As George Orwell wrote in ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, “Manchester is the belly and guts of the nation” and I couldn’t agree more. This is why I’m spending this blog fondly looking back on the last ten years in Manchester…
Whilst people in every corner of the globe have loved, lost, laughed and cried over the last decade, so too have the people of this marvellous city. So, I thought it was only right to dedicate this blog to the Mancunian Millennium! December 31st 2009 was a particularly special New Years Eve because it heralded the end of the decade that will always be known as the Noughties. At this time of year, it is important I think, to reflect and consider; appreciating and learning from the experiences and events that were contained within that time span.
Manchester has seen some phenomenal events over the last ten years; from The Manchester International Festival to the Hungry Pigeon Festival, the Conservative Party Conference to the Commonwealth Games and experienced the erection of the Beetham Tower and the Manchester Eye. We were finally given recognition as a low carbon city and The University of Manchester became one of the most popular universities in the country. And of course, there’s more. Traffic around North Manchester was brought to a screaming halt after boyband (boy?!) Take That announced that they were to reform – 10 years after their split. Incidentally, I was there and in the words of Jason, Gary, Mark, Robbie and Howard, I will “Never Forget” that midsummer evening.
However, along with joy, there has been great sadness and loss. The decade saw the premature passing of legends such as Tony Wilson and honorary Mancunian George Best. As Kevin Cummins says though, we must always “look for the light in the pouring rain” and their influence and overwhelming contribution to Manchester will always be remembered.
Impressively, having failed in its bid to host the Olympics, Manchester made sure the 2002 Commonwealth Games would be a winning event. From the building of the Valedrome and the Aquatic Centre to the spectacular ‘B of the Bang’ sculpture that reached high into the sky of a previously neglected part of our city. Sadly gone but never forgotten by all those who saw its magnificence. After the I.R.A. bomb, the Commonwealth Games arguably became the catalyst for the widespread regeneration of the city and helped cement Manchester as a major European and even international city.
And how could we forget the fact that when Russell T. Davies decided to revitalize cult television programme Doctor Who, he chose Salfordian actor Christopher Eccleston to be the Doctor? Born in Langworthy, Salford and later relocating to Little Hulton, Eccleston is certainly Mancunian through and through. There is little doubt his incarnation of the Doctor was triumphant and his ability to demonstrate his Mancunian charm and wit (that we all know and love!) alongside a more serious tone was seamless. Although he only appeared in one series, it cannot be denied that the newly invigorated success of Doctor Who can be attributed to him. Something that us Mancunians should be proud of!
Furthermore, the Republic of Mancunia has seen many people come and go to our precious football teams. Ruud Van Nistelrooy joined Manchester United on April 23rd 2001. His highlights include scoring in the 2004 FA Cup final and beating Denis Law’s record for number of European goals in a United shirt (a record he still holds). Ferdinand also joined United on July 22nd 2002 and stated that “my heart is at the club. I love playing for United.” Cristiano Ronaldo became another impeccable player to grace Old Trafford’s famous turf on August 12th 2003. He scored an impressive 42 goals in 49 games between 2007 and 2008 and is reported to have said “I am very happy to be signing for the best team in the world”. And how could we forget Wayne Rooney who joined the club on August 31st 2004?
The decade proved just as eventful for Manchester City and when Kevin Keegan arrived as manager on 24 May 2001, the club won the 2001–02 Division One championship, breaking club records for the number of points gained and goals scored in a season! The 2002-2003 season brought the end of an era for the club, having called Maine Road its home for the final time after 80 eventful years. In typical City fashion, they lost their final game 1-0 to Southampton, with Michael Svensson scoring the only goal of the game. As the decade came to a close, the club was purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group, an extremely lucrative private equity company owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan; a member of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family. So who knows what the next decade will hold for the club affectionately known as ‘The Blues’?
Personally, one of the most memorable moments of the noughties for me, purely for its poignancy and sadness, was the death of Mr. Manchester himself, Tony Wilson. To me, Wilson was quite simply pure genius, the brains behind some of Manchester’s most famous bands and the founder of the Hacienda and a co-founder for Factory Records. A native of Salford, this fiercely independent spirit refused to move to London and instead set about putting Manchester on the musical and cultural map. In June 1976, he saw the Sex Pistols play Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall , which he described as something “nothing short of an epiphany.” It was the anarchy and radicalism of Punk bands like the Sex Pistols that epitomised the infamous Madchester music scene. It is difficult to believe that the man that Manchester has so much to thank for has been taken from us. Wilson died of a heart attack in Manchester’s Christie Hospital on 10th August 2007 aged 57.
Rightfully so, The Guardian beautifully wrote that “if you lived in the north-west at any time after 1973, it was impossible to ignore the indefatigable broadcaster, music mogul, social activist, proud northerner, football fan, writer and exhibitionist Tony Wilson”. R.I.P. Mr. Manchester and Thank You.
Britpop band Oasis shocked the world, but especially Manchester, in 2009 when brothers Noel and Liam announced they were to split. The volatile relationship eventually became too much and Alan McGee, the founder of Creation Records, is reported to have claimed the split was due to a “change of consciousness”. In the words of the Gallaghers’ themselves “please don’t put your life in the hands of a rock ‘n’ roll band”. Whilst Oasis are no more, Manchester remained a musical tour de force during th Noughties. With bands such as Doves and Elbow being recognised by audiences all over the country (long overdue in my opinion!), new bands such as The Ting Tings and The Courteeners also created shockwaves on both indie dancefloors and commercial radio. And how can we forget Manchester’s sweetheart Bez winning Celebrity Big Brother in 2005 and Johnny Marr joining Yorkshire band The Cribs in 2008?! As well as newer talent taking centre stage, Mancunian music verterans also dominated events of the Noughties. In January 2006, ex-Smiths bass player Andy Rourke organized the massive Manchester V Cancer charity night at the MEN Arena, which saw him reunite with Johnny Marr, and after a five-year hiatus, James, complete with Tim Booth and Larry Gott, reformed in April 2007. Thank goodness Manchester has managed to maintain its reputation as music capital of the North!
As you can see, Manchester has done us proud over the last ten years. But there is also a lot we must reflect on, how can you help Manchester continue with this success? Maybe you can make 2010 the year to reach out into a community near you. What’s more Forever Manchester is no ordinary charity, it celebrates everything that makes Manchester brilliant, whilst raising money to secure Manchester’s future well into the new decade and ultimately, forever! A personal highlight of my last year was becoming involved in this fantastic scheme, as it combines two of my main passions in life: writing and of course, Manchester. Forever Manchester is a new way to demonstrate Mancunian pride, which I know many of you have by the bucketload…Surely it can’t be just me?! So why not get involved, maybe as part of your New Year’s Resolution. You can purchase a piece of Manchester, attend a Forever Manchester event or buy an exclusive item of Forever Manchester fashion? Fun, painless and rewarding!
The future of Manchester looks especially bright. Media City UK is set to transform Salford Quays in 2011. It is expected that a public plaza twice the size of Trafalgar Square will be created as part of the BBC’s new base at Salford Quays. What’s more Peter Hook is launching a new live venue and club project called ‘Fac 251:The Factory’ next month. 20 years since the birth of Madchester, the building that started it all and ultimately destroyed it all, built by Tony Wilson, designed by Ben Kelly & Peter Saville, paid for by NewOrder and broken by the Happy Mondays; is opening again. Hooray!
As a new decade is upon us, Mancunians everywhere have to wait in hopeful anticipation to see what this amazing city will bring us…I’m sure that it will continue to thrive.
‘Happy New Year’ to Mancunians in all corners of the globe, may 2010 bring you happiness.