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Feature

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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Manchester's Finest Group

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.

Feature

Remembering Manchester’s lost underground market that now lies empty beneath the city

Do you have memories of shopping in the underground Market Centre?

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Manchester's Finest Group & Urban Sherman / YouTube

Manchester used to have an underground market that now lies abandoned beneath the city centre.

If you walk along Market Street, you’re walking above what used to be the Market Centre – an underground shopping area filled with stalls and units selling music, clothes and a variety of other essential and non-essential items.

The underground Market Centre opened in 1972 and was a busy and bustling shopping emporium, much like the Arndale and Market Street both are today.

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Punks would shop there for outfits, music fans could browse through the vinyl record shops and buy tickets to gigs at Piccadilly Box Office. It even had a Stolen from Ivor – which was the first place in Manchester to sell the jeans brand Levi’s, and where many would flock to get their hands on a pair of 501s.

Fashion addicts could hit up shops including Roxy, Oasis and Justins as well as a number of other boutique stalls, including the leather shop, for cool jackets.

DJs could sift through the collections at Underground Records Import and fans could shop at iconic music stalls including Collectors Records, Yvonne’s Record Stall, and the Spinn Inn Disc Centre.

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Manchester’s Finest Group

The Market Centre was the place to be throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s until it closed down in 1989.

The entrance to it was located on Brown Street, with two other entrances on Norfolk Street and Spring Gardens. It had escalators going down under the pavement that led to this total treasure trove.

If you head to the Tesco on Market Street and go down to the lower level, you’re actually in what used to be part of the underground market.

But now it has fallen into disrepair, with the odd urban explorer who has dared to delve into the depth of the city to see what remains of this now eerie, decaying ghost market.

Urban Sherman / YouTube
Urban Sherman / YouTube

One explorer, known as Urban Sherman on YouTube, went down to have a look at what’s left of these once bustling underground stalls. Finding a way into where the old main entrance was located, down by the side of Tesco behind the food trailer, he climbs in and lands on the old steps with tiled walls.

As torches light up the dark depths of the city, we can see wires hanging, rubble strewn across the floor, graffiti on walls and one rusty sign that reads: “factory prices.”

It appears a wall of breeze blocks has been put up to block off any entry along the halls of the former market with the rest of it inaccessible, only to live on in the memories of those who once shopped there, and in old archived photographs.

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Feature

The legendary nightclubs that Mancunians would most like to bring back

Remember any of these?

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Google Maps & Fifth Avenue / Facebook

We asked our readers which nightclubs that no longer exist they would choose to bring back – and we got some great answers.

If you could choose just one, which would it be?

Here’s a list of former nightclubs that people would love to see return, as chosen by Proper Manchester readers.

Peter Forster / Facebook

The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk was a nightclub based on Little Peter Street in Manchester which was open from 1986 to 1999. It was a multi-floor nightclub, gig venue and rehearsal complex all in one.

It’s where Oasis played their first ever gig in 1992 and saw many notable bands that were a part of the Madchester music scene, including the likes of Inspiral Carpets, Doves, Happy Mondays, James and more. These days, it’s used as an office space.

There’s a blue plaque bolted to the wall which reads: “Remember me. I was something once.” It has a yellow smiley face in a nod to the Madchester acid house era.

Sophie C. / Yelp

Club Phoenix

Located on University Precinct, on Oxford Road, this sweatbox of a student dive would have music blaring on different nights, playing everything from indie bangers to dance classics and everything in between.

It was a scream club filled with young students looking for cheap drinks and cheap thrills too. There were plenty of messy drunken shenanigans. Being close to the Academy, it would be a great place for the young ‘uns to go for pre-gig bevvies.

blueskies /MDMarchive

The New Continental Club

The New Continental Club was on Harter Street, Manchester and opened in 1967. It was affectionately known as The Conti. It closed in 2001 and became The Tube nightclub, which has also since closed.

Many nurses and frontline emergency services workers frequented The Conti and many say they experienced some of the best nights out of their lives. 

The narrow staircase would lead down to the basement club, food would be served through a hatch and the queues to the toilets could be as long as your arm – they were pretty minging too.

Google Maps

Discotheque Royales

Built in 1845, the building was originally made to be an amphitheatre. But in 1921 it was changed into a cinema after facing stiff competition from the Palace Theatre and Opera House.

After being used as a bingo hall, the historic landmark then became one of Manchester’s most iconic nightclubs known by most as ‘Royales’, since 1989. In later years it went on to become Infinity and M-Two but Royales was legendary throughout the ‘90s.

Inside, it had many levels and a huge dance floor that was meant to look like it was lit up under a huge chandelier. With long draped velvet curtains, lights and reflective mirrors everywhere, it was party central.

DJ Brutus Gold held Love Train nights there until the show moved to the Ritz in 2000.

Fifth Avenue / Facebook

Fifth Avenue

This club started out as Legend, which became known as Manchester’s ‘other club’ during the ‘80s and the height of the Hacienda era, and saw top DJs who also played nights at Wigan Pier.

When it became Fifth Ave it was transformed into an indie music haven. As revellers walked down into the dingy basement and the whiff of cheap bleach in the air would hit them in the face, some of the best tunes from Manchester bands would be blasting, as partygoers walked straight across the sticky floor to the bar where they’d order a drink served in a plastic cup.

Club-goers soon got to know that if you went up to request a song from the DJ, it wouldn’t get played. In later years, it became known simply as Fifth, after owners tried a bit of a refresh.

But as the pandemic hit, the club sat empty and shuttered, and sadly never to return as it closed for good in 2021.

BhamUrbanNewsUK & BBC / Youtube

Twisted Wheel Club

It quickly became a Manchester institution after opening in the ‘60s, attracting mods across the North looking for somewhere to dance all night to rhythm and blues.

Before Twisted Wheel, clubs would play mainstream popular music. This Manchester establishment was groundbreaking and paved the way for how nightclubs would play different music genres to suit various tastes in the future.

Twisted Wheel, based on Swan Street, was a legendary haven for Northern Soul enthusiasts. It closed for a while in 1971, being renamed Placemate 7, then Follies. The club closed for good in 2021.

Thunderdome / YouTube

Thunderdome

If the Hacienda was too pretentious for you, or you got turned away at the door, there was another legendary Madchester club playing all the great acid house music buzzing dancers wanted to rave the night away to – it was called the Thunderdome.

Located at 255 Oldham Road, this club was all about the music. It was edgier, full of all walks of life and was even home to some of Manchester’s criminal underworld. Many fondly referred to it as the ‘Dome.

Initially, although it felt a bit dangerous, nobody wanted any trouble, they just wanted to get off their trolley and enjoy the music. But over the years there were police raids and even helicopters circling the club as well as undercover officers wearing yellow smiley face T-shirts mingling in amongst the hooligans, gang members and just generally dodgy people.

Unfortunately, its rough reputation has stuck with it to this day, while the Hacienda is remembered most as the epicentre of the Madchester acid house scene. The Thunderdome was demolished in 2010 but its legend lives on in the memories of retired ravers and on tribute Facebook groups.

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Feature

Travel back in time through Manchester in the ‘90s with these 30 photos

Fashion shows, bombings, Maine Road, buses, cars, the Metrolink and the Hacienda…

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Len Grant & Patrick Harrison

Here’s 30 nostalgic photographs of what Manchester looked like in the 1990s.

The city centre has changed a lot over the decades, which probably comes as no surprise with the amount of construction going on – it’s changing by the day.

But as the years go by and buildings you once knew are torn down and replaced with new apartments or office blocks, it’s left to your grainy memory of how places used to look and the times you may have once had there.

Cavendish building 1990. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

The nineties was a great era for music in Manchester and saw the birth of bands including Oasis, The Doves and Take That. It was the decade of hope after the recession of the 1980s, but there were ups and downs also.

On April 1st 1990 prisoners in Strangeways (now HMP Manchester) took control of its chapel, and quickly spread throughout most of the prison to begin a riot which lasted 25 days.

Hundreds of inmates got up onto the roof, with the incident claiming the life of one prisoner and injuring 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners. 

The riot was followed by similar disturbances at other prisons across the country and sparked a conversation about reform for prison conditions.

Granada Studios Tour 1990. Credit: Robert Lindsell / Wikimedia

The decade was also blighted by the IRA bomb of 1996. The Provisional Irish Republican Army detonated a 1,500-kilogram lorry bomb on Corporation Street on June 15th. 

It was the biggest bomb detonated in Great Britain since the Second World War, injuring 212 innocent people and causing £700 million worth of damage to the city centre.

The event kick-started the regeneration and modernisation of the city which has evolved into the Manchester we know and love today.

After IRA bomb 1996. Credit: Len Grant

The city already began planning on improvements as part of its campaign to hold the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics. However, the bid was ultimately unsuccessful and Manchester was beaten to it by Sydney, with Beijing coming in as runner-up.

But Manchester did go on to hold the 2002 Commonwealth Games, with The Commonwealth Games Stadium becoming the new home of Manchester City after the club vacated Maine Road – which was then demolished and turned into new homes.

The Hacienda, which opened in 1982, became the nightclub at the forefront of the acid house scene. The club was owned by record label Factory Records and was famous for playing a major part in the Madchester movement.

Hacienda 1990. Credit: Patrick Harrison
Robin Webster Rochdale canal 1990. Credit: Robin Webster

Unfortunately, the club gained a reputation for drug use and after enjoying its heyday throughout the best part of the ‘90s, it fell victim to crime issues and financial troubles which eventually led to its closure in 1997.

The club was subsequently demolished and replaced by apartments.

The newly built Trafford Centre opened in 1998, the year after the film Titanic was released, which its themed food court paid homage to. Since then, Trafford Park has transformed from the derelict marshlands it once was and into a centre of retail, leisure and entertainment.

The Kippax Stand at Maine Road (1990s). Credit: Steve Garry / Flickr
Blue Moon Chippy (1990s). Credit: Richard Cooke / Wikimedia

Manchester United were the most successful football team of the city during this era, and the club won numerous domestic and international titles under manager Alex Ferguson.

David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes were just some of the players who played for United during the club’s golden era – playing in the newly formed Premier League, which was founded in 1992.

For the first time in English football history the Reds secured the Treble in 1999 – the League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Meanwhile, the Blue side of Manchester – Man City – went through many ups and downs. In 1998 City were relegated to the third tier of the English Football League. The club regained promotion to the top tier in 2001-02 and have remain in the Premier League since.

Dantzic Street 1993. Credit: Neil Clifton / Wikimedia
Granada Studios 1990. Credit: Graham Hogg / Wikimedia

Manchester was once home to the iconic Strangeways Boddingtons Brewery, which owned pubs throughout the North West. 

The brand was best known for its ‘Boddies’ – a straw-golden, hoppy bitter which was one of the first beers to be packaged in cans containing a widget, giving it a creamy draught-style head.

In the 1990s, the beer was promoted as The Cream of Manchester in a popular advertising campaign credited with raising Manchester’s profile. Model and actress Melanie Sykes was the Boddington’s girl star of the ads, which saw her take a swig of a pint and say ‘by ‘eck’, with a creamy moustache.

The brewery shut down in February 2005 and its workers clocked off their final ever shift, never to return, following its 227-year history.

Man Airport 1998. Credit: Simon Butler/ Flickr
Manchester Airport 1994. Credit: Simon Butler / Flickr
MMU student fashion show 1990. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
Inside the Arndale shopping centre 1993. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
First Greater Manchester bus. Credit: Darren Hall / Wikimedia 1997
Trinity Bridge 1995. Credit: Sludge G / Flickr
MMU student fashion show 1992. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
MMU student fashion show 1993. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
Piccadilly 1998. Credit: Matt Taylor / Flickr
Piccadilly 1992. Credit: Ben Brooksbank / Geograph
Bloom Street 1992. Credit: Chris Allen / Geograph
Hulme Crescents early 1990s (demolished in 1992). Credit: Nuala / Flickr
MMU student fashion show 1991. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
MMU student fashion show 1992. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
Rovers Return 1991. Credit: Neil Kennedy / Geograph
GMEX and car park 1990. Credit: Dr Neil Clifton /Geograph
Maxwell House 1991. Credit: Manchester City Council
Balloon Street 1991. Credit: Dr Neil Clifton / Geograph
MMU degree display 1993. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
MMU fashion show 1992. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
MMU fashion show 1992. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

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