A recent guide from the New York Times has confirmed what we all knew already: that Manchester is one of the best cities in the world. The guide, in the form of a list, ranks 52 cities worldwide in order of recommendation and is seen by readers in the US as a definitive guide to the must-see parts of the world. Claiming top spot is Milan, Italy, while Manchester came in at 26 as the only British city to make the cut.
The listing has drawn its fair share of envious criticism, and let’s face it, the city is not perfect, but for years Manchester has seen people from all over the world come to live, work and study. While credit can go to the Council and the Government for pulling off this PR coup, the city is the attraction it is today because of the people. It is the strong communities and tolerant, likeable nature of Mancunians that have made this city great. From the activists slain at the Peterloo Massacre, campaigning for better Parliamentary representation, or Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes fighting for the women’s vote, Manchester has always had a strong moral compass and thirst for an inclusive and representative society.
From the Industrial Revolution onwards, Manchester has drawn and maintained strong Irish, Asian, Afro-Caribbean and LGBT communities and it is these that provide the colour beneath the often grey skies. These communities have brought us our famous St Patrick’s Day celebrations, the neon lights of the Curry Mile and with it huge excitement around Eid and Ramadan. That’s as well as the old Chinatown and the newer enclaves around Ancoats and Hulme Street and the fantastic displays on Chinese New Year. We take pride in a bustling West Indian community, traditionally centred around Hulme and Moss Side, that last year gave us two Caribbean Carnivals. Manchester has long been the proud home to a large LGBT community with our very own Mardi Gras – now Pride festival – approaching its 25th anniversary. Then of course there is the hugely successful and acclaimed Manchester International Festival, not to mention one of the busiest Christmas Markets in the world.
Manchester is seen as the first modern city – being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, by virtue of its often lamented, rainy climate – and has since seen its universities, schools and colleges become leading educational institutions. Manchester was the home of Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing, who you can thank for the modern computer age, and more recently, the city’s pioneering of ‘wonder-material’ graphene, to be boosted by a new facility at the University of Manchester.
Add to that the city’s top museums and art galleries, like the Manchester Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and the Imperial War Museum North, Manchester Art Gallery and the soon-to-be-refurbished Whitworth Art Gallery. Parts of the city itself are living museums of the birth of the modern world, like the canals and waterways around Castlefield, not to mention John Rylands Library – a video of which features on the NYT listing – and Central Library, despite its new layout and the closing of the popular Library Walk.
Culture is a big part of the city and hubs like the Cornerhouse on Oxford Street provide a credible setting for some truly world class homes of film, theatre and performance. Make the most of it while you can as the Council’s plans to demolish the Cornerhouse and insert it into their much-derided First Street complex will soon put a dent right into the heart and soul of the city, taking it from industrial-era, red brick and stone surroundings to a modern eyesore where even the grass that replaced the exotic gardens of the old BT building looks like it’s being held against its will.
Visitors arrive in their thousands from our world class airport and come to enjoy our rich sporting heritage. It’s not just Old Trafford, the Etihad and the football museum, but Manchester’s velodrome, cricket ground and Aquatics Centre host events screened around the world. They stay in many of the city’s packed and growing hotels, such as the Hilton, though when this is at the expense of parts of the city’s heritage, obviously us Mancunians have the right to complain.
The Trafford Centre and central shopping district draw spenders from across the region and beyond, though it is not exactly Manhattan, especially with the new pound store taking pride of place on our flagship shopping street. When all that is done and night falls over the city’s skyline, when shops shut and games finish and the curtains fall on the shows across the city, a different side comes alive.
Clubs like the Hacienda played their part in the global phenomenon that was acid house in the ‘second summer of love’ in ’88 and ’89, and to this day world-famous clubs like Sankeys and Warehouse Project, the Albert Hall and scores of others across Manchester uphold that tradition, culminating once a year in the popular Parklife festival. It’s not just house music though. Every scene and genre has roots set here and the Northern Quarter rapidly grew from a glorified car park to one of the places to be in the country for food, drink, music and art.
We know that Manchester’s not perfect, and like squirming residents of London or Liverpool casting their snide comments on the NYT’s announcement, we don’t expect this kind of global recognition, but the one thing about Manchester and Mancunians that always gets picked up on by visitors and those who come into contact with us, is that we think Manchester is the number one best city in the world. A big part of that is the fact that you don’t have to have been born or even raised here to be a proud Mancunian because this city accepts everyone and its history shows that people can’t stop falling in love with our city.