“One of the most remarkable institutions of which Manchester, or indeed any city or town, can boast.”
This is how one newspaper described the now-demolish theme park and zoo that Manchester once held dear.
Known as Belle Vue Zoological Gardens, for 150 years the park was one of the most successful entertainment destinations in the UK.
It survived war, hosted rock legends, and was a truly iconic landmark for many.
Founded in 1836, at its peak, the zoo occupied over 165 acres of land and attracted around two million visitors a year. People traveled from all over the country to wonder at the elephants, monkeys, and camels.
Privately financed, Belle Vue also boasted some brilliant fairground rides and rollercoasters in its amusement park – which ultimately became an equally tempting attraction as time went on.
And that wasn’t all. People would also come to sing along to their musical idols in The King’s Hall, dance the night away with their first love, marvel at the circus and see Speedway champions racing to glory on the stadium tracks.
Belle Vue really did have everything, and as a result of this, became known as “Showground of the World”. But who was behind this private northern tourist attraction?
Belle Vue Zoological Gardens was the brainchild of entrepreneur and part-time gardener John Jennison.
Born in 1793 in Bulwell, Nottingham, he moved to Macclesfield as a child with his family the Jennsions’ before returning to Stockport following his father’s death in 1826.
Interestingly, Belle Vue wasn’t the Jennisons’ first foray into commercial business ownership. Prior to opening the park, John had developed and opened his own garden to the public – later adding cages of British birds, pheasants and macaws afternoticing visitors displaying interest in the garden’s native birds.
A brewhouse was even added to the plot of land too, whilst the family house was later converted into a pub called the Adam and Eve.
The Jennisons were doing well, but with what they had, there was little room for expansion.
John was approached by businessman George Gill and encouraged to lease Belle Vue – then a public house in 35.75 acres of open land between Kirkmanshulme Lane and Hyde Road in Manchester.
The land was isolated and had been used for the digging of lime, but John saw its potential.
After taking out a six-month trial lease,he soon extended to a 99-year lease and relocated his family from Stockport. They traveled light, with a handcart filled with belongings and a handful of birdcages containing parrots and other birds.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Belle Vue first opened as a ‘pleasure garden’ in 1836, containing lakes, mazes and hothouses, as well its beloved aviary.
Still, the Jennisons decided that their zoological collection had to be expanded as a matter of priority and by 1839, elephants, lions, and other exotic African animals had been added.
Fierce competition came from other attractions like the Vauxhall Gardens in Collyhurst, and the Manchester Zoological Gardens in Higher Broughton, meaning that Belle Vue was not an instant success. Jennsion. however, persevered.
Between the closure of a neighbouring zoo at Higher Broughton and the opening of the Longsight train station, more visitors soon began trickling in.
Before long John, inspired by a visit to the Great Exhibition in 1851, began to rapidly expand – and plenty of other popular attractions were subsequently added, including a racecourse in 1847.
By the late 1860s, Belle Vue was a hugely profitable business and had become iconic draw – across not just the northwest, but the whole of the UK.
But John was forced to take a back seat to his sons when it came to the day-to-day running of the attraction after he was diagnosed with cancer that began to quickly spread.
Ultimately, he passed away as a result of his illness in 1869 – leaving his family to sell Belle Vue for £250,00 (equivalent to £14.4 million in today’s money) to Harry George Skipp and Belle Vue (Manchester) Ltd in 1925.
In 1956, the park was sold again – this time to Leslie Joseph and Charles Forte – with Forte gaining sole control in 1956.
Drawing its final breath in September 1977, the zoo’s owners decided they could no longer afford its upkeep, having suffered a loss of £100,000 that year. Still, somehow it remained open on summer weekends until 1980 – officially closing for the very last time in 1982.
As quoted in Stackhouse & Hyams’ book – Belle Vue: Manchester’s Playground – published in 2005: “When it closed, Belle Vue left a gaping hole in the heart of the region that has never been completely replaced. It gave people a focal point, something to be proud of, a place where they could take their families and be sure of a great day out at a reasonable cost.”
But for all Mancunians with a special place in their hearts for the attraction, the legacy of Bell Vue still lives on.
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.