cause.

People give £5 in aid of Freedom from Torture to buy a programme from places across Chorlton (including Creative Recycling on Beech Road, Chorlton Bookshop on Wilbraham Road, Blossom Flowers on Manchester Road, and Chorlton Plant Nursery on Vicars Road) and this programme features a map and write-ups of each garden.

Green with envy

For Chorlton Open Gardens 2015, 13 new sites were added to the list bringing the total number to more than 30 including some amazing ones. Far more than you can get around in a day then (especially given many try to slow you down by putting on drinks, homemade cakes and live music).

It’s well-attended too – many of the gardens we saw received more than 200 visitors across the day.

Chorlton garden photos

We decided to focus on exploring the gardens of south-west Chorlton around Chorltonville and Chorlton Green. Here are the eight we saw at Chorlton Open Gardens 2015:

The Willows garden in Chorlton

The Willows in Chorltonville

Brookburn Road in Chorlton Open Gardens

Brookburn Road in Chorltonville

Chorlton Open Gardens - Claude Road

Claude Road in Chorltonville

Chorltonville's Ivygreen Road in south-west Manchester

Ivygreen Road in Chorltonville (1st garden)

Crossland Road garden

Crossland Road off Chorlton Green

Chorlton Open Gardens venue St Clements Road

St Clements Road off Chorlton Green

Green roof in Manchester suburb of Chorlton

Ivygreen Road in Chorltonville – green roof (2nd garden)

Cactus varieties at Chorlton Open Gardens

Kingshill Road off Chorlton Green – cactus collection

Posted by: Richard Frost | May 10, 2015

Chorlton Festival Calendar 2015

Each year, I put together a list of dates for the most popular festivals in the Chorlton area of Manchester alongside a short summary of what you can expect there.

This is my 2015 Chorlton Festival Calendar.

Chorlton Arts Festival 2015

15-24 May 2015

Chorlton Arts Festival - Chorlton's biggest festival

Chorlton Arts Festival

Chorlton Arts Festival is by far Chorlton’s biggest festival, offering everything from music and dance to theatre and comedy.

This year’s festival boasts more than 100 events in over 30 Chorlton venues across ten days – 80 per cent of which are free. Far too much to mention everything here then, but 2015 highlights include a series of site-specific theatre performances in unusual places (such as a tram) called Theatre Exterior, novelist Olivia Piekarski’s live Q&A with The Fall’s former bass player Steve Hanley, and an audio-visual performance by folktronic singer-songwriter Minute Taker and visual artist Ana Stefaniak.

There’s also a return for the Chorlton Weekender, a mini music festival within the festival proper. This year it features O’Hooley & Tidow on Friday, 22 May (tickets £12 or £10 concessions), The Travelling Band (tickets £10 or £8 concessions) and Young Knives (tickets £10 or £8 concessions). You can also see the whole lot by buying a Chorlton Weekender Wristband (£25).

Manchester Vegan Fair 2015

Saturday, 16 May 2015 (11am – 5pm)

Vegan Organic Network runs Manchester Vegan Fair

Vegan Organic Network

Chorlton is full of vegetarians and vegans so it’s no surprise to find that the Manchester Vegan Fair is returning to the suburb for a second year running.

Organised by Chorlton-based charity Vegan Organic Network, the 2015 Manchester Vegan Fair has 70 stalls, live music and poetry, short films, talks and complementary therapies. There are also lots of quirky goings-on including a performance by bicycle dance troupe The Spokes, a circus-skills workshop, solar rickshaw rides, vegan speed dating and even a ‘roving stilt pirate’ (whatever that is).

Tickets for the fair, which takes place at Chorlton Irish Club on High Lane, are £2 or free for kids.

Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival 2015

2-4 July 2015

Chorlton Beer and Cider Festival

Chorlton Beer Festival

Otherwise known as the 2015 Chorlton Beer Festival or simply Chorlton Beer Fest, the Chorlton Beer & Cider Festival is back for its 11th year.

Run by Trafford & Hulme CAMRA and St Clement’s Church in association with Outstanding Beers, this time around there’ll be 90 real ales split over two bars – the first focusing on the ever-growing number of Greater Manchester breweries and the second offering beers from further afield.

We’re also promised an outdoor cider bar with more than 50 ciders and perries, the return of the New World Beers bar selling bottled beers from across the globe, and a few street-food stalls. Thursday (6pm-1030pm) will be a quieter preview event with limited advance tickets, while Friday (6pm-1030pm) and Saturday (1pm-930pm) are bigger affairs with live music.

Thursday tickets are £10 including £5 of beer tokens, while Friday and Saturday tickets are £10 including £4 of beer tokens.

Beech Road Family Fun Day 2015

Sunday, 5 July 2015 (Midday-5pm)

The Family Fun Day has succeeded the Beech Road Festival

Chorlton’s Family Fun Day

The successor to the Beech Road Festival, the Beech Road Family Fun Day is all about family entertainment.

There’ll be a host of stalls in Beech Road Park, along Beech Road and into Chorlton Green as well as fairground attractions, performances, music, dancing demos, hula-hoop workshops, circus skills and other child-friendly activities.

The businesses along Beech Road each make a contribution towards the running costs of this free festival, and any profits are given to the Friends of Beech Road Park to improve the facilities for everyone.

Manchester Food & Drink Festival 2015: Chorlton Fringe

10-21 September 2015

Logo for Manchester Food and Drink Festival

Manchester Food & Drink Festival

Manchester Food & Drink Festival continues to get bigger and bigger so here’s hoping for more events under the Chorlton Fringe banner this year.

Previous fringes have included free and paid-for events such as cooking workshops, tastings, forages and meet-the-producer days at a variety of venues.

Admittedly there’s no word yet on what’s planned for the Chorlton Fringe of the 2015 Manchester Food & Drink Festival but hopefully tie-ins will start to be announced soon.

Chorlton Bonfire Night 2015

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Logo of the Bootleg Brewing Company in the Horse & Jockey


The biggest bonfire night in Chorlton takes place on Chorlton Green.

Organised by the Horse & Jockey pub, the free Chorlton Bonfire Night 2015 traditionally features two fireworks displays (one for kids at around 7pm and one for adults at around 9pm) although both are fun regardless of age to be honest.

Bootleg Brewing Company, the microbrewery run from inside the Horse & Jockey, usually gets in on the act too by selling its seasonal treacle stout Treason & Plot.

Chorlton Book Festival 2015

20-28 November 2015

Chorlton Book Festival in south Manchester

Chorlton Book Festival

Chorlton Book Festival 2015 will take place once again at the end of November.

It’s still a fair way off, mind, so details are thin on the ground. Typically, though, you can expect a range of mostly free events including poetry slams, literature talks, author readings, writing workshops and (my personal favourite) a literary pub quiz.

Chorlton Christmas Lights 2015

Christmas 2015

Chorlton Christmas Lights on the green and in the precinct

Chorlton Christmas Lights

There are usually two separate Chorlton Christmas Lights events.

The Beech Road Christmas Lights Switch-On, run by the Beech Road Traders’ Association, sees a lantern parade start at Beech Road Park at 545pm on Thursday, 26 November 2015 and make its way over to Chorlton Green for the big switch-on at 615pm. Not to be confused with the nearby Central Chorlton Christmas Lights Switch-On, run by Chorlton Traders, in the precinct.

Both are free events designed to get you into the festive spirit and typically feature stuff like carol singing, mince pies, mulled wine and guest appearances by one Father Christmas.

Chorlton New Year’s Eve Party 2015

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Flyer for the Chorlton New Year's Eve Party

New Year’s Eve in Chorlton

Loads of places put on paid-for events for New Year’s Eve but in terms of free fireworks displays the most popular one takes place on Chorlton Green.

Organised by the Horse & Jockey pub, the Chorlton New Year’s Eve Party draws people from all over the area to see in the new year.

Chorlton Big Green Happening 2015

Deferred for 2015

Chorlton Big Green Happening replaces Chorlton's Big Green Festival

Chorlton Big Green Happening

Chorlton’s Big Green Festival made a comeback last April under a new name, Chorlton Big Green Happening but the organisers seem to be having a year off in 2015.

The inaugural Chorlton Big Green Happening in 2014 included stalls specialising in food and drink, recycling, art, clothing and politics as well as performances and ethical fashion shows. The main festival took place during the day in and around St Clement’s Church on High Lane and was free to attend, while an accompanying gig inside the church later on cost £7 on the door.

Here’s hoping it returns again in 2016.

Horse & Jockey festivals

Throughout 2015

Exterior of the Horse & Jockey pub in Chorlton

The Horse & Jockey

The Horse & Jockey pub runs so many events nowadays that it probably deserves a special mention in the 2015 Chorlton Festival Calendar.

These include:

The Horse & Jockey Summer Solstice 2015 (12pm-6pm Sunday, 21 June 2015)
Joktoberfest Beer Festival 2015 (September 2015 presumably)
The Horse & Jockey Winter Solstice 2015 (December 2015), and maybe even
Chorlton Green Food & Drink Festival 2015: Sup-Up & Eat (date unknown)

Keep an eye on their website or sign up to their newsletter for more details as and when they’re confirmed.

Important note: If there’s anything that needs changing or updating in the Chorlton Festival Calendar 2015, or you’ve heard of another festival that’s happening soon, message me in the comments section (below) and I’ll get it sorted. Thanks!

Posted by: Richard Frost | January 25, 2015

The Cellar Key in Chorlton

Front of The Cellar Key

The Cellar Key

When a new place opens in Chorlton, it really has to differentiate itself to survive.

After all, we’ve already got a ridiculous number of bars to choose from and (seemingly) most of the world’s cuisine covered in our restaurants. It’s a gamble trying to start from scratch in such a crowded market, and plenty of venues have come and gone in recent years without ever making a lasting impression.

I mention this because The Cellar Key, which opened just before Christmas in the spot formerly occupied by curry house Azad Manzil, is doing a lot of things differently.

There’s nowhere else quite like it. And that makes it worth taking a closer look.

The wine

The Cellar Key is the brainchild of Chorlton resident Andy Leathley. It’s fair to say that wine is his thing (his Twitter handle is @AndyTheWineGuy) and The Cellar Key has by far and away the biggest and best wine list in Chorlton, offering 80-odd bottles with prices starting from around £15. It also offers about a dozen wines by the glass, which is good news for those of us who don’t want to wake up with a stinking hangover in the morning.

But it’s not just Chorlton’s only wine bar. It’s also the only place with its own wine vending machine, or wine dispenser to give it its proper name. There are a couple of these in Manchester city centre (Bakerie on Lever Street has one and Salut Wines on Cooper Street has another), but none in Chorlton (or well-heeled Didsbury for that matter):

The Cellar Key's wine dispenser

Wine vending machine

Basically, you buy a pre-paid card from behind the bar, load it up with credit and then you’re free to serve yourself a 50ml taster, a 125ml small glass or a 175ml large glass of any of the bottles in the machine that day. This means you can splash out on a sample of a wine that you’d never be able to afford to buy a bottle of:

The Cellar Key's pre-paid wine card

Wine card

This wine-first approach runs right through the establishment. It’s not often that I mention the toilet when reviewing somewhere, but The Cellar Key’s decision to decorate the bathroom with cuttings from a wine guide is a stroke of genius:



As well as all that, The Cellar Key is running wine tastings every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month (starting Wednesday, 4 February 2015). You can ask behind the bar for details and reservations but essentially for £35, you get six wines and six light bites.

The food

This leads me nicely onto the other half of the offering.

The thing that most surprised me about visiting The Cellar Key is that while it might look and sound like a wine bar, it’s actually got a very ambitious food offering too. There are bar snacks, flatbreads, sharing platters (the Camembert Platter is pictured below) and ten small plates:

Baked Camembert at The Cellar Key

Camembert Platter

Now this is where it starts to get a bit confusing. The small plates are a slightly odd portion size – not quite a main but too big to be tapas, and some (notably the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Shank at £9.75) are clearly larger than others (such as Sardines on Toast at £4.75).

The staff recommend ordering three dishes between two, which seems a bit on the small side to me and isn’t the easiest to work out when you’re in a group. If you choose the expensive small plates, it can all add up pretty quickly too. Me and the missus had two small plates, a sharing platter and a flatbread between us, which turned out to be a fairly light dinner. And I went back in a group a few days later and had one small plate, which made for a very light lunch.

From the customer’s point of view, it might be simpler to standardise the portion sizes a bit. They could maybe drop them all down to a traditional UK tapas size (say three per person) or bump it up to a full course (one per person).

The atmosphere

I’m told the idea behind the The Cellar Key is to replicate the continental tapas-style culture and atmosphere.

It was originally intended to be a casual affair with people popping in for a glass of wine and maybe ordering a bit of food from the bar if they get peckish. However, this isn’t commonplace in the UK where people prefer to book tables at restaurants and order their entire evening meal in one go. The result is that you end up with a slightly odd situation in which customers aren’t quite sure whether to order everything upfront or graze throughout the evening.

This mix of formal dining and tapas-style wine bar is reflected in The Cellar Key’s layout too. Upstairs is a restaurant that’s primarily for reservations while downstairs (the beautifully refurbished cellar) is more like a wine bar open to casual walk-ins:

Down in the cellar


Apparently, word’s got around so fast that they’re already starting to book out the restaurant completely at weekends so it’ll be interesting to see if they retain the casual approach downstairs or switch to a more formal restaurant set-up there as well. Personally, I hope they stick to their guns because there aren’t many places that offer a genuine tapas-style atmosphere in Chorlton (only Bar San Juan and De Nada spring to mind) and none that cater specifically to wine lovers.

The scorecard

For the record, the Five Spiced Duck (£9) was delicious and the duck breast was cooked just right – it’s hard to find places that serve duck breast properly (8/10):

Duck breast with five-spice marinade

Five Spiced Duck

The Taster Platter (£11.50) was pretty good with really tasty crab spring rolls and a lovely texture to the smoked haddock arancini (although neither of us could taste the smoked haddock) and the pork and ginger dumplings seemed a bit overdone (7/10):

The Cellar Key's taster platter

Taster Platter

As for the Sweet Red Onion and Gruyere Flatbread (£3.75), this was strangely bitter and unpleasant the first time round but I tried it again a few days later and it was delicious so perhaps this was just a one-off (4/10):

Sweet red onion and gruyere flatbread


Meanwhile, the Jerk Chicken Ballotine (£6.25) was very creamy and had a nice sweetness to it, although perhaps a bit more kick wouldn’t have gone amiss (7/10):

Jerk chicken small plate

Jerk Chicken Ballotine

The wines were all good but the real standouts to me were the refreshing Te Kairanga Riesling (£5.70 for 175ml) (9/10) and the rich, fruity Juan Gil Pedrera Monastrell (£3.80 for 175ml) (9/10) pictured below:

Monastrell red wine from Juan Gil Pedrera


Toasting The Cellar Key

In summary then, the Cellar Key’s wine offering is unparalleled and the food offering is almost as ambitious (albeit with a few reservations about things like portion size), while its relaxed tapas-style atmosphere is a real breath of fresh air for Chorlton.

And as I said at the start, it pays to be different!

Food rating: 7/10
Drink rating: 10/10
Service rating: 9/10
Atmosphere rating: 8/10
Overall rating: 9/10

Posted by: Richard Frost | October 5, 2014

10 Manchester places with an amazing past

Dave Haslam wrote Manchester, England

Manchester, England

I’ve just finished reading a book about Manchester’s history and it’s really got me thinking.

Manchester, England: The Story of the Pop Cult City by Dave Haslam tells the story of the city from the middle of the 19th century to the end of the 20th century. The thing that most jumped out at me was how the places and buildings that we’re familiar with today have gone through so many different uses down the years. Some have changed for the better, others blatantly haven’t.

I moved to Manchester back in 2005 so I’ve seen the city develop a fair bit over the last decade. What surprised me, though, was how little I knew about its rich history.

So, inspired by Dave Haslam’s book (and a bit of my own research), here’s my list of ten Manchester places with an amazing past.

The Gaumont Cinema (Manchester Road, Chorlton)

Then – The Gibb brothers grew up in a small house on Keppel Road in Chorlton.

For a while, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb were pupils at Oswald Road Primary School. They also formed a skiffle group, the Rattlesnakes, with a couple of friends.

In the mid-1950s, they were planning to lip sync to a record at the Gaumont Cinema just around the corner. However, in their rush to get to the cinema, their record broke and the brothers were forced to sing live. The audience response was so positive that they decided to stick with the singing. They would later emigrate to Australia and form the Bee Gees.

Now – After extensive remodelling at the front and inside, the Gaumont Cinema has now become the Co-operative Funeralcare.

Chorlton's Gaumont Cinema became the Co-operative Funeralcare

Gaumont Cinema

Hulme Crescents (Stretford Road, Hulme)

Then – In 1972, construction began on the largest public housing scheme in Europe – Hulme Crescents.

A chunk of Stretford Road between Princess Road and Chorlton Road was wiped off the map. In its place, four huge multi-storey blocks capable of housing more than 13,000 residents were built. Each block was crescent-shaped and the architects – convinced they were creating some of the most spectacular buildings ever seen in England – named them after the leading architects behind Georgian Bath and London.

Robert Adam Crescent, Charles Barry Crescent, John Nash Crescent and William Kent Crescent have gone down in history as Manchester’s biggest architectural disasters, although they did become unlikely hubs for artistic, musical and community activities in later years. They were demolished in 1992.

The Henry Royce plaque at Hulme Park

Hulme Park

Now – The missing section of Stretford Road was rebuilt and the site is now home to a more traditional mix of housing, shops and green space, including Hulme Park.

BBC Dickenson Road Studios (Dickenson Road, Rusholme)

Then – In January 1964, the first episode of Top of the Pops was recorded.

The original venue for the iconic music show was BBC Dickenson Road Studios, a disused Wesleyan church in Rusholme. In 1954, the BBC bought the building – which had previously been home to independent film studio Mancunian Films – to be its first studio outside London. The early episodes of Top of the Pops were filmed at BBC Dickenson Road Studios because all of the BBC’s other studios were busy. However, the show quickly outgrew Rusholme and relocated to London in 1967.

Now – The studio was closed by the BBC in 1973 and demolished in 1975 so all that now remains of this pioneering venue is a small plaque.

Top of the Pops at BBC Dickenson Road Studios

BBC Dickenson Road Studios (credit Malcolm Carr)

The Hacienda (Whitworth Street West, Manchester city centre)

Then – The Hacienda was the club at the centre of the ‘Madchester’ scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s but it was not always so cool.

Before Factory Records and New Order took over, the building was actually a yacht showroom. Interestingly, although the Hacienda shot to fame as a club in a warehouse in the era of warehouse raves, it was actually intended to be a gig venue. Several bands at the time rehearsed on neighbouring Little Peter Street and the team behind the Hacienda reasoned that these musicians would be more likely to play at a venue close by.

Now – The Hacienda was demolished and rebuilt as trendy flats.

The Hacienda Apartments replaced The Hacienda nightclub

The Hacienda Apartments

Corn Exchange (Exchange Square, the Millennium Quarter)

Then – The Corn Exchange has come full circle.

Rich merchants and farmers used the Corn & Produce Exchange to trade when it first opened in 1837. But by the time of the Manchester Bomb in 1996, the building was occupied by second-hand stalls and alternative shops, making it much more popular with students and bargain hunters.

Now – After an unsuccessful rebrand as the Triangle shopping centre, the building has thankfully reverted to being called the Corn Exchange once again. It is now being reinvented as a fine dining destination and boutique hotel for the great and the good to be opened in spring 2015.

Corn Exchange in Manchester's Millennium Quarter

Corn Exchange

Cornerhouse (Oxford Road, Manchester city centre)

Then – Manchester has always loved its films.

In 1910, the Kinemacolor Palace opened on the corner of Oxford Road and Whitworth Street West. It was built to meet a surge in demand for motion pictures. By 1913, Manchester had 111 licensed cinemas serving a population of just 714,000 – meaning Manchester had more cinemas per person than anywhere else in Britain.

Now – The Kinemacolor Palace is now the Cornerhouse, the city’s most celebrated arthouse cinema and arts centre (although it’ll be moving to a purpose-built site on First Street in spring 2015).

Cornerhouse formerly known as Kinemacolor Palace


42nd Street (Bootle Street, Manchester city centre)

Then – Bootle Street has long been an important site for nightlife.

In 1973, George Best and celebrity hairdresser Malcolm Wagner launched a nightclub on Bootle Street by the name of Slack Alice. Best was often to be seen standing outside from 1030pm onwards, picking women (invariably blondes) to jump the queue and join him inside.

Now – The building that once housed Slack Alice is now home to student nightclub 42nd Street.

42nd Street replaced George Best's Slack Alice nightclub

42nd Street

Afflecks (Church Street, the Northern Quarter)

Then – Afflecks has been synonymous with shopping for 150 years.

The building was developed as a department store for Affleck & Brown, a huge retail company during the 1860s and 1870s. It was particularly known for providing high-quality cloth for dressmakers.

Now – Afflecks, formerly Afflecks Palace, is a hive of alternative counterculture with dozens of independent shops sprawling over several floors

Affleck & Brown department store in the Northern Quarter


Manchester Arndale (Market Street, Manchester city centre)

Then – The space between Market Street and Shudehill once looked very different.

In the 1960s, the area was home to a maze of back streets and alleyways, gig venues and hip boutiques. They were demolished to make way for the Arndale, which opened in 1975. The shopping centre’s grey, concrete exterior was criticised from the outset and the building was mockingly referred to as the ‘hyper loo’.

Now – Manchester Arndale was heavily damaged by the Manchester Bomb in 1996. The subsequent refurbishment and expansion has focused on introducing brighter colours, higher ceilings and more natural light.

Manchester Arndale on Market Street

The Arndale

Free Trade Hall (Peter Street, Manchester city centre)

Then – The Free Trade Hall was built by the Anti Corn Law League in 1856 as a base for tax campaigning. In the 20th century, however, it became the unlikely setting for some of rock’s most important gigs.

In 1966, Bob Dylan was heckled by an audience member who cried ‘Judas’ when he started playing an electric guitar. This performance was immortalised by the bootleg LP ‘Bob Dylan Live at the Royal Albert Hall’ (which helpfully got the name of the venue wrong).

And in the summer of 1976, the Sex Pistols played two legendary gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall (a small hall above the Free Trade Hall proper). The gigs were attended by the likes of Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto (the Buzzcocks), Mark E Smith (The Fall), Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook (Joy Division and New Order), Tony Wilson (Factory Records) and Morrissey (the Smiths).

Now – Today, the Free Trade Hall is the swish Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel.

Manchester's Free Trade Hall is now the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel

Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel

Posted by: Richard Frost | August 16, 2014

From hack to flack – joining a PR agency

Manchester PR agency logo

PR Agency One

It comes as something of a surprise to report that I’ve got a new job.

If truth be told, I wasn’t really on the lookout for another role. I was quite settled at Insider Media, having been writing business stories for their daily newsletters for the last 18 months. But then a job offer came out of the blue, and it was just too good to refuse. Let me explain.

So what’s the job?

I’ve just started working as a B2B Account Manager at PR Agency One. Now the eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the keywords ‘PR Agency’ in that company name. Yep, that’s right, I’ve joined a PR agency.

I’ve never actually worked at a PR agency before despite having done PR for a few Manchester companies, charities, festivals and sporting events over the last five years. So far, it feels like a similar environment to the one I experienced working at an SEO agency, albeit with more talk of publications and less of algorithms.

Having said that, one of the things that PR Agency One specialises in is SEO PR, and tools like Google Analytics and Majestic SEO are becoming more and more common in PR these days. So maybe the similarities are inevitable as the two industries begin to merge.

Walk this way

Anyway, one of the nice things about my work is the commute. It’s not often you can say that in your life, but my new office is based slap bang in the centre of Chorlton so it’s only a short walk from where I live.

All of which means I’ll get to spend more time exploring my adopted home, which is just as well because it feels like a new café or bar is opening every few weeks. I might even pull my finger out and get back to writing about things to do in Chorlton – miracles do happen.

For now, though, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into PR and hopefully learning a few new things along the way. I was a bit sad to have left Insider Media, just as I was when I left theEword before that, but this is a new challenge and a new career and you don’t get many chances to try something new in your life.

So what happens next? Your guess is as good as mine…

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