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The future of Mother Macs: How the iconic Northern Quarter boozer is embracing its gruesome past

We caught up with Mother Macs’ current landlady, Lauren Grimshaw, who detailed her plans for the future of the historic pub

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Nestled down a back alley in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Mother Macs and its bloody history has somehow managed to stand the trying test of time. 

In perhaps the most perilous period ever experienced by pubs and restaurants, the extraordinary boozer has managed to survive and reopen its doors, despite numerous lockdowns, social distancing measures and, perhaps most poignantly, a rather murderous past.

This is why, for many, its unwavering popularity among locals is somewhat of a surprise – as the plaque on the front of the building states, on June 18th, 1976, the pubs landlord Arthur Bradbury went on a murderous rampage after receiving an eviction notice. He killed his wife Maureen, his six year old daughter Alison, his step-sons James and Andrew, and the cleaner, who happened to stumble upon him in the act.

Then, he set fire to the pub to cover his tracks, only to kill himself in the blaze.

For many establishments, this kind of horrific event would signal an end to not only trading, but to the desire to ever set foot through the premises again.

But for Mother Macs’ newly appointed landlady, Lauren Grimshaw, it was one of the many things that drew her to the new role. Lauren, a mother of two from Clayton, is studying a degree in criminology and psychology, so it would seem she and the pubs dark history go hand in hand. She told Proper Manchester: “The history was the main thing I wanted it for. People do come in occasionally after hearing about what happened with ‘Mother Macs and the killer landlord’ or reading about it on the sign outside.”

Lauren, who was given the opportunity to take over the pub and the ten-room hotel upstairs by its former owner just six weeks ago, admitted that she does believe in ghosts, but it yet to experience any paranormal happenings. She explained: “I’m all about ghost hunts and all things paranormal. When I walked in on my first shift, I made it clear that I wasn’t there to cause trouble, I wasn’t there to offend anything that might be there.

“There hasn’t been many ghostly happenings, apart from the television sometimes switching itself on and the door closing by itself.”

But putting murderous landlord hauntings to one side, Lauren noted that the most prominent feature of Mother Macs is the clientele. She said: “My favourite thing about the pub is the people. It’ll always be the people. They’re what make Mother Macs. All my regulars who have been drinking in here for forty years still come in.

According to Lauren, Mother Macs stands out in the Northern Quarter – which is undisputedly cluttered with bars and pubs – because it doesn’t fit in with the general ‘norm’ of the area. She explained: “There are so many ‘trendy’ bars these days, whereas Mother Macs is a proper little boozer, a proper little pub, and I think Manchester is missing that. People don’t want to go and drink wine and cocktails, people want to come in and just have a cold pint.”

And the ‘proper little boozer’ approach is clearly working – just last weekend, a group of men from Bedford had booked to stay one night in the newly refurbished hotel upstairs, named The Avenues and Alleyways, only for them to extend their stay by two nights after falling in love with Mother Macs and the regulars.

She said: “The amount of connections I’ve made with the people who come into the pub is just unreal. Weekends in particular are amazing – some people come in on their own because they know as soon as they walk in, they’re made to feel comfortable. It’s not a pub, it’s a family, and that’s how I want it. I want every single person to feel comfortable and at home.”

And feel welcome they do – the watering hole hosts people from all walks of life, with Lauren vowing for every customer to feel welcome and included, regardless of where they’re from or who they are.

And even now, the pub continues to get people talking; earlier this week, Mother Macs went viral after we shared a photo of its beer garden, which consists of a couple of table and chairs thrown together next to a huge industrial bin down Back Piccadilly – ‘the most Manc beer garden ever’, as we called it.

So, what’re the plans for the future? Lauren told us that Mother Macs has a massive focus on football and, despite it historically being a Manchester City pub, she’s working hard at making it an inclusive space for all football fans (United fans, basically.) She said: “When I took over, I didn’t want it as a predominantly City pub as not to exclude any other fans. City home game, City fans come in. United home game, United fans come in. And on Derby days, well if they can sit amicably together, they can.”

Lauren’s also organising a karaoke and DJ for weeknights to get the place lively throughout the week – at the moment, the sound system operates on a strict Spotify playlist system, which has proven to be a huge hit with locals and weekend revellers alike.

For updates and news, follow Mother Macs’ official Facebook page.
Mother Macs, 33 Back Piccadilly, Manchester M1 1HP
020 8089 8579

Feature

The inspirational story of Kirsty Howard on what would have been her 26th birthday

Through her tireless campaigning, Kirsty secured the future of Francis House Children’s Hospice

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francishouse.org.uk

On September 20th 1995, Kirsty Ellen Howard was born in a Wythenshawe hospital and – little did she know at the time – would go on to change the future for thousands of children.

Her start to life was a turbulent one; Kirsty was born with an extraordinarily rare condition in which her heart was positioned back to front, causing the misplacement of her internal organs.

The condition, a form of ‘situs ambiguus’, is inoperable and requires extensive treatment, including a constant external supply of oxygen. The condition is so rare, in fact, that new-born Kirsty was the only person in the UK – and just the second in the whole world – to be diagnosed with it.

The first four years of her life were spent in and out of hospitals and at the age of four doctors gave Kirsty and her family the devastating prediction that she had just six weeks left to live.

But, astonishingly, Kirsty defied those odds and went on to not only live for another sixteen years, attend school and achieve GCSE’s, but to raise millions of pounds for Francis House Children’s Hospice in Didsbury.

francishouse.org.uk

Kirsty initially gained national attention when she was appointed as England’s mascot during their 2002 World Cup game against Greece. Aged just six, Kirsty walked out onto the pitch with her 20kg oxygen tank and holding the hand of then-captain David Beckham, prompting commentator John Motson to call her ‘the bravest person on the pitch’.

The following year, Kirsty and Beckham handed the baton to the Queen at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

And in 2003, Kirsty started the first Great Manchester Run and took part in the race, wearing the number one vest in her wheelchair. She took part in the race every year following. Kirsty was subsequently awarded the Helen Rollason Award by the BBC in 2004 for her courage and determination, as well as the Child of Courage award and the Pride of Britain award.

While all of these achievements may seem incredible enough to most of us, for Kirsty, they didn’t even begin to scratch the surface because her most notable act came in the form of a charity appeal for Francis House Hospice, a Didsbury-based hospice originally opened by Princess Diana in 1991.

Named ‘The Kirsty Club’, Kirsty’s campaign was launched to expand and improve the services the hospice offered – primarily support for families with terminal or life-threatening illnesses – with celebrity supporters of the appeal including Gloria Hunniford, Mohamed Al-Fayed, Davina McCall, and opera singer Russell Watson.

David Ireland, the Chief Executive of Francis House, said of Kirsty’s fundraising: “Francis House had struggled to meet its running costs for many years, Kirsty’s fundraising changed that and gave us a measure of security that allowed us to expand and develop our service. 

“Hundreds of children, young people and their families owe a tremendous debt to the young lady whose face made Francis House a household name.”

Over the years, Kirsty’s fundraising totalled to a staggering £7.5 million, which helped to give thousands of Manchester’s children, teenagers, young adults and their families the help and support they needed in their times of greatest need.

francishouse.org.uk

In the final years of her life, Kirsty was a proud auntie and had been studying childcare at college with the hopes of one day becoming a teacher for children with special needs. However, one month after her twentieth birthday on October 24th 2015, Kirsty passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Tributes poured in for Kirsty after the news of her death broke, including from the then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who wrote on Twitter: “I’m sad to hear Kirsty Howard has died. She was an amazing person with boundless passion who did so much good.”

David Beckham also posted a tribute, sharing a photo of him with Kirsty and writing on Instagram: “Words cannot describe how amazing this young lady has been over the years. Kirsty has been defying doctors for many years and whilst doing that she has been raising millions of pounds for terminally ill children.”

And lastly, Francis House, whom Kirsty raised so much money for over the years, shared their own tribute, writing simply: “We cannot express enough our humble thanks and gratitude to an incredible young woman.”

Rest in peace, Kirsty Howard.

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Feature

Black Shuck: The ghostly dog who haunts Manchester Cathedral

There have been numerous sightings over the decades…

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edwin.11 / Flickr & ed_needs_a_bicycle / Flickr

Over the decades, there have been repeated rumours of strange going ons within the historic walls of Manchester Cathedral, and the spirit of a ghostly dog roaming the corridors. 

Now, here at Proper Manchester, we love a good haunting story – whether it be paranormal sightings in an old Liverpool hotel or the haunting of the infamous Blackpool Pleasure Beach Ghost Train, we’re all over it like a rash.

So, when the ghostly rumours of Manchester Cathedral were brought to our attention, we got stuck straight in. But first, let’s start with the basics: Grade 1 listed and dating back to 1421, Manchester Cathedral is a vast Medieval, Gothic structure complete with crypts and stunning stained glass. It’s a truly astonishing building, regardless of your religious status and, in it’s 600-year life, it has welcomed millions of visitors from all over the world. 

Dom Crossley / Wikimedia Commons

However, putting the beautiful interior and rich history to one side, there’s something a little more sinister about the Manchester city centre building – according to a number of people, the it is actually haunted.

Now, there are many great ghost stories from this ancient cathedral, for example; a man was once said to be praying in the building after all other churchgoers had gone home. Mid-prayer, however, he was shocked to see his sister, Fanny, standing at the top of the cathedral as he believed that she was many miles away. Assuming his sister had come to Manchester to surprise him, the man rose to his feet and called out to her, only to see her vanish before his eyes. The following morning, he was informed that Fanny had passed away the previous evening. Anyone scared yet?

However, there’s one story that is told more than others, and that’s the tale of an old demonic dog known commonly as Black Shuck.

edwin.11 / Flickr

Now, Black Shuck is a whole new story in itself – Black Shuck is the generic name for a giant black greyhound type dog that would haunt villages back in the day and basically cause a whole load of havoc. One town legend from 1577 says this giant hellhound killed two people who were kneeling in prayer after knocking down the church doors amid a flash of lightning. Spooky stuff, I know. 

The first known written text describing a Black Shuck in England goes all the way back to 1127 in the town of Peterborough, with witnesses said that around twenty to thirty of these hellish hounds lurked in the area through Lent all the way to Easter, a period of about fifty days.

And they weren’t mistaking it for a wild pack of actual, real-life dogs – anyone who has claimed to have witnessed a Black Shuck described it as a large dog with black, mangy fur and much larger-than-normal, with some even as big as a horse. Some report Black Shucks to have also been foaming at the mouth, just incase you weren’t spooked yet.

ed_needs_a_bicycle / Flickr

But while the Black Shuck is believed by many to be a creature of the underworld and a sign of impending death, you need not worry – legend has it that Manchester Cathedral’s own Black Shuck was actually exorcised under the bridge crossing the River Irwell a couple of decades ago. 

And I think the exorcism worked because today, the Manchester Cathedral is quite the opposite of it’s ghostly, demonic dog adorned state – today, the cathedral stands as a place of solace for people from all walks of life. Just this year, it launched a ‘listening post’, an initiative that aims to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health and loneliness. How lovely is that?

So yeah, try not to stress too much about getting chomped by a demonic dog from the underworld when you’re next walking by.

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Feature

How the Manchester Caribbean Carnival was born from a small community in Moss Side

The carnival was built on a ‘longing for home’ by the Caribbean community in Moss Side

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@zainz / Instagram & Manchester Caribbean Carnival

Today, the Manchester Caribbean Carnival will be making it’s long-awaited comeback after Covid-19 ground its plans to a halt last year.

It’s a truly momentous occasion and, ultimately, the perfect time to take a look back on its extensive history and to understand exactly why it’s become such a phenomenon in the city. So, let’s start with the obvious question – where and when did it all begin?

You will all be familiar with the globally renown Notting Hill Carnival, a celebration of culture and diversity that has been taking place in London’s Notting Hill every year since 1966. Well, in the mere years following the debut of this carnival, there was another one in the works a couple of miles up the road in Manchester’s infamous Moss Side.

Manchester Archives / Flickr

Moss Side has been welcoming immigrants since the 1800s, but the neighbourhood saw a particularly large influx of people from the British Empire shortly following the Second World War, ultimately bringing a new wave of immigrants to the area. The neighbourhood became a hub for African-Caribbean arrivals, who would go on to be known as the Windrush generation.

Dr Charlotte Wildman, a lecturer in modern British history at the University of Manchester, told BBC Newsbeat that throughout the 1950s and 60s, Moss Side was ‘a flourishing suburb where diversity is celebrated’, noting: “You don’t see the racial tensions in Manchester that you see elsewhere… It’s a city that is built on migration.”

And what better way to prove the neighbourhoods community spirit than a massive annual celebration in the form of a carnival?

Manchester Caribbean Carnival

According to the University of Manchester’s Manchester History files, the Manchester Caribbean Carnival was actually started by one woman –  the founding member and the chairperson of Manchester’s carnival committee, Ms. Locita Brandy. Locita had moved to Moss Side with her family in 1959, who are believed to have been the first black family on the whole street.

Inspired by ‘a longing for home’ and memories of the colourful St Kitts and Nevis carnival of her home, Locita worked with other members of the Leeward Island People Association (LIPA) to get the wheels in motion for Manchester’s first ever Caribbean carnival.

The exact date of the first official Manchester Caribbean Carnival is a little unclear, with some believing it was in 1971 and others in 1972. Some media sources even cite the starting year of the carnival as 1973 and describe it as an ‘impromptu affair.’ But Locita herself references the carnival’s start date as May Bank Holiday weekend 1972, with the description of carnival as ‘impromptu’ believed to be the press’ attempt to ignore the efforts of Moss Side’s West Indian community in the organisation of the carnival.

Manchester Caribbean Carnival

Locita’s records present overwhelming evidence of the hard work and dedication put into the establishment and growth of the Manchester Caribbean carnival – and the rest in history. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Locita’s carnival would happen every year, and records show her efforts to include other ethnic communities from the area in the celebrations.

The organisers of the carnival had always envisioned the event to familiarise white and black people, generate happiness and create solidarity within the community – and over the next few decades, it did just that. Every year, the carnival takes over Alexandra Park and brings a whole weekend of dancing, drinking, eating and celebration for the people of Manchester, regardless of their background or their race.

The carnival didn’t even allow Covid-19 to dampen the festivities – last year, for the first time in it’s forty-nine year history, the Manchester Caribbean Carnival went virtual. Carnival organisers honoured the legacy of carnival with a feast of entertainment including live performances, vibrant dance and steel bands displays – and today, they’re back in the flesh with a scaled down event boasting two stages, a funfair and a variety of food, drink and music stalls.

Manchester Caribbean Carnival is taking place today at Alexandra Park from 1pm – 7pm. 

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