Sure, there are plenty of people who can work their way around an eyeshadow palette, or pull off a simple highlight and contour, with a lipstick look to finish, but there’s no denying that some people possess more of a natural talent when it comes to makeup artistry than others.
And yes – the level and skill of makeup application we’re talking about here is an art.
If you’ve ever found yourself skeptical of that statement, you only have to take a look at the work of Ashton-native and “professional shapeshifter” Nicky Hill to have all of those doubts proven wrong.
The 27-year-old’s self-taught talents are to thank for her transformations into some of the world’s most famous and instantly-recognisable faces – from Cher and Angelina Jolie, to Adele and even Mrs Doubtfire – that not only have you looking twice to check it’s not the real thing, but have also, quite-rightly, lead her to becoming a respected name in the makeup industry across the UK.
Some of the jaw-dropping celebrity transformations that Nicky – who is also a trained Microblading artist – has managed to pull off over her seven year career have amassed her a loyal fanbase of over 11.6K followers and counting on social media.
But they aren’t even half of what she’s capable of.
“I started experimenting with SFX, illusion and artistic makeup around four and a half years ago now.” Nicky told us.
“Being a makeup artist is my full-time job and hobby, and some of my work [even] went viral [at the start], but because I was new to the makeup scene, I didn’t realise I needed to watermark my pictures, so I never got credited for it, which was unfortunate – and they still circulate to this day.
“I fell off the waggon a bit due to this, and my mental health wasn’t the best at the time [either],
“So it was only in the last year that I’ve come back to the makeup scene, and a lot of my work has blown up [on social media] during lockdown.
“I’ve been receiving a lot of recognition, which I feel very grateful for”.
While makeup may a talent that Nicky has only been honing and perfecting in recent years, as you can probably imagine, her artistic interests showed themselves from an early age, and her clear abilities were pretty evident right off the bat.
“I have always been very artistic,” Nicky continued.
“I loved anything to do with art and had a keen eye for detail – I just love being able to use my face as a blank canvas and use art as a form of expression.
“I started posting pictures online, and the more I posted, the more attention they received.
“I regularly look at illusion and abstract art, or anything which tricks the eye, and take inspiration from other fellow artists and their styles, but I always like to try and do original work and stay away from trends”.
She doesn’t neglect to mention the fact that it takes a lot of hard work to achieve what she has, but Nicky’s originality and intentions with her makeup looks are clear.
Though for the majority of us who find it hard to apply mascara without poking ourselves in the eye, or even come up against difficulty when trying to draw a convincing stick man, never mind attempting optical illusions, all of this still leaves one major question that we need answering.
How the heck does she do it?
Without revealing too many of her industry secrets, Nicky tried to break it down for us.
She said: “My celebrity transformations [in particular] are done by contouring the face to the face shape of the people I want to turn myself into.
“I will look at a headshot of them on Google, see where the shading lands on their face and features, and recreate that on my own face, [and] this is done with heavy highlighting and contouring, and adapting to their facial expressions as well.
“My first ever look I did like this was Angelina Jolie, and I received a lot of attention for that when I posted it, so I was hooked ever since.
“[When it comes to] the illusion looks, [they are] inspired by optical illusions and illusion art.
“I use my face as the canvas for it [and] it’s all about getting the shading right, and by doing that, I can create the illusion of 3D art, negative space, holes, cracks – you name it.”
And how long does it take too, for that matter?
You’re probably not shocked to find out that the answer to that is a pretty long time, as Nicky admits: “A lot of my looks take me anywhere from four to nine hours to complete.
“It takes a lot of attention to detail”.
Well it may take a lot of time and attention to detail, but when you have a talent and a passion that’s as clear as this, it’s certainly time well spent.
You can find more of Nicky Hill’s work and keep up to date with her latest creations and transformations on her social media platforms – Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.
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.