Category Archives: Days out

Shopping-tastic at Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair

As I mentioned, October is always festival month in Manchester, with loads of different events going on. My favourite is Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair because it’s full of beautifully-stunning handcrafted work for you to buy.

I think it’s because I would love to be creative and crafty, but I just don’t have the skills or the patience. So I really appreciate the craftsmanship and handwork when someone else IS crafty and arty. And I get to buy pretty things, which I also love. Jewellery, ceramics, glass, textiles and homeware from designer-makers across the UK are all piled into one venue from October 20-23.

GNNCF has just won the Best Small Event at the Manchester Tourism Awards, which is very well deserved seeing as the whole event is put on by the just organisers, Ann-Marie Franey and Angela Mann, with a team of volunteers.

Now in its fourth year,  this event is taking place at Quay House at Spinningfields, instead of the marquee of the last two years.

Some of you know that I did the PR for this event for the first three years, but had to step down this year as I had my little boy in March. So this year, I’m attending purely as a fan and seeing as it’s right near my birthday I’m looking forward to spending some birthday pennies.

One of the hardest things to get across the the press and consumers is that craft doesn’t necessarily mean knitted tea cosies made by someone in their spare time (although there’s nothing wrong with making tea cosies in your spare time!). This contemporary craft is the work of professional artists and designer-makers, who dedicate their lives to perfecting their craft.

This event is perfectly placed for Christmas, and it’s lovely to buy people individual gifts made by craftspeople from all over the UK, instead of some tat from Primark.

Many of the makers return year after year as Manchester is such as good market, and there’s a lovely atmosphere. Last year the organisers also added a Graduates section to showcase the best work from all the degree shows. This is a great way of supporting new makers and is returning this year.

There’s a massive variety of work on show at this event, but I’ve just pulled out some of my favourites:

Hannah Nunn

Hannah Nunn
Hannah run Radiance Lighting in Hebden Bridge and also creates these stunning papercut lights with botanical designs. She also does gorgeous fairy lights and children’s lamps with names on them, which I have my eye on!

Lucy Elsie Harvey

Lucy Elsie Harvey

Lucy Elsie Harvey is another regular at GNCCF and her unusual and striking jewellery and pieces always make an impression on me.

Jane Dzisiewski

Jane Dsisiewski

Janes creates these beautiful resin bangles and stones for necklace pendants, with intricate and subtle designs. All of these are the result of lots of labour with the sanding machine!

Jane Blease

Jane Blease
Another lighting maker here. Jane is based in Manchester Craft and Design Centre and makes these impressive wooden lights, with cut-outs and embroidery.

Sarah Thirlwell

Sarah Thirwell

Last year, one of my favourite purchases was one of these small wooden vessels by established maker Sarah Thirwell. All of her work has a beautiful simplicity, and much of it is made using recycled materials.

Check for all the details. See you there.
Directions to Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair.


Dunham Massey and Little Heath Farmshop

Dunham Massey deer

Dunham Massey is definitely the most visited place by the Family Hughes this summer. Having purchased our family-friendly National Trust membership just before I dropped, this pram-friendly park is now a much-loved favourite because it’s only about 25 minutes from our house in South Manchester.

With wide gravel paths, this gorgeous 300-acre deer park is just the right size for a stroll before you’re ready for an ice cream. The deer are really used to visitors so happily graze right near the paths, and you can get a real close up view.

I also saw a sign for night walks called Dunham After Dark, where you go on a guided tour at night time to see bats, owls and other nocturnal animals. I thought this sounded amazing.

Little Heath Farm Shop Dunham Massey

However, I must admit that it’s not just Dunham Massey, nor the Cheshire Farm ice cream that’s the favourite part of the daytrip.

It’s Little Heath Farm Shop which we discovered tucked away behind the Axe and Cleaver pub (also well worth a visit). Run by an incredibly friendly family, they sell their own Aberdeen Angus and Hereford Beef, which is all reared on their farm “at nature’s pace”, as they put it.

Every time we go out for a stroll, we stop off here and buy enough to fill our freezer for the next month. The beef has a beautifully deep mature flavour and is really good value compared to some farmers markets.

Little Heath Farm Shop fruit

Yesterday, we had a beef brisket simmering in its own juices in our well-used slow cooker, which after a good eight hours, had a mouthwateringly tender texture that just flaked apart at the sight of a fork.

Our other faves include the mince, which stays lovely and firm when cooked, unlike the sludgy stuff you buy from supermarkets.

The shop also sells free-range pork, sausages, gammon, lamb, and when in season, Dunham Massey venison. The fruit and veg is all good quality local produce, and sourced from local farms if they don’t grow it themselves.

This is a genuine farm shop that sells proper farm-grown food, unlike many of the so-called farm shops across Cheshire, which bizarrely stock pineapples and peaches and other stuff that’s clearly not grown in the UK, nevermind nearby.

Dunham Massey

Directions to Dunham Massey

Little Heath Farm Shop

Directions to Little Heath Farm Shop



Castlefield on a sunny day

Remember that sunny weekend in Manchester? The sun came out, got us all excited about summer and then disappeared again.

Castlefield is absolutely the best place to be in Manchester when the sky is vibrantly blue, and the sun is beaming away. At the weekends, the canal basin area is full of beer-drinking pub goers. But we went down on Monday evening, and apart from at Dukes 92, we only saw joggers and a few people out walking.

castlefield and beetham tower manchester

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Homegrown: see it while you still can

Our beloved Urbis is due to incorporate Preston’s Football Museum and will be closing on February 27, 2010.

Go and check out its Homegrown exhibition, while it’s still there. This is a fascinating look at the UK hip hop scene, and is interesting regardless of what music you listen to.

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Festival Finale Weekend at Albert Square

Paul heathcote MFDF
Paul Heathcote, who was giving a chef demo at St Ann’s Square.

We’re now in the middle of Manchester Food and Drink Festival ,
after it launched last week with a glitzy bash at Manchester Art Gallery.
Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I’m doing some freelance PR work for the
festival so I’ve been watching all the behind the scenes action and can really
appreciate how much work goes into putting an event like this on.

And I’m starting to realise the occupational hazard of
working with (and consuming lots of) food and drink is a strong possibility of gout.
But, hey, I’m not complaining!

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Buy Art Fair back in Manchester


Buy art! Yes, that’s a command as well as an event. The Buy Art Fair premiered last year in the uber-cool surroundings of Urbis, memorably with my favourite tipple, Tuaca, providing welcome cocktails.

And now it’s back for a second year and I’ve just signed up and registered. The three day event runs from Thursday, September 24 (preview evening) to Sunday, September 27 and showcases the work of more than 300 artists, presented by 75 selected galleries.

Partners this year include the Castelfield Gallery, the Northern Quarter’s amazing Craft and Design Centre and the Chinese Arts Centre and Cornerhouse, among others.

In addition to this year’s event is the first presentation of The Manchester Contemporary, a new platform within the fair, featuring 15 leading cutting edge galleries from across the UK.

And even better, if you register now online you will get free tickets, which otherwise would be £5 on the door. Get in there quick – it’s good.

East 1-10: a retrospective

Pat allwoodPat Allwood, from East 4

East Manchester is an area that has seen dramatic changes from Ancoats being the first industrial suburb in the late 18th century onwards to the decline of the whole area in the 1930s as industry dried up, leaving it a no-go zone for many. As a Manchester journalist I’ve always been fascinated by the rich history of this area and have always followed the work of New East Manchester, which was set up in 1999 to develop and regenerate the area.

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Cutting Room activities launched

Cutting Room art low res
The next phase of the innovative event Cutting Room Experiment has now been announced, with the winning ideas and schedule going up on the website last week. I was really excited to find out which activities were going to go ahead, and in the end there were 103 ideas generated and 1,166 people counted in for activities.

This is such a unique concept, and it’s been fantastic to see the message being passed around the web on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. I’ve been tweeting about this event under @cuttingroomexp and it’s really cool to see people talking about an event you’re involved in.

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Be counted in for the Cutting Room Experiment

Cutting room experiment

Have you ever wanted to see 200 people all singing along to Manfred
Mann or watch a massive Space Hopper race on the same day as a group of
people all dress up as characters from the postmodern novel
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Well this could be your chance.

The Cutting Room Experiment is an attempt
to create the world’s biggest user-generated event in the world, right
here in Manchester. The website is a hive of activity with people coming up with all kinds of weird and wonderful ideas and voting for their favourites to make them actually happen on Saturday, June 20.

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Chill out at Gorton Monastery

Labyrynth at Gorton Monastery manchester
This is just the quirky type of event I wanted to flag up when I started writing this blog. Gorton Monastery, which has just seen a massive restoration campaign, has just started offering a new twist to a relaxing Sunday walk.

Once a month, as part of the St Francis Sundays open days, visitors can now take part in a meditation walk on a full size canvas replica of the famous stone labyrinth set into the nave at Chartres Cathedral in France.

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