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Culture hot spots

Daniel Hopkinson

Short breaks in England’s north-west

Produced by the Guardian in ­association with the Northwest Regional Development Agency

England’s north-west 


Introduction Encompassing Cumbria, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside, England’s north-west is a hotbed of cultural adventure. From high art to popular culture, the north-west offers a myriad of enriching experiences. Along with the vibrant city centres of Liverpool and Manchester you will find the fells and lakes that inspired William Wordsworth, and Roman and Georgian heritage in the traditional county towns of Chester and Lancaster. With excellent city centre museums and galleries, an abundance of sport and music venues, and over 100 professional theatre companies, the north-west boasts an unrivalled programme of drama and performance all year round. And of course Liverpool is European Capital of Culture 2008, so it’s never been more timely to discover the culture and creativity of England’s north-west.

Hotbed of talent

Hitting all the right notes

Liverpool is European Capital of Culture 2008, but why wait? There is much to enjoy before then, not least this year’s Liverpool Biennial and next year’s 800th birthday

Throughout its musical history, from the Cavern to the current crop of guitar bands, Liverpool has often found itself at the centre of the pop universe. The International Guitar Festival pays tribute to the city’s musical heritage

From left: Seat of the Liverpool Biennial; a still from the Liverpool city tour video by Tsui Kuang-Yu, a biennial commission Don McPhee, Tsui Kuang-Yu


self-portrait with badges 1961,© peter blake 2006

02 Liverpool Art, music and sport are celebrated in a series of major events

howard barlow

06 Manchester In a city renowned for its festivals, we look at arts, architecture and literature


10 Chester A good time to visit this historic city is during its annual literature festival

11 Lancaster The gateway to the Lake District offers its own rewards in terms of sights

in accelerated transition also means recognising awkward undercurrents. House prices have tripled since 2003, and the 65p cup of tea, along with the much loved “chips and egg”, has gone for good — at least in the newly glossy city centre. It is this process of dynamic change that International 2006 is responding to. “It’s about engaging with the energy of the city and exploring it in different ways,” says Sorcha Carey, International projects coordinator. “We’ve asked the artists to view the city as a vibrant and changing organism, and to engage with some of the key debates that are taking place. For example, [German artist] Hans Peter Kuhn has seen Liverpool as ‘a city full of questions’. He is constructing a giant fluorescent question mark on the Wirral side of the Mersey, a literal and metaphorical symbol that everyone can have a personal response to.” Fact is also presenting art that records this transitional phase. “Our works will include text, smell, film, video and computer animation,” says Ceri Hand, director of exhibitions. “For example, ­artist Kelly Mark has pieced together a narrative of the city through its stories. She’s made 26 films that are personal portraits but also cover an amazing range of experience — everything from art, history and philosophy to medicine, law and activism. ” In previous biennials it has been the public works that have really caught the imagination, and likely contenders in 2006 might be Priscilla Monge’s football pitch, designed as an obstacle course for visitors, and as a metaphor for human communication. Or maybe it will be the piece by Portuguese artist Rigo. In what is a relatively simple concept, but likely to resonate powerfully on a subconscious level, he will be caging the stone lions in front of the neoclassical St George’s Hall, reanimating them as symbols of untamed danger. Part of the biennial’s achievement has

‘Liverpool is unique in its people, history and built environment, and yet it is representative of many post-industrial cities’ been to incorporate two existing visual art events. Thus the UK’s most prestigious and long-running painting competition, the John Moores Exhibition, occurs during the festival. Itself a biennial event, hosted by the Walker Art Gallery since 1957, it ­offers a first prize of £25,000, judged this year by pop artist Sir Peter Blake and Tracey Emin. Counterbalancing this is Bloomberg New Contemporaries survey show. Open to

Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art 2006, Sep 16-Nov 26,

Liverpool: Where to eat The London Carriage Works 40 Hope St, 0151-705 2222, Elegantly apportioned brasserie and restaurant separated from each other by dramatic shards of glass. Classic cuisine with a modern twist created by Paul Askew, the city’s most decorated chef, from the freshest local and organic produce. Friendly and knowledgeable sommelier offers a list of over 200 carefully selected wines. Newz Brasserie 18 Water St, 0151-236 2025, Mix with celebs and beautiful people in the new art deco surroundings of this eat-drink-and-benoticed brasserie. Classic and original cocktails, ambient music, coffee bar and deli, modern British menu overseen by master chef Stewart St John — plus breaking news, business headlines and fashion shows on the Newz screen. Everyman Bistro & Bars 5-9 Hope St, 0151-708 9545, Friendly self-service bistro, located beneath Everyman Theatre, offering fresh food made from

scratch with prime ingredients every day, and equally welcoming to professors and students, corporate executives and backpackers. Includes wide range of vegetarian and gluten‑free dishes. Kimos 46 Mount Pleasant, 0151-709 2355 Restaurant (plus sandwich bar 10am-5pm) offering Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and English breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, with Arabian cuisine a speciality. Sink into a sofa, and then eat and drink at small, intimate tables or relax on Arabian majlis-style cushioned seating. Excellent in value, equally welcoming to vegetarians and to halal meat-eaters. Yuet Ben 1 Upper Duke St, 0151-709 5772, Looking out on to Chinatown’s colourful arch, the largest outside China, the Yuet Ben is Liverpool’s first and original Peking-style restaurant. Taste the poetry of tomato and egg-flower soup or gon bay chon seaweed while enjoying attentive and friendly service.

Bill Harpe

Calendar of events

richard bryant/

Editor Pas Paschali Design Nadine Fleischer Picture editors Tracey Tomlin Production Joanna Moody A Guardian Plus product Contact Emma Payne on 020-7713 4422 Produced by Guardian Creative All editorial content is independent of the sponsor


ince landing the title of European Capital of Culture 2008, Liverpool has become a turbo-charged regeneration hothouse. The “green shoots of recovery” optimistically heralded elsewhere in the country in the early 90s, have at last sprouted into giant triffids, crowding the Liverpool skyline in the form of hard-angled industrial building cranes. Liverpool’s renewal is unmistakably physical, with a vast amount of new building and numerous upmarket lifestyle shops and coffee bars opening in the city centre, along with designer shopping malls and swish new apartment blocks. But in truth, Liverpool has been experiencing a revival for some years, and arts and cultural projects have always played a part. The opening of Tate Liverpool in 1988 at the newly rebuilt Albert Dock paved the way for the first Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art in 1999. Since then the biennial has grown in size and reputation to become the biggest visual arts festival in the country. For 10 weeks every two years, the major players of the art world descend on ­Liverpool to see art shown in over 40 ­locations across a city centre “footprint”. All the major galleries participate and there are also a ­ significant number of works in unexpected public settings and independent spaces. September is a palpably exciting time to visit. “International 2006 is our showpiece ­e xhibition, the critical focus of the biennia­l,” explains chief executive Lewis Biggs. “The intention is to recognise the specific cultural context in which it is shown: ­Liverpool is unique in its people, history and built environment, and yet it is also representative of many post-industrial ­cities. The exhibition will be sensitive to the context of the city — made and seen in Liverpool.” Acknowledgment of Liverpool as a city

current and recently graduated art students across the country, it selects around 35 emerging artists to create an exhibition of “the very newest and best contemporary art”. The final piece of the biennial picture is Independents, an exuberant outpouring of creative vitality. It is, if you like, the fringe: contributions from Merseyside’s population of resident artists, who would other­wise be disenfranchised from biennial events. On the evidence of previous years, the work can be of variable quality; so far no one has managed to pick it up by the scruff of the neck and sort it out. But at the least its ballsy “have a go-ness” is to be admired, and it does present visitors with yet another narrative of the city. Next year will see Liverpool’s 800th ­anniversary celebrations, widely understood as a rehearsal for 2008. The Culture Company, the organisation also delivering the Capital of Culture year, has plans for a four-day extravaganza to mark the granting of Liverpool’s first charter in 1207. Among these plans are street parties, a ­historical pageant and procession through the city centre, the annual Matthew Street Music Festival and Europe’s largest fireworks display — to make sure the ­celebrations truly go with a bang. Dany Louise

UNTIL NOV: Milapfest Philharmonic Hall, 0151-707 1111, Now in its 12th year, the Music for the Mind and Soul concert series is a truly relaxing way to spend two hours on a Saturday afternoon. An eclectic and changing programme of musicians perform Indian classical music with astonishing dexterity and skill in the elegant surroundings of the Philharmonic’s Rodewald Suite. Very popular events on the last Saturday of each month: arrive early to get a seat. UNTIL MAY 20 2007: Shipwrecked Merseyside Maritime Museum, 0151-478 4499, An interactive exhibition designed for 4- to 10-yearolds, likely to keep children enthralled. Recreating the sights and sounds of a remote desert island, it invites children to imagine they are castaways and to explore a range of survival

Musical heritage (clockwise from far left): The Zutons, The Beatles, Nils Logren, Echo and the Bunnymen , Tom Oldham, Timelife/ Getty, Simon Chapman/Live, David Hogan/Rex

Liverpool: Where to shop


hink of Liverpool and what first comes to mind? Football maybe, but probably also the Beatles, still inextricably linked with the city. It was their phenomenal success in the 60s that first blew Liverpool open to the world. Liverpool’s musical history has periodically made it the coolest place in the country. But as Adrian Blackburn, vocalist with indie band Clinic has said about the Capital of Culture 2008 title: “Hopefully, the city will encourage the arts more and not trade on the past as a quick fix for outside attention.” There is a feeling that this has previously been done too much, and some commentators have pointed out that, in a way, the Beatles were too successful because when they moved to London they took Liverpool’s infrastructure with them. Pete Fulwell, who founded the famous Eric’s club in 1977, explains. “At the time we started Eric’s, Liverpool was practically a desert. There was very little music infrastructure left post-60s; the management companies, agents and promoters had all moved down to London. At the same time, bands that came out of Liverpool were under the enormous Beatles shadow which could be very intimidating for them.” Eric’s was on Matthew Street, opposite the site of the original Cavern Club, then derelict land after the council had demolished the building in the early 70s. “We used to get Japanese tourists taking

‘People thought we were mad when we changed the name from the Cavern Company, but we didn’t want to be a museum’ photos of this abandoned site, and sold them Cavern T-shirts,” Fulwell says. “In fact, the company we bought was called the Cavern Company. People thought we were mad when we changed the name to Eric’s, but we were adamant that we didn’t want the club to be a museum. We were going to look forward, not back.” Eric’s quickly gained credibility on the national circuit, hosting all the great names of punk and new wave, including the Clash, the Ramones and Talking Heads, as well as emerging Liverpool bands such as the Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen. It paved the way for the early 80s success of bands like OMD, China Crisis and Half Man, Half Biscuit. But the club closed in 1980 after a drugs raid. “It was shattering,” says Fulwell, “but from a cultural point of view, it had served its purpose by giving a platform to new artists and informing a new audience.” Fulwell moved on to other projects, managing the Christians, Pete Wylie and Black, getting involved with the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, and now runs

Musicbias, an agency offering business support to musicians. But there is a postscript to the Eric’s story, one that illustrates our growing institutionalisation of culture. In 2005 the Museum of Liverpool Life put on an exhibit about the club, “and I was filled with this terrible sense of irony that we had ended up in a museum after all,” says Fulwell. The 80s saw the advent of house music, paving the way for Cream, at one time ­rated the best dance club in the country. It drew thousands of students to Liverpool, who queued around the block several nights a week to get in, and spawned Creamfields, the enormous weekend rave on the site of the old Liverpool airport. Since then there has been another guitar band revival, with Merseyside groups the Coral, Clinic, and the Zutons attracting national attention. Why the sudden interest in guitar bands? Rob Smith, director of Wirral’s International Guitar Festival, thinks it is cyclical. “Technology impacted on the popularity of the guitar in terms of how fashionable it was, but really, guitars haven’t ever gone away. I think it’s the one instrument that touches more people’s lives than any other.” Smith started the International Guitar Festival 18 years ago. “I was looking for something different that would set the Wirral apart. At the time, there wasn’t a guitar festival at all in the UK, and so we began by creating something that would celebrate the guitar in all its range, diver-

sity and styles.” Big-name headline acts this year are E Street Band guitarist Nils Lofgren, returning for the third time, Bill Wyman and his Rhythm Kings, Chris Spedding, “the ultimate session guitarist who has played on everything for everyone”, and BJ Cole, who has played with Sting and Dave Gilmour. How has Smith persuaded such high pedigree musicians to appear? “Ever since the first year the players have been our biggest ambassadors. Three years ago we had Gregg Wright, Michael Jackson’s guitarist, and he said it was the best place he’d ever played! We present a world-class festival, with a world-class operation,” Smith explains with justifiable pride. Smith thinks it is a natural progression that “Merseyside continues to market itself as Pop City, given its musical history”. Music remains the great communicator, broad enough to encompass the entire human emotional range, from despair to intense euphoria. It’s a cliche but it’s true: music affects us, on a deep punch-in-thegut level. But talking about institutionalised culture, he sums up the state of play succinctly: “Really, what we’re trying to achieve is an inward investment in energy from the people, and on the back of that have outside agencies give us an inward investment of cash.” Dany Louise

OCT 25-26: Bang On a Can’s Carbon Copy Building Royal Court Liverpool, 08707 871866, Billed as “a comic book opera”, this is a multimedia performance based on Ben Katchor’s cult comic strip with innovative US musicians Bang On a Can. Eight singers and musicians tell the story of parallel but opposite lives, of people who live in two buildings with the same architectural footprint but on opposite sides of a city, one a wealthy avenue and the other in a rundown alley. The comic strip influence is evident, adding visual interest. NOV 1-15: Homotopia Various venues, 0151-233 6753, Launched in 2004, this is Liverpool’s homegrown annual celebration of queer culture. With 60 events this year, featuring local and nationally acclaimed talent, there is an eclectic programme including live cabaret and vaudeville acts, film, theatre, photography and dance. Homotopia is also presenting Outsiders, the third Liverpool lesbian and gay film festival with 20 screenings

at Fact. Production designer Christopher Hobbs, who worked on several Derek Jarman films, will be exhibiting his work. NOV 7-26: International Guitar Festival Various venues, 0151-666 2756, This is their 18th birthday, and performers from all over the world will be playing on the Wirral. Highlights this year include E Street Band member Nils Lofgren, and Bill Wyman and The Rhythm Kings, both playing at New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion. An eclectic programme of classical, jazz, rock, blues, slide, country and flamenco takes place in a range of venues from the intimate 100-seater Birkenhead Priory to the Pacific Road Arts Centre. NOV 13-DEC 12: DaDaFest Various venues in Liverpool and Manchester, 0151707 1733, Now in its sixth year, DaDaFest is the largest celebration of disability and deaf art in the northwest, winning the Mersey Tourism Award for Best Small Event 2005. The programme features

acclaimed comedy troupe Nasty Girls, a cabaret club night, and the Shoot to Thrill showcase of five-minute film shorts. Watch out for comedian Lawrence Clark: he is very funny. All events are accessible, including sign language interpretation and audio description. NOV 16-18: The End of Cinematics Royal Court Liverpool, 08707 871866, Also part of the Liverpool Performs season promoted by the Culture Company, this is a European premiere for Mikel Rouse’s discourse on the future of cinema. Playing knowingly to the MTV generation, with multiple screens and live acts, this is more than either a cinematic or concert performance. It promises to be a voluptuous multi-media experience ripe with special effects: “like watching a music video come alive before your eyes”. Nov 18-19: North West Masters Haydock Park and Aintree Racecourse, 01942 402624 (Haydock), 0151-522 2929 (Aintree) The latest event in the racing calendar, Haydock

International Guitar Festival, Nov 7-26,

Matta’s International Food 51 Bold St, 0151-709 3031, Yerba Mate tea from South America, fruit and vegetables from Thailand, German sourdough bread, fish from India … Over 5,000 individual items on offer from around the world in this family-friendly (and family-run) store to delight and nourish the palate. News From Nowhere 96 Bold St, 0151-708 7270, Run on a not-for-profit basis by a women’s cooperative, this delivers radical messages from its central location just up the road from Waterstone’s. Socially conscious fiction and culturally diverse children’s books sit alongside labour history, black liberation, Irish politics, women’s health, disability liberation, etc. Plus toys and a comfy chair in the children’s area. Grand Central Hall 35 Renshaw St, 0151-709 2074 The former Methodist Central Hall opened as the city’s “alternative shopping experience” in July this year. Stalls in this four-level building offer new and vintage clothing, jewellery, accessories, toys, antiques, collectables, religious wares, tattoo and body piercing, etc. A bar, the Barcelona, provides food and drink. Solely Shoes 24 Cavern Walks, Matthew St, 0151-236 6930, The only UK shoe shop with a specialist range of 60s footwear, and patronised by music biz celebrities for items from the Beatwear range (winkle-pickers, chelsea boots, and the classic, high, cuban heel of the Cavern boots). More traditional styles (loafers or lace-ups), brands (Church’s, Rockport), and independent master shoemakers (John White, Grenson) available. Probe Records 9 Slater St, 0151-708 8815 , Independent specialists in alternative music located close to HMV but a thousand miles away. Guitar rock, hip-hop, electronica and all sonic points between. Plus heaps of classic music from funk to punk, wired to weird on beautiful, big, round, new and reissued vinyl.

Bill Harpe

Calendar of events techniques. Complete with cave and enormous replica shipwreck, actors roam the set telling stories of adventure, while flag-making and “bug‑tasting“ workshops will be available. SEP 15-16: Rawhide Comedy Club Royal Court Liverpool, 08707 871866, Liverpool’s longest-running comedy club is now in its new home at the Royal Court. The last few years have seen regulars Johnny Vegas, Peter Kay, Dara O’Briain and Jimmy Carr hit the big-time; the fun is to spot the next big thing. Currently tipped is Liverpool wit John Bishop. His observational humour mines his colourful life and no two gigs are ever the same. He’s on the bill here with Patrick Monaghan, Martin Beaumont and Brendan Riley. SEP 16-NOV 26: Liverpool Biennial Various venues, 0151-709 7444, Bringing a palpable air of excitement and quirkiness to the city centre, this is Britain’s biggest visual art event. Thirty-five international artists have made new work especially for Liverpool, showing at the Walker, Fact, Tate Liverpool and the

Open Eye Gallery, as well as many independent galleries and in unexpected outdoor spaces. SEP 18-24: St Helens Comedy Week The Citadel and Theatre Royal, 01744 755 150, Three TV comics come to this year’s festival. Rob Rouse, star of BBC3’s Grown-ups, Channel 4’s Spoons and the Friday Night Project, presents a brand-new show for St Helens audiences. Also appearing is Justin Moorhouse, of Phoenix Nights and Key 103 fame, “with a new house, a new car and a new baby to pay for” — so plenty of domestic grist for the comic mill. Finally, veteran north-west comic Tom O’Connor plays one night. SEP 22:24: British Musical Fireworks Championship Kings Gardens, Southport, 01704 533333, Every night, six of the UK’s top professional firework companies compete for the championship title, with each display lasting 15-18 minutes. Approximately £300 of fireworks goes up in smoke every minute; that’s over £30,000 for the

entire competition. There is also a son et lumiere “Water Ballet” presentation over the Marine Lake. OCT 9-29: Liverpool Irish Festival Various venues, Separated from Liverpool by only the Irish Sea, Ireland has exerted a powerful influence on the city. Celebrating this relationship is a three-week programme of Irish-themed events, featuring the National Theatre’s revival of Brian Friel’s play Translations, concerts from the Undertones and Christy Moore, among others, poetry from Matthew Sweeney, and the film screening of The Mighty Celt at the Philharmonic Halland play­ wright Jimmy McGovern in conversation at Fact. OCT 9-Apr 2007: Love Sport World Museum Liverpool, 0151-478 4393, An interactive exhibition aimed at both children and adults. Love Sport combines learning about the science of sport with the opportunity to take part in some exercise. The interactive part allows visitors to test their own coordination, balance, strength and stamina and compare results ≥

≥ with other people, as well as looking at sports psychology and its impact on performance. OCT 10: Scrap Arts Music of Vancouver Royal Court Liverpool, 08707 871866, Part of the Liverpool Performs season, Scrap Arts Music live up to their name. They are a five-strong percussion ensemble with a difference: all their instruments are invented from scrap metal and construction salvage. The instruments make a wide array of sounds and pitches, allowing for a range of rhythms and compositions. Styling themselves as “action musicians”, this is an evening of energetic choreographed performance.

Scrap Arts Music of Vancouver

Park will host the new Grade 1 Betfair Chase. This joins the Cheltenham Gold Cup and King George VI Stakes to become the third Grade 1 steeplechase over three miles or more in Britain. To raise the stakes, the sponsors are offering a £1 million bonus to any horse that can win all three events. On Sunday, Aintree will host a full day, including two races over the Grand National fences. DEC 8-JAN 21 2007: Juneau/Projects and Chelpa Ferro 0151-707 4450, Destruction is an art form for Juneau/Projects. They create elaborate tableaux out of our technological flotsam — mobile phones, MP3 players, computers etc — before orchestrating and filming their destruction. This installation sees them filling a gallery with trees, hidden among which will be video works documenting their performances. Brazilian group Chelpa Ferro use Gallery 1 to make a new sound composition using plastic bags attached to motors, exploring the visual representation of music and its dynamics. ≥


England’s north-west

A sporting chance Two Liverpool clubs between them have won 12 FA Cups and 27 league championships. But football is not Liverpool’s only claim to fame. A new exhibition acknowledges and celebrates the city’s great sporting tradition


he memory may still send shudders of anguished regret down the spines of two of Liverpool’s favourite sons, but it will linger as the tortured image of this summer. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, faces contorted in stunned disbelief, crouch on the turf in Gelsenkirchen as, all around, Portuguese players celebrate penalty shoot-out victory against England in the World Cup quarter-final. Back home, a nation, so long pepped by expectation, was wailing in familiar dismay. The country’s disappointment was laced with perplexity that players of such calibre could contrive to miss three of their four penalties so meekly. Back on Merseyside this autumn, visitors to the World Museum Liverpool might just stumble across a few answers. Love Sport, an interactive exhibition to be staged at the plush site on William Brown Street, will offer visitors the chance to take a spot-kick amid a maelstrom of recorded crowd jeers. This is a chance to put yourself in their boots and resist quaking under the pressure of a shoot-out. The psychology of sport is just one aspect touched upon by Love Sport, whose various exhibits will also examine the physical pressures put on the body when participating in top-level competition. There will be explanations of the mechanics involved in everything from slam-dunking a basket, generating momentum in a sprint to maintaining balance on the high beam. “The idea is to show what’s behind the sport, things you can learn, or things you might have naturally and need to adapt,” says Annie Lord, the senior exhibitions officer for National Museums Liverpool. “You’re not going to come to the exhibition and learn how to score a goal, but you might come here and experience the pressure that’s on people in that position. “People think of museums as quiet, passive places where you go and absorb information. But this will be a place for people to play and find out for themselves how things work. This isn’t about collections, it’s about popular science in a very broad sense. It’ll show you the extremes that the body is put through and what it does in

order to produce the stamina or strength you need for everything from cycling to running.” Throw in an element of competition, with visitors offered a scorecard to measure how they rate at various skills through five themes and 24 exhibits, and there will be plenty to entertain the targeted family audience. It is appropriate that Liverpool should host this show as it is a city rich in sporting tradition, split between the red of Liverpool and blue of Everton in footballing terms, with Tranmere Rovers not forgotten across the water. It is only 15 months since an estimated million people crowded on to the streets of Merseyside to welcome Rafael Benitez’s European Cup winners, the trophy held aloft for the fifth time in the club’s history with the FA Cup claimed since. Everton, for their part, are reviving under the management of David Moyes with a club record £8.6m spent this summer to recruit the England striker Andrew Johnson and promise much for the campaign ahead. The two clubs were born from the same church team and share a remarkable 27 league championships and 12 FA Cups. “The football clubs only really organised in the late 19th century, an amateur game with its roots around St Domingo’s, a church team which expanded their reach to take in people from the wider district and changed their name to Everton,” says Paul Gallagher, curator of contemporary collecting at National Museums Liverpool. “Football was quickly picked up in all the big northern industrial towns and cities — Blackburn, Burnley, Preston, Manchester — and thrived in Liverpool particularly once the port companies instigated a halfday on Saturdays, leaving the dockers with free time and pay in their pockets. “Both clubs retain their own distinctive long histories of success, though during the 1960s and the 1980s their dominance coincided. In the 1960s, what with the Beatles and youth culture taking off, the city was seen by some as the epicentre of the world and football bought into that with Bill Shankly picking Liverpool up by their bootlaces and taking on Harry Catterick at Everton. The clubs suddenly became huge rivals, with few cities boast-

‘You’re not going to come to the exhibition and learn how to score a goal, but you might experience the pressure on players’

Cock-a-hoop: The Love Sport exhibition combines learning about the science of sport with interactive exhibits that test stamina, balance and coordination David Pratt

ing two such bit clubs based so close geographically. Then, during the 1980s when the city was suffering from economic and social hardship, the clubs actually enjoyed their most profitable ever periods.” Despite the disasters at Heysel and Hillsborough which left such deep scars, Merseyside enjoyed unparalleled footballing success during that decade when so much was going against the area, the mood summed up by the influential fanzine The End, co-founded by Peter Hooton, later of The Farm, and Phil Jones in 1981. The magazine was the first to highlight the identity and attitude of the city through football and music — acknowledging the birth of the scally — and, just like the players of the era, now enjoys cult status. A new venue, the Museum of Liverpool, will open on the waterfront in 2010 and will scrutinise the city’s relationship with the game, a concession that football seems to represent the spirit and passion of all things Liverpudlian. Yet it would be wrong to forget other sports thriving amid that tradition. Aintree staged its first steeplechase in 1836 with the name “the Grand National” eventually adopted some 11 years later. If attendances dropped to an all-time low in the mid-1970s, the annual meet is enjoying a staggering renaissance. “There didn’t seem to be any interest in the 1970s, but it’s been picked up since by local people,” says Gallagher. “Liverpudlians realised what they had.” The biggest gymnasium in the world was built in the city in 1865, while Lancashire traditionally leave Old Trafford to play a fixture at Liverpool Cricket Club once a season. There is a powerful rugby

Liverpool’s exhibition presenting some of the most interesting contemporary art to be made in China since the year 2000. This period has seen growing cultural and economic exchange between China and the rest of the world, radically influencing Chinese artists. This exhibition promises to reflect a society undergoing profound cultural change. JUN 16-17: Africa Oye Sefton Park, 0151-708 6305, Two alfresco afternoons of top African bands playing their best rhythms till the early evening. Forty thousand people turn up annually for this free family-friendly concert in the park. Gather your friends and family, take a picnic and dance your socks off, or buy African inspired food and wares at the Africa Oye marketplace. Jun 29-sep 23 2007: Peter Blake Tate Liverpool, 0151-702 7400, Sir Peter Blake is best known in the public imagination as the creator of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album cover, but his practice actually spans five decades. An influential and original

artist, Blake has frequently been described as the godfather of British Pop Art, and a fascination with popular culture, including music, film and sports, is at the core of his work. This is his first major retrospective since 1983. JUL 2007: Women’s International Music Festival Philharmonic Hall, 0151-210 2895, Liverpool’s contribution to popular music is well acknowledged, but has tended to overlook women’s contributions. Wimfest provides a weekend showcase for women performers to show the variety and diversity of their musical talent. There is a ‘Plugged’ and ‘Unplugged’ night, as well as a range of musical workshops for women who want to become more involved. Look out for Liverpool’s very own, highly talented Jennifer Johns, always a pleasure to hear perform. JUL 2007: Arabic Arts Festival Various venues, 0151-709 5297, Organised under the umbrella of the Bluecoat

league team at St Helens, founded in 1873 to pre-date the football clubs, and a string of championship-level golf courses along the coast to the north. Royal Birkdale has hosted the Ryder Cup twice and the Open eight times, with a record 230,000 watching Tiger Woods claim the trophy at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake in July. “There was affluence and money in Liverpool in the 19th century through cotton, sugar, tobacco and the slave trade, and those golf courses sprung from that money,” says Gallagher. Add to that the boxing tradition which has produced champions of the calibre of Peter Kane, John Conteh, Alan Rudkin, Paul Hodkinson and Shea Neary, and the city clearly boasts far more than Liverpool FC and the Beatles. Love Sport will tap into that long-standing local enthusiasm. “We hope it’ll get people interested in sport, fitness and health,” adds Lord. “It’s an exhibition about getting people to try things, encouraging them to participate.” In a city that revolves around sports of all kind, the exhibition should feel completely at home. Dominic Fifield Love Sport, Oct 7-Apr 29, World Museum Liverpool, 0151-478 4393. Entrance is free, but bring appropriate footwear

North-west weekend podcasts Liverpool: Join Guardian Unlimited ­journalist Ian Griffiths for a tour of his home town. Download your free audio city guide at

Liverpool: Where to stay Hope Street Hotel 40 Hope St, 0151-709 3000, The city’s first boutique hotel, voted one of the 50 coolest hotels in the world by Condé Nast Traveller. Exhibition space, formal boardroom and theatre-style seminar room with state-ofthe-art equipment plus discreetly lit residents lounge complement the individually designed bedrooms. From £115 (room) and £195 (suite). 62 CASTLE STREET 62 Castle St, 0151-702 7898, Liverpool’s newest boutique hotel, the contem­ porary interior contrasts with the beautiful Grade II-listed Victorian exterior. Twenty individually designed bedroom suites, all with ensuite facilities, plasma sceens, CD players, and internet access, plus two state-of-the-art conference rooms and a private dining room. From £145. Sir Thomas Hotel 24 Sir Thomas St, 0151-236 1366, Metamorphosed from the historic 19th-century

Bank of Liverpool building and offering a blend of the city’s history with modern culture. Luxurious decor, a stylish restaurant, and welcoming and friendly staff. Rooms from £65. The liner Hotel Lord Nelson St, 0151-709 7050, The city’s only themed hotel is a fitting tribute to Liverpool’s maritime history, with guests experiencing the world of a luxury cruise ship while their feet remain firmly on dry land. The international restaurant boasts one of the largest indoor marine tanks ever built in the UK. With 152 specially designed “cabins” from £64 (single). The Alicia 3 Aigburth Drive, Sefton Park, 0151-727 4411 Enjoy the ambience of a country house just five minutes’ drive from the city centre in this former cotton merchant’s house, with gardens to the rear and the spacious Sefton Park to the front. From the vistas while dining in the Glasshouse Restaurant to the deep comforts of the Edwardian Bar, this offers escape from urban stress. From £60.

Bill Harpe

© jake & dinos chapman, 2005

Calendar of events

Chapman Brothers: Etchasketchathon 1 (17) DEC 15-Mar 4 2007: Jake & Dinos Chapman Tate Liverpool, 0151-702 7400, The first major survey show of work from the bad boys of British art, this exhibition attempts to critically assess the Chapman brothers’ contribution. Fully paid-up members of the Young British Artist generation, they have always been provocative — some would say inflammatory — and often controversial. Remember those child mannequins displaying genitalia in the most

inappropriate places? The Chapman brothers’ art is challenging but also complex and intelligent. Feb 20-Sep 9 2007: Centre of the Creative Universe: LIVERPOOL AND THE AVANT GARDE Tate Liverpool, 0151-702 7400, Coinciding with Liverpool’s 800th anniversary celebrations, this show investigates how the city has influenced a range of post-war artists, and explores how they have contributed to a popular view of Liverpool. The title is from a statement by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and the exhibition includes works from artists such as Yoko Ono, Jeremy Deller and Bob and Roberta Smith, as well as home-grown talent Adrian Henri and Sam Walsh. Mar 30-Jun 10 2007: Contemporary Art from China Tate Liverpool, 0151-702 7400 Liverpool is home to the oldest Chinese community in the UK and is twinned with Shanghai. This relationship is reflected in Tate

Arts Centre, this annual festival draws on the arts and culture of Yemen, Egypt and Morocco, and provides opportunities to participate in music, dance, theatre, craft and food. The belly-dancing events are always popular and are teamed with bazaars and Middle Eastern food, attracting a broad audience. The festival has invited some excellent and well established musicians to play. AUG 25-27 2007: Matthew Street Festival Various venues, 0151-233 2008, Situated around the site of the original Cavern Club, where resident band the Beatles first made their name, this three-day music festival takes its inspiration from Liverpool’s famous Merseybeat tradition. There are five outdoor stages in addition to numerous live performances in the pubs and bars of the Cavern Quarter. This year’s headline acts included the Stranglers, McFly and Lee Ryan. Free and immensely popular, this is Europe’s largest city centre music festival. Dany Louise

England’s north-west 


The holy grail of art

The sky’s the limit

In a city known for its festivals, the forthcoming Manchester International Festival manages to score a world first. A bold and ambitious project, it is to feature exclusively newly commissioned work across the arts spectrum

With the UK’s highest residential building about to open in Manchester, a timely exhibition looks at the city’s architectural heritage and explores the relationship between buildings and the people who inhabit them

engaged and creative urban food event, while Manchester Comedy Festival, also held in October, is growing quickly. From the noisy exuberance of DPercussion — August’s one-day free music festival — to the quieter pleasures of the imminent Manchester Literature Festival, all tastes are catered for, and in original ways, too. The literature festival is typical in using unexpected venues, new technology and bold themes (it comprises a mini-festival of Palestinian literature this year) to ensure that it remains vigorous. “We offer a very different experience to more established, rural festivals,” says acting MLF director, Cathy Bolton. “Our programme is geared towards people who are passionate about language rather than celebrity.” However, even set against this colourful cultural backdrop, Manchester International Festival is going to be something else entirely. Not just in terms of its size, but also ambition. It is, as Poots admits, a risky enterprise: “It’s impossible that everything we commission will be successful.” However, his visionary zeal clearly impressed Manchester council, who appointed him within hours of his original interview. “I was candid. I said: You need to fund this properly, the festival should have total editorial control, and, like the Commonwealth Games, it has got to be outward looking. You can’t have an international festival that’s purely about northwest work.” The council pumped in £2m of the £5m budget, and, to a degree, their faith has already been repaid. The first of three MIF trailblazer events, Gorillaz: Demon Days Live shows at the Opera House last November, generated massive interest. The New Yorker ran a three-page feature, Radio 1 broadcast it live and the DVD has sold

The first of three major events trailing the Manchester International: Gorillaz: Demon Days Live at the Opera House last November Mark Allan/Manchester International Festival

performed with the band, as a choir. Similarly, film director Greg Hall has been commissioned to shoot his second feature here using crew from a local college and a Manchester cast. “It’s an international commission; we’re spending a six-figure sum on it,” says Poots, “but if I took some words out: it’s an ambitious community project.” As for the tone of the festival, the man who once took the ENO to perform at Glastonbury insists it will be modern and inclusive, without patronising the audience. “I was really careful that the ‘posh’ arts festival launched with Gorillaz. I was trying hard to say, ‘this festival will be highquality, exciting, world class and popular’. It doesn’t need to be either dumbed down pop or high art that most people can’t connect with. You can present high art in an accessible way — that’s the holy grail.” Of course, some events will be niche. Poots is hoping to draw people into new areas. But, through competitive ticket pricing and innovative collaborations (Gorillaz Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett are working on a potentially dazzling circus production, based around the Chinese Monkey King legend, with acclaimed theatre director Chen Shi-Zheng), Poots is hoping to draw people into new areas. “The festival will have a wider appeal than a lot of arts festivals, which is why we don’t use the word ‘arts’ in the title.” Obviously, there will be criticism. In particular, many local creatives may feel excluded. Will Poots be pleased if a “fringe” festival emerges? “It’s not in our remit or our control to stop that. Far from it. If we’re catalysts for people creating and making work — great. It’ll complement the festival.” As for comparisons with Edinburgh, Poots claims surprise. “We’re not setting ourselves up to compete. They’ve got 25,000 shows, we’ve got 50.” But, ultimately, would he like MIF to become similarly associated with Manchester? “I’d love it if Manchester became known for innovation, being ambitious and welcoming great artists. I think it builds on its strengths, as an innovative city for the last 200 years.” Tony Naylor

Sandwiched between the city’s Victorian legacy and its present-day building frenzy are products of the notorious 1950s and 60s

Living at a higher level: Manchester’s brand‑new Beetham Tower which, at 47 storeys, lays claim to the highest residential building in the UK Asadour Guzelian

‘I told them: you need to fund this properly, the festival should have total editorial control and it has to be outward looking’

Juniper 21 The Downs, Altrincham, 0161-929 4008 Greater Manchester’s only Michelin-starred chef Paul Kitching is given to fantastical leaps of culinary imagination. His dishes might sound strange — beef with dried Vitamin C tablet, seasalt ice cream — but make a very satisfying sense on the plate. For serious gastronomes. Market Restaurant 104 High St, 0161-834 3743 Over 25 years old, but still fresh and exciting. Manna for the curious diner, chef/co-owner MaryRose Edgecombe’s menus bring together dishes from across the ages and continents, ranging from kulebiaka, a Russian pie to air-dried Cheshire ham with homemade focaccia. Manchester Food & Drink Festival’s Restaurant of the Year 2005. Obsidian 18-24 Princess St, 0161-238 4348 It may look very Sex and the City, but this is Manchester not Manhattan, and Obsidian is

are the buildings which are the products of that most notorious age of British architecture, the 1950s and 60s. Manchester has its fair share of carbuncles, including the decidedly unloved Piccadilly Plaza in the heart of the city, but even that is now undergoing redevelopment. But while the vast majority of the public will never learn to love their local 60s tower block, could we at least learn to appreciate and understand the idealistic and utopian motivation that drove the construction of these concrete hulks? This is what is being asked of visitors to Concrete Thoughts: Modern Architecture and Contemporary Art, a new exhibition at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery. “To begin with, many people had high hopes of the 1950s and 1960s architecture, but when it was seen as being unable to deliver, it became swiftly demonised seemingly overnight,” says Stephen Gartside, co-curator of Concrete Thoughts. “What we’re aiming to do with the exhibition is to take a retrospective look at this period with a more open mind and explore the ground between the idealised designs of the time and the everyday experience of having to live with them.” The exhibition features the work of four young artists who work in a variety of media — photography, film and painted wall works — and who draw on this period of British architecture as source material. Toby Patterson’s New Plan (2003) is a vast wall painting incorporating 1950s architectural motifs and detailing. The Glaswegian-born artist achieved national recognition in 2002 when his colossal 69foot wall painting won him the Beck’s Futures arts prize for up and coming young artists. His passion for architectural lines and form grew out of him riding defunct 60s concrete buildings on his skateboard. He will be at the Whitworth to create a number new works for the exhibition. Interestingly, Patterson cites one of his biggest influences as being the classic British modernist Victor Passmore and it’s one of Passmore’s works which takes centre stage in Jane and Louise Wilson’s work Monument (Apollo Pavilion, 2003).

The four-screen video work depicts children playing on the Apollo Pavillion, a huge bridge-like sculpture set in Peterlee, the 1960s new town in the Wilson’s native north-east. The Wilson twins have been working collaboratively for over 15 years and together they explore the relationship between people and architectural space, especially those spaces that are concealed, secret and forgotten. The Apollo Pavilion was designed by Passmore to be a focal point in the heart of Peterlee. Perhaps not surprisingly the sculpture soon became a focal point for the kind of activity that Passmore hadn’t intended such that local residents attempted to have it torn down. In contrast to the Wisons’ work which is dominated by the images of children, Rut Blees Luxemburg’s photographs are striking for their lack of human subjects despite their urban setting. Luxemburg’s major piece of work at the exhibition is Caliban Towers (1999), a huge, billboardsized photograph of five East End tower blocks which was produced for a public art project. Photographing those parts of London that lie well off the tourist trail, Luxemburg challenges the viewer to see these tower blocks in literally a new light as they are shot at night. “I always work at night-time as the night gives you an intimacy and privacy that you don’t get during the day, especially in the city, and the images themselves are at the same time both very dramatic and mundane,” explains Luxemburg. So, does Luxemburg consider that the exhibition will achieve its aims of helping to change people’s hearts and minds about 1950s and 1960s architecture? “The fact that this exhibition is happening shows that views have already changed and that an appreciation of this period has happened,” replies Luxemburg. “This exhibition can only help to further this process.” Simon Birch Concrete Thoughts, Oct 6-Dec 17, Whitworth Art Gallery, 0161-275 7450,, admission free

Manchester: Where to shop Arkadash 103 Manchester Rd, Chorlton, 0161-881 9500 Provides a much-needed alternative to the ethically dodgy city centre chain-stores by providing fab, sweatshop-free clothing for all the family. You’ll find all the UK’s leading ethical brands here which use Fairtrade, organic and hemp materials wherever possible. Fashion Market At the junction of Tib St and Market St, Saturdays 10am-4pm Launched over a year ago, the hugely popular market is made up of over a dozen of Manchester’s freshest, funkiest designers. Drool over the dazzling range of individually made and eclectic items from hand-made jewellery and handbags, to-die-for shoes and clothes. Manchester Craft and Design Centre 17 Oak St, 0161-832 4274, A veritable beehive of creativity generating gorgeous things of every description, the centre is home to almost 20 local artists and craftspeople

welcoming and (relatively) unpretentious. The cocktail bar is a destination in its own right, while the kitchen does good, eclectic things with superior ingredients like Brixham crab, five-week matured beef and a lightly cured Cheshire Texal lamb that is exclusive to Obsidian. Croma 1-3 Clarence St, 0161-237 9799, Airy, modern and slick, Croma serves great salads, pasta and pizza, with some innovative twists. Chicken Caesar or Peking duck pizza, anyone? Think: a better, brighter Pizza Express. There is a second Croma in Chorlton, south Manchester, at 500 Wilbraham Road. BRASSERIE ON PORTLAND 101 Portland St, 0161-236 5122, Head chef Ashley Clarke and team create gastronomic magic using the finest ingredients, and the extensive wine list offers exceptional wines from around the world. Relaxed candle-lit atmosphere from which to watch the city bustle.

Tony Naylor

who produce their wares right in front of you. Prepare to part with your pennies when you feast your eyes on their lovingly crafted ceramics, jewellery and textiles. Vinyl Exchange 18 Oldham St, 0161-228 1122, From pop to punk and metal to Motown, the legendary Vinyl Exchange has been supplying second-hand singles, albums and CDs to discerning Manchester music fans for almost 20 years. If you’ve ever wanted to find a seminal Smiths track or dig out that deleted Joy Division album, then Vinyl Exchange is your place. Wild at Heart 1 Railway Terrace, Chorlton, 0161-881 2389 Located at the gateway to buzzing Chorlton just south of the city centre, newly launched Wild at Heart is Manchester’s first organic meat and dairy deli and coffee shop. With over 300 lines of organic and locally produced gourmet goodies, Wild at Heart is the latest addition to Chorlton’s rapidly expanding ethical shopping experience.

Simon Birch

Calendar of events

sylvie monier

Over Christmas, Cyrano de Bergerac provides the comedy, Noel Coward’s The Vortex — in which Will Young makes his theatrical debut — the hungover introspection. SEP 28-30: Installation De Feu Platt Fields Park, Streets Ahead throw outdoor family festivals, often transforming well-known urban venues into fantastical spaces. Their 2006 Enchanted Evenings series has already included a mass picnic (complete with cabaret, circus and street theatre entertainment) and a show by Germany’s explosive, mechanised Theatre Titanick.

Installation de feu

of the designs of these new buildings on the block. That’s not to say that there have been no buildings of architectural worth built in the past decade. To begin with, while strictly not in Manchester, but in the neighbouring city of Trafford lies the dramatic Imperial War Museum North, the first British building to be designed by the internationally famed architect Daniel Libeskind. Then at the other end of Manchester, in the former rundown east, is the City of Manchester Stadium built for the hugely successful 2002 Commonwealth Games. And back in the centre is the glass-clad Urbis building, one of the city’s most loved contemporary buildings and home to the centre for urban life. Of course Manchester is one of the country’s great cities of the Industrial Revolution and it still has an outstanding legacy of both Victorian architecture and industrial heritage. Still impressive after 150 years is Manchester’s Town Hall and while on a much smaller scale is the perfectly proportioned glass and iron Barton Arcade on Deansgate. Sandwiched between the city’s Victorian legacy and its present-day building frenzy

Manchester: Where to eat

Manchester: Calendar of events UNTIL JAN 7 2007: Against The Odds — The Story of Bomber Command In The Second World War Imperial War Museum North, 0161-836 4000, IWMN is worth visiting at any time, just to see Daniel Libeskind’s remarkable building and the equally well-designed permanent audio-visual exhibits. This show examines the lives of the 125,000 people who served in Allied air and ground crews during WWII. As ever, the IWMN is eager to tell all sides of the story and the show also explores the impact of Allied bombing on the Germans. UNTIL MAR 30 2007: THE ROYAL EXCHANGE Theatre 30th Anniversary Season 0161-833 9833, A mixture of reflection and celebration is the order of the season as the Royal Exchange hits 30. The anniversary begins with an adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton, a tale of industrial anger and personal anguish in 19th-century Manchester, followed by jazz/blues show Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring Antonio ‘Huggy Bear’ Fargas.


ithin the next few months residents will begin moving their flat-pack furniture along with their flat-screen TVs into Manchester’s glittering Beetham Tower, which at 47 storeys high is the UK’s tallest residential building. Despite dividing local opinion over the merits of its design, according to Manchester-based architect writer Phil Griffin, the skyscraper represents a significant moment in Manchester’s passage from post-industrial wilderness to leading European city. “Irrespective of its architectural qualities,” says Griffin, “the Beetham Tower is a very important building to Manchester as it carries with it a certain amount of bravado and swagger. It’s economic bling which the city can effortlessly display.” For a decade now Manchester’s skyline has been punctuated by the clutter of building cranes as the city seized the opportunity of the devastation caused by the 1996 IRA bomb to put into place a radical makeover of the city centre. But with Manchester now seemingly changing on a daily basis, Griffin questions the quality

Installation De Feu, the climax of this programme, will see the French Compagnie Carabosse turn Platt Fields Park into a fairytale twilight fire garden, their blazing sculptures placed in trees and behind bushes, animated by live music. OCT 6-NOV 13: Tenth Birthday Bridgewater Hall, 0161-907 9000, Not just an international-standard concert hall, but a symbol of Manchester’s potential in the wake of the 1996 IRA bomb, the Bridgewater celebrates its first decade this autumn. The birthday gala comprises a celebration of the hall’s legendary Marcussen organ (Oct 6), La Scala Philharmonic, conducted by Riccardo Chailly, performing Respighi’s Pines of Rome and Grieg’s Piano Concerto (Oct 13), the return of Evelyn Glennie (Oct 20) and a recital by pianist Alfred Brendel (Nov 13). Oct 6-16: Manchester Food and Drink Festival Where most food festivals are over and done in a weekend, Manchester stretches over 10 days and

reaches out beyond the “foodie” community. Events range from themed evenings at local restaurants to celebrity chef demonstrations. “Grow Your Own” is a theme this year and Urban Harvest will showcase allotment produce. In the Northern Quarter, meanwhile, Fairtrade will be the focus, with food markets, special menus and a photographic show. OCT 6-DEC 31: The Warehouse Project Boddington’s Brewery, InBev should never have moved production of Boddington’s bitter to Wales, but at least the old buildings are being put to good use. Over 12 weeks this autumn, they will play host to a series of 25 unique warehouse “raves”the line-ups ranging from the jazzy beats of Gilles Peterson and Mr Scruff, through Justice and Soulwax’s New Rave disco-punk to the non-deeper Detroit techno of Theo Parrish and Moodymann. OCT 12-22: Manchester Literature Festival A celebration of new writing, new technology and

new venues in the “original modern city”, MLF promises to make Hay et al look very sedate. The Manchester Blog Awards and the Burgess Project — a multimedia live literature city tour, complete with photos and broadcast clips of Anthony Burgess’s work sent to the audience’s mobile phones — will push the envelope, while, elsewhere, events range from the Palestinian literature festival to Chloe Poems’ How To Be A Better Gay. OCT 18-Dec 4: The Hacienda — Photographs of Manchester’s Legendary Club Urbis, 0161-605 8200, Urbis has really upped its game in the last 12 months. It is, increasingly, the dynamic space that a “museum of the city” should be. Photographer Ian Tilton’s homage to the Hacienda should interest veteran ravers and students of pop culture alike, and whet the appetite for a much larger Hacienda retrospective next summer. The China Show, a timely study of consumerism and self-expression in modern China, looks interesting, too (Oct 14-Jan 7 2007).

OCT 19-30: Manchester Comedy Festival In just five years, the MCF has grown from a 20-show local curio to a major event spanning nearly 40 venues and featuring almost 100 shows. Highlights include a six-date run from Ross Noble, a visit from combative US comic Doug Stanhope, two nights of Jimmy Carr, and the annual charity bash hosted by Justin Moorhouse. Meanwhile, the City Life Comedian of the Year competition is sure to be hotly contested. Previous winners include Peter Kay and Caroline Aherne. OCT 28-31: In The City Various venues, The brainchild of Factory supremo Tony Wilson and Yvette Livesey, ITC is where the British music industry comes together each year to debate, network and discover the next Coldplay, Darkness or Muse. ITC always generates a diverse programme of affiliated gigs and club nights, many open to ordinary Joe Public, giving some credibility to the idea of ITC as the urban Glastonbury.

OCT 28-SEP 30 2007: Featuring Walls Whitworth Art Gallery, 0161-275 7450, Bare walls might have been all the rage in the late 90s, but wallpaper — exotic, designer, expensive — is currently enjoying a widespread revival. This show, designed by the country’s only full-time wallpaper curator, Christine Woods, will use key pieces, as well as advertising posters and catalogues, to illustrate the intriguing evolution of wall coverings from the 18th century onwards. The exhibition coincides with the opening of the Whitworth’s permanent wallpaper gallery. NOV 2-5: Vital 06 — International Chinese Live Art Festival Chinese Arts Centre, 0161-832 7271, If your idea of art is a nice, sensible painting in big gilt frame, it’s probably best to give this a miss. Vital 06 is an international showcase of radical “live” or performance art by artists of Chinese descent. Best known among those taking part are Cai and JJ, aka Mad For Real, who, in the name of art, have so far

pissed on the box containing Duchamp’s urinal and staged an impromptu pillow fight on Tracey Emin’s Turner-nominated bed. NOV 13-DEC 2: Exodus Onstage 2006 Various venues, Exodus is a festival of cultural events, exhibitions, theatre, writers showcases, musical workshops etc, intended to both explore the experiences of Greater Manchester’s refugee communities and bring locals and refugees together, as participants and audiences. The programme includes a production of Sonja Linden’s Crocodiles Seeking Refuge, African dance and drama piece Where is Home? and the Congolese Theatre Project’s examination of the roles that corruption, the arms trade and the west played in the Congo. DEC 2-FEB 25 2007: Joe Colombo — Design Laboratory Manchester Art Gallery, 0161-235 8888, Before his death in 1971 aged just 41, Italian designer Joe Colombo typified the idealistic futurism of the 1960s, embracing new technology

ignazia favata/studio joe colombo


he first Manchester International Festival may still be nine months away, but, for its director, Alex Poots, life is hectic. Between now and next June, he must marshal the ideas and energies of an ever-expanding cast of musicians, composers, dancers, artists, academics and filmmakers into a three-week cultural extravaganza, one which people are already talking about as a potential rival to the Edinburgh Festival. “I love it,” he insists, of the pressure. Which is good, as he only has himself to blame. When Manchester city council originally came up with the idea of hosting an international cultural festival, they had little idea what form it would take. Basking in the warm afterglow of the 2002 Commonwealth Games they, simply, wanted to build on the dynamism and profile that the games had brought to the city. The easy route would have been to go, what Poots dismissively terms, “shopping”: buying-in pre-existing works to create an instant arts festival. But the 39year-old, who has previously worked at the English National Opera and the Barbican, had other ideas: “My understanding is that Manchester wants to be different.” Between June 28 and July 15 2007, therefore, Manchester will host the world’s first festival of entirely new and original work. The centrepiece will be 10 major pieces, commissioned from “the world’s greatest artists”, and performed across Manchester city centre. Outside of that, around 30-40 other events, all debuts of new work, will complete the programme. As a city, Manchester already hosts a lively annual programme of cultural events. October’s Manchester Food & Drink Festival is probably Britain’s most

half-a-million copies worldwide; 5% of the audience came from abroad. However, despite rattling off such statistics — “Various ways in which one event radiated around the world” — Poots bridles at the suggestion that the festival is, essentially, an elaborate PR campaign for Manchester. To him, that smacks of bullshit. Instead, he’s creating a “real and unique” stand-alone event, which, at the same time, will reiterate that Manchester is a vibrant, creative city. “It isn’t PR, because we’re not selling something that isn’t true. We’re alerting everyone to Manchester and making them realise that, actually, there’s stuff going on here year after year.” Right now, however, Poots’ focus is simply on producing a significant arts event. If it is a success, wider social and economic benefits, such as boosting tourism or stimulating the region’s creative economy, will flow from it, naturally. But, for now, they are “secondary” concerns. “If the audiences come, you start doing the thing that is obviously of interest to the city: making everyone aware how great Manchester is. But, if they don’t come, it’s harder.” In order to achieve that success, there is no room for sentimentality. Some regional companies, with international reputations, are producing work for the event. But MIF is not about Manchester celebrating Manchester, with well-known Mancunians to the fore. Instead, it intends to reflect an intrinsic Mancunian character, and to connect with ordinary locals, in much subtler ways. For the first biennial festival of new work spanning popular culture, arts and innovation, there will be two areas of focus: music, for which Manchester is already famous, and debate. A series of panels, organised in conjunction with Manchester’s universities, will tackle contemporary issues. “Right now, we’d be debating Lebanon,” says Poots, who sees both strands as identifiably Mancunian. “Manchester has got an attitude and a voice. It was the first nuclear-free city. It’s not scared to speak its mind.” Elsewhere, many of the major commissions will, deliberately, make use of grassroots local talent. For instance, at the Gorillaz gigs, 44 Wythenshawe school­children

Joe Colombo interior in a bid to reconcile attractive form and simple functionality. He designed everything from pivoting walls with built-in mini-bars to underground “nuclear cities”, but his legacy was secured by furniture such as the Elda armchair, Universale chair and Alogena lamp. This is the only UK opportunity to see this first international retrospective of his work. DEC 2-MAR 25 2007: One Love The Lowry, 0870 787 5793, In 1953, the FA’s Football and the Fine Arts

competition was won by LS Lowry’s Going to the Match. Now, the Lowry arts centre is restaging the competition and inviting modern artists “to interpret ‘the beautiful game’”. The judging panel includes ex-BBC head, Manchester United fan and non-executive Brentford FC chairman, Greg Dyke, and the artist Mark Wallinger, best known for his Trafalgar Square Ecce Homo statue. The winning entries will appear in this exhibition. DEC 4-7: Exposures UK Student Film Festival The Cornerhouse, 0161-200 1500, A white-hot crucible of new filmmaking talent, last year’s Exposures received 700 entries from over 100 UK educational institutions. As well as showcasing the best in student film, across five categories — drama, documentary, animation, experimental, music — Exposures also comprises a programme of masterclasses, workshops, premieres and debates designed to inspire and empower young filmmakers. Previous guests have included Alex Cox, Danny Boyle, Michael Winterbottom and Russell T Davies.


England’s north-west

Mad, bad and dangerous The north-west’s rich literary tradition — from Coleridge to John Cooper Clarke — continues with the Manchester Literature Festival, an event as far removed from the cosy bookishness of Hay on Wye as it’s possible to imagine


ake one big edgy city, add a dash of literary flair, sprinkle on some seriously ambitious publishing talent, stir in a slug of well-established writing tradition and round off with a dollop of the energetic DIY spirit characteristic of this metropolis. Simmer gently and you end up with the first ever Manchester Literature Festival which should just about have reached a rolling boil by October 12 when author William Boyd launches 10 days of new writing with a reading from his latest novel Restless at the city’s Whitworth Art Gallery. Look a little further afield, though, and you’ll see it’s not just Manchester that’s getting bookish. The north-west generally has seen a strong revival in its literary tradition over recent years, with independent publishing houses springing up promoting emerging writers, a slew of well-regarded creative writing courses now being taught at the region’s universities, the Sedburgh Booktown Festival, the month-long Chester Literature Festival that kicks off again in September, Words by the Water held on the shores of Derwentwater next spring and Manchester’s Poetry Festival whose success over 12 years has spawned the city’s wider literary offering this autumn. Unsurprisingly, Manchester’s take on a literature event will not feature the festival-goer’s typical sedate amble around marquees, tearooms and bookshops as the great and the good flog their latest welltrailed opus. This is to be a festival with attitude, and the intention is to subvert, shock and refresh tired literary palates. The organisers also aim to enthral younger readers by expressing new writing through modern technologies to produce a multimedia cultural experience. Chris Gribble, until recently the festival’s director who programmed most of the events, says that while Hay-on-Wye and Cheltenham are led by the publishing industry, he always envisaged Manchester’s purpose as commissioning new work, fostering original talent and recognising the exciting upswell of small imprints, vibrant literary journals and design-led

fanzines that have pulsated through the city’s creative community. Three strands make up the festival’s events: Freeplay, in which new writing meets hi-tech; Independent, a programme of readings and events showcasing the best in independent publishing, writing and production methods; and Read, in which authors and actors will interpret specially commissioned work in some of Manchester’s most historic, quirky and often inaccessible venues. Bored of chick lit? Why not check out bitch lit, a new genre featuring female anti-heroes who are mad, bad and dangerous to know. “Bitch” might seem like a hard word to reclaim, but the short stories commissioned for the Bitch Lit anthology celebrate women who take the law into their own hands, defy conventional expectations and refuse to feel guilty for it. Published by Crocus Press, around a quarter of the stories selected for the book resulted from open workshops run across the north of England in which new writers were encouraged to create their very own bad girls and make no apology for them. The stories will be read in character by the authors themselves. Sherry Ashworth who wrote Mimi, a dark tale of a woman on heat, says that the offer to contribute to the Bitch Lit anthology appealed specifically because of the title. “It offered the opportunity to be a bit naughty, and I think any writer will respond to that,” she laughs. “The word ‘bitch’ isn’t something I have a problem with; I think it’s daring and funny, and I think we should reclaim difficult and dangerous words.” Manchester is fast becoming the UK’s most influential centre for short story writing, and much of this is due to the passionate championing of the genre by Ra Page, founder of the specialist short story publisher Comma Press. For the Literature Festival, he has commissioned 10 acclaimed writers and poets from around Europe to contribute to Decapolis, a collection that focuses on a snapshot experience of city life to offer the reader a fictional travel guide through a series of non-fictional metropolises.

This is to be a festival with attitude, and the intention is to subvert, shock and refresh tired literary palates

Authors in Manchester for the launch of Decapolis include the city’s own David Constantine and Zoe Lambert, Larissa Boehning from Berlin, Amanda Michalopoulou from Athens and Empar Moliner from Barcelona. All Decapolis submissions in other languages will be translated into English, addressing what Page says is a chronic lack of investment by the publishing industry in expert translation of short stories from other countries and cultures. “At the festival we’ll be having readings by the writer in the original language, with the English translation and original text projected behind, so the audience will have the rhythms and cadence of the writer’s own language together with the experience of being able to understand the story at the same time,” he explains. “It’s using the principle of going back to a simple idea of storytelling as a way of communicating between different communities, and of course a short story in the oral tradition was a very portable genre in its original form.” The launch of Decapolis at the festival is just the start of a series of annual translation events, with Comma planning an anthology of stories from small towns and backwaters and a further collection of stories from the conflict zones around border areas. Particularly relevant given the current political situation will be the festival’s celebration of Palestinian poetry and prose with shared platform appearances by Adhaf Soueif and Mourid Barhgouti, Palestinian diaspora writers and others still living in the occupied territories.

The BBC, too, has committed resources to the festival with the Original Modern series, five specially commissioned 15minute shorts focused on Manchester’s hidden architectural and cultural gems that most city residents will walk past and never notice. The faded glory of the Gaskell House, home to Manchester’s most famous female writer Elizabeth Gaskell, will feature, as will the soaring Godlee Observatory and the 15th-century Chethams’ Library where Marx and Engels are reputed to have composed part of the communist manifesto. Readings by actors of the Original Modern stories will be held in situ during the festival and broadcast each weekday, allowing a much bigger audience to participate. With events ranging from the tonguein-cheek How to Be a Better Gay to the verse-led Mancunian Meander around the city’s more salubrious suburbs and an awards ceremony recognising the best in Manchester blogging, the city’s first ever Literature Festival looks set to be a wittily eclectic and thought-provoking launchpad for writing talent across the region. Louise Tickle

North-west weekend podcasts Manchester: David Ward and Riazat Butt introduce a vibrant city made for visitors. Download your free audio city guide at

Manchester: Where to stay Radisson Edwardian Peter Street, 0800 374411, An oasis of calm, elegant loveliness in what used to be Manchester’s Free Trade Hall, this city‑centre hotel is the perfect combination of relaxed, understated luxury and hi-tech gizmos. The 263 bedrooms range from king-size to field-size. All boast wi-fi, Bang and Olufson entertainment systems, and marble and slate bathrooms. Great John Street Hotel Great John Street, 0161-831 3211, Cutting-edge design has transformed a former schoolhouse into a spectacular boutique hotel boasting 30 stylish duplex suites, a sophisticated cocktail bar, and rooftop garden. If you insist on mixing business with pleasure, there are conference rooms to finalise deals and private dining facilities in which to toast them. Malmaison Piccadilly, 0161-278 1000, Dark and mysterious, that’s the Malmaison style,

and the Manchester Mal is all deep plushy carpets and cosy ambient lighting with decor in tones of scarlet through crimson, taupe lightening to ivory and stark black against white. Vast beds, velvety cushions, power showers, yummy smellies, free internet, yadda yadda — Mal knows the drill. STAYINGCOOL The Edge, Clowes St, 0161-832 4060, Hip hotel meets boutique apartment. Great location, designer furniture, very comfy beds, an Apple Mac entertainment system, Illy coffee, oranges for the juicer, free wi-fi-and free parking. Fabulous. The Lowry Hotel 50 Dearmans Place, Chapel Wharf, 0161-827 4000, Manchester’s first five-star hotel looks a bit like an office block from outside, but from inside it is appealing to a super-cool and fashionable clientele who can be, dare one say, a mite flashy with their Harvey Nicks bags. It also boasts a top-notch spa, delightfully friendly staff and a splendid bar with a view over the river Irwell.

Clockwise from left: The bad girls anthology from Crocus Press; authors visiting the Manchester Literature festival include Palestinian Ahdaf Soueif and William Boyd

Louise Tickle

MAR 2007: Manchester Irish Festival Various venues, There is much more to this celebration of Irish culture than marching bands and colourful floats. Over two weeks, the festival takes in numerous gigs, from traditional to rock, comedy shows, theatrical productions, lectures, debates and literary events, while the popular Irish market, in Albert Square, does a roaring trade in craft goods and speciality foods. MAR 2007: ¡Viva! Spanish AND Latin American Film Festival The Cornerhouse, 0161-200 1500, Now in its 12th year, ¡Viva! is the UK’s most comprehensive Spanish-language film festival. In 2006, 9,000 people attended its screenings, Q&As and parties. Post-festival, ¡Viva! tours a selection of its best films across the UK and Ireland. That tour, and the festival’s broader moral and logistical support for Hispanic cinema, has played a key role in popularising several cult hits, such as Carlos Sorin’s Bombon El Perro.

APR-OCT 2007: Doctor Who Up Close Museum of Science and Industry Manchester, 0161‑832 2244, With the new Doctor Who on a seemingly unstoppable upward curve, this exhibition is sure to be a major draw. A comprehensive retrospective of the doctors, their enemies, their props, costumes and weapons, the exhibition will also afford visitors the first UK opportunity to see alien creatures from the new series, 13 episodes of which air from Easter 2007. Older viewers, meanwhile, can reminisce with the daleks and cybermen. MAY 6-27 2007: Queer Up North Various venues, QUN was Britain’s first lesbian and gay arts festival. Fifteen years later, it has grown into a multifaceted, city-wide celebration of queer culture which can encompass, as it did this year, everything from “cabaret terrorists” Kiki and Herb playing in Harvey Nichols to an evening with Tales of the City author, Armistead Maupin. One coup already announced is the UK debut of Ten Days On Earth, a new production by acclaimed puppeteer, Ronnie Burkett.

JUN 28-Jul 15 2007: Manchester International Festival This biennial event aims to cement Manchester’s reputation as a major global centre of artistic creativity. The centrepiece will be at least 10 specially commissioned works by “major worldclass artists” from across the spectrum of popular culture, arts and innovation. The emphasis, in 2007, is on new music and stimulating debate on major contemporary issues. One piece already confirmed is Monkey: Journey to the West, a circus spectacular directed by Chen Shi-Zheng with music and design by Gorillaz men Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. AUG 2007: DPercussion Castlefield Basin, Then called Re:percussion, this one-day, free urban music festival was originally a demonstration of Manchester’s resilience a year on from the IRA bomb. Since then, Dpercussion has grown into a major Mancunian day out. Rather than big names, per se, it offers a yearly snapshot of the city’s best

museum dress 2004 © darenote ltd

Calendar of events bands, clubs and DJs, spread across eight stages, topped with sets from local heroes like Badly Drawn Boy and Mr Scruff. Aug 18-28 2007: manchester pride City centre, An exciting 10-day programme of arts and entertainment, film, community, heritage, sporting and party events, encouraging participation rom all walks of life. OCT 6 2007-JAN 27 2008: Art Treasures Revisited Manchester Art Gallery, 0161-235 8888, In 1857, the Art Treasures of the UK exhibition opened in an enormous temporary glass pavilion at Old Trafford. It attracted one million visitors, including Queen Victoria and

Charles Dickens. Now, 150 years later, Art Treasures Revisited will bring a selection of pieces from the original exhibition (many now in private hands) back to Manchester: paintings by Michelangelo, Bellini, Rembrandt, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner and Constable. JUN 30-Sep 2 2007: Kylie Manchester Art Gallery, 0161-235 8888, It’s not a typo or a mysteriously ironic title. Kylie is just what it says on the tin: a free exhibition comprising costumes, photographs, memorabilia and video footage from across the antipodean icon’s career. Created and designed by the Melbourne Arts Centre — home to Australia’s biggest performing arts archive —“Kylie” attracted some 500,000 visitors on its 18 month tour down under.

Tony Naylor


Win one of five cultural short breaks in England’s north-west Festivals, art exhibitions, concerts, film and theatre seasons — there are plenty of reasons to visit the north-west over the coming months. Take your pick from the cultural highlights of Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Lancaster or the Lake District and enjoy a luxury break in one of the following top accommodations


rom vibrant city centres awash with outstanding shopping and nightlife to the literary heritage of the Lake District, from superb five-star luxury to contemporary boutique accommodation, and from fine dining to cosy pubs, tap into a different culture in England’s north-west. Home to some of the world’s most celebrated musical talent, major sporting events, the European Capital of Culture 2008 and more museums and galleries than anywhere outside London, there are plenty of opportunities to linger and be inspired by the most culturally dynamic region of England.

The Low Wood Hotel, Windermere, and Kendal Mountain Film Festival The Low Wood is a stunning 4-star hotel on the shores of Windermere. With superb views of the lake and surrounding mountains, this recently refurbished hotel boasts a leisure club, beauty salon, watersports centre, restaurants, bars and beautifully appointed rooms. This prize includes two nights’ bed and breakfast midweek for two with dinner on the first night. Also included are two tickets to selected events of the Kendal Mountain Film Festival (Nov 10-19). This is one of the world’s most prestigious mountain festivals, an extravaganza of films, books, art and photography, debates, presentations, filmmaking, entertainment, humour and drama. • For more information on Low Wood Hotel visit or call 01539 433338 • For more information on the Kendal Mountain Film Festival visit or call 01539 725133 • For more information on Cumbria — The Lake District go to

Manchester Theatre break at the stayingcool apartments

Luxury weekend break at Lancaster House ­Hotel

The stayingcool apartments are ideally located for exploring the many attractions of Manchester, one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the UK. Win a two-night ­weekend break for two with complimentary champagne and full English breakfast at stayingcool’s Castlefield 1 apartment, the city’s only five-star serviced apartment. All stayingcool apartments are individually styled with a major emphasis on comfort, design and technology. The prize includes a complimentary dinner for two at the Brasserie on Portland and two theatre tickets for one of the spectacular shows at the Palace Theatre (except Mamma Mia!). Accommodation and theatre tickets are subject to availability. • For more information on stayingcool visit or call 0161-832 4060 • For more information on Brasserie on Portland visit • For more information on the Palace Theatre visit • For your copy of the Manchester Short Breaks Guide 2006 go to or call 0870 609 3013

Lancaster House Hotel is an award-winning luxury city hotel surrounded by the remarkable countryside and coastline of Lancashire. Its grand open fireplace, sumptuous sofas and the beautifully panelled wide-open staircase provide the perfect welcome for travellers. Owned by the family-run English Lakes Hotels group, the hotel features a 50-foot swimming pool, spa, fitness studio, beauty salon and outdoor hot spa. Enjoy the cultural city of Lancaster with its bars and theatres and restaurants and explore the stunning Forest of Bowland and Lake District national park. This prize includes a weekend break for two in a luxury suite including dinner, bed and breakfast and two tickets for the Dukes Theatre, Lancaster. • For more information on Lancaster House Hotel visit www. or call 01524 844822 • For more information on Lancashire go to

City break at the Liner Hotel, Liverpool

Short break in the historic city of Chester

The Liner Hotel Liverpool is the city’s only themed hotel. It is a fitting tribute to Liverpool’s maritime history; guests experience the world of a luxury cruise ship while their feet remain firmly on dry land. Win a two-night break in one of the hotel’s 152 “cabins”, including breakfast and an evening meal on the first night of your stay in the Seven Seas Restaurant. Liverpool’s newest international restaurant features a fine dining menu, an open kitchen and one of the largest indoor marine tanks ever built in the UK. Also included is lunch for two at the Walker Art Gallery, where you can enjoy over six centuries of art. • For more information on the Liner visit or call 0151-709 7050 • For more information on the Walker Art Gallery visit • For more information on Liverpool go to

Crowne Plaza Chester has recently undergone a multimillion‑pound refurbishment. Perfectly located on the edge of the city with panoramic views of Chester Racecourse and the Welsh hills, you will be just a short walk from the city’s famous shopping rows and plenty of topquality restaurants and inns. This prize includes two nights’ bed and breakfast for two and complimentary use of the Club Moativation Health and Fitness Club, which boasts pool, sauna, steam room and spa. The prize also includes admission to Chester’s beautiful medieval cathedral and dinner for two at Pastarazzi, one of the city’s most popular restaurants. • For more information on the Crowne Plaza visit • For more information on Chester Cathedral visit • For more information on Pastarazzi visit • For more information on Chester and Cheshire go to

For your chance to win one of these five short breaks: call 0845 600 6040 or visit Entrants will be asked to specify for which prize they would like to enter the draw. Terms and conditions. The prize draw is open to residents of the UK aged 18 or over except anyone professionally associated with the draw or members of their families. It is a condition of entry that all rules are accepted as final and that the competitor agrees to abide by the rules. The winners will be drawn at random from all entries received by the closing date, November 10 2006 (Cumbria prize draw closing date is October 2 2006). No responsibility can be accepted for corrupt or incomplete entries. Proof of sending is not proof of delivery. The prizes are as published in the England’s north-west supplement in the Guardian on September 2 and the Observer on September 10. Prizes do not cover incidental costs such as travel, other food and drink, room service, minibar etc. All are based on two people sharing and are ­subject to availability. For a hard copy of the above terms and conditions, containing prize information and full rules, please send a request, with a stamped addressed envelope to Culture Prize Draw, Marketing Department, Northwest Regional Development Agency, Renaissance House, PO Box 37, Centre Park, Warrington WA1 1XB

10 Chester

England’s north-west

England’s north-west

Lancaster 11

Shopaholics and sybarites

Gateway to the Lakes

The Roman city of Chester has long been a centre of historical interest, but even the most demanding of visitors will find that this once-conservative county town now boasts a host of modern attractions to match

Already known as an area of outstanding beauty, Lancaster and its environs have so much more to offer, from historical sites where the past comes to life, to cosy pubs and swish eateries


omething has changed in Chester in recent years: it has become cool. The city best known as the home to the largest stone-built Roman amphitheatre in Britain and to the Duke of Westminster, one of Britain’s richest men, has started attracting a new generation of visitors. New restaurants and boutiques have opened their doors. And a slew of new events and attractions have shifted the tourism demographic from blue rinse to baby boomer. The word is out: Chester is now the best all-round weekend in the north-west, and the families, style-seekers, shopaholics and sybarites have been arriving en masse ever since. Roman legions founded the city of Deva as the largest fortress in Britain in AD70, encircling it with their trademark Roman city walls. Today Chester wears its rich Roman heritage with pride (you can still explore the Roman amphitheatre and walk around the city walls to soak up the historic ambience), but it also celebrates its status as a living city with shopping, family excursions and vibrant streetlife the main draws for those seeking more contemporary attractions. The centre is eminently walkable so, to get a feel for the city, I set out on foot from the Chester Visitor Centre. This information hub-cum-cafe is the obvious starting point for urban explorers, with a wealth of maps and information about the city’s historic sites. It’s also the meeting place for the various guided walks around the city, of which the Chester ghost tours are the most popular during autumn for an insight into the ghoulish tales behind the city’s long history. The Chester Heritage Tour also departs here and runs yearround, offering a new perspective of the city via a 40-minute guided jaunt on an authentic 1920s omnibus. Heading north-west along St John Street brings me to the edge of the city walls and the ironwork Eastgate clock, Chester’s answer to Big Ben.The clock was The best of Chester (from top): the Eastgate clock; okapi at Chester Zoo; Chester Roman city wall beside the Nine Houses Britain on View, David Wimsett/Uppa/Photoshot, Alamy

conceived for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897, though not actually completed until two years later, and today it towers above the shops and cafes of Eastgate Street, the main shopping thoroughfare. The latter is also home to the Chester Grosvenor Hotel, which is as famous today for its exotic spa treatments as it is for its Michelin-starred restaurant. The main feature of the city centre is the distinctive split-level Rows, the two-tiered medieval shopping galleries finished in black and white timber that date from the middle ages. The Three Old Arches, which

Chester is now the best all-round weekend in the north-west, and the families, style-seekers, shopaholics have been arriving en masse

form part of the Rows in Bridge Street, are said to be the oldest shop front in England, but the nooks and crannies of these erstwhile medieval merchant’s shops are packed today with contemporary boutiques. New walking tours of the Rows explore the hidden stories behind these timbered facades — from the tale of a Roman bathhouse, via ships timbers said to be from the wreckage of the Spanish Armada, to the legend behind an ornate 17thcentury Spanish fireplace. Heading north along St Werburgh Street, Chester cathedral has dominated the cityscape since 1092. Originally constructed as St Werburgh’s abbey, the sandstone Benedictine abbey was transformed into a cathedral in the 1540s by decree of Henry VIII. An oasis of cool and calm, its cloisters and stained-glass windows are its most distinctive features, while a stroll around the cathedral gardens is ideal for some quiet contemplation. Heading south via The Cross, where the town crier still delivers a regular proclamation of the day’s news, I arrive at the edge of the river Dee, the city’s erstwhile commercial artery and its best form of defence during medieval onslaughts from Wales. The river hosts leisure cruises by summer and adventure sports yearround, but just strolling along The Groves, the tree-lined promenade that lines the riverbank to the city’s south, is perennially the favourite activity. Kids love the open spaces and fresh air of nearby Grosvenor Park, where a miniature steam railway trundles around a narrow-gauge circuit during the summer. The best-known family attraction of all, however, is actually a short bus or taxi ride from the city centre at Upton-by-Chester. Chester Zoo, the UK’s number-one wildlife destination, with over 1m visitors annually and 7,000 animals, will be hosting a Frost Fair from December 1 with an ice rink, bandstand with entertainment, and a German-style Christmas market. A Twilight ticket will be available for those who just want to come for the Frost Fair, priced

at £7 for adults and £6 for children with access to the skating and stalls. Another highlight of Chester’s cultural programme this autumn is the Chester Literature Festival, which runs September 30 to October 28 at various venues around the city. Now one of best established literary festivals in the UK, Chester will celebrate its 19th year this autumn with a programme of book signings, workshops and events, including star appearances by George Galloway, Willy Russell and a special event with Ian McMillan for National Poetry Day. Looking ahead, December 7 and 14 this year are earmarked for the Chester Christmas Watch Parade, a recreation of medieval processions with music and street theatre to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, while the major event for early next year will be the Chester Food and Drink Festival to be held over the Easter weekend. to showcase local produce. Major developments are currently afoot in Chester with work soon to start on a 440,000-square-foot retail development, including a House of Fraser department store and a new performing arts centre, to be completed by 2011. Meanwhile Abode Hotels plan to open a new boutique hotel with accompanying restaurant. in a citycentre location. But the residual charm of the 2,000-year-old Roman city is unlikely to change. It manages to blend the contemporary and the historic really rather well. David Atkinson Visitor Centre; Chester Zoo; Chester Literature Festival; Food and Drink Festival

North-west weekend podcasts Chester: Louise Tickle takes you for a walk around the walls and more. Download your free audio city guide at

Chester: Where to eat Pastarazzi Ristorante 20 Grosvenor St, 01244 400029 Chester’s favourite Italian restaurant may not be the cheapest place to eat, but it’s one of the best-quality places in town. A large dining room with an open-plan kitchen is the refined setting, while a cosy upstairs bar lounge serves coffees and aperitifs. Freshly cooked Italian cuisine is the menu du jour. Upstairs at the Grill 70 Watergate St, 01244 344883 This sophisticated split-level eatery has an excellent range of steaks, seafood and grills, plus an extensive wine list that draws inspiration from around the globe. The bar features cocktails, cigars and a large selection of brandies, while the dining area is stylish and intimate for a secluded supper. La Taverna 52–54 Lower Bridge St, 01244 350625 This informal eatery has a Tuscan theme and a historic setting in a Jacobean building. There’s a good-value lunch menu served daily, while the dinner menu has a wider choice with many

dishes available either as starters or mains. This is one place where vegetarians don’t go hungry thanks to a broad menu. Duttons Godstall Lane, 01244 401869 A buzzy spot for lunches and brunches, this cafe bar is tucked down a quiet alleyway by the cathedral. It’s a lively, popular spot, the food is excellent and the service attentive. The pavement tables outside offer a shady vantage point for some people-watching over a cup of coffee, while inside, the tables have a more intimate feel. Blue Moon Cafe The Groves, 01244 322481 For something cheap and cheerful, nowhere beats this riverside cafe with its retro furnishings and 1950s diner feel. The interior celebrates retro kitsch with Elvis and B-movie memorabilia, while the menu has simple but satisfying coffees, sandwiches and all-day breakfasts. Outside, tables by the river make for an ideal suntrap and a pleasant spot to while away time.

David Atkinson

Chester: Where to stay The Chester Grosvenor and Spa Eastgate St, 01244 324024 The venerable old lady of Cestrian hospitality continues to reinvent herself as the ultimate Cheshire-set weekend escape. For foodies, a traditional afternoon tea is served in the Library daily and the Arkle restaurant boasts the only Michelin star in Chester. Rooms are stately but comfortable while the in-house spa has an ever-expanding range of treatments in a central location. Green Bough Hotel 60 Hoole Rd, 01244 326241 Winner of the small hotel of the year award at this year’s Enjoy England Awards for Excellence, Chester’s Green Bough Hotel has both upscale accommodation and an excellent restaurant. Located one mile from the city centre, each room is individually styled, while an Italian influence permeates throughout the property. Crowne Plaza Hotel Chester Trinity St, 0870 4421081 For a mid-range option at the heart of the city,

this newly refurbished property offers good value and a very central location. The rooms are looking smarter after its recent refit and the facilities have been expanded to include a sports centre and new in-house dining options. Mollington Hotel and Spa Parkgate Rd, 01244 851471 Located two miles from Chester and set in eight acres of grounds, this four-star country hotel has been transformed in recent years with the opening of a leisure club and spa. The rooms are modern but stylish, while clay-pigeon shooting, grass carting and archery are now available in the grounds. MILL HOTEL Milton St, 01244 350035 Situated on a Roman site, the original Griffiths Cornmill building dates from 1830, and the conversion has preserved many of the orginal features. Now a three-star city centre hotel, it offers a range of spa and leisure facilities, plus a choice of five restaurants including the restaurant cruiser which serves meals and sails up the canal alongside the hotel.

David Atkinson


y guide flings open t h e a ge - b l a c ke n e d doors. “Welcome to the castle; it’s a fearful old place,” he says. It’s not the most reassuring of introductions, but I admit he has a point. The country’s oldest working prison (900 years and counting) has a compelling aura of medieval darkness. Hundreds of gallows-bound prisoners have languished here, and part of the tour involves me being shut up in the utter blackness of a dungeon — just so I know how they felt. Thankfully, the building is not without its more wholesome charms: the largest collection of public heraldry in the country, the Grand Jury Room where I sit imagining I am in the very spot Queen Victoria occupied on her dinner invitation two centuries ago … Still, it is very pleasing to step back out into the morning sunshine and discover that I am safely in the Lancaster of the 21st century. From this hilltop, home both to the castle and the 11th-century priory church (catch organised historical walks here; also at the castle on Sep 20–21 is Heritage Opera’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, 01524 64998), I can see the sandstone city spreading its Georgian tendrils gently up and out of the valley. A historical trove, the cathedral and university city of Lancaster is also a melting pot of arts, entertainment, futuristic tech-

nology and of course, blissful Lancashire scenery. It’s simply a matter of trying to decide which to enjoy first. After careful deliberation I decide to take a stroll along St George’s Quay, where the recently constructed Millennium Bridge glitters proudly across the wide river Lune. I am making for the former Customs House of 1764, a classically elegant building graced with ionic portico, which now houses the Maritime Museum. Inside the cool interior, models and photographs offer an intriguing insight into the city’s proud past as an Empire merchant port. A film show explores the significant role that Lancaster played in the imperial slave trade, the abolition of which is enjoying its bicentenary next year with a number of arts-based activities. In search of a preview I make my way to the three-storey, many-windowed Judge’s Lodgings — a 17th-century, Grade 1-listed, early 17th-century building and the oldest town house in Lancaster — where I enjoy Swallow, Lubaina Himid’s vibrant exhibition of African cloths and Indian woodblock designs (until Oct 31). You know that you are having a good day when the biggest problem is deciding where to go for a drink. Eventually I opt for a pint of treacly Old Peculiar in the cosy, stained glass-fronted Ye Olde John O’Gaunt. As old as the hills, and still a haven for live jazz-lovers, the place has barely changed since I drank here as an undergraduate in the early 90s.

Lancaster landmarks (from left): The Ashton Memorial looms high above the city; the doll collection at Judge’s Lodgings — the oldest town house in Lancaster Michael Shepherd

It’s been a tiring day, but given that it started in a dungeon and ended with a panoramic view and an ice cream, I find it impossible to complain

Lancaster: Where to stay The Sun Hotel 63 Church Street, Lancaster, 01524 66006 Having recently undergone a major refurbishment, the historic Sun Hotel offers stylish accommodation right in the heart of town. The look is all dark wood and leather, spotlights shining on to soft brown carpets and appealingly furry bed covers. The stone walls of the bar area are decorated with vibrant modern paintings by local artists, all of which are for sale. Lancaster House Hotel Green Lane, Ellel, Lancaster, 08458 509508, The place to come if it’s more of a pampered holiday you want. Ninety-nine bedrooms and 19 suites glow with warm luxury, but if you get bored of loafing you can get active in the sprawling

leisure club before sitting down for a hearty meal in the award-winning Gressingham Restaurant. The Wagon & Horses 27 St George’s Quay, Lancaster, 01524 846094 Overlooking the river Lune, the Wagon and Horses is an earthy public house with excellent homely facilities. Downstairs there is live jazz, an open fire and traditional ales. Upstairs are four cosy bedrooms and a self-service kitchen that guests can use prior to the 10am cooked breakfast. The Mill-Inn Thurnham Mill Lane, Conder Green, Lancs, 01524 752852, thurnman-mill-hotel.shtml An hour’s canal-side walk out of Lancaster, this converted 19th-century grain mill is the perfect location to sit and watch grazing cows — as long as you don’t mind the pumping music and plasma

sports screens in the lounge. Fifteen tastefully decorated bedrooms and a charming fishing village (Glasson Dock) on the doorstep makes this a popular place, and the restaurant overlooking the canal lock is delightful. Wolf House Cottages Wolf House, Gibraltar, Silverdale, via Carnforth, Lancs, 01524 701573, The coastal village of Silverdale and its surrounding countryside have been designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. Here you will find the two 17th-century Wolf House Cottages; both provide superb self-catering accommodation. The Coach House is swish and modern while the Old Cottage has lashings of character with flowering creeper walls, oak beams and garden songbirds. Short breaks November to Easter.

James Griffiths

Then it’s back into the sunshine for a pleasant amble through the tree-lined market square, which is dominated by the columns, clockface and bell tower of the city museum, currently displaying an exhibition by compelling landscape artist Philip Gilchrist. A quick detour down one of the city’s many cobbled side streets leads me to the flower beds of Dalton Square, home to the brand-new Citylab development. I pop in to cast my eye over Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders, an exhibition of cutting-edge digital technology that is just part of a three-week, city-wide media arts festival called (Sep 29–Oct 21, On an etched dark screen an animated Louis XV chair — the creation of FutureFactories — morphs into a variety of alarming shapes, while a mind-bending piece by Brit Bunkley incorporates a displacement map of a jet plane on to a 3D model of a sheep. If the castle chilled my blood, this stuff seems set to fry my brain. It’s getting towards evening and I decide to end my day at Williamson Park. On my way up the hill I pass the renowned Dukes Theatre (Litfest Festival, Nov 15-19, with special guests League Of Gentleman’s Jeremy Dyson and poet Sean O’Brien, 0845 3440642) and the homely Gregson community centre, just one of several venues hosting this year’s international jazz festival (Sep 15-17, 01524 582803). I also stop off at the Golden Lion pub for a strictly educational pint. It was here, in the 17th century, that the infamous Pendle Witches supped before being taken up the hill to face the gallows. The walls of the snug tell the complete story in words and pictures, and as I guzzle my drink I feel grateful that all that awaits me is a sunset stroll. Up to Williamson Park (sci-fi and comics festival on Oct 28 featuring 2000AD artist Bryan Talbot, with its landscaped gardens, exotic butterfly house and large gothic folly. A real landmark as well as being an art gallery and venue for nationally acclaimed outdoor theatre productions, the white Ashton Memorial looms high above the city, turning the heads of many a motorist on the M6. When I climb its steps and look out at the view it’s easy to see why Lancaster has been

called gateway to the Lake District. Beyond the ribbon of blue sea the hills bunch into mountains before blurring into the wispy clouds on the horizon. It’s been a tiring day, but given that it started in a dungeon and ended with a panoramic view and an ice cream, I find it impossible to complain. The next day, driving north from Lancaster, the scenery quickly becomes more rugged and mountainous. If you’re making for the major Lake District destinations consider a stop in the quaint market town of Kendal, home to the famous mint cake as well as cobbled streets, riverside walks and the ruins of a 13th-century castle. You will also find one of the finest live music and theatre/dance venues in the region in the form of the rambling Brewery Arts Centre. This autumn it is hosting both Lit Up (Sep 20–22), a showcase of performance poetry, and also the prestigious Mountain Festival (Nov 11–19). Attracting adventurers, climbers and lecturers the world over, the event also features the screening of 60 films in 10 competitive categories, ranging from wildlife films to art-house drama (both events: And so onwards to Keswick, a pretty market town nestling on the shores of Derwentwater at the heart of the Lake District. Lots to see and do here, from the famous car museum to the technologically advanced Theatre by the Lake, which this year is hosting the international literature festival Words by the Water. Tony Benn, Joanna Trollope, Richard E Grant and George Melly are all scheduled to give talks and readings, along with a host of others (www.ways James Griffiths Lancaster Tourist Information Centre, 29 Castle Hill, 01524 32878, www.visit Information on the Lake District:

North-west weekend podcasts Lancaster: Helen Pidd is on hand to lead you around this historic, surprising city. Lake District: Martin Wainwright tours this ideal weekend break destination. Download your free audio city guide at

Lancaster: Where to eat Elliots 64 Market Street, 01524 36092 Housed in an Edwardian building very near the castle, Elliots is a classical French-Swiss restaurant specialising in luxuriously garnished plates and super-friendly service. The menu offers such serious dishes as chateaubriand (cooked on a lamp at your table) and a monster four-course Sunday lunch. Lunchtime snackers are welcome and there is a fine kiddies menu. Quite Simply French/Food 27a St George’s Quay, 01524 843199 13 Moor Lane, 01524 34916 The ever popular and charming quayside restaurant Quite Simply French (authentic modern cuisine, split-level dining, river views) has recently acquired a sister venue. Billing itself as a delicatessen and eating space providing fresh seasonal produce, Quite Simply Food is a cosy place serving up such enticing treats as seafood fricassee, shallow-fried goat’s cheese, venison burger and a mouth-watering deli salad box. The Whale Tail Cafe and Restaurant 78a Penny St, 01524 845133 A haven for vegetarians and vegans, the daytimeonly Whale Tail offers all-day breakfasts, organic main meals and a range of delicious cakes. It’s a high, airy room (first floor, no lift) with painted

stone walls displaying local artists’ work for sale. A scattering of comfy sofas, a children’s play area and a pile of well-thumbed newspapers completes the picture. Sultans (Restaurant and Food Court) 18 Brock Street, 01524 61188 (Restaurant), 01524 849494 (Food Court) Since time immemorial, locals and tourists have been descending on the elegantly restored church that houses Lancaster’s most popular Indian eatery. Now Sultans has expanded with a subterranean extension called The Food Court & Art Gallery. With its soft pink decor, bubbling fountain and tempting delicatessen, it’s the perfect place to munch on a lunchtime samosa. Mediterranean and British dishes are also available. HODGSON’S 96 Prospect St, 01524 67763 This chippy has won the top award at the final of the National Fish and Chip Shop Competition organised by the Sea Fish Industry Authority. Owners Nigel and Linda Hodgson were praised by the judges for their highly motivated, productive team, and for their family values at the shop where employee Paul Eden holds the title of Young Fish Fryer of the Year.

James Griffiths