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Northern accents are all starting to sound the same, new study finds

This is weird!

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David Dixon/Geograph

A new study at the University of Manchester shows that all Northern accents are beginning to sound the same.

Linguistics expert Dr Patrycja Strycharczuk and colleagues from the university have suggested that accents from the North of England are beginning to blend into one.

The study set out to uncover whether there was such a thing as ‘General Northern English’, something they have called the general accent spoken by the middle-class folk of the North.

Dr Strycharczuk said: “I often hear statements like ‘I’m from Liverpool / Manchester / Sheffield, but I don’t have the accent’ – however, there is very little systematic evidence that General Northern English really is a coherent variety, so that’s the question we asked ourselves.”

The study examined the accents of people from Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and more with the results struggling to find a difference between the accents, only finding that those from Liverpool and Newcastle have a more distinct accent.

The study also found that much of the traditional dialect isn’t present anymore, but typical characteristics of a general Northern accent are retained such as shortening words like ‘bath’ and ‘glass’.

Dr Strycharczuk added: “It may seem as though local accents are dying out, but we believe we’re actually seeing a new variety becoming established – educated, urban and northern.

“I think its prestige has increased, and people are now less tempted to lose their accent if they’ve been to university or they do a lot of public speaking.”

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The market traders facing closure after 53 years thanks to developers

The future is uncertain for three longstanding city centre market traders.

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In the row of units that extends around the corner to High Street by the Arndale, where Cafe Metro now stands empty, three market stall traders remain.

On the corner of a small stretch of Church Street, nestled between the edge of the city’s cool and quirky Northern Quarter and the trusty Arndale Shopping Centre, are the last few remaining outdoor market stalls.

It’s a funny little area that holds some remnants of the old Manchester, and it’s not pretentious in the slightest. Graffiti is scribbled across any spare patch of wall, post box and phone booth — no solid space gets away with it.

There are just three stalls remaining in the run-down plot, which sits beneath a tall concrete brutalist tower that used to hold a dental practice. 

Around the corner on the same development, the once bustling Cafe Metro — a much-loved coffee shop that served hot cuppas to Mancunians for more than four decades — now stands derelict and shuttered.

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“It’s a sign of the times,” says McCall’s grocery owner Mark McCall, a 59-year-old from Cheetham Hill who’s been trading in the city for 25 years. Mark is very hands-on and always appears busy. He’s either taking deliveries, disposing of boxes, taking calls or serving his customers. 

McCalls is a family-run greengrocers that provides shoppers with a variety of fresh produce sourced from other parts of the world. The McCall family have been trading for 122 years and customers young and old visit this stall to shop in a more personal way.

Asked why customers enjoy the experience of shopping from his stall, Mark replied: “In supermarkets, you don’t get the same value as you do in market stalls, you don’t get the same service, and you don’t get the same bargains.

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“We’re the last place where you can get a variety of produce, we’ve got Jamaican produce, and as you can see, the quality is a lot better. We get a lot of young ones coming in now, and they do enjoy being able to pick one or two things instead of a packet of things. 

“They’ve got their iPhones and they find a recipe on them and then come and pick the things they need for it from here.”

But in this city of constant construction, with skyscrapers cropping up here, there and just about everywhere, it will come as no surprise that potential developers have swooped in and want to potentially transform the empty tower block into apartments — meaning the row of stalls that skirt its base may have to go.

It has recently been announced that MRP, the developing arm of Irish firm McAleer & Rushe, have now bought the plot at 20-26 Hight Street from previous company CEG. It has been passed from one developer to another since 2019 with nothing coming to fruition so far.

Mark said: “Manchester city centre, as you know, is under development and we’re under threat at the moment because the building behind us, the old dentist hospital, has been sold to turn into flats. To develop that site, they actually need the land where we’re situated. We’re still under negotiations with them about the future, and what the future holds, we don’t know.”

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On the changing face of the city centre, Mark added: “For me, myself, personally, all the city centre is becoming plastic. If we go, all we need is another McDonalds or Starbucks. 

“We’re doing okay, but we’re surrounded by supermarkets, we’ve got Tescos, we’ve got Co-op, we’ve got Aldi, we’ve got Morrisons. This is the last bit of character left in Manchester city centre.

“If you could show me somewhere else in the centre that’s not been redeveloped, I’ll give you a million pounds. Show me a piece of land that’s left — there is none. The city has changed massively. I’m a bit old fashioned, I preferred it the way it was.

“I’ve built this up over 25 years and the lad next door to me has been here all together 53 years. I’ve done this since I was 14 years of age so I don’t know what else I would do.”

The ‘lad next door’ being Eddie Hopkinson, the 78-year-old owner of Manchester Bookbuyers. Eddie has a great sense of humour and his regulars pop-in to browse his hand-selected book collection and say ‘hello’ — as I witnessed on my visit.

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About whether he thinks the city has a future for market traders, Eddie said: “Well electricity has gone up. My last bill was £49, this bill was £185. Electricity is needed to keep these things running,” he said gesturing across to the Arndale’s indoor food markets, making a point about running costs not being sustainable in the long run.

He joked: “I’ve been here for 53 years, it could have been worse, I could have had to work for a living. Well, I got sacked from a job and I had the chance to start a business so that’s how I got into this.”

Eddie told me that he doesn’t read books and has probably read ‘about six in my life’, but he hand picks them himself from people with unwanted books, and tries to find interesting ones for his customers. He adds:“I keep getting feedback from the customers saying that they don’t want to see us go, but on the other hand, I can’t go on forever.

“You’ve only got to walk around and see the massive developments taking place and it’s mainly apartments. The commercial enterprises obviously think there’s a demand for them but personally, I don’t think there is a demand for all of them.”

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On how he feels about the direction the city is taking and the sudden appearance of multiple apartment blocks to fill with young professionals and city dwellers, he shrugs and says: “I’ve got no choice.” 

“Hobson’s Choice!”, chirps a regular, standing nearby and listening to our conversation. He laughs as he makes a joke with reference to a film set in Salford in the Victorian era, a romantic comedy about a family boot making business. He asks Eddie: “Are you alright, young man?”

I suppose you can’t always take life too seriously and times are always changing, regardless of whether or not we want them to. Eddie continues: “I guess I’ll have to like it or lump it.”

Another customer comes along with a hard-back book and asks him how much. Eddie looks at the book and says: “It’s an expensive book. Well it was when it was made, it was £54,” pointing to the old price label. “I’ll give it you for 20,” and the customer accepts.

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In a third stall Emmy, 30, works at McCall’s Organics. They stock sustainable and organically sourced goods — great for the eco-minded and hipster types that frequent the area. She’s been working here for two years and has lived in Manchester for 10. Emmy seems quite positive, with a sunny outlook and a warm smile to go with. 

She believes that if they have to move out of their Church Street premises, then there will always be another opportunity to do something similar elsewhere. “There’s always hope,” she says.

Manchester City Council have asked the developers to support the stall-owners to continue to trade, or to be compensated. Though the land that is up for development isn’t owned by the Council, it said: “The Northern Quarter is a special part of Manchester’s city centre, and part of its appeal is its mix of independent businesses. The site on Church Street is owned by a private developer.

“The Council is currently working with the new owners of the Church Street site to bring forward development. The Council has been clear throughout – both with the former owners and the current – that their proposals must include provision for the market traders to either support them to continue trading at the site, find a suitable alternative site close by or should any traders wish to cease operating come to an adequate compensation agreement. 

“We will continue to work with the developer in the coming months to ensure an acceptable resolution for the trading businesses.”

McAleer & Rushe have been contacted by Proper Manchester for comment.

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Thousands of teachers take to the streets of Manchester in mass strike action

‘We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.’

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Thousands of teachers gathered on a blustery, grey-skied and rainy afternoon in Manchester city centre to march through the streets as part of a national day of mass scale strikes across the country.

Dubbed ‘Walk-out Wednesday’, February 1st has seen huge disruption to services all over the UK as workers take ‘last resort’ action over pay, conditions and budgets.

The National Education Union (NEU) is one of seven unions on strike today. Around 500,000 workers are expected to walk out, including university staff who are members of the University and College union (UCU), such as those at the University of Manchester. Also on strike are rail workers and border control.

Many classrooms across the region are closed for the day while NEU members strike, with some year groups told to stay at home. Students with upcoming exams and vulnerable children have been prioritised for a limited place inside their school today, following guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).

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The NEU says today’s action follows a series of real-terms pay cuts over the past decade, while this year’s pay rise offer of 5% falls well below inflation.  The union insists that pay and conditions are seeing significant numbers of teachers quit the profession.

Talks took place earlier this week between the NEU and the DfE in an attempt to avert today’s strike action but proved unsuccessful, as the union claim education secretary Gillian Keegan had ‘squandered’ the opportunity. The DfE says today’s strike action is ‘highly damaging to children’s education’ especially following the pandemic.

Still going ahead, crowds flocked to a very wet St Peter’s Square, with the meet-up time of 12.30pm. In typical teacher fashion, the city centre was already bustling with those working in education, as they showed up early to ensure a prompt start and express their passion for their jobs, their rights, and the rights of their pupils.

Also with them were union representatives, some children and general supporters of their cause. Horns were sounding, drums were banging and cheers could be heard just about everywhere. In contrast to the miserable weather, many teaching staff wore bright colours including knitted hats and bold coats, and were seemingly cheerful. Upon speaking to them, it became clear that they’d had enough and that it was time to take a stand.

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Amongst the noise and sea of people, Cath D, a primary school teacher spoke about why she felt she had to take strike action, saying: “I really did not want to be here today, I really wanted to be in my classroom having a normal day with my kids. But, things have become so difficult recently. It’s not just that we want more money, education is under-funded massively.”

Cath attended the rally with a group of teachers from her school based in Salford. She went on to describe how school funding cuts had affected the classroom: “The poor children. I’ve literally seen children fighting over pencils, can you believe that in 2023? 

“I wish I could say ‘here’s 100 pencils, it doesn’t matter’, but this is where we are at the moment. We are doing this for us; our wages have come down in real terms over the years, but I’ll leave all the statistics for the unions.”

On why changes were also necessary for children in education, she said: “For some children, school is the one constant that they have in their life and we’ve got to come in refreshed and remunerated. For some children, we’re the one constant that they have, and we need to be there for them.”

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After speakers talked to the crowds and people cheered in agreement, they started off on their march around the city. Among the marchers, a retired GMB union member stomped the streets in solidarity, he said: “We support the TA’s, the kitchen staff and all the support staff, managers and office workers around Tameside.

“We’re here to show we support the lowering of the pensionable age and to pay workers a proper wage that they need.”

Three English teachers from a school in Cheetham Hill spoke about the reasons they took strike action today, as one said: “It feels like the last resort, where we’ve had to come together and join all these people to make a point that we’ve been trying to for years and years, but no one’s listening.”

Another said: “Our children will not get the results that they need and deserve and want, if we have to put up with these conditions.” The third added: “It’s not just about our salaries, it’s all of the funding and resources that have been cut too.”

A Greater Manchester teacher for children with English as their second language, called Ali, said: “I’m striking because of the unacceptable situation that teachers and the education system are being put under.

“We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.

“What we need are more teachers and better pay. And, we can do that if we tax the people with more money, rather than what this government has been doing, which is tax rates for the rich and spending money in very unwise and corrupt ways.”

Despite what workers and unions are asking, the Education minister Gillian Keegan told the BBC that the government would not budge, and that giving in to demands for large wage increases would only fuel inflation.

“What we cannot do is give inflation-busting pay rises to one part of the workforce and make inflation worse for everybody. That’s not an economically sensible thing to do,” she said.

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The best winter walks near Manchester

Something to blow away those cobwebs…

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@lhphotographic / Instagram & PixelPlan

Christmas is for spending time with loved ones, giving gifts and, most importantly, eating copious amounts of food and drinking an unholy amount.

Most Mancunians will have completely smashed the latter so, today, could possibly be feeling a little worse for wear.

But luckily for them, Manchester is within close proximity to a number of beautiful nature spots and walking trails, all of which are ideal for blowing away the cobwebs and shifting some of the calories gained from all those roast potatoes. 

Here are some of our favourite spots…

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Snake Pass

The crossing between Glossop and Sheffield across the Peaks is mostly open moorland but, on one side of Snake Road, walkers will find stunning pine forest that makes for the perfect winter stroll.

The Snake Wood Circular is an extremely picturesque walk ideal for all the family, and boasts a magical river, moss-lined undergrowth and creeks with forty-foot high pines. 

This trail is pet friendly, and offers the perfect opportunity to escape from the city and reconnect with nature – though it is worth noting it will be closed in the event of icy weather. 

More information here.

National Trust

Lyme Park

Found in the south of Disley in the Peak District is Lyme Park, a sprawling 1,400 acre National Trust estate boasting stunning landscapes and an abundance of wildlife. 

The estate – once home to the Legh family – offers a number of fantastic walks at the Rose Garden, Ravine Garden or the reflecting lake, where Mr. Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice adaptation.

Guests can even head inside the historic mansion to step back in time to the Regency era. 

More information here.

@lhphotographic / Instagram

Ladybower Reservoir 

The large Y-shaped body of water with giant ‘plugholes’ that most Mancunians will recognise is the Ladybower Reservoir, and it makes for the most scenic of winter walks.

Around an hour’s drive from Manchester city centre, it was built due to the large demand for water from nearby industrial towns and was officially opened by King George VI on September 24th 1945.

The reservoir itself is nestled within some stunning countryside, and the breathtaking views of water, woodland and moorland have long been a big draw for outdoor-enthusiasts – you’ll find loads of circular walking and cycling routes in the area, plus viewpoints.

More information here.

@sealandvisions / Instagram

Lud’s Church

Located near Buxton, Lud’s Church is a deep chasm full of history, myths and lots of greenery, with stone steps leading into another world.

The eighteen-metre deep chasm was created by a huge landslip, and has consequently been covered in moss and other plant-life over the years. It’s only 100-metres long, but you walkers can spend days taking in the outstanding natural wonders in all its nooks and crannies.

Lud’s Church became a secret worship place for people who faced persecution in the 15th Century. It was used as a church by the ‘Lollards’, followers of the reformer and ‘heretic’ John Wycliffe.

More information here.

May be an image of nature and waterfall

@tgrivington / Instagram

Lancashire’s Japanese Lake

Tucked away around halfway up Rivington Pike is one of Britain’s lost gardens, according to Countryfile in 2014.

The Japanese Lake is part of the Rivington Terraced Gardens, and was built by the founder of the former Lever Brothers company – now known as Unilever – Lord Leverhulme, inspired by one of his many trips to Japan.

More information here.

@highheelsandhay / Instagram

Thor’s Cave 

Thor’s Cave, also known as Thor’s House Cavern and Thyrsis’s Cave, is a gigantic natural cavern found in the Manifold Valley of the White Peak in Staffordshire, and it offers some dazzling views.

The cave entrance comprises a huge symmetrical arch 7.5 metres wide and 10 metres high, and can be seen from the valley bottom around 80 metres below.

Walkers can reach the cave via an easy stepped path from the Manifold Way, with a 7.5km circular walk from Wetton village taking them along the River Manifold before passing by Thor’s Cave and other caverns.

More information here.

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