Thursday, September 28, 2006

Oh Manchester, so much to answer for

I was in Manchester at the weekend, visiting a friend. Having graduated from Manchester University in 1996 but not having visited since 1998, it was quite an eye-opener walking around the old place now. The massive redevelopment programme that took place after the IRA bombing ten years ago, plus the considerable investment in preparing the city for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, has resulted in a city centre bearing little resemblance to the one that I remember. The grotty old Arndale Centre has been totally refurbished and extended with a fancy new atrium. Exchange Square is a totally new development: pedestrianised, with a big outdoor screen, water features, all overlooked by new residents Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. It's a bit like Covent Garden, but nicer, minus the tourists and tedious street 'artists'. When I was a student, Piccadilly train station stank of piss, lager and fag butts. The walk to the station would involve doing the 'tramp slalom', where you would try to avoid scary looking beggars with missing teeth and ginger hair hassling you for change so that they could "get their train fare home". (One chap in particular must have been very unfortunate with losing his train fare, because he was there every time I went to the station.) But now, with its glass exterior and abundance of shops, Piccadilly is more like a smart new airport terminal. Hulme has probably changed the most of all. In my day ("Aye, in my day, it were all fields round these parts"), it was like a cross between London's Elephant and Castle and Dresden after the bombing of 1944. Imagine a run-down council estate the size of a town, where virtually every deserted building has had all its windows broken and every wall is daubed with crude or illegible graffiti and you're starting to get there. But now, smart new low-level housing has sprung up all over. There are now bars, restaurants and delicatessens where, less than ten years ago, the only culture was that growing in the broken beer bottles dropped onto the pavement. Meanwhile, the University, my old alma mater, has ambitious plans to eclipse Oxford and Cambridge in terms of academic excellence. This is probably unrealistic, but they could certainly give them a run for their money.

So all in all, I was very impressed. It struck me as a confident and affluent city, quite European in style (but then it always was, with its canals, narrow winding backstreets, public squares and Gothic architecture). For so long Manchester had an inferiority complex. It would often make bold claims to being a great international city, on a par with London - claims that were once really quite laughable. But from what I've just seen, such proclamations are no longer ridiculous: it can offer pretty much everything that London has, but on a smaller and more manageable (not to mention affordable) scale.

23 comments:

tafka PP said...

ten years ago, the only culture was that growing in the broken beer bottles dropped onto the pavement

Great post! I never fail to be amused/overwhelemed/confused by urban regeneration sweeping all of Britain's wonderful cities...

...tenuously, can I look forward to The Realist's guest out-of-retirement post about how fantastic Brum is looking these days?

Citizen Sane said...

Ha! I'd love it if he did. But alas, I think we would be wise to hold our breath on that one.

ph said...

I finished Manchester University in '86 and have not been back since. They seemed to start sprucing the place up just around the time I departed.
I am sure the place is much better, but I found its slightly grimy gritty northeness quite attractive, but then again I am a grimy northerner myself.
Tell me is the Cypress Tavern still in existence.

Citizen Sane said...

The Cypress Tavern....not sure. Where was this particular establishment?

The Realist said...

I was in Manchester at the same time as Citizen Sane. Loved it up there despite the rough (oh, so rough) edges - I'd have stayed up there if our little gang hadn't all wanted to come down to London Town... They're doing the urban regeneration palaver in the East End where I live, but that's going to take a lot longer than tarting up Platt Fields!

ph said...

sackville street i think. it was a popular music venue of the grubby kind. very popular with students
I think it was Cyprus and not cypress

the thin white duke said...

I was also at Manchester from 83-86. I have spent the last couple of hours trying to remember why the name cypress/cyprus tavern is so familiar.
The fact that I can only draw a complete blank would suggest that I was "Very very drunk at the time"

It certainly existed but I doubt it does now

Citizen Sane said...

I've looked on beerintheevening.com and manchesterbars.com, using both spellings. Nowt I'm afraid....

ph said...

Yes, its seems the the Cyprus Tavern is gone and forgotten. A lesson for us all. Maybe it never existed?
Tell me C.S. did the Plaza curry house on Upper Brook street still exist when you were there. It was behind the hospital, luckily and served fiercely hot inedible currys

Citizen Sane said...

The Plaza curry house.... It rings a bell, but I cannot say for sure. It was always Rusholme for us when it came to curry. Oh, the Curry Mile. Mind you, most of those establishments were bloody awful. Not a surprise when you could order a 'meat' curry for £2.95 or something ridiculous.

yiannis kitromilides said...

The Cyprus Tavern was legendary in Manchester . It was the first night club to allow students in the late 70s . It was a bit of a rough and ready place and became a focal point for Manchesters football hooligan scene in particular Man Citys "young guvnors" .In 1991 it became the Granby, Manchesters first late night bar . It was frequented by many celebrities including Steve Coogan It finally closed its doors in August 2000 a victim of its own success as all the big beer companies had cottoned on to the idea of late night bars . The reason I know so much about the Cyprus Tavern, my father opened it in 1967 and I became owner manager in 1989 having completed my degree at the toast rack in Fallowfield

sparkymcfc said...

Oh my God I remember both The Cyprus Tavern AND (Charlies) The Plaza Cafe where I used to buy curries named Killer and Suicide..usually drunk at 3am lol

I am talking late 70's early 1980's

Mind you I also went to MCFC away games with The Cool cats and later The Guvnors

The bad old days of Manchester lol


Mark McCracken

sparkymcfc said...

oh and by the way The Cyprus was on Princess Street just before Upper Brook Street

sparkymcfc

SONIA said...

I was at Manchester Uni 1977 - 1980 and remember that any good night out had to end at the Plaza! Mild, Medium, Hot, Killer and Suicide sauces!

Anyone remember the Ducie (behind the Geography / Law building, and Placemate 7 in town ? Happy Days!

SONIA

Leve Tom said...

My first time in the Cyprus Tavern was on my 16th birthday, 14 August 1982! A night I will not forget. Got drunk on cider and Bacardi & coke, danced to wonderful music, left after 2am and got chased all the way from Princess St to Piccadilly station! Brill nite and more to follow. Then I got a little older (17) and started going to Club Tropicana at the top of Oxford St and watch the three young ladies dancing in their underwear to the latest Top Ten single! Oh for the love of a time machine!

Anonymous said...

I happened upon this blog searching for stuff about M/chester Uni - I dropped my eldest off there yesterday to start her degree - Weird - I left the place 28 years ago, and yesterday was the first time I had been back - didn't go into the City Centre, but Oxford Rd and the people on it all look the same. I remember the Tavern fondly, and the Swinging Sporran - as for the Plaza, a mate of mine missed the first term of his second year because of that place - a Guiness fuelled evening topped off by a Plaza spesh caused him to vomit so violently that he detached both retinas - Happy days indeed - and now years later my daughter can enjoy it too!

Anonymous said...

The Cypress Tavern was still going around the turn of the century

Sadly, The Plaza was closed down when Alsatian was found in the fridge.

ph said...

Amazing I mentioned the cyprus tavern 2 years ago and its still getting a mention on a blog that died a year ago - the power of memories. Does CS know how popular his dead blog still is

Anonymous said...

The Plaza did not close because of the Alsatian in the freezer (that happened just before my time in about 1971). It changed hands and became some sort of a 'proper' restaurant, which is still there now.

Much of the area around it has gone, buried under yet another MRI multistorey car park. The pub next door is now the Microdirect computer emporium.

Here is a pic of the Plaza in its heyday : http://flickr.com/photos/kh1234567890/1449505053/

mark said...

Fantastic Photo.....I think it expanded into next door too in the end. I remember two rooms being opened when it was busy. The Blackstock Pub nearby is now a PC world type place. The Plaza has been transformed into a POSH gaff .lol

Rod said...

The Cyprus Tavern was a really nice, comfortable place when I "wert thur". Nice chips and burgers right thur without having to leave the premises, and Mancunian strangers passing on joints with the comment "You're not from round 'ere are ya?" No indeed, but very glad to be visiting.

The Plaza curries were actually very palatable, even the very hot ones. True, serving the curry sauce in a pint glass wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing choice, but it was a tasty sauce nonetheless. I always wondered about the Alsation story. Surely chicken comes a lot cheaper per pound than pure-bred Alsation? It's a ghastly calumny to suggest that the food there would normally make you puke your eyeballs out.

Paul said...

Oh guys, can I remember the Swinging Sporan and the Plaza? That's all I can remember about univerity! 77-80.

The boss of the Swinging Sporran was Costos, and we used to hang around at the end of the bar upstairs every night. As regulars Costos used to let us in free, as long as we helped him if a fight started!

And the Plaza. I built up to a full suicide but the sheer quantity did it for me. Then another night we did a runner (shame) but went back the next night no problem. It was 65p for 1/2 biriani and 6p a popadom.

YIANNIS KITROMILIDES said...

HI IF ANYONE IS STILL INTERESTED IN THE CYPRUS TAVERN IT NOW HAS ITS OWN FACEBOOK PAGE "THE CYPRUS TAVERN WE SAW THE WHOLE OF THE MOON" !