Five things I’ll remember about Manchester in 2009

Urbis Manchester Aidan O'Rourke

So it’s the end of another decade. You can tell you’re getting old when you say ANOTHER decade. Ah I remember the heady days of New Year’s Eve in 1999, with the ridiculous fear that the world as we know it might end because of a date setting.

Manchester Is Ace was born last December, which makes it a fitting anniversary that I’ve just re-located to WordPress and tried to develop the site one year on. It’s been a busy and fabulous year for me, with redundancy forcing me to take the plunge and go into full-time PR and journalism freelance-style.

Just a couple months after launching my blog, I was employed to write some freelance food reviews for Taste of Manchester, which then led to me doing all the PR for Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2009. It’s not a secret that I do like my food, so what job could have been more perfect for me?

Anyway, here’s a quick look at some of the most important things that happened in Manchester in 2009 (well, according to me anyway).

1. Urbis becomes a football museum
To someone with a strong dislike for football, this is still very much a sore point. I never actually got to write about this before, being in the midst of WordPress-self-hosting hell, but seriously?

Manchester’s ‘brand’ is Original Modern, and historically Manchester has such a cultural force in the UK, and indeed is the capital of the North. Known as Cottonopolis, we’ve driven the Industrial Revolution with the massive boom in cotton production, demanded a place in Marxist history for being the subject of Freidrich Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, and the thriving music scene in the 1980s created a second nickname for the city: Madchester.

So my rather-long winded point was Urbis was supposed to be at the forefront of documenting our urban culture in the new millennium. And now its exhibitions are going to be squished into a corner, while football memorabilia from Preston takes the limelight. It’s not even an exploration of the popular culture aspect – it’s actual football memorabilia.

Sadly this has also meant job losses for some staff at Urbis, and chief executive Vaughan Allen has already taken a new job at CityCo. Read this interview with him on

Urbis might not have been for everyone, but how can this city claim to be Original and Modern if it doesn’t dare do something different? However, this article on Culture24 says that Urbis lost £500,000 in its last yearly report – and in a money vs culture argument, you know what’s going to win. Urbis did get off to a shaky start, but even in January this year, the Manchester Evening News reported that it had pulled in record-breaking crowds, with a 67% increase since 2005.

Urbis is supposed to close on February 27, unless there is a last minute reprieve. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a local newspaper reporter, is that nothing’s ever final until you see it happen.

2. Intergrated transport system on the cards
Just a few weeks ago, the Manchester Evening News revealed that the city is to get a £2.2m Oyster card-style integrated system. Just in case you don’t know, an Oyster Card is the transport swipe card in London, which means you load up with money and can use it on buses, tubes and trains.

The idea was mentioned back in 2007/08 and was going to be put into place if the public voted yes to the congestion charge. In fact, we were told that a yes vote would mean a £3bn public transport package – when although a much smaller sum of money, it looks like we CAN have some money towards improving public transport (see what I mean about nothing being final with government).

However, public transport as it stands is all over the place and more expensive than driving. Doesn’t really tempt you to leave the car at home does it? So fingers crossed that this goes ahead.

3. Replacement water pipes
Will 2009 be the year that we all remember the mass roadworks, bringing the city centre to a standstill? From May onwards, the city saw a £8m project to replace the Victorian cast iron water pipes with modern plastic ones.

Work began on Oxford Road, before moving across the city centre and ending up with Deansgate being one way. According to the United Utilities website it should all by over by early 2010.

4. The end of journalism as we know it
This year has seen reporters all across the country being given the heave-ho, and Manchester hasn’t been any different. The last few years have already seen lots of redundancies, with my beloved Citylife being closed down. But this year saw the final cull and really, the death of journalism in Manchester.

The Manchester Evening News shed most of its staff, including staff, while the Metro closed down all of its Northern offices, meaning we lost all our Manchester-based food, culture and going out pages. The remaining journalists in our local papers just don’t have the time to do their jobs properly because they just don’t have the staff. I could write so much more on this, but there’s just too much to say. Sad times indeed.

5. Twitter
I wasn’t planning to mention Twitter, because we’ve all read sooo many articles about the new social media website this year, most of them completely missing the point.

But when I think about my year of working and living in Manchester, Twitter does in fact feature quite prominently. Manchester is quite a small city, and everyone just knows everyone, especially in the media, digital and PR world. So I think Twitter has brought all this together quite nicely, and I’ve met a huge amount of people, been to some fabulous events, gained a few new clients and actually feel like part of a community – none of which I would have done without Twitter.

Here’s raising a glass to 2010.

Urbis photo by Aidan O’Rourke


  • Pingback: Manchester Is Ace | Urbis is leaving the building…

  • V
    March 11, 2010 - 6:58 am | Permalink

    Only just seen this–thanks for the kind words. To clarify, it was the football museum, not Urbis, that lost 500K (as mentioned in that Culture24 report)…the way its written is very confusing I know.

  • May 18, 2010 - 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Super information, I have Digged this site for future and will keep a eye on your other postings. Thank you

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