You could see his distinct and unshakeable smile from space and recognise that softly-spoken voice anywhere. September’s Manc of the Month is none of other than Oldham’s very own Brian Cox.
The world-renowned physicist is the proud holder of an MBE and an acclaimed member of the Royal Society Fellowship whose fascinating but accessible work in science and particle physics, specifically, has seen him become a beloved TV personality and pop-culture icon.
Brian Cox: the physicist and celebrity astronomer
He’s been a familiar face on our TV screens for over a decade now. From Wonders of the Universe and Wonders of Life to Forces of Nature, Stargazing Live and more, Brian Cox has helped bring the world of science to millions watching at home.
His TV appearances aren’t just limited to documentaries though. He’s been on everything from late-night talk shows and Dr Who to becoming one of the very few Brits to appear on the controversial Joe Rogan’s podcast. He truly is the Carl Sagan of the 21st century.
The 54-year-old might share his name with another familiar TV face, but there’s no mistaking his quiet yet captivating ruminations for anyone else. Have you ever ever heard him explain time?
Speaking of podcasts, his award-winning show, The Infinite Monkey Cage Podcast – co-hosted by comedian Robin Ince – is now into its 24th series and has become one of the most successful audio series not just in the UK but on podcast platforms across the globe.
The informative but entertaining concept has become a live show and has featured special guests such as astronomy colleague Neil deGrasse Tyson, Sarah Pascoe, Eric Idle and many, many more.
The former musician
Though many people will have seen his face on the box or heard him on the radio in the past decade or so, there are plenty that are still unaware he has been on the airwaves long before he was the science guy.
Yes, that’s right, before he was Britain’s favourite brainbox, Mr Brian Cox was a rather successful musician in not one but two bands throughout the mid to late 80s and well into the 90s.
First came Dare, a rock band formed in his native town of Oldham by former Thin Lizzy keyboardist, Darren Wharton; they went on to record two albums during his time in the band. Look out for the guy in the back.
Beginning his studies shortly after, he then took another run at music fame by joining pop-rock and dance outfit D:Ream in 1993. Having contributed on two albums, the group eventually disbanded in 1997 playing with them until 1997 and he began his journey to becoming an instantly recognisable pop physicist.
Cox had already secured a first in physics from his alma mater back in 1995 and in 1998, not long after leaving the music biz, he got his PhD in High Energy Particle Physics for his work at the Hadron Elektron Ring Anlage (HERA) in Hamburg.
An academic through and through
All that being said, his various entertainment exploits have never stopped him from making a direct impact on the world of academia, as he remains a Professor of Particle Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester, running courses every year.
During the pandemic, specifically, he also did his part to keep students, kids and those stuck at home in general engaged with his Lockdown Learning and Lecture series. Very cool and very digestible; we might be back to walking free and learning normally but they’re still well worth giving a watch.
Just a year before he was made a lecturer at UoM in 2005, Brian even had the privilege of working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland (you know, the Big Bang machine), acting as a senior physicist and co-spokesperson for a key research and development project between 2004 and 2009.
He played an important role in the ATLAS experiment which is still running and investigating everything from the Higgs Boson particle discovered in 2012, to dark matter and even alternate dimensions. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear at this point, the bloke is very smart.
It’s not an exaggeration when we say Brian has already done a lot for both UK and global science, especially in helping bring it further into the public eye. But more importantly for us Mancunians, he’s continued to be an active and important presence in the 0161 area.
As well as continuing to lecture hundreds of domestic students at the university that helped launch his career, his international and celebrity appeal draws thousands of applicants from all over the world to the Russell Group institution every year.
Moreover, his ‘Brian Cox: Horizons’ World Tour – which expands on his intellectual, highly entertaining and often comedic lecture format with an immersive audio-visual experience – came to Manchester earlier this week, much to the delight of his fans.
Taking the stage in front of thousands of people at massive arenas like the AO, he and podcast partner Ince dive deeper into astronomy and cosmology in a way that brings you closer to some of the most mind-boggling concepts in the universe.
Better still, even amidst a world tour, he somehow managed to find the time to speak to global news outlets on the biggest news in science, such as the stunning new images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope.
He is a jack of all trades, absolutely everywhere and best of all, he’s been helping put smart Mancs on the map for years now.
It may be long overdue but Brian Cox, you are our Manc of the Month.
We tried Greater Manchester’s first eight-course pie-tasting menu and it was absolutely unreal
Every now and again the opportunity to eat something genuinely new and different and which pushes the envelope when it comes to the kind of food you ever even thought you’d enjoy — sitting down for the inaugural ‘PieSessions’ was one of those such occasions.
This month, we had the privilege of being invited along to one of the most exclusive and highly-anticipated dining events in Greater Manchester: an eight-course pie-tasting event created by pie-pros Ate Days A Week, Scotty’s Pies and a number of other collaborators.
Hosting a true first for the region, Notion Bar over in Stockport was packed out with over 50 guests who were all eagerly awaiting to taste pies from the local favourite, MasterChef contestant turned meat and pastry specialist Scott Eckersley-Bell, as well as Wigan staples Baldy’s Pies and Harwoods Patisserie.
At first glance, the popular SK Deep South-inspired dive bar might not look like the place to offer up a gourmet tasting menu, but what it did have was an accessible charm and a bunch of hungry people not only willing to keep their minds open but who simply love all things pie. Who doesn’t?
At the top of the bill was probably one of the most interesting things we’ve eaten all year: a Japanese-inspired ‘Pie-Scream’ which delivered the exact savoury spin as it promised on the tin. A malt-crust cone stuffed with smoothly pipped mash, katsu curry sauce and crispy Teriyaki bacon in place of a flake.
We believe we call that ‘making a good first impression’. From that moment on, we knew we weren’t just going to be eating any old meal and that it wasn’t just going to be plate after plate of what you normally consider a pie; everything was different and we can honestly say everything was good, if not amazing.
Next up we had probably one of our standouts from the entire night which was a garlic, ginger and soy pork mince tartlet with a perfect piece of honey-glazed pork belly next to it, as well as a light edamame and spring onion purée to balance out the strong flavours.
Following on from the opener, the pair delivered all of the tried and tested Asian flavours in a method most will have never experienced them in before and, in truth, we could have even taken some extra spice with that virtually perfect tartlet but they were careful not to thrash our palettes early doors.
Two down, six to go and when we tell you it was plate after plate of precise pie-based ingenuity, we’re not exaggerating. From the short rib slider, which was almost like an elevated Wigan kebab, to the gentler poached cod pithivier which kind of reminded us of a seafood twist on a Cornish pasty, there was a single thing we didn’t like.
The way the menu was also carefully constructed not to beat you over the head with non-stop meat, pastry and gravy but to fluctuate between smaller bites and more substantial courses was already pretty impressive, as we managed to make it to the end of the meal at the perfect level of full.
We were even pleasantly surprised to see how the team tackled the issue of pudding, with a sweet and just sharp enough take on parfait with fresh orange, stem ginger and brown sugar, as well as a much richer chocolate, salted caramel and hazelnut brownie for a big finish.
To be honest, we loved the tiny little lemon madeleines they surprised us with as an after-dinner treat even more than the desserts (the two of us in attendance are lemon fiends, to be fair) but the best course of the night has to go to the ‘Big Jim Volume 2.0’.
Speaking to Ate Days A Week Founder Andy James on our way out, you could clearly see how his passion for the concept had translated amongst his colleagues, into the excitement of the guests and then back onto him after he saw how well the whole thing went down.
There was a real buzz about the place that was nothing like we’d ever experienced before with other tasting menus and we think it’s because those in attendance had never sat down for a meal that was as experimental as this one whilst also being that accessible.
Yes, it might be a touch posher than pie, mash and gravy but it never stayed too far away from that simple British pleasure and while there were certainly a few thrills to give you that tasting menu feel, nothing felt out of place and neither did the diners.
Pulling off one of the best teas we’ve had in a long time from a tiny kitchen inside a rough-around-the-edges late-night drinking spot, we already know there will be a sequel to PieSessions not only because Andy told us so but because it was such a massive success. Count us in for the next one.
Manchester Christmas Markets 2023 — dates, locations, prices and everything you need to know
Rejoice, Manchester it’s that time again — famously the most wonderful time of year, and you know what that means: we’ll soon be filling our faces with bratwurst, cheersing steins of Bavarian beer and filling our houses with far too many festive trinkets because the Christmas Markets are back.
We’re not even tooting our own horn when we say this, it’s just a fact that the Manchester Christmas Markets are some of the best and most popular on the planet and this year we celebrate 25 years since the seasonal stalls first opened up in 0161 and started a legendary annual tradition.
It doesn’t matter how many years roll by, we still await their arrival like little kids waiting for Christmas morning and set our schedules for what time we’re going to head out on which day to cross off the must-haves on our markets checklist.
With that in mind, we thought we’d help you put together your own plan of attack this holiday season and give you all the info you need to know to make the most of the 2023 Manchester Christmas Markets. You can thank us later.
Manchester Christmas Markets 2023 mug design and price
Every year the Manchester Christmas Markets has a limited-edition mug design, and this year the collectable souvenir has taken inspiration from the Nutcracker.
There are two different sizes and 2023 designs to collect when the markets officially open next week.
When you order a hot drink at the markets you’ll be charged a £3.50 deposit for a mug (that’s up from £3 last year).
You can then return your cup when you’re finished to get your money back, or take it home as a memento.
Last year, the Manchester Christmas Markets mugs were so popular they ran out before the markets had even finished – but they’ve ordered extras this year to be on the safe side.
Travel advice and how to get to the Manchester Christmas Markets 2023
Transport for Greater Manchester has urged people to use public transport wherever possible to travel in and out of the city centre for the Manchester Christmas Markets.
That’s because of all the events running alongside the festivities, from huge football matches to gigs at the AO Arena to Black Friday sales.
The Bee Network app will help you to plan your journey and you can read all the latest travel advice here.
The best hotels to stay in for the Manchester Christmas Markets
Now, for those of you travelling into town to sample our world-famous markets — as literally thousands do every single year — you might be in need of somewhere to lay your head after a few too many steaming mugs of Glühwein.
Fortunately, since this city continues to be such a popular tourist attraction all year round, there are plenty of hotels to suit whatever your budget is.
In fact, you’re so lucky that we already put together a list of the best hotels in Manchester a little while back, so you’re welcome in advance.
And that should do you for now and your guide to the 2023 Manchester Christmas Markets — we’re sure most of you know the score by now: it’ll be a big, cold, a bit busy but utterly wonderful as it always is.
We’ve found the trick is to try out a few days during the week if you want to beat the rush and then come back at the weekend for the full-bellied crowds brimming with festive cheer.
There really is nothing like it in our opinion and we’ll be sure to keep bringing you plenty of updates on all things Christmas Markets-related going on in Manchester over the next couple of months.