The Piccadilly Gardens Wall comes down this week – sending 20ft of cold, curved, concrete tumbling to the floor of Manchester’s main square.
In practice, it’s just another piece of demolition work in an architecturally fluid city. But there’s more to it than that.
This is a symbolic new beginning for Manchester.
Once the concrete curtain has fallen, the plan is to spruce up the tattered stage that lies behind it: Piccadilly Gardens.
£2 million is being ploughed into the regeneration project – with the destruction of the Wall instigating a flurry of permanent improvements to the city centre’s disfigured bulls-eye.
The much-needed makeover is likely to take many weeks to arrange and complete. But some local business owners in the area are worried Manchester simply cannot wait that long.
Companies sitting on the border of Piccadilly Gardens and Northern Quarter are being plagued by problems on their doorsteps – including antisocial behaviour, loud noise and drug dealing.
Many local firms are currently closed for Lockdown 2.0, but one business owner has expressed concern that nothing is being done to rectify the situation in time for their reopening.
“I don’t feel safe when I leave work and lock up,” one business owner told The Manc.
“There’s so much drug abuse going on in the area right now and some of the culprits have been so aggressive – I even know people who’ve been physically harassed.
“The corner of Newton Street is awful and Back Piccadilly is also particularly bad.
“Before lockdown, people were walking past holding pepper spray because they were afraid.”
The business owner also said they were concerned how the state of the area was influencing Manchester’s reputation nationwide.
“For anyone coming in on the train to Manchester… Piccadilly is the first thing they see,” the owner told us.
“How can you be proud of your city if that’s the first thing on show?
“It’s very sad.”
According to some locals, lockdown has exacerbated the problem.
Closed shops and lower foot traffic subsequently have meant fewer police patrols in Piccadilly Gardens – allowing bigger antisocial groups to congregate on corners undisturbed for longer periods.
“It’s been getting gradually worse,” one local tells us.
“There’s a lot more drug abuse going on.
“I’ve reported it several times to the council, and I’ve had a couple of phone calls where they’ve told me: ‘We can’t send someone out every time you call.’ But the police have told me to report it more often because more budget goes towards it and then they can take action.
“In residential areas there’s Neighbourhood Watches to help – but in Piccadilly it’s mostly businesses so we don’t have those.
“We need the council’s help. Why are they ignoring it?”
The last thing Manchester needs is for its most beloved businesses to flee the area; swapping the Gardens for somewhere that feels safer. And business owners are urging the council to take action now before that happens.
“It hasn’t got any better since March,” one business owner told us.
“In fact, it’s gotten worse.”
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said the council was looking to work closely with police to fix the “well documented” problems in Piccadilly.
He commented: “As a council we are committed to ensuring the city is safe for every one of our residents.
“The issues in Piccadilly are well documented and we will continue to work with our partners in GMP to prevent anti-social behaviour and crime in our public spaces.”
Hard-hats and hi-vis will move into the area as the removal of the Wall begins this week; an emblematic act representing a new chapter for the city.
For business owners in Piccadilly, it can’t come soon enough.
Neighbourhood Festival Manchester 2022 – tickets, line-up, venues and more
For those uninitiated, the massive city centre festival is Neighbourhood Weekender‘s sister event and has been running every October since 2016. Well, barring the pandemic, of course.
Springing from a fledgling one-day festival that boasted the likes of Circa Waves, Blossoms, White Lies, Twin Atlantic and Lonely the Brave, it has now become one of the biggest events of the year with over 100 acts spread across multiple venues dotted around the city centre. And just in time for the students.
Since its conception, crowds have seen everyone from Sam Fender, Easy Life and Holly Humberstone, to Mahalia, Declan McKenna, Miles Kane and many, many more of Britain’s biggest names take the Neighbourhood stages on their way to making a splash on the UK music scene.
Luckily for you, this year’s line-up looks an absolute whopper too.
Neighbourhood Festival Line-Up 2022
As well as those we already knew about such as The Snuts, Sundara Karama and local lads Everything Everything, Wigan-based indie band The Lathums have also confirmed that they will be joining the Neighbourhood headliners at this year’s festival.
You love to see it. You love to see everyone on this list, to be honest.
As you can see, there are big names everywhere – punters can also look forward to seeing the likes of Alfie Templeman and Baby Queen; Lauran Hibberd and Ten Tonnes, as well as Far Caspian and Brooke Combe, just to name a few.
There’s plenty of Mancunian music being represented as well, with Corella, Afflecks Palace, The Covasettes and The Stanleys all repping 0161.
Neighbourhood Festival 22 Venues
One of the best parts about Neighbourhood Fest is that aside from the acts themselves, there are some seriously mint venues on the list every year, from gig-going favourites to some locations you may have never seen live music before or even been full-stop.
Here is the full list of Neighbourhood venues we know of so far:
Manchester Academy 1 and 2 (14+)
Albert Hall (14+)
The Deaf Institute (14+)
O2 Ritz Manchester (14+)
Revolution – Oxford Road (14+ until 9pm, then 18+)
Bunny Jacksons (14+ until 9pm, then 18+)
YES – The Basement and The Pink Room (18+)
The Bread Shed (14+)
The Zombie Shack (18+)
That being said, it’s still worth keeping your eye out on social for any updates as more special guests and surprise appearances are expected, and who knows where they could pop up?
For instance, we already know that Hard-Fi will be playing their first gig in eight whole years at the brand-spanking New Century which we peeped not long ago. It’s quite an impressive space, guys.
Ah, the dreaded stage splits. They cause us inevitable headaches every year but they’re a necessary evil.
Want to know who’ll you manage to see and who’ll you have to prepare yourself for potentially missing? We do the dirty work so you don’t have to:
Are there any Neighbourhood tickets still left?
Put simply, yes, but you better get moving if you wanna snap the remaining few up.
Tickets for Neighbourhood Festival 2022 will set you back £39.50 face value (£43.45 all told with your booking fee) from their official retailer, Gigs and Tours. Wheelchair access tickets are also available.
Not only is that a much more affordable option for those who didn’t want to fork out more than £115 for the two-day pass at Neighbourhood Weekender back in May, but the wristband grants you access to every single venue on the list.
Even a one-day ticket at Weekender cost £59.50 + booking fee, whereas with Neighbourhood Fest you still get the chance to see some serious box office names at Neighbourhood Fest for less money. More spare pennies for food and pints, init.
It’s also worth noting that you can grab tickets on the day as a last resort, but we’d obviously advise getting yourself sorted before then.
As announced on Wednesday, this year’s box office and wristband exchange will be located at the University of Manchester Students Union building (M13 9PR) – the Lime Grove entrance, to be specific.
This will be open from 9.30am and will close promptly at 7.30pm, meaning there will be no wristbands issued after this time, so we would obviously recommend arriving as early as possible to avoid the large queues.
Organisers also had some important top tips to share with you:
Last but not least, make sure to keep a lookout on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram for the latest updates and, most importantly, grab your tickets HERE while you still can.
A Manc’s guide to: the Heatons, Stockport’s flourishing suburbs
While the likes of Stockport‘s ‘Old Town’ revival has seen the borough slowly brought back to life in recent years, it’s easy to forget that it includes a number of attractive suburbs that have become increasingly popular destinations to live in Greater Manchester.
Besides the investment in the town centre’s Merseyway shopping district and Redrock opened back in 2017, many people have long been stopping short of places like Didsbury, Chorlton and Manchester city centre in favour of SK’s best-kept secret: the Heatons.
The Four Heatons – comprised of Heaton Chapel, Mersey, Moor and Norris – are a collection of neighbourhoods dotted around Stockport and situated some 30 mins or so from the city centre that many in the region may have never visited before.
With Heaton Chapel your go-to train station and East Didsbury your closest tram stop, it isn’t hard to venture out that way, but what is there to get up to?
Parks a plenty
If those precious green spaces are what you are looking for then you’re pretty spoilt for choice. Ironically, the famous Heaton Park is the only one that isn’t in the Heatons, but all these are.
First up is Heaton Moor Park, a lovely green space that dates back to 1894 and is still wonderfully maintained by local residents to this day. As well as the customary gardens and children’s play area, you can do everything from bird watching and group knitting to family bowling or joining the running club.
Heaton Norris Park has bowling greens, tennis courts and football pitches if you’re looking to stay active, as well as a playground for the youngens; Heaton Mersey Common is a nice little pocket of natural greenspace with serene ponds and wildflower meadows, perfect for walking the dog.
But the fresh air doesn’t stop there: you also have Thornfield Park, Heaton Mersey Park & Bowl, Marbury Road Park in Chapel; Maunders Field, Bowerfold Open Space and, perhaps the most popular of the lot, Mersey Vale Nature Park.
Nestled among the remnants of the old railways and bleach works, Mersey Vale is a 2.5-mile loop that serves as a great place for a picnic, riverside walk or to just to enjoy the wildlife, and the Trans Pennine Trail actually runs right through the centre of the reserve which lies along a serene stretch of the River Mersey.
Historic sites to see and plenty to do
It isn’t all grass and shrubs, of course, the Four Heatons are steeped in history and culture thanks to its Cheshire heritage and evolution under a Greater Manchester postcode.
Undoubtedly the most historic landmark is the iconic Savoy Cinema, which celebrates its 100th birthday in 2023. Having nearly disappeared following a fire back in 1953 and changed hands on multiple occasions down the years, the Savoy in Heaton Moor has remained a proud local institution throughout.
It was shut for a major refurbishment in late 2014 but, thankfully, it opened back up a year later and is still going strong, showing all the latest releases as well as old classics to suit the vintage aesthetic. They offer everything from private hire to dementia-friendly screenings – a real gem.
Another popular location is the Heatons Sports Club. It’s the home of areas local cricket, rugby, tennis and lacrosse clubs, some of which date back to as far as 1879. Whether you want to get involved or just sit back and watch live sport, be it in front of you or on the telly, there’s something to do every day. There’s also the Heaton Moor Gold Club just five minutes down the road if that’s your thing – perfect for birthdays, work events and so on.
Speaking of the Sports Club, you’ve also got Heatons Comedy Evening on the first Sunday of every month, the longest-running of its kind in Stockport. Resident comperes Alun Cochrane and local comedy legend Justin Moorhouse have garnered a loyal following since its conception in 2010.
The best part is, it’s only getting bigger. With the likes of John Bishop, Sarah Millican, Joe Lycett, Romesh Ranganathan and more having already left audiences in stitches, Moorhouse’s comedy night is one of the best places to catch both headline acts and the best upcoming talent.
Let’s talk shop. Home and fashion-wise, you can find nifty little local traders like the Moo Boutique and Bloom and Dots in Heaton Moor, not to mention one of the best-named wine bars in the world, Cork of the North. You’ll be sure to find plenty of bottles to take home with you.
There is also Heaton Hops and The Beer Shop in Mersey too. You won’t be surprised to know they very much do what they say on the tin.
We were sad to hear Bernie’s Grocery Store shut down in June 2022 but, thankfully, their Altrincham site isn’t going anywhere; you also have lots of alternatives and similar general store vibes courtesy of Feed in Heaton Chapel and The Good Life in Heaton Mersey.
Lastly, we can’t mention Heaton stores without giving a shout out to Back’s Deli and beloved Mancunian chain, Martin’s Bakery: two of the best local food staples that always guarantee the warm and friendly reception of an independent business whilst delivering insane quality and consistency.
And that brings us to the lifeblood of any good Manc destination: where to eat and drink.
There’s plenty of food and drink in the Heatons
From wine bars and traditional pubs to a premium fish restaurant hidden behind a local fishmonger’s counter, the Heatons have plenty to offer foodies on the hunt for something new.
Cork of the North
This Heaton Moor wine shop and bar is known for its regular tasting events, which offer guests the chance to sample six delicious wines (three reds and three whites) alongside a selection of complementary nibbles, but you can book a table to sit in, drink and graze any time.
The Easy Fish Co.
This quality fourth-generation fishmonger also has a restaurant tucked behind its counter and serves all your chippy tea favourites, alongside the likes of satay monkfish and roasted turbot, crab croquettes and herb-rolled tuna carpaccio.
Originally a deli, this popular Heaton eaterie has a relaxed European feel with a tapas menu served until 10pm. Throughout the day, you can also tuck into a selection of breakfast and lunch dishes that cater to veggies just as well as meat eaters.
This suburban tapas bar in the middle ofHeaton Moor serves a great selection of Spanish gin, alongside traditional regional tapas and a range of imported wines and beers. From Spanish black pudding (morcilla) to courgette ravioli stuffed with goat’s cheese, there’s a huge choice on offer mixing the typical with the unusual.
This cosy pub boasts a great atmosphere, solid grub and a regular quiz night every Thursday at 7pm that’s proven popular with young professionals in the area. Dog friendly too, it’s known for its burgers and epic Sunday roasts with giant Yorkshire puddings.
That Pizza Place
Widely considered to be the best pizza in Heaton Moor, if you’ve got a hankering for a bit of tomato and cheese then this is the place to be.
If one of the Heatons manages to cast a spell on you and the prospect of a move arises, it’s worth knowing how much you’d be looking at paying.
As for Heaton Chapel, the prices skew slightly lower at around £815.75pcm and Norris is even more affordable at around £755, as per Rentberry stats from July 2022.
Now, if you were looking to buy, four districts is a fairly large search area give but you’re easily looking at north of £300,000 in Heaton Moor and Mersey, but prices often break the £400k mark quite comfortably given its up-and-coming reputation. One local told the MEN that she’s heard the area described as ‘Didsbury for those that really know Manchester’.
Once again, Norris and Chapel offer a cheaper option when it comes to the property market, with terraces being the most popular type of home and going for anywhere between £200,000-280,000. That being said, you could still land your forever home starting from around £270,000-£330,000-ish.
Of course, these prices are based on average estimates but take them with a pinch of salt as you’re always likely to end up paying more, especially in this current climate.
Nevertheless, whether you’re looking for somewhere to settle down or a part of Greater Manchester you still perhaps have given enough time to yet, make the Heatons the next one you cross off your list.
You can check out our Manc’s guide to Chinatown and the Gay Village now and, as always, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for more neighbourhood guides soon.