The Backwards Running Championships took place in Heaton Park on Sunday, raising much needed cash for Forever Manchester. Daniel Alston reports back on the day…

Imagine the scene: You’re walking your dog in the local park on a typically casual Sunday morning, surveying the lake and enjoying the peacefulness. Your dog’s ears prick up and from around the corner emerge a small herd of runners. Backwards, coming towards you in reverse. A truly surreal sight.

The UK Backwards Running Championships arrived at Heaton Park on Sunday 14th August, sponsored by Forever Manchester. As well as the national race, there was also the opportunity for anyone and everyone willing to take part in the Fun Run, all in the name of raising funds for the charity.

A well-marshaled 1km circuit was laid out and the assembled crowd set off at their respective paces after a coached warm-up. An incline and a low dip had to be navigated amidst the meandering park path – not exactly easy when running normally. All runners completed the route, with some setting personal best times and others achieving great first attempt times. The event raised a load of cash for Forever Manchester – we’re still adding up the exact amount so we’ll be announcing that soon. In addition, no injuries were reported, which is always a bonus.

Backwards running is no gimmick or joke. It is a sport that is slowly beginning to gain wider recognition, with those involved calling for it to grow and be a featured event at the 2020 Olympics. UK and World Champion, Garrett Doherty spoke of many of the advantages of the sport.

“People really loved it and they’re keen to try it again. It’s just the stigma of going outside and giving it a go on your own. It’s great for your confidence, your co-ordination and your balance.”

“Five minutes backwards is the same as twenty forwards; it’s ideal for busy people. It can cure obesity, it can cure addictions like smoking because it gets you out of your routine. Everything has an opposite. Which is more stupid; to go forwards all of the time, or to go backwards some of the time?”

A good question indeed. For more information on backwards running, visit

Words: Daniel Alston

Photo by @technicalfault:

‘But this is Manchester. We do things differently here.’ On the eve of the anniversary of his death, Tony Wilson’s timeless words resonated around social network sites like a shield, deflecting any suggestions that that the riots that had devastated London the night before would spread to our city.

Manchester was in denial. We had too much faith in our city, pride in our communities and belief in our young people to believe that what had unfolded in London and other cities around the UK could really affect us here.

Of course, Manchester was no stranger to conflict. From the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 to the IRA bomb of 1996 and the football riots ten years later, the city centre has had its fair share of trouble.

But one thing that these incidents all have in common is the positive way in which the city responded to them. Out of the devastation and fatalities of The Peterloo Massacre rose The Manchester Guardian. And in 1996, when the city was devastated by an IRA bomb that saw huge parts of the city centre obliterated, Manchester responded by rebuilding itself into a city worthy of standing on a global stage. The football riots of 2007, which saw thousands of Rangers fans rampage around the city centre in angry reaction to a big screen failing in Piccadilly Gardens, was also swiftly recovered from.

We are a city of industry, of creativity, and above all, of community. So when thousands of people descended on Manchester city centre last night to loot and riot, leaving parts of our city in tatters, we responded with similar robustness and community spirit.

From the calm, considered and professional approach of our police force, to the heartfelt and intelligent pleas by our councillors and Assistant Chief Constable Gary Shewan on TV, to the council street cleaners who worked tirelessly throughout the early hours of this morning, Manchester has shown itself at every level as a force to be reckoned with.

And above all, there was the incredible reaction of Manchester’s residents – many of them ‘youths’ – who turned out in their thousands this morning with brooms and binbags to assist in the clean up of our city, fuelled by donations of food, drink and cleaning supplies by nearby businesses

@SR4Longsight The true face of Manchester's young people helping out with the #ManchesterCleanUp

This isn’t a political blog. There are other places you can go to for the hows and whys. But it’s really important that everyone understands that the majority of young people in Greater Manchester will be horrified by the incidents of last night. Most young people, whether disaffected with society or not, would not turn to crime to vent their woes.

A facebook status of a friend this morning read:

“My mate does community projects with disadvantaged teenagers in Salford. She was with a group this morning who said the rioting was pathetic. These are kids who in the past may well have joined in. Instead they are worried their award ceremony at media city will be cancelled tomorrow. Hurray for the power of engaging young people in creative projects & giving them a different focus & means of expressing themselves. And shame on this govt for cutting all the YSDF funding.”

Kids in Manchester want their city to be great. They don’t want to see it destroyed by a minority.

@AdamMcCleanITV: Young people helping to reverse the damage caused by last night's violence

One young male interviewed on Sky News last night claimed that he was stealing in order to claim something back from the society that he felt had given him nothing. Whether he believed in his words or not, it seems clear that appeasing dissatisfaction with short term material gain isn’t the answer. What these young people need from society isn’t iphones and trainers. What they need from us is attention, guidance and education.

The city is now clean and fully functioning. Not licking its wounds, but healing robustly from them with the spirit and vigour that our city is known for.

A tweet from @gmpolice today reads “There is no disorder in Manchester today, it’s business as usual, and we are determined to keep it that way.”

Let’s hope that’s the case. Because whatever happens, this is Manchester. And we do things differently here.

Forever Manchester manages the Manchester Disaster Relief Fund which has money available for people suffering genuine hardship as the result of incidents like last night. Anyone in genuine need should contact our office on 0161 214 0940 to see if we might be able to help.

Also if anyone feels they would like to donate to this fund to provide ongoing support for Manchester communities they can send money to Forever Manchester at 5th Floor, Speakers House, 39 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BA  or text ‘GMDR11 £5’ to 70070 to donate to the fund to help genuine victims of the riots.

A few tweets from Manchester:

@jonridge: A thousand volunteers at Picc Gardens. That’s not even hyperbole. A thousand turned up. #manchestercleanup

@Chris_Grimes Proud too be a Manc this AM, we have responded the only way we know!! This idiots won’t ruin our city #manchestercleanup

@RiotCleanUpManc I think rain has finally stopped play! Manchester, you’ve blown my mind. The best people in the best city in the world. Thank you!

I don’t know about you, but for me the word ‘picnic’ usually evokes memories of sitting on rugs in cow-dung ridden fields, coming under attack by wasps, and eating limp sandwiches while trying to weigh everything down with shoes to stop it blowing away.

I wish I had the sophistication to be a wicker hamper, Champagne and gingham rug kinda picnicker. But alas, things have just never turned out that way. That’s why I was thrilled to visit the Manchester Picnic today; an al-fresco foodie wonderland in the heart of the city centre with proper grub, loads of picnic benches, and plenty of things to do and see.

One half of the gardens has been turned into a huge open air restaurant, filled with picnic benches and lined with stalls selling food and drink from some of the city’s top eateries. It smells GOOD. Seriously, don’t eat anything before you head down there because with delicious cuisine from Abode, Aumbry, Harvey Nichols, Mint Hotel, Kro, The Mark Addy, Wasabi, Hey Little Cupcake and loads more, there’s more than enough choice to picnic morning, day and night for the entire weekend.

As the official charity of The Manchester Picnic, Forever Manchester has a stall in the thick of the action, where we’re selling lots of lovely Forever Manchester merchandise and special Forever Manchester cupcakes to raise money for the charity. Come along and say hi!

Activities that have so far entertained the crowds at the picnic include a wind up Vintage disco, ‘science busking’ (cool science tricks and demos from the Manchester Science Festival) and a giant spring roll competition. Yup, giant spring rolls. Hosted by TV’s Matt Dawson and judged by some prominent Manchester mouths including Manchester Confidential publisher Mark Garner, fabulous Drag Artist extraordinaire Winnie LeFreak, and chefs from local Chinese Restaurants, the competition took place over at the Monster Munchies tent and featured humongous spring rolls from two of the city’s favourite Chinese eateries.

Mark Garner and Winnie LeFreak at The Manchester Picnic

Tomorrow The Manchester Picnic is all about the kids, with a Teddy Bear’s Picnic from 12pm. There are 100 Build a Bear Workshop goodie bags up for grabs for the best dressed teddies, and the owner of the Best Dressed Bear wins a five person family tent and some camping games. There’ll also be he chance to get your hands of some ancient relics from the Manchester Museum, as well a plenty of drop-in craft activities.

Been down to the Manchester Picnic yet? See if you can spot yourself in any of our photos:

Ah Manchester. Lovely Manchester. With its pulsing industrial veins, derelict warehouses, terraced rows and slighty-above-average rainfall, it’s never really been considered a beauty.

Except to those lucky enough to have lived here, of course. Forget Paris, forget London, forget New York. Because beauty’s only brick deep, and once you fall in love with Manchester, you fall hook, line and sinker. You fall for its soul, for its strength, for its sense of humour. Well, with weather like this, you’ve gotta find something to laugh about, haven’t you?

While Manchester may not be everyone’s choice of muse, its ‘personality’ has been time and again immortalised in song by musicians who’ve been inspired by the place in one way or another. From the ‘factory wall’ of Ewan MacColl’s ‘Dirty Old Town’ to the underground toilet-cum-bar referenced in Elbow’s ‘Grounds for Divorce’, Manchester has been the inspiration for many a song over the years. Here’s Forever Manchester’s pick of some of our favourite songs inspired by our favourite city.

1. Elbow – ‘Station Approach
The first track off Elbow’s second LP Leader’s of the Free World describes that familiar feeling of returning home to the city that you love, documenting singer Guy Garvey’s walk from Piccadilly Station along Station Approach: ‘The streets are full of goths and Greeks/ I haven’t seen my mum for weeks/ But coming home I feel like I/ Designed the buildings I walk by.’ One of the band’s most bewitching songs (a grand claim, we know), the track builds gradually into a life affirming crescendo as the singer is reunited with his city, and his love. We also like it when he mentions his mum. Well, that’s always nice, isn’t it.

2. Ian Brown –  ‘Longsight M13’
Former Stone Roses frontman, mega-successful solo artist and all round King Monkey Ian Brown has documented his relationship with his hometown in many songs. In ‘Longsight M13’ Brown talks about all the wonderful places and things he’s seen, yet comes back to honours this small pocket of South Manchester with the lyrics ‘Let the stars shine on/ And let her move, move like a queen/ Of Longsight M13’.

3. Gomez – ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’
Perhaps the Southport fivepiece’s most recognisable song and the one guaranteed to invoke a ‘yeah, but that one’s nothing like the rest of their stuff’ from fans, ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’ documents a day and evening out in Manchester in which the band ‘Played a bit of football, fell into the union’ (the ‘union’ being Manchester University Students Union which houses the Academy venues), before boarding a train to Sheffield from Piccadilly Station later that night. It’s been said that the song is about a time when the band were studying at Sheffield University and took a trip to Manchester to see Beck – the ‘someone dressed in a suit, looking like a lunatic’ referenced in the song. This may or may not be true. Either way, we like the story.

4.The Fall – ‘Cheetham Hill
One of Mark E Smith’s many odes to Manchester’s less salubrious areas, the surly singer captures life, love and unfaithfulness north east of the city centre with lyrics such as ‘Where you going, boy? Are you cheatin’? / Is that why you come from Cheetham Hill? /When you stopped up at the station / Was it an excuse to get away from your wife for the evening?’ Pretty self explanatory stuff, really.

5. Elbow – ‘Grounds for Divorce
A huge single for the band from the album that propelled them into superstardom, the familiar ‘hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall’ from the chorus of this track actually refers to a popular Manchester drinking hole; the Temple of Convenience. This former underground Victorian public toilet turned rock n roll drinking den is located on Great Bridgewater Street, next door to the flat that Guy Garvey was living in at the time. The song was written after the death of the band’s friend, singer/songwriter Bryan Glancy (aka ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’) and Elbow’s Pete Turner said that The Temple of Convenience “was a place to go and think about him, and be miserable.”

6. Take That – ‘Mancunian Way
Taken from Take That’s 2006 comeback album Beautiful World, ‘Mancunian Way’ is the band’s only musical tribute to their hometown, and one which sees Droylsden’s Howard Donald on lead vocals. The ‘Mancunian Way’ in question takes on two meanings in the song; as both the traditional ‘ladrock’Gallagheresque walk so often associated with Manchester (We used to walk Mancunian Way/We used to swagger we used to sway) and the elevated city centre bypass (I’m driving home again/ Back down Mancunian Way). They even manage to get in a reference to the famous Manchester weather with ‘I’m gonna bring this town alive/ Through this acidic rain/ I’m gonna come back to life again.’ This lyric prompted us to google ‘Manchester acid rain’ and would you know it, apparently we have the most acidic rain in Europe. God love us.

7. Doves – ‘Northenden’
Another song painting less-than-flattering pictures of life in Manchester’s suburbs, the beautiful, ambling quality of ‘Northenden’ clashes with its less peaceful lyrics ‘The kids are deranged, they love guns and kidnap/ That’s just the way we do things here/ The day dies down not a moment too soon/ Under the Northenden afternoon’. Still, even guns and kidnap aren’t enough to put off vocalist Jimi Goodwin who said at an Oxford gig ‘in some respects I kinda wish I still lived there’.

8. Ewan MacCall – ‘Dirty Old Town’
Made famous by bands such as The Dubliners and The Pogues and therefore sometimes confused with Dublin, the ‘Dirty Old Town’ in question is in fact MacCall’s home town of Salford. The 1949 song describes working class life in an industrial town and dreams of betterment, with lyrics such as ‘I met my love by the gas works wall/ Dreamed a dream by the old canal/ I Kissed my girl by the factory wall/ Dirty old town’. MacColl’s original line of ‘I Smelled the spring on the Salford wind’ was apparently changed to ‘I smelled the spring on the smoky wind’ after a campaign by Salford Council, who were unhappy at Salford being called a ‘Dirty Old Town’. The new lyrics made famous by The Dubliners and The Pogues are now the most commonly sung.

9.The Smiths – ‘Still Ill
When he’s not causing mass offence with silly comments in the news and throwing hissy fits on stage, good old Mozza likes to write songs; many of them about Manchester. ‘Rusholme Ruffians’, ‘Miserable Lie’ (‘What do we get for our trouble and pain ?/ Just a rented room in Whalley Range) and ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ all reference Morrissey’s home town, while the ‘Iron Bridge’of ‘Still ill’ refers to the bridge in Stretford off Kings Road where the singer used to live.

10. The Beautiful South – ‘Manchester’
‘From Northenden to Partington, it’s rain/ From Altrincham to Chadderton, it’s rain / From Moss Side to Swinton, hardly Spain’. Talk about pointing out the obvious. Jeez. But it’s not all rain and gloom, as this jaunty lil’ number by Hull’s finest goes on to big up the rainy city with ‘If rain makes Britain great/ Then Manchester is greater’. Hurrah! And anyway The Beautiful South, you’re from Hull. So there.

Visitors to Heaton Park on August 14th may think they’ve wandered into some weird Rewind Twilight Zone where everything’s in reverse.

But never fear; it’s just 250 or so loons taking part in the UK Backward Run. Or nuR drawkcaB KU, if we’re being clever about it. Why? Because running backwards is so much more fun than running forwards. AND you look really, really cool while you’re doing it. Just try it.

And of course we love the UK Backward Run all the more because it’s raising lots of lovely money for Forever Manchester. All entrants are asked to raise a minimum of £20 for Forever Manchester – but of course we’d be thrilled if you want to raise more.

On the day there’ll be a one mile backward race, as well as a more leisurely Fun Run – so whether you’re a superfit backwards running pro, or you’re more comfortable with a backward stroll, there are races and runs for all abilities.

And apparently, you burn a third more calories running backwards as you do running forwards. Hurrah!

There is a t-shirt and medal for all participants, and there will also be a special prize for the fundraiser who raises the most money for Forever Manchester.

The charity run is limited to 250 entrants so enter now to avoid disappointment.

If you would like to find out more and register to take part, please email Terry Snowden ( with details of your team or register online by visiting the Backward Running website.

Oh, and check out Danielle Sharp’s great account of last year’s run to find out a bit more about what you’ll be letting yourself in for.

See you at Heaton Park, and good luck!

UK Backward Run, Heaton Park, Sunday 14th August 2011

July may be drawing to a close, but never fear; there’s still plenty of fun left to be squeezed out of Summer 2011.

And Manchester is in for a packed August of carnivals, parades, arts and food so colourful that even the inevitable rain won’t be able to dampen it.

Writing this blog just before lunchtime, we’re particularly excited about the foodie bits of August’s offering. Thankfully then, we don’t have too long to wait before The Manchester Picnic (5th – 7th August)descends on Piccadilly Gardens for two whole days, bringing together a mouthwatering selection of food from some of the city’s top eateries, to be enjoyed al fresco in a specially created, themed picnic paradise. With an overwhelming selection of grilled, deli and gourmet produce, it’s probably best to skip the Full English that morning, and save enough room to enjoy all the foodie treats that the city has to offer. As well as food there’ll also be music, crafts, family activities and a special ‘teddy bears picnic’ on the Sunday. We think this bit might just be for children. We don’t care. We’re getting involved.

Forever Manchester will be out in force with our own stall at the Manchester Picnic, so make sure you come and say hello.

Commencing on the same weekend as the Manchester Picnic and running for a week until August 14th, the Manchester  Arts and Crafts Market will set up shop on the other side of the City, in St Ann’s Square. We love Manchester’s specialist markets and the arts and crafts markets is a firm favourite, not least because of the special summer beer (and food – don’t forget the food) garden that accompanies it. The market will see dozens of arts and craftspeople from across Manchester bring a vast selection of gorgeous gifts, jewellery, handmade cosmetics, homeware and everything in between, while food on offer (did we mention the food?) will include paella, chorizo rolls, and hot pork sandwiches, all washed down with a glass of chilled British wine or local Hyde’s ale. Find out more at

Had enough food yet? Me neither. So on the 13th – 14th August, head over to Moss Side’s Alexandra Park for Manchester’s vibrant Caribbean Carnival, where the air will be full of the scents and sounds of the Caribbean. Which means you can eat your fill of authentic Caribbean cuisine and then work it all off by shaking your booty to the vibrant sounds of the carnival. There’ll be stalls, live music on a main outdoor stage, and the all important Carnival Parade, which will see Caribbean dance troupes from all over the UK dressed in breathtaking parade costumes and joined by the tropical sounds of a steel band. Find out more at

Rounding off the month of August in Manchester is arguably the most colourful weekend of the entire year in Manchester –  Pride. Celebrating its 21st birthday this year, the outrageously fun celebration of all things LGBT has grown up into a fine figure of a festival, with its biggest ever events programme laid out to mark the event’s coming of age. Central to the 10 day Pride celebrations is The Big Weekend, a 71 hour marathon of music, comedy, clubs, markets and all things LGBT, climaxing in the famous Pride Parade on Saturday 27th. We’ll be blogging nearer the time with a fuller outline of Pride 2011, but for now, stick it in your diary using your best glitter pen and visit the Pride website for information.

Sleeping sci-fi beauties, sofa superheroes, racist neighbours and a spaceman are just some of the characters you’ll find at this year’s 24/7 Theatre Festival.

In the eight years since its inception, 24/7 theatre festival has become a mainstay of Manchester’s arts scene; going from strength to strength each year with the support of the city’s writers, actors and most importantly; theatre fans.

The idea behind the festival is simple. Brand new chunks of bitesized theatre performed in non-theatre venues. It’s theatre, but not as we know it. It’s lunchbreak theatre. It’s after work theatre. It’s both theatre for people who don’t have time for theatre, and theatre for people whose appetite for new writing is so voracious that they want to gobble up as much of it as they possibly can.

Festival producer David Slack has worked tirelessly to cultivate some truly stunning plays over the years, and 2011 is no exception. This year the festival will premiere 13 original new plays, handpicked by judges from over 100 submissions.

The plays are produced with little budget, relying on powerful writing and passionate actors to deliver that magic and energy that 24/7 is known for.

This year’s plays cover a variety of genres and subject matters, from dark comedy to drama, from romance to racism and sci-fi to sex. And with all thirteen plays coming in at under an hour and tickets costing no more than the price of cocktail, there’s no excuse for not catching at least one or two shows.

So what’s looking good this year? Well, frankly everything.

‘Future Shock’ is a romantic drama by Richard Stockwell about a woman who slept 800 years to be with her lover but was woken up in 2879 – 100 years too early.

Steve Pearce’s comedy ‘The Crimson Retribution’ meanwhile sees Amy, in the midst of a failing relationship, faced with the prospect of a guy in a mask sleeping on her sofa and claiming to be seeking retribution.

Matthew Dunster adresses racial tension and secrets hidden at the heart of a small Northern community in the powerful drama ‘I Know Where the Dead are Buried’.

And if you’ve got little-uns, Joyce Branagh returns to 24/7 with ‘Peggy and the Spaceman’ – the festival’s first children’s drama, which will run every afternoon at 3.30pm.

And of course these are just a handful of the plays appearing at the festival. For the full listings visit the 24/7 Theatre Festival website where you’ll find something for every taste and every mood.

Venues this year are The Midland Hotel, Sachas Hotel, and New Century House. Tickets are all under a tenner, with four for the price of three when you book in advance.

Next Page »