Damian Kutryb is making moves across Manchester – quite literally.
His Mancunian adventure began back in 2014 – Damian made the difficult decision to swap his native Poland for Manchester after living in near-constant fear of homophobic attacks; a country where homosexuality is still not accepted and has been called ‘the worst country in the EU for LGBT rights’ as recently as 2020.
Upon arrival here in Manchester, Damian was initially met with an abundance of difficulties and culture shocks; language barriers being one of them.
However, with Manchester’s open and welcoming LGBTQ+ community, Damian soon felt right at home and, in 2014, he made the bold decision to open his very own dance studio, GFFDamian Dance Studio.
Oh, didn’t we mention? Damian just so happens to be a skilled pole dancer – skills, in fact, that have won him a number of awards and plaudits over the years, including UK Pole Dancing Champion 2017, International Pole Idol Winner 2016 and the Runner-Up title for Mr. Pole Fitness.
Beginning as a small pole fitness studio, GFF has since grown into a full fledged dance studio and, now located on Corporation Street near Victoria Station, it hires award-winning instructors who have been able to expand the classes to incorporate different styles of pole fitness and dance.
And fast-forwarding to today, Damien has earned himself quite the reputation among Manchester’s pole dancing community – today, he welcomes people from all walks of life, regardless of their gender, their identity or their sexuality.
Speaking to Manchester’s Finest about the motive behind his dance mission, Damian said: “When I first started in pole fitness and dancing I felt very excluded, not only because my English wasn’t very good but also because I was a man.
“So I wanted to create a safe place for people, anybody, and it doesn’t matter how you look or who you are, you can still have fun and do amazing things with your body.”
Yet despite the stigma continuing to surround pole, the dance form is steadily growing in popularity. Damian explained:“Pole has become much more popular over the last few years, especially with kids too – so people are changing their opinions on it and I’m positive it’ll be an Olympic sport soon enough.”
And, when asked how he deals with the criticisms, he has one go-to response: “People ask me if I just teach people how to be strippers and I say no – I teach people how to be motherf*****g ninjas!”
For more information on Damian’s dance studio and how to get involved, visit the official website here.
GFFDamian Dance Studio, Parkers Hotel, 109-113 Corporation St, Manchester M4 4DX
Street photographer creates incredible Mini Manchester and Blackpool nostalgia photo series
The photography series aims to encapsulate significant parts of Manchester’s history
Whether it be retro beer cans or vintage match boxes, there isn’t much that Gisela Szlatoszlavek will limit herself to to capture the spirit of the city.
While Gisela works full time as a teaching assistant, she is also a keen street photographer with a passion for documenting gentrified areas of Manchester, with her even having published That Golden Mile, a sell-out book on Blackpool street photography.
And it was a combination of these two professions that sparked the idea for her ‘Little’ series, with Gisela finding inspiration during a photography lesson.
Talking on the birth of the miniature series, which sees her create scenes using tiny models, Gisela told Proper Manchester: “The pupils were working with small figurines around the classroom, and it made me think of how well that would work out in the street.
“I started with Blackpool, and thinking of places that make the town iconic and recognisable… like the sunburned men wearing vests and local mums pushing prams.”
And being a local lass herself – she hails from Oldham – Gisela knew that Manchester and its vast history would provide the perfect backdrop for her new series.
She explained: “Everything I’ve done up to now is a nod to something special about the city, such as the Haçienda, the Manchester bee, Manchester United, and Manchester City.”
And despite the series only being a couple of months old, Gisela has countless instalments of a variety of different themes under her belt, all of which give an insight into life in both Blackpool and Manchester.
Her photographs range from trips to the football, chippy teas and seaside fun in Blackpool, and even trips to the iconic Haçienda nightclub – complete with a pair of maracas, of course.
And fans of Gisela’s work will notice a recurring retro theme, which in itself is a nod to her own passion for the 1980s: “That era was fantastic, I wish I could have taken these photos back then.
“So I wanted to try and create a lot of my series around that time period.”
A lot of the props used in the series are genuine vintage too, including retro beer cans found on eBay, cassette tapes and even match boxes from the era.
Putting together these images is no walk in the park, however, with some taking Gisela several weeks to complete from start to finish.
Every aspect of the photo – from the initial idea to the construction itself – is a painstaking process, with Gisela often spending hours at a time scouring through Google Street View to establish which spots will work the best, whether it be the aesthetics, the lighting or just for the finer details to add to the final image.
Gisela then buys the figurines online, and spends even more time hand painting them to adapt them to different scenes – for some photos, she’s even gone to the effort of making miniature outfits using a magnifying glass.
And actually taking the photos is no easier, mainly thanks to members of the public and busy traffic, which Manchester’s city centre in particular has an abundance of.
She explained: “Unsurprisingly, Market Street is definitely the hardest location to work, thanks to the volume of people and things going on in the background. @giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram
“Because I have to be as low to the ground as possible, I do get members of the public coming up to me and asking what I’m doing and checking that I’m okay… Some people even think I’ve collapsed in the street!
“But most people are lovely, and are just curious and want to know what I’m doing.”
While the Little Manchester and Little Blackpool series remains as a side project for Gisela at the moment, she aims to one day collaborate with other artists, and eventually take on paid commissions.
This is only the beginning for Gisela’s Little series, so make sure to follow her official Instagram page to stay updated with her latest work.
Londoner shares his list of ‘observations’ about Manchester after spending four days here
City centre traffic, dog poo bags littering canals and Mancunian women dressing like Wim Hoff were all big talking points…
Whenever someone from the south is brave enough to venture up North, they’re usually met with a bit of a culture shock.
And this week, one Londoner fared no differently.
Taking to Reddit, the anonymous man explained that he had spent four days in Manchester and, while he described the city as ‘glorious’ and said he couldn’t wait to visit again soon, he was left with a few observations and questions.
He began by noting how ‘very small’ the city is – though he did point out that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because he was able to ‘walk everywhere’.
Beats getting the tube, doesn’t it?
However, he then pointed out how nobody moves out of the way while walking in different directions in the street (presumably Market Street…), saying it made him feel like he was ‘in the Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony video’.
Other observations included a ‘disproportionate number of great restaurants’ and a lot of ‘beautiful buildings that seem to be falling apart’.
And, in one perception that may surprise many, he gushed at how ‘very quiet’ Manchester’s city centre roads are, mainly thanks to the ‘revolutionary lack of traffic’.
He also questioned if all Mancunian women are avid followers of Wim Hoff, a Dutch motivational speaker famed for his love of running through snow and ice wearing next to nothing.
With this, he admitted that their ‘ability to sport such minimal attire in such minimal temperatures was humbling’.
And staying on the topic of Mancunian clothing, the Redditor pondered what the obsession is with suit style jackets for women, while also pointing out the ‘lack of effort from their male counterparts’.
He added: “Tight Jeans, a branded white tee and some Yeezy’s seem the standard uniform.”
However, not all of his observations were so light hearted, with him noting a blatant difference in Manchester’s racial diversity compared to that in the capital.
He wrote: “It’s very white. Having grown up in London I am used to seeing a fairly even spread of brown people. For such a metropolitan city this was the biggest surprise for me.
“I only had one instance of racial abuse. This is something that I don’t get in London.”
And he rounded up his observations with a question that many Mancunians will have asked themselves over the years: “Why are there loads of dog poo bags scattered along the canal toe paths? [sic]”
You can read the full post here.
MANCHESTER’S MOST HAUNTED: The haunting of the Town Hall
More than just council officials lurk the Town Hall’s corridors…
Manchester has had its fair share of ghostly happenings over the decades, what with its dark and grizzly industrial past.
There’s the poltergeist of Westhoughton, a ghostly Black Shuck dog lurking within Manchester Cathedral and the sinister Grey Lady of Cheetham’s School of Music.
But did you know that the city’s Town Hall has its own sinister story?
Completed in 1877, the Grade I listed building is home not only to Manchester City Council, but apparently a few ghostly residents, too.
There have been countless reports of ghost sightings within the walls of this historic building over the years, with the spirits of deceased councillors allegedly roaming the many halls and corridors.
But the most frequently seen ghost is that of a Victorian police officer who is said to have died in the late 1800s.
Rumour has it that despite his death hundreds of years ago, this ghostly bobby continues to patrol the halls of the building, scaring off countless visitors and ghost hunters in the process.
Ian Waring, a member of the Tameside-based paranormal investigations group Shadow Seekers, claims to have seen the spirit in the flesh in what he called an ‘incredibly strange and bizarre’ encounter.
It happened during one of his guided tours of the building, where he takes on the ghost hunting persona ‘Flecky Bennet’.
Ian told Mancunian Matters at the time: “I took this big gentleman around the first part of the tour in the town hall, and then he disappeared.
“He was stood in the middle of the group, but no-one saw him disappear and there was nowhere he could have gone, it was a big open area.
“The next day I explained to the town hall what had happened and they said he sounded like a police officer who died in the late 1800s.
“I looked up a photograph of him and it was definitely the man who was on the tour. It was incredibly bizarre, really strange.”
But people had been experiencing this ghostly copper decades prior – around twenty years ago, an unsuspecting electrician had been working late at night in the upper reaches of the building when he felt an eerie ‘disturbance’.
When he looked around, he found a Victorian-looking gentleman staring at him and silently smiling.
The electrician fled the scene and reported what he had seen to his foreman, who of course didn’t believe his tale. At this, the foreman instructed the terrified man to return to upper reaches to collect his tools, which he refused to do.
Eventually, the foreman went to collect the tools himself but, minutes later, returned with a look of sheer terror, having clearly experienced a firm telling off by the officer himself.
Other myths in the building include a spirit that hates the sound of whistling – anyone found to be making the noise is plunged into darkness with a few slamming doors for good measure.
Some members of staff also claim that the late Mayor of Manchester Abel Heywood haunts the the clock mechanism room, which seems appropriate considering he gave his name to the hour bell in the clock tower.
But fast forwarding to today, the Manchester Town Hall is still undergoing its extensive £328m renovation, which poises the question as to whether its ghostly inhabitants will still be there upon completion.
Though there will be only one way to find out…