Affleck’s Palace, or simply Affleck’s (as it is known today), has always been a mecca for Manchester cool. Without it, the Northern Quarter would simply not exist as we know it.
In 1982 when it moved across to the area from a basement beneath Kendal’s, it wasn’t exactly the best of times – especially in this dark corner of the city, described as “bandit country” by Sean Berry of Panic Posters fame.
Opening the same year as The Hacienda, the year The Smiths were formed and a new set for Coronation Street was completed, Affleck’s arrived at just the right time – capturing the start of a new wave of underground alternative culture.
And as the years have gone on, it’s maintained the same level of cool and the same values of community, even as the world outside it has changed.
Here, traders see each other as family. As for the visitors, it’s a safe space where they can always be themselves and not worry about what anyone else thinks. As we’re told time and again, there really is nowhere like it.
For the past four decades, Affleck’s myriad traders have celebrated individuality, eccentricity, and creativity : attracting intrepid teenagers and big-name celebrities alike to hunt for vintage fashion staples, quirky jewellery, records, and other alt miscellanea within its labyrinthine walls.
Over the years, it’s welcomed the likes of Lady Gaga, Agyness Dean, Debbie Harry, Chloe Sevigny, Bernard Summer, Alice Cooper, Anna Friel and more – but the real stories to be told here are not of the celebrities but of the traders, past and present, who’ve had the privilege to call the place home.
On the top floor, Affleck’s creative in residence Joy France – also known as Manchester’s battle-rapping granny – can be found amidst piles of papers, guitars, chairs, paints and more.
A former teacher and spoken word poet in her sixties, she was originally given the room for just three months but tells us it’s now been seven years. In that time, her little empty space has become so full of things that it’s overflowing to the point it can’t really contain much more.
She tells us: “So it’s actually gonna, I’m gonna close the room and it’s going to go mobile around the building so the same idea but it’ll reach more people and it’s going to go online.”
“The first five years before lockdown I would just leave it open, and I might be off for a couple weeks doing something, and nothing ever get stolen, just more donations, more poetry, more artwork.
“Sometimes, they might just look like nothing There’s a little scrunchie in here, just someone’s scrunchie, I remember a woman came in, a young woman, and she just said ‘I’ve found the place I need to leave this.’
“‘This was my sister’s, she died a few years ago in Canada and I’ve carried it in my bag ever since but it needs to be here.'”
“There’s tyewriters, there’s books, there’s – I think, we counted up 20 guitars, four ukeleles, just randomly, you know, just, thousands of stories and I’ve never advertised it I’ve just let the world find it and then it’s just word of mouth.”
Asked what she does with it next she tells us, “This is the point I’m at with it now. Anything that doesn’t have a story or isn’t art it just goes outside and anyone can take it away, it just gets a new home. Anything that has got a story or is art, I’m trying to catalogue it and trying to put it online so the stories are all told.”
Elsewhere, we meet Millie Horton, a self-made entrepreneur with her own nail salon.
Millie tells us: “Well i’m quite local originally as well, so I probably started coming to Affleck’s when I was maybe ten or eleven – just to look around, come in with family, friends, I feel like you hit your teenage years and it’s just where you go in Manchester like you have a look around and it’s all different and everyone loves it.
“So that was my relationship, like everyone else with it, before I started working here. And erm, I was twenty-one when I started working here so it was quite early still.”
“Now I do work here, the community is really what makes it like – everyone says it and it’s so cliche but there is really nowhere like it. I really believe there’s nowhere like it – like a lot of cities think they’ve got an Affleck’s, but they don’t – like, they don’t.
“And it is the people that make it, without a doubt. Looking around it is one thing and you get the atmosphere form it and it is so different, but once you start talking to everyone in the building and everyone is so different to each other, so individual, such characters, that’s when it really like it kicks in, like – ‘oh wow, this is like somewhere really special.'”
“I think it’s quite unusual like that element of it, like it feels, like, the values never change. It’s still got that sort of old-fashioned community feel to it and I feel like that’s really unusual now.”
Each and every person we speak with has the same thing to say: they love the community of Affleck’s and don’t think there’s anywhere else like it in the country – let alone the city.
Colin Thompson, the man behind the ever-busy tattoo studio, a fixture in Affleck’s for the past twenty years, tells us that whilst much has stayed the same over the years, today it’s not unusual to see families in Affleck’s.
Parents, he explains, are now coming to introduce the next generation to the weird and wonderful bazaar that sells literally everything.
He says: “I started off in the nineties, at some point I had a record shop upstairs called Sabotage Records, did that for about a good ten years then we moved down here and started sharing a shop with the guy who did piercings and tattoos, and then we’ve just taken it from there basically.
“And I’ve been here now for over twenty years, in this shop so yeah, I’ve been here twenty-odd years now in Affleck’s, it’s a great place to work.
“Oh there has been a slow change, not much really to be honest, there has been a gradual change over the years and all that, erm with the styles what have come and gone but you find a lot of styles come back in after a while.
“Also a lot of people bring in like their families now so people who were coming in when they were kids have grown up now and have got their own families, and they’re bringing them in now so it’s quite a little community, to be honest.”
Feature image – Supplied
Art & Culture
This Manchester club has been shortlisted as one of the best in the UK
In a coup for the city’s clubbing scene, a huge venue in Manchester has been shortlisted as one of the best of its kind in the UK by this year’s DJ Mag awards.
Depot Mayfield, the home of Manchester’s infamous party series The Warehouse Project, is the only club in the north of England to make the shortlist – sitting alongside London venues Fabric, KOKO and Printworks, and Glasgow nightclub SWG3.
First opened in 2019, the 10,000 capacity venue has been home to some huge events – including MIF and Skepta’s mind-blowing futurist rave DYSTOPIA987 and Manchester Pride’s inaugural music event Pride Live, as well as innumerable shows for WHP over the past few years.
With three separate stages – Depot, Concourse and Archive – it has been home to an eclectic run of Warehouse Project shows, attracting ravers and gig-goers of all musical persuasions.
Now it has been recognised as one of the best large venues in the UK as part of the annual DJ Mag awards, widely considered to be one of (if not the) biggest authorities on the UK dance music scene.
The award ceremony takes place this December 15 in London’s The Steel Yard, in what is the first IRL award show since the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.
This year marks the 16th edition of the awards, an annual celebration of UK talent. Positioned as a counter-balance to the global Top 100 DJs poll, DJ Mag’s Best Of British awards are a chance to shine a spotlight on the homegrown talent that continues to place the UK scene at the forefront of electronic music.
The 2022 nominations are split across 22 categories, and the awards show in December will also see the return of three editorial choice categories, Outstanding Contribution, Innovation & Excellence and Game Changer.
Also shortlisted in this year’s awards is Manchester’s ‘Baddest of them all’ producer and DJ Interplanetary Criminal, whose BOTA remix with Eliza Rose went viral this year and hit number one in the UK singles charts this September.
Congo Natty Dance System Interplanetary Criminal Loraine James M1onthebeat
Breaka CeeBeaats Meg Ward Nia Archives Soul Mass Transit System
Bandokay MC Chickaboo Ivorian Doll Knucks Novelist
Bemz Chinx (OS) Iceboy Violet Jim Legxacy ShaSimone
AD 93 ec2a Phantasy Sound Trick XL Recordings
All Centre Over/Shadow Pretty Weird Sondela Recordings Time Is Now [Shall Not Fade]
DJ Q ‘Est. 2003’ [Local Action] Hagan ‘Textures’ [Python Syndicate] Hudson Mohawke ‘Cry Sugar’ [Warp] Kelly Lee Owens ‘LP.8’ [Smalltown Supersound] TSHA ‘Capricorn Sun’ [Ninja Tune]
PinkPantheress ‘to hell with it (Remixes)’ [Parlophone] V/A ”Club Entry’ Vol. 1′ [Borne Fruits] V/A ‘Hospital Mixtape: Lens’ [Hospital Records] V/A ‘Luke Una Presents É Soul Cultura’ [Mr Bongo] V/A ‘Touching Bass presents: Soon Come’ [Touching Bass]
Eliza Rose & Interplanetary Criminal ‘B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)’ [Warner Records x One House] Hamdi ‘Skanka’ [DUPLOC] Joy O ‘pinky ring’ [XL Recordings] LF System ‘Afraid To Feel’ [Warner Music] Nia Archives ‘Baianá’ [HIJINXX / Island]
KH ‘Looking At Your Pager’ [Ministry of Sound/Three Six Zero] Michael Bibi ‘La Murga (Michael’s Midnight Mix)’ Nick León ‘Xtasis feat. DJ Babatr (Pearson Sound Remix)’ [TraTraTrax] Tessela ‘Hackney Parrot (Bailey’s Techno Tool)’ Tirzah ‘Tectonic (FAUZIA Remix)’ [Domino]
Best Rap Album/Mixtape
CB ‘A Drillers Perspective 2’ [mayowahd] FLOHIO ‘Out Of Heart’ [AWAL] Horrid1 x Sav’O ‘Violent Siblings’ [CGM Records] Jeshi ‘Universal Credit’ [Because Music] Loyle Carner ‘hugo’ [EMI]
Best Rap Track
Darkoo ‘Always feat. Black Sherif’ (Prod. by Albert kweku Koranteng) [Atlantic Records UK] Giggs x Tiny Boost ‘The Family’ (Prod. by RichMadeRecords) [Self-released] Kojey Radical feat. Lex Amor ‘War Outside’ (Prod. by Swindle & Kztheproducer) [Asylum Records UK] LD x C1 ‘Hillside Demons’ (Prod. by JS OTP & Hilzz) [24 Hour Ent] Nemzzz ‘2MS’ (Prod. by Wydsonni) [Motown Records UK / EMI]
Best Radio Show
Emma Jean Thackray, Worldwide FM Ellie Prohan, KISS FM Felix Joy Breakfast Show, SWU Pure Spice with DJ Manara, BBC Asian Network Soup To Nuts, NTS
Best Large Club
Depot Mayfield, Manchester fabric, London KOKO, London Printworks, London SWG3, Glasgow
Best Small Club
Colour Factory, London Night Tales, London Strange Brew, Bristol Sub Club, Glasgow Ulster Sports Club, Belfast
Best Club Event
Club Blanco Distant Planet PXSSY PALACE Teletech Small Talk
Houghton Festival Naked City Festival Otherlands Music & Arts Festival Outlook Festival UK Queen’s Yard Summer Party
Best Boutique Festival
Field Maneuvers Freerotation KALLIDA Festival No Bounds Festival Watching Trees Festival
Underground Hero Recognising the champions of grassroots music communities
Double O & Mantra Jeremy Sylvester Lo Shea Man Power Sarah McBriar
Feature image – WHP MCR
Art & Culture
Giant glowing slinky and fire sculptures to light up Salford in winter Lightwaves Festival
The details of the huge outdoor light show in Greater Manchester have been revealed as Lightwaves Festival prepares for its ninth year.
Installations this winter will include a huge, glowing slinky tumbling off the landmarks in Salford Quays, as well as fire sculptures, a giant heart-shaped glitterball, and a kaleidoscope of butterflies.
Lightwaves will take place across MediaCity and Salford Quays, transforming the waterways and spaces with dramatic light artworks.
The completely free event will take place this week and showcase both local and national artists.
The headline installation is audio-visual Navvies by Matthew Rosier, presented on the actual water and accompanied by an orchestral composition.
Visitors will also be able to ‘walk’ through the waters of a digital river that will flow over the bridge, created by Manchester studio idontloveyouanymore, with the virtual water reacting to the movement of people.
The giant neon slinky (called End Over End) comes from Studio Vertigo, who will also create Our Beating Heart, a heart-shaped mirror ball made with more than 11,000 tiles that will slowly rotate.
Garden of the Deep, by Diane Watson, will turn single-use plastic bottles into 1000 flowers, made with the help of local schools and community groups.
Local legends Walk the Plank will be back again with Roost, creating nature-based fire sculptures in the MediaCity garden.
Lightstream by Flora Litchfield is going to use sound and colour to draw focus to water’s energy, and MicroCosmic by Paul Miller (a collaboration with the University of Salford) is an installation of video, sound and projection-mapped sculpture.
Anne Bennett’s Butter Cluster will create a flock (or technically, a kaleidoscope) of butterflies in the night sky above your heads.
There’ll be retro-futuristic design with Normal, an ‘interactive light and sound installation with attitude’ by Monomatic.