Did you know that south Manchester is home to a large flock of parrots that you would typically find in India?
It’s safe to say Manchester’s most famous wildlife is probably crowds and crowds of grey pigeons, but surprisingly, tucked away in the green parks of south Manchester you will actually find the UK’s only naturalised parrot, the parakeet.
The UK’s population of parakeets has been steadily increasing since the ’70s and you can find the bulk of them in London, but there are at least 1,000 in Manchester.
They’ve made permanent homes in Alexandra Park, Birchfields Park and Platt Fields Park and are not frightened of the other birds, or even humans.
Unfortunately, our native ones can’t talk. But they are noisy little birds that you’ll probably hear before you see, despite them being an almost luminescent shade of green.
They’re pretty adept birds, overcoming anything that Fallowfield might throw at them, from urbanisation to house parties and even never-ending rain. In fact, they have become an invasive species in the area, posing a threat to all other wildlife.
So where did they come from? Well, there are a few rumours flying around.
One of the most popular theories is they all came from the filming of The African Queen. The film, which finished filming in the early 50s, required parakeets, you know, for authenticity – making London look exactly like Africa or whatever.
Once filming finished, ‘little green parrots’ began arriving in local gardens and popping up here, there and everywhere.
Perhaps they couldn’t be bothered taking them back to their native land and instead let them free in London. The story goes that they bred like wildfire and moved across the UK in every direction. A pretty long flight for a bird the size of a ruler.
Other stories feature Jimi Hendrix, thanking him for releasing a single pair of parakeets on Carnaby Street back in 1968.
It’s unlikely that those two little love birds created 30,000 parakeets all over the UK in just 60 years, though.
So then we turn to the students of Fallowfield. One bloke, who was after a bit of extra cash to successfully enjoy his uni days, turned to breeding parakeets. Let’s face it, we’ve all thought about doing it. Rumour has it, his flatmates got sick of their house being full of parrots so let them all out.
So was it Jimi Hendrix, a 1950s film or a Manchester Uni student that released all the parrots?
Well according to Jamie Dunning, a research student, Manchester’s population of parakeets are born and bred Mancunian, which means they definitely came from Manchester, completely independent from any of those found in London. But no one really knows how exactly they got here.
The most sensible conclusion zoologists have come to is that they were caused by either accidental or purposeful release of pets.
Parakeets are the third most popular pet in the entire world after cats and dogs so it does make sense that a few might escape their cages and brave the big bad world that is Alexandra Park.
So put it on your list of things to do when the lockdown is over, or take the kids to the park on your daily walk to hunt for the parrots!
The world record for a beer-chugging sprinting race was just broken in Manchester
We caught up with one of the Beer Mile World Classic’s Manc competitors..
The world record for a bizarre beer-chugging sprinting race was broken here in Manchester last month, and we’ve never wanted to down a pint and go for a sprint more in our lives.
Born as an underground frat tradition in San Francisco in 2015, The Beer Mile World Classics has evolved into an internationally renowned competition, with nearly 100,000 keen competitors from all over the world taking part and giving both their legs and their stomachs a run for their money each year.
The premise of the race is simple; competitors are tasked with running one mile but have to stop every quarter of a mile to drink a 355ml can or bottle of beer (not a pint, sadly) as quickly as they can before proceeding on with the race.
For anyone who’s jogged to catch the bus after one too many in the pub on a Friday night will know that the acts of running and drinking beer do not mix well, and all too frequently result in a lot of puke.
Of course, the organisers of the race have the possibility of throwing up covered; if any competitor pukes more than once during the race, they are forced to run a penalty lap at the end of the race. No rest for the wicked, obviously.
Over the years, the race has been held across a number of different locations, such as San Francisco, London, Vancouver, and Berlin – but this year, it was brought to Greater Manchester in the humble town of Leigh, where the world record was actually broken by Canadian runner Corey Bellemore, who completed the race in an impressive new world-record time of 4:28.1.
But why exactly was such a far-flung tradition brought to Leigh? Well, it is mainly down to Manc-born competitor Laura Riches, twenty-eight, who suggested her local running club Leigh Harriers and Athletic Club after hearing that the organisers were looking for a brand new location to bring the race to.
Speaking to Proper Manchester, Laura, from Tyldesley, explained that finding a track to accommodate the Beer Mile’s unique set of rules was quite the challenge, but the chairman of Leigh Harriers was ‘more than up for it’, noting: “Everybody in Leigh loves a good beer, so this is exactly what they’ll love.”
Laura’s introduction into the world of the Beer Mile World Classics was a pure coincidence; while in London in 2016 for a party, she went to an event at the Allied Stadium to meet a friend, only to be roped into trying out for the England team by the organisers who were hosting their event there that year.
She said on her first time running: “It was hilarious because I’d never drank a beer in my life. It was awful, I hated every minute of it. But while my drinking was really slow, my running was quick enough for me to keep up with the other contestants. The first three laps I was catching everyone up but eventually my beer drinking slowed me down.”
Laura, who ended up competing for England in the Beer Mile World Classics in Vancouver in 2017, sadly couldn’t compete this year due to a knee injury, so instead helped to host and commentate the event. She said the race had a great turn out in Leigh, saying: “Surprisingly it was a good turn out – over a hundred people showed up.
“There was also loads of people from the running club and the nearby sporting village who came down after hearing about it too. It was mad, and it could have been even bigger if it had been held in the summer as originally planned.”
Laura also organised the ‘chunder mile’ for the locals and less experienced runners to take part in. She explained: “So I put on ‘the chunder mile’ which is where you drink actual pints and you’re allowed to be sick, and I did an open Beer Mile, and loads of people from Leigh actually came down and took part for a bit of fun.”
And it isn’t just the running, the medals and the abundance of beer that makes Laura go back each year; it’s the Beer Mile community.
She said: “We’re all part of a massive community now; I’ve made some great friends and we all have our own chats on Facebook and Whatsapp. There’s some great drinking videos that go around, and we’re always challenging each other to drink different things.
“It’s a bit of a weird and strange community, everyone has normal jobs and goes to work everyday and just run and train on the side. But it’s one thing we all share and enjoy together, even though it can be unpleasant; we’re all crazy to find the beer running fun.”
Head over to the Beer Mile World Classics website for more information on their upcoming events.
UK’s ‘most dangerous prisoner’ set to die in an underground glass cell after 40 years in solitary confinement
Robert Maudsley’s custom made underground cell has been compared to the famous glass cell in Silence of the Lambs…
Having earned himself the title as the country’s most dangerous prisoner, serial killer Robert Maudsley has spent the last four decades of his life alone in an underground glass box in solitary confinement.
Maudsley was just twenty-one years old when he committed his first murder – however, his final three murders were carried out behind bars.
It all started with a turbulent childhood – born in Toxteth, Liverpool, Maudsley and his siblings were all brought up in an orphanage, and would go on to spend their traumatic childhoods in and out of foster homes.
When he was just sixteen, Maudsley left his foster home to move to London, where he quickly developed a consuming drug habit.
It was here where Maudsley met his first victim – after picking up work as a rent boy, laborer and alleged child abuser John Farrel had paid Maudsley for his services, but he reportedly garroted his client after the man showed him photos of children he’d abused
Maudsley was quickly apprehended for the murder, and was subsequently sectioned and sent to serve a life sentence at Broadmoor Hospital – here, however, he went on to torture and kill a convicted paedophile with another inmate, allegedly using a sharpened spoon, a brutality that earned him the nickname ‘Hannibal the Cannibal.’
From there, he was moved to the maximum security Wakefield Prison in Yorkshire where two more murders took place in one spree – first he strangled and stabbed 46-year-old Salney Darwood before creeping into the cell of Bill Roberts, 56, who had sexually abused a seven-year-old girl.
He proceeded to stab Roberts, reportedly hacking his skull with a homemade dagger and smashing his head against the cell wall.
It was at this point where staff decided that Maudsley was too dangerous to be around other inmates, and thus his life in solitary confinement began.
In 1983, a special two-unit cell was constructed for Maudsley – measuring just 5.5m by 4.5m and containing bullet-proof windows. According to the Guardian, inside the cell there’s just a bed, table and chair, along with a toilet and sink that are bolted to the floor.
There’s also a solid steel door that opens inside a small cage within the cell, with a small slot towards the bottom for guards to pass Maudsley food and other items.
The publication reported in 2003 that the serial killer spends twenty-three hours a day in confinement, is escorted to the yard by six prison officers at a time, and isn’t allowed any contact with other prisoners.
According to the newspaper, Maudsley – who became the longest-serving living British prisoner following the death of murderer Ian Brady – wrote: “The prison authorities see me as a problem, and their solution has been to put me into solitary confinement and throw away the key, to bury me alive in a concrete coffin.
“It does not matter to them whether I am mad or bad. They do not know the answer and they do not care just so long as I am kept out of sight and out of mind.
“I am left to stagnate, vegetate and to regress; left to confront my solitary head-on with people who have eyes but don’t see and who have ears but don’t hear, who have mouths but don’t speak. My life in solitary is one long period of unbroken depression.”
Over the years, the controversial cell has been nicknamed ‘the glass cage’ for its likeness to the 1991 film, Silence of the Lambs.
In 2000, Maudsley filed an application for suicide by a cyanide capsule – however, this was denied. His applications for a pet budgie, classical music and a television were also rejected.
In 2010, Maudsley reportedly asked officials to let him play board games with prison officials, claiming it would help ease some of the gloominess and monotony of life in solitary confinement – due to his crimes, however, officials remain reluctant to grant him any benefits.
The prisoner remains in this confinement to this very day, with no glimmer of any normality on the horizon – but should this case have been treated any differently?
Who remembers Manchester’s legendary Granada Studios Tour?
Ahh the memories…
It was Manchester’s answer to Universal Studios, but with the Coronation Street set…
After a successful decade-long run of providing fun for Manchester, the demise of the Granada Studio Tour began after visitor numbers dwindled – meaning the tour sadly shut up shop for one last time.
One of the biggest reasons as to why can be put down to poor businesses practises at ITV, which saw the company lose millions.
The main culprit was the Sky-like service called ‘ONDigital’, which launched in 1998 and was forced into administration just four short years later.
It was pretty much the exact same concept as Sky, only the exclusive shows were essentially rubbish and the whole thing flopped.
At this point the Granada Studios Tour was seen as a large and unnecessary expense, and unfortunately closed down.
The tour was the brainchild of Granada producer David Plowright, who proposed to create a ‘Hollywood-on-the-Irwell‘ – and that he did. Sort of, anyway.
The tour first opened its doors in 1988, expecting to welcome 250,000 in the first year, but in the initial eight months alone 600,000 people visited to take in the sights.
Arguably the most popular attraction was the Coronation Street set which in 2013 moved to MediaCity, built on an even bigger scale with the chance to go inside too!
In 2018 Victoria Street was added, which features a garden and memorial bench paying tribute to the Manchester Arena bombing 22 victims and Coronation Street super fan Martyn Hett.
The old Granada Studios Tour might not have been the bright lights of LA or Hollywood, but you don’t get much more Mancunian than that cobbled street!
What are your favourite memories of the tour?