Manchester: No ‘clone town’ nonsense here

Manchester wheel reflected in Nike-to-beIt’s that wheel again… by Saturday it was round, but with no pods yet. Here it’s reflected in what’s soon to be the UK’s only Nike store outside London. Sandwiched between the world’s largest Next and a huge Topshop (second only to Oxford Circus and bigger than anything else by ‘by some margin’).

Nike’s to be a gateway store. Gateway to ‘New Cannon Street’; that is, the old Cannon Street with a glass roof. Cannon Street was a city eyesore. The Arndale’s dirty backside, it provided only circuitous access to shops, while attracting much litter. There were bus stops and a bus station which was condemned shortly before the IRA bombed it all. (The IRA was clearly aware of the economic effects of bombing the city and invested heavily in the Manchester property market.)

Anyway. All this big big store retail development gets people like this worried that all of Britain will soon look the same. This is nonsense. This Saturday, we missed out the big big stores. Instead Katharine and I spent the afternoon in the Northern Quarter. City planners call this Manchester’s ‘non mainstream offer’: a ‘hotbed of cultural production and consumption’. Here we picked up an artwork we’d commissioned for my sister’s 30th birthday, popped into a record store where an unsigned band was doing its stuff (they were okay) and bought jeans and a top in outlets that sell brands (many Manchester designed and made) you don’t see elsewhere. And we did all that, stopped for a drink and still had change from £100.

It’s seems that far from destroying the city’s individuality, the vast and complete mainstream retail offer demands a balancing fringe, in much the same way the arts do. A thriving mainstream is an essential pre-requisite to the development of an alternative, more individualistic scene.

Leave a Reply