Category Archives: Featured

Manchester’s Open City photography day

Photo by Andrew Brooks

Now this is an event which is right up my street. After spending a considerable amount of money on a beautiful Nikon I still haven’t read the instruction booklet (much to the amusement of my friends).

Manchester’s Cityco has organised an Open City photography day which gives up to 100 people the chance to be taken on a free two hour photography tour and tutorial around the city centre on Sunday, May 23.

read more »

A Raisin In The Sun reviewed

Lorraine Hansberry’s famous drama, A Raisin in the Sun, came to the Royal Exchange in Manchester over the past month and I was sent to discover what the play was really about.

Hansberry’s family drama focuses on a black family, the Youngers, who reside on the Southside of Chicago in 1959. Even though the family work they barely earn enough money to cover the rent. Therefore, when the head of the family passes away, the family wait in earnest for the insurance cheque of $10,000 which will make their dreams come true. Each family member has their own aspirations for the money and the family soon begin to fall apart as the thoughts of money consume them.

read more »

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

Factory Manchester: is this 1989?

Sooo Factory Manchester is back? Well, it seems so judging by the Facebook group I am a member of, which now has 3853 members.

Fac251 is a new indie and rock and roll club from Peter Hook (nicely timed in with his Hacienda book then!), designer Ben Kelly and Funktion One.

Now don’t all shout at me, but usually I find the whole Manchester nostalgia thing just a tad boring (maybe because I was too young to be there). But this is quite an unusual move, and could be potentially quite exciting if it’s a new venue to support new and upcoming bands, using one of the most legendary music names in history.

Visit for more information.

Get wordy with Manchester Literature Festival

Manchester Literature Festival has some really great events this year, and I’m gutted that I’ve been too busy to get to any of them yet. The city has an incredibly rich history of writing and literature, including A Clockwork Orange writer Anthony Burgess, Elizabeth Gaskell, Janette Winterson and one of my favourites, Withington-based writer Melvin Burgess.

We’re smack-bang right in the middle of this year’s event, which runs from Thursday, October 15 to Sunday, October 25. The MLF team have done good this year, with an impressive line-up of celebrated authors and writers including Martin Amis, Simon Armitage, Kate Atkinson, Joan Bakewell, Eoin Colfer, Marilyn Hacker, Val McDermid, Jimmy McGovern and Fay Weldon.

read more »

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!

read more »

Angels With Manky Faces, Library Theatre Manchester

UPDATE…I’ve just heard the play is being performed again which is great news for anyone who missed it first time round because it was sold out. Angels With Manky Faces will be performed at the Dancehouse on Friday, November 6 at 8pm and Sunday, November 8 at 3pm and 7pm. Tickets are £10 (£9 concs).

Dancehouse Theatre, Oxford Road.
T: 0161 237 9753
W: Dancehouse Theatre

Inspired by the book Gangs of Manchester, the play Angels With Manky Faces is about the gangs – or scuttlers – that roamed the streets in the ninteenth century. But more importantly, the book and the play both remind us that binge drinking, casual sex, gang warfare and
street crime are far from being modern phenomena.

I bought the book, Gangs of Manchester, which was written by historian Andrew Davies, before I went to the play and it was fascinating. And it makes you realise that when people hark back to the good old days, they certainly weren’t these times. Manchester during the Industrial Revolution times sounds downright scary – and however much I say I’m skint, my standard of living is just pure luxury compared how the factory workers used to live.

read more »

Zouk’s Slumdog Millionaire charity extravaganza

ZOUK_30.07.09 030

There was lots of food, lots of drink and lots of cool belly dancers. Yes this was raising money for charity the fun way. None of this making people wear orange tabards, giving them clipboards and making them chase you down the street for your bank details.

No sir, there are more genteel ways of engaging people with a charity by plying your customers with food and drink – and this is what the lovely people at Zouk did to donate more than £1000 to Plan UK, which goes to help disadvantaged children in India. And after a bottle of vino Mr and Mrs Manchester Is Ace got giddy with the raffle and spent all our money on tickets, but didn’t win anything, except the warm feeling in our hearts. The organisation’s aim is to enable vulnerable children in some of the world’s poorest countries to live in a safe and secure environment.

read more »

Cornerhouse: loving the pizzas


Cornerhouse -
where to start eh? I luckily used to work right near this centre of
arty-cultural goodness so its delights were ready available. But last week
I met an old work colleague for some Cornerhouse pizza action, and I
realised how much I missed it.

read more »

Bread and Butter (or how piadinas changed my life)

Bread&butter northern quarter
Two weeks ago I didn’t even know what a piadina was. Now I’d eat them for breakfast, lunch and tea if I could (yes really). After months of wanting to go and check out Bread and Butter in the Northern Quarter I finally got there. One lunchtime visit was thwarted because it was just too busy, but now I have finally cracked it. Get there before 12.30pm and you can lounge on the sofas while they make your lunch, and you get the pick of the cakes.

read more »