When Michael Kay arrived in Manchester, he found himself in a whole new world.
He’d accepted an offer from the new Polytechnic to study photography – swapping his humble, isolated cottage surroundings of Snowdonia for the bright lights of Mancunia.
It was a change of pace – not least due to the fact he had access to mains water and electricity for the first time.
Intoxicated by the foreign sights and sounds of the city landscape, Michael eagerly grabbed his camera and bounded into the streets – snapping everything he could along the way.
It might have been bigger and faster way of living than the young man was used to, but during his shoots, he saw that Manchester was troubled.
The city was poor, poverty was rife, and gloom hung heavy in the air.
Council leaders, recognising the necessity for change, had just launched a programme of local urban regeneration in an attempt to spruce things up – leaving inner-city slums piled high with rubble as work commenced on clearing the path for a seemingly brighter future.
With Manchester on the cusp of a new chapter, Michael caught it all on camera, sharing a dozen of his favourite photos from the 1970s with The Manc.
Down comes Moss Side
Fifty years ago, Moss Side was one part of Manchester undergoing significant transformation – as city leaders decided to tear down the old Victorian properties and replace them with council houses and flats.
“Most of this Moss Side street had been demolished,” Michael explains in reference to the image above.
“But one or two properties were still occupied and these two friends still lived there.”
Also shown is a young boy – standing against the backdrop of another street scheduled to be mowed down by construction vehicles.
In the distance, Hulme’s controversial Crescents were being assembled; making the area home to the largest public housing development in Europe (with space for over 13,000 people).
The infamous project proved to be an enormous failure, turning Hulme into one of the most deprived places in Greater Manchester.
Within months, the block was overrun with infestations of mice, cockroaches and feral dogs prowling through the derelict complex, with hundreds of residents seeking new accommodation.
Much of the north was living hand to mouth during this decade, and although Michael describes the scenes of poverty as “heartbreaking”, he often used to see children scampering amongst the ruins of old houses without a care in the world
“The children played amongst the rubble and seemed happy,” the photographer tells us.
“I’d love to know what became of this young lad.”
This carefree spirit of youth is embodied in the image above – with five young boys beaming for the camera with unkempt bundles of wood at their backs.
They’re accompanied by similarly-satisfied-looking pooch.
According to Michael, the dog used to follow this group of friends around wherever they went.
Pints and pennies
Michael took his camera indoors from time to time – seizing the opportunity to grab some pictures inside the local pubs.
These photos were shot at Birch Villa on Wilmslow Road in Rusholme – which eventually became known as Hardy’s Well (a famous old building with a Lemn Sissay poem written on the side wall).
“I spent a couple of hours taking photos in this pub,” Michael tells us.
“I liked the way that this lady had dressed up in her finery. The man to her left was playing the mouth organ for most of the evening.”
Despite the boozer being a little rough around the edges, Michael said he felt completely comfortable snapping away within its confines.
“Although there were some tough characters in there I didn’t feel at all unsafe and everyone seemed to be having a good time.”
A little further afield from the drinking den was a sweet shop – which found itself trapped between two separate sets of currency around the time Britain changed the makeup of its legal tender; evolving from pounds, shillings, and pence.
“This shop was on Wilmslow Road near the junction with Platt Lane,” explains Michael.
“[It was] just post decimalisation – with some of the sweets marked up in old and new currency.”
In amongst the crowd
Margaret Thatcher was an unpopular figure in Manchester long before she moved to Number 10.
The Iron Lady also managed to ruffled feathers in her preceding role as Education Secretary – a position she held between 1970 and 1974.
The photo above shows “one of many student protests from the early ‘70s,” says Michael.
“[Thatcher] was Secretary of State for Education and students generally disagreed with many of the changes she brought in.”
Michael also managed to capture a superb shot of seventies crowds coming together for an “Armed Forces Fete” during his trek around the city.
“I think [this] was in Platt Fields but it could have been Wythenshawe,” Michael muses.
“There’s an armoured car somewhere under those kids.”
The city in the seventies
Manchester’s nucleus has changed beyond recognition in the half-century that has passed since these photos were taken.
And so has the typical way of life.
Take this shot for example – with a baby left outside a shop in the middle of the busy city centre streets.
“No one thought anything of it in those days,” Michael says.
Still, despite the city remaining in a permanent state of flux, the presence of local cult characters has never wavered.
Before Frank Sidebottom and The Piccadilly Rats, there was the Piccadilly Gardens Man – who used to spend most of his days sat on a bench feeding the birds.
“I thought some people may remember him,” Michael says.
“Apparently he used to regularly visit the Dance dept. of the Polytechnic which was nearby and give red roses to the girls!”
The final image in the collection is particularly striking – a snapshot of a space that has undergone so much renovation it looks like its from another city.
Look closely, and you’ll be able to see that beyond the heaps is actually the neighbourhood of Castlefield.
“[This was] the huge Castlefield fuel depot,” Michael tells us
“The buildings in the background and the bridge still remain.
“But so much has changed in this area.”
One look at the cranes populating the city skyline reveals that plenty more change is yet to come.
After graduating, Michael moved away from Manchester and had a successful career as an advertising and food photographer with a studio in Wimbledon.
He is now semi retired and works from home in Surrey. Because of the lockdown he’s been digitising his old negatives. Most of the images shown here have never been seen before and none have ever been published.
View some of Michael Kay’s wonderful work online on the photographer’s official website.
Five Manchester artists we’ve been listening to this month | February 2024
Ay up, you lot. It’s us again, back to give you another list of some of the best new music we’ve been listening to, be it little-known tunes from new and upcoming artists in Greater Manchester or the biggest releases from ever-rising names around the region.
We launched this new monthly series at the start of 2024 and will be serving up suggestions for all you Manc musos regularly throughout the year and beyond, so you best get in on the ground floor so as to as not to miss a single shout.
But let’s not faff about any longer, shall we?
Time to get stuck into five Manchester artists we’ve had on repeat throughout February — and it’s a leap year, so we’ve had an extra day of listening to make our picks.
Manc bands we’ve been listening to over the past month
1. Hello Cosmos
First off, we’ve got Hello Cosmos: a Manchester-based creative consisting of a four-piece at their core and other session musicians like Elara, a wonderful saxophone player and vocalist who is well worth looking into in her own right.
Founded by From The Fields director, Ben Robinson — the events organisers behind Kendal Calling and bluedot — their style is a seriously wild mix of alternative electronic and pop-punk. Think Yard Act if they had more synths, sax, keys, violins and had a Christopher Eccelstone sound-alike on vocals.
Our standout tunes to start with have to be their ‘FUSE’ from their debut Dream Harder, ‘Loud Is Beautiful’ (which pretty much encapsulates the full range of their sound in one track) and ‘Metaverse’ — there’s also a great twist on it by Catu Diosis and that goes for the whole Hard Dirt (Remixed) album too.
Next up is an instrumental outfit and touring band called OMA, who have played on stage with the likes of American rapper Isaiah Rashad as well as Japanese hip-hop artists and producer Shing02, and they just might be some of the coolest cats on socials right now.
Going more and more viral on TikTok every week with their live takes on hip-hop classics by Dr Dre, Nas, MF DOOM, Lauryn Hill, 2Pac and countless others, we can’t accurately describe just how much we want to be in a room and headbob to their addictive recreations of iconic beats from down the years.
Every clip is an absolute earworm and you simply can’t listen to any of them just once. They don’t have any signature tracks of their own but it only takes one video to get hooked. I mean, honestly, just listen to them — and bonus points if you can figure out where they’re playing:
In at number three, although we couldn’t possibly put this is any particular ranked order, is local indie-pop group Hi Sienna — a bunch of best mates based out of Chorlton who make great stuff and they’re absolutely wonderful.
With every member taking time out of work to make their music dream happen, they sum up their sound perfectly in their tagline: unsigned, unmanaged and unbelievably good. Too right. We also recently had the pleasure of chatting with them as part of the new series of Stream GM’s Spill The Sound.
It’s nothing but positive vibes and non-stop fun listening to these lot and if we had to pick our favourites, they would be ‘Enter Disco’, ‘Be A Man’ and the soon to be released ‘Pickleback’ which we got a cheeky glimpse of over at The Yard recently. It’s a belter.
The penultimate stop on this month’s list is the mighty Maruja, who are bringing both funk and punk roots to their alternative rock scene here in Greater Manchester and we can’t get enough.
Playing White Hotel and New Century this April as their profile keeps growing around the city centre and beyond, we reckon it won’t be long before you see their name everywhere — not that our incredible fandom and heavy bias are getting away with us or anything…
Seriously though, they sound both familiar and unique enough if you’re this kind of stuff and genres that naturally overlap. We’d recommend kicking off with ‘Tao’, arguably their most popular tune ‘The Tinker’ second and then their latest single, ‘The Invisible Man’.
Last but by no means least is Cassia. They’re technically from down the Macclesfield but they’ve been plying their trade here in 0161 since they first began and we just hope they remember us and all our great proving grounds when they well and truly blow up. And trust us, they will.
Mixing tropical and Caribbean sounds with irresistible indie sonics and vocals, we just feel all nice and happy whenever we listen to them – almost as if we were on holiday. We also got to chat with these guys recently too and they were equally delightful.
If it’s your first time listening to them, you can’t go wrong with ‘Right There’, their new tune with KAWALA, ‘Circular Motion’, and a key part of our Summer 2022 soundtrack, ‘Drifting’. So, sooo good.
And that’s it for this month’s list and, believe us, it was a toughy as there were plenty of other local bands and artists that we could have picked, but we’re sure they’ll pop up on here soon enough.
As always, be sure to keep your eyes over on The Manc Audio so you don’t miss a single bit of music news this year.
Oh yeah, and if you didn’t read last month’s selections of Manchester artists that you need to get on, you know what to do:
Featured Image — Cassia/Hello Cosmos (press image)/Hi Sienna (via IG)
The thousands of hours it takes to perfect making some of the best sushi in Manchester
We’d wager if you took a survey of people on the street in Manchester and asked them what food they find most intimidating, a very big chunk of the answers would be sushi and raw fish.
But then again, most of them haven’t been to MUSU yet.
Listen, we get it, even tasting menus sometimes sound a touch upmarket and a bit out of their wheelhouse to some people, but this two AA Rosette-winning Japanese restaurant is helping make fine-dining and seafood experiences more accessible whilst delivering a truly unforgettable meal.
We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Head Sushi Chef André Aguiar after he served us MUSU’s ‘omakase’ tasting menu straight from the counter, which features some of the most amazing sushi, nigiri and all-round high-end produce we’ve ever come across. This guy knows his stuff.
Can you give us a brief overview of your background/journey as a chef?
I started my career in Brazil which was my home country. I was in the army and met a captain who was passionate about Japanese cuisine. After he introduced me to the world of Japanese culture and cuisine, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
I then opened a Japanese restaurant in 2010 in Brazil and stayed there for two years before selling the restaurant in order to move to Ireland in order to learn English.
I met a Japanese master at Taste by Dylan McGrath in Dublin who wanted to retire and move back to Japan but the deal that he had with the owner of the restaurant was that he had to find a new head chef before he left so I started to train with him, he was very strict and it was really tough but I persevered for three years until I was ready to take over the head sushi chef position and was there for 4 years.
After Taste, I moved to Italy for 6 months to open a restaurant and train the staff then came back to Dublin in 2019 and continued to work there but then Covid hit and unfortunately they closed down due to the pandemic.
After the pandemic, I went to Portugal to open another restaurant and to train staff and when working there I was approached by the directors of MUSU who were on holiday there and were looking for a head sushi chef to join the team.
After they tried my tasting menu at the restaurant in Portugal, they offered me the position immediately, so I moved to the UK the next month and I’ve been here ever since.
Amazing. What was it that drew you to MUSU and the ‘omakase’ concept specifically?
The fact I was able to build a team from the ground up, develop a menu from scratch and work with the finest ingredients in the world.
At the end of the day, that’s what every chef wants.
Simple as that. What about your favourite sushi creation?
During the development of the menu at MUSU I was able to experiment with lots of different ingredients. While I can’t name one favourite creation the three stand-outs are the Chu-toro seared with Japanese charcoal; the carabinero prawn with miso butter and then the salmon with foie gras.
During development, I was able to create a selection of ‘Edomae’ nigiri that really pushes the boundaries of traditional Edo-style sushi — if you visit I’d recommend trying a few of them.
Yep, we can vouch for all three of those dishes. What advice would you give people new to sushi/seafood/tasting menus?
Most of the people who come here and say they are afraid to try raw fish or have usually had a bad experience with sushi due to low-quality ingredients. When they try it here, we always get asked why it is so different and why it is so good.
I always tell them the details behind the sushi we create including the ageing and curing process to improve flavour and texture as well as the rice quality, temperature and seasoning.
We use the best ingredients in all of our sushi, including the best sushi rice, nori seaweed; A5 wagyū beef; aged soy, aged vinegar and the freshest wasabi on the market shipped directly from Japan.
I always recommend that people just be open-minded when it comes to trying new things. Sometimes people have one bad experience and never venture into it again, whereas when people are open to new textures and flavours they have the best experience.
Absolutely. And if you had to describe the omakase experience in three words what would they be?
Literally translating to, “I’ll leave the details up to you”, that’s how we’d sum up the whole omakase experience: you get to watch a craftsman carefully examining every minute detail as he builds some of the most incredible seafood courses we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating right in front of your eyes.
Chef Andre is a master in every sense of the word and not only do you get to see his skills on show but his knowledge of the cuisine and pure passion come across as he explains each and every dish.
Every incredible ingredient is lovingly presented and you get to witness the clean, military-level precision and almost surgery-like operation unfold up close as the freshest of produce is turned into little plates of art. It’s quite fascinating to watch.
So if you’re guilty of being nervous try sushi and seafood in this kind of setting, there aren’t many better places to push the boat out and dip your toes in. Trust us, you won’t be disappointed — and better still, if you sign up for the MUSU Rewards scheme, you can get 30% off your food bill this March and even more throughout the year.