On a cloudy afternoon in 2017, Michael C. Hall steps out onto Oldham Street, puffs out his cheeks and stares up at the sky.
Cameras are subtly shooting the Dexter star as he paces the pavement, a pained expression etched into his features.
There’s very little commotion in the area at first. The Northern Quarter is something of a playground for creatives, and people often find themselves weaving around film crews in this part of the city. But when passers-by see which actor is in shot, they do a double-take, halt their stride, and begin prodding one another with excitable nudges of realisation.
A crowd begins to build, and before long all eyes are on Hall – with the exception of the frowning cluster of commuters near Back Piccadilly who remain stoically huddled together at the bus stop like always.
Incredibly, though, a TV serial killer strolling around the Northern Quarter in the middle of the afternoon is still only the second most surprising sight of the day.
Even more jarring is the fact that one of Manchester’s most famous gig venues has completely vanished.
For the purposes of the shoot, Night & Day Cafe has been redecorated – with its iconic lettering hidden beneath unfamiliar blue lights spelling out a new name: ‘Heaven’.
The venue’s disappearance deepens the starstruck state of people on the street, as they gawp ahead at what appears to be a fever dream version of Manchester.
For a brief moment, during the production of Netflix show Safe, we got a hint of what it might be like to lose Night & Day for a little while.
Then, in 2020, it happened for real.
This legendary gig space was one of thousands of grassroots venues that had to lock its doors, for months on end, during the UK’s many lockdowns.
And now, this stalwart of Manchester’s music scene is about to celebrate a very special milestone indeed.
Over the space of three decades, staff have experienced more ups and downs than a mixing console during a sound check.
Occasionally, the good and the bad have come at the same time; with some gigs proving so rip-roaringly entertaining they triggered complaints from disgruntled, sleep-starved neighbours.
But according to Night & Day’s in-house promoter Jay Taylor, this past year has ‘categorically’ been the toughest of all.
“Culturally, Manchester is completely lost without these businesses,” Jay admits, thanking the hard work of Mayor Andy Burnham (a major player behind the United We Stream virtual shows, which raised £583,000 for the sector), and the Music Venue Trust, for supporting them through to reopening this spring.
He says that Manchester has got a ‘robust, brilliant’ music scene with a ‘good future’.
Night & Day’s Pearl Anniversary has been marked with a week’s worth of events, culminating this weekend with performances from The Orielles and Hotel Lux.
It’s a fitting, marathon-style celebration for a venue that hasn’t just been part of the music scene’s furniture, but the seat on which all arts personnel feel most at home.
In the years before Night & Day was welcoming punters with joyous roars and sweaty hugs, however, it was inviting them indoors with dulcet tones and a delicate squeeze of the shoulder.
The building actually began life as a funeral-wear and mourning shop – selling high-end clothing for people attending burials, cremations and wakes.
It then turned into a delicatessen, before eventually being relaunched as a chippy called Pisces.
The cafe was perfectly positioned for people-watching – and peering out from its window in the early nineties told you everything you needed to about Manchester at that time: It was the city of music.
A few doors down, the pioneering electronic group 808 State had formed at Eastern Bloc Records, and the labyrinthian vinyl store Piccadilly Records was just around the corner.
The Hacienda was still open, and the vibe of Madchester was swaggering around the city; its residents revelling in the city’s renaissance as the nerve centre for nightlife.
So, when Jan Oldenburg purchased the city centre chippy in 1991, he knew what he wanted to do. He was going to plug into the electric atmosphere that was crackling through the city.
Slowly but surely, Night & Day began morphing from a humble cafe into a dual venue that doubled as a boisterous live music club.
Before long, it was the meeting place for all the city’s creatives.
“It was genius foresight,” Jay marvels.
“All it takes is for one or two people with vision to kickstart a neighbourhood.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Oldham Street developed around Night & Day in the years that followed.
Piccadilly Records moved in across the road. Quirky cafes and shops flung their doors open nearby. New nightclubs launched just a stone’s throw away. After being neglected for so long, the Northern Quarter began to mould its own identity as an alternative cultural hotspot.
The Madchester movement came and went, but Night & Day continued to buzz long beyond the mid-nineties. It was the place that had its finger on the pulse of Mancunian music and moved smoothly with the times.
Anyone who was anyone in the sector could often be found inside.
When local bands weren’t luring in rowdy crowds by night, the venue opened as a gallery space in the daytime – with free music magazines stocked inside.
If members of the music industry needed to hold a meeting, they’d head down to Night & Day.
The venue also developed a reputation for its uncanny ability to catapult careers into the spotlight.
For bands and artists, a slot on that stage was the first step on the path to success.
For music fans, every event potentially offered them front row seats at witnesses to the next big thing. There was a carrot permanently dangling from the doorway marked ‘I was there’.
On the long list of artists to have graced the Night & Day stage over the years include The Courteeners, Slow Readers Club, Elbow, Kasabian, Paulo Nutini, Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, The Enemy, Blossoms and many, many more.
As well as being a fixture in Michael C. Hall’s aforementioned Safe, the venue was also directly referenced in award-winning drama Lost (by rockstar character Charlie Pace).
Night & Day is a Manchester institution. That’s undeniable. What’s less clear is how it became so popular in the first place.
“It’s the best venue on Earth,” according to Jay.
Many in Manchester would be inclined agree. But there’s no single right answer as to why.
“It’s got personality and feels independent,” Jay points out, indicating to the no-frills attire and simple set-up of chairs, tables and a stage.
“But we’ve also got a very wide selection of drinks served at a beautiful long bar.
“The technical specs are good, too. The venue promises a really good experience for bands.
“There’s grafters in here. I think people can see the work that goes into it.”
It’s that last part – graft – that perhaps comes closest to explaining the staying power of Night & Day.
Promoters have spent thirty years working tirelessly to bring a diverse range of acts to the stage, defying those who have pigeon-holed the venue as a ‘white indie’ spot.
“Our aim is to stand in that venue and watch different things happen,” says Jay.
“We have an obligation to Manchester.
“We look at the things [and new artists] that make us excited.
“Lots of thought goes into it – from the gig bookings to the club nights.”
One of the warning signs that an older venue may be entering its twilight is when the crowd thins out – leaving only the regulars from yesteryear. But Night & Day continues to remain fresh in an ever-evolving, fast-moving world of modern music.
Younger fans have regularly piled in through the doors to see the next wave of talent coming through the ranks; including DJs, bands and solo singers.
“Everyone always asks me about my greatest memories over the years, but my favourite bit is when a show’s happening, usually around 9.30pm,” Jay muses.
“Everyone’s had a drink, the mood in the room is brilliant, and the main headline act is just starting.
“It’s happened a few times when I’ve been stood watching from the back of the room – where everything all just comes together perfectly.
“There’s nothing better.
“At that moment… everything is as exactly as it’s supposed to be.”
The award-winning cocktail bar hidden beneath the old Coronation Street cobbles
Unbeknownst to many, there is an award-winning cocktail bar hidden beneath Coronation Street‘s original cobbles serving up some of the best drinks in the city.
Recently named ‘one to watch’ at the UK’s Top 50 Bar awards 2023, Project Halcyon has also just won the Best New Bar award – voted for by a community of some 17,000 hospitality staff at this month’s Manchester Bar Awards (MBAs).
Brought to Manchester by the team behind Zymogorium distillery, it originally opened in early 2020 – launching just weeks before the Covid 19 pandemic hit.
Like many other operators, the secret speakeasy – which is connected to the working distillery for Manchester gin makers Zymogorium – closed its doors during lockdown, then quietly relaunched in late October last year beneath Old Granada Studios.
Since reopening, it’s been flooded with accolades. General Manager Adam has just been named amongst the UK’s top 100 bartenders by World Class UK, whilst house bartender Reah Owen recently won the Rising Star award at the MBAs.
And yet, somehow, it’s still managing to fly under the radar as one of Manchester’s best-kept secrets – although, considering all the awards the team is winning, we expect this won’t remain the case for long.
The bar is something of a labyrinth with numerous corners to explore within its underground warren. As well as housing a large bar at its entrance, it’s also home to a dedicated absinthe parlour, Salon Vert, which has been painted to look like a woodland scene and features vintage crystal absinthe fountains.
Elsewhere, there’s a still room and laboratory where the team uses chemistry equipment to create all the insane ingredients that go into their cocktails.
Add to this a self-playing grand piano and a rare collection of expensive spirits, and it’s safe to say Project Halcyon is very much up there with the city centre’s best cocktail bars.
As for its current drinks menu, open it up and you’ll discover that each signature cocktail is accompanied by a stunning illustration of a rare bird.
Choices include ‘Fourteen Days’, a long, tart drink that nods to the Halcyon days of Ancient Greece, and ‘Phoenix Down’, a smoky combination of smoky, nutty bourbon with bitter back notes that symbolises rebirth and eternal life.
Elsewhere on the list, you’ll find the brilliantly-named cocktails ‘Act of Vanity’, a combination of melon liqueur, blueberry and Veuve Cliquot champagne, and ‘Murder of Crows’, a moody and short mix of spiced spirits that promises to be both dark and funky.
The bar also serves up a list of six house classics, all of which are prebatched, prediluted and kept at -14 degrees ready to be poured at your table. Interestingly, though, because the drinks are already kept at the right temperature they aren’t diluted with water but rather with a variety of house-made concoctions.
General Manager Adam told The Manc that the most famous of these is the house vodka martini, made with Boatyard vodka, Cocchi Americano vermouth and clarified banana juice as the dilute.
“It makes for this insanely creamy, flavourful martini that’s classic but approachable,” he said, adding: “Our approach to the bar is that the science is for us to worry about, the hospitality is for the guests.
“We don’t put all this crazy techy stuff at the forefront of what we do. We prioritise good, classic, personal hospitality first and foremost.”
The bar also boasts a vast collection of rare and expensive spirits – and amongst the usual suspects, such as Louis XIII cognac, sit some interesting pieces like the latest seasonal release from Nc’nean and Elena Wright, the latter a close friend of the bar and an award-winning Manchester bartender.
It also serves up a strong selection of wines and beers, not to mention a cracking gin and tonic. Of course, being run by one of Manchester’s original craft gin distilleries, we’d expect nothing less.
Feature image – Project Halcyon
The Torrs Millennium Walkway – a stunning Peak District walk that hovers above a huge gorge
On first glance, New Mills may seem like any other Peak District town: small, picturesque with little-much-to-do. Venture just a few steps towards the River Sett, and you’ll find yourself in another landscape entirely.
Just below the hustle and bustle of the main shopping centre lies New Mill’s (not so) hidden gem – The Torrs Millennium Walkway.
Having done this route a few times, each time we’ve been amazed at the natural gorge that lies below.
The spectacular gritstone gorge was previously impassable to walkers, but the walkway built at the turn of the millennium, nicknamed the ‘steel spider’s web’, has transformed the dramatic landscape.
The Torrs Millennium Walkway is a 175-yard aerial walkway spanning the cliffsides above the River Goyt and River Sett, with links to many walking and cycling routes across the area.
If you’re new to the area, the heritage centre provides maps and guides for several nearby walks, including the iconic Kinder Trespass Trail.
Below, Getlostmcr has mapped out a couple of walking route options, one of which soaks in all the best bits of Stockport’s forgotten history.
And if you plan your walk to finish in New Mills, you can nip in to the dog-friendly, traditional local pub, The Pride of the Peaks, for a swift pint of Guinness by the real fire.
For those short on time, we recommend this route by Getlostmcr – a short, four-mile, out-and-back loop around the walkway and along the Sett Valley Trail. This route starts in the town of New Mills, easily reached via train or by car, with ample parking space at Market Street Carpark in the town centre.
And for those looking to get the extra steps in, why not extend the route by starting at nearby Marple?
History buffs, this one’s for you: Getlostmcr have mapped out a lengthier walk that takes in the best of Stockport’s forgotten history.
Starting from Marple, you’ll head towards The Roman Lakes, past the site of Mellor Mill Ruins: once a shining start of the Oldknow Empire. Back in its heyday, Mellor Mill was the biggest spinning mill the world had seen.
What remains of the site has since been taken over by the natural world, making a perfect pitstop on the first leg of your walk.
From here, you’ll make the ascent to Mellor Cross close to Cobden Edge. Mellor Cross was originally erected in 1970 by a group of local church goers who carried the individual pieces up the steep hill to ensure the cross overlooked the community.
Once you’ve marvelled at the size of this landmark, it’s time to head towards Mellor Moor where you’ll be rewarded with views right across the western edge of the Peak District and the Cheshire Plain.
The moor’s umpteen tracks date back to prehistoric Old Mercian trackways, said to be the route of monks and pilgrims way back when. Next, you’ll follow the trackways until you reach New Mills, where you can stop off to marvel at the walkway above. As for the return? That’s up to you!
You can follow Getlost’s out-and-back route here, or simply get the train back to either Piccadilly or the starting point in Marple if you drove down. For those following the half route, this is the link you need.
We parked in New Mills’ Market Street Carpark, £2 for 4 hours. 44 spaces.
New mills Carpark: Market Street, New Mills, High Peak, Derbyshire, SK22 4AA.
For those starting in Marple, there is ample free street parking near Hibbert Lane, SK6. There is also a carpark just off Hibbert Lane.
Marple carpark: Marple Memorial Park, Hibbert Lane, Stockport, SK6 6BD.
There are plenty of cafes in both New Mills and Marple. For those following the short loop from New Mills, Sett Valley Café is en route and have a 10/10 selection of homemade and vegan drinks and snacks.
We went to Pride of the Peaks in New Mills, but there are plenty to choose from in both New Mills and Marple, depending where you choose to start.
There are various options to suit different walking abilities. For those wanting to do the out and back from Marple, we’d recommend walking boots.
It’s also worth noting the ascent is all in one short stint so decent level of fitness is required. The short loop from New Mills is perfect for a Sunday dog walk.