Pleas for help came from beyond the Crescent-shaped skyline hanging heavy over Manchester’s most dilapidated neighbourhood. But they all fell on deaf ears.
A disastrous social housing experiment had left an entire community abandoned on the doorstep of the city for years.
But then, in 1989, some people started listening.
A cluster of of mental health workers moved into the Z-Arts (originally the Zion Arts Centre) building on Stretford Road, setting up a support group called the Hulme Action Research Project (HARP).
Suddenly, residents had someone they could talk to.
It changed everything.
In the years that followed, Hulme clambered back to its feet, and that little support group morphed into one of the biggest, most important charities in the region: Manchester Mind.
During the past thirty years, Manchester Mind has reached beyond its inner-city suburb origins and right across Mancunia – providing vital services to thousands of people living in the borough.
Today, the organisation is holding the city’s hand through the biggest crisis in living memory.
Research revealed over half of adults (60%) and two thirds of young people (68%) experienced a dip in mental health during lockdown. Those who experienced mental health problems in the past felt them resurface, whilst others began to suffer the pangs of depression and anxiety for the first time.
Mentally, Manchester has suffered more than most. But given the circumstances, this perhaps shouldn’t come as such a surprise.
The arrival of World Mental Health Day means we’re 284 days into 2020. For 175 of these, Mancs have been banned from seeing loved ones.
Other than a three-week window in July where it was deemed ‘safe’ to see friends and family, local residents have been urged to avoid any social interaction outside their bubble for six months.
Some people shielding have been unable to visit family since March 23. That’s 201 days of no face-to-face contact.
When these sobering stats are laid bare, it’s a wonder how we’re all still trudging on at all.
Mercifully, we have Manchester Mind.
The charity has carried a troubled region through the initial phase of the pandemic and is now helping residents ride a grim second wave by providing a huge variety of essential services.
These range from The Listening Ear (allowing young people and adults to make telephone appointments with staff) and mental health guidance to food projects – delivering freshly prepared ready meals for people struggling with access to items either due to loss of income or isolation.
Manchester Mind has also got peer support available via video chat and support in place for young people – with one Mental Health Practitioner actually setting up a makeshift office from home to guarantee students across four schools in Manchester always had someone to talk to.
World Mental Health Day is approaching at a poignant moment – and the charity is calling it “biggest yet”.
To mark the big day, Manchester Mind has struck a partnership with wellbeing and music festival Headstock – hosting a two-day virtual event with a stellar lineup starring huge performers and talks from the likes of Ricky Hatton and Brandon Block.
Manchester Mind had previously collaborated with Headstock to stream an incredible Ian Curtis tribute back in May.
The charity also embraced the hashtag #NeverMoreNeeded as part of an initiative to connect with more people in quarantine. And ahead World Mental Health Day, Manchester Mind has launched another campaign: #DoOneThing.
This initiative is dedicated to getting everyone involved in boosting mental health in Manchester by taking a single action – whether that’s reaching out to a loved one, starting a fundraiser, or sharing a story.
As we head into what’s being referred to as “a difficult winter”, Manchester Mind is under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge ahead.
But the organisation is facing this task head on with tenacity, commitment, but most importantly of all, positivity.
“The important thing to remember is that things can get better, and they will – even if it doesn’t feel that way,” Sam Harwood, Manchester Mind’s Communications Manager, tells us.
“If you know someone who’s struggling – reach out. Ask them if they’re ok. But most importantly of all – listen.
“Listening without judgment is a powerful thing – especially when you don’t just jump in with advice.”
Surprisingly, the anticipated surge in phone calls at the dawn of the pandemic did not materialise.
Perhaps Manchester was too busy scratching its head and trying to figure out what was going on rather than getting lost in its own thoughts.
Either way, Sam says the quiet period was something of a blessing – enabling Manchester Mind staff to take a beat, get set up remotely, and ensure they could continue providing services when demand would inevitably soar again.
Measures were also put in place to check on employees’ own mental wellbeing – particularly when anxiety spread throughout the region and the charity soon found itself busier than ever.
“We know that many people have developed new mental health problems as a result of the pandemic and, for some of us, existing mental health problems have gotten worse,” explains Sam.
“But 90% of our services have been able to continue remotely – we’ve done our best to make sure we can support as many people as possible.”
Manchester Mind’s herculean efforts have not gone unrecognised – but Sam acknowledges there’s still much more work for them to do.
“There’s always been underinvestment in mental health,” she says.
“There’s still a lack of understanding and stigma. Men, for example, may be scared they’ll just get told to ‘man up’.
“But this virus has shone a light on the importance of wellbeing.”
“As our CEO Elizabeth Simpson talked about recently, this pandemic is a defining moment for Manchester and mental health awareness.
“We need to learn from this; we don’t want to go back to how things were before. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how to do things better, adapt and change.”
We all miss our families. We all miss our friends. We all miss living, full stop.
But even in the most unsettling of times, none of us are ever alone.
Not with Manchester Mind just a phone call away.
Speak to the amazing team at Manchester Mind on 0161 769 5732, Monday to Friday. You can talk to them about anything – whether you’ve got a friend in need or you’re experiencing problems of your own.Learn more via their website.
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.