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Feature

Who remembers Manchester’s hugely popular Granada Studios Tour?

Ahh the memories…

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cantwont & Markus Schroeder/Flickr

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.

Granada Studios Tour, Manchester
davekpcv / Flickr

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? 

Feature

The history of Salford’s iconic Black Friar pub and why it was forced to close 15 years ago

Nearly two decades after a fire devastated the pubs interior, the Black Friar is finally making a come back

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After fifteen long years, Salford’s historic Black Friar pub is officially reopening its doors.

But why has such a staple part of the city’s pub scene been out of business for so long?

Let’s start from the beginning – the specific date of the pub’s construction is a little vague, though it is widely believed that the pub at this site was originally the Old School Inn.

A stone plaque on the side of the building commemorates the fact that it was rebuilt in 1886, suggesting that the Old School Inn was modified to the Black Friar Hotel that year.

In 1975, the Black Friar Hotel was described as an attractive smoke-blackened building withYou may go further and fare worse’ engraved on the front wall.  It also had a bees and corn sheath coat of arms with the inscription ‘Black Friars Old School’ – a nod to its own heritage, perhaps.

manchesterhistory.net

In 1989, Trinity Way had been built and the pub, which was now sandwiched on the busy junction next to Blackfriars road, was reverted back to the Black Friar, subsequently becoming a Boddington’s House and enjoying decades of success, making it one of the more popular haunts in the city.

However, fifteen years ago, the venue succumbed to a devastating fire which completely destroyed the interior. And, thanks to vandals continuously adding to the interior’s damage, the pub was never able to get back onto its feet and reopen to the public. 

But last year, nearly two decades on from the initial closure, things started to look up for the future of Black Friar.

In January 2020, it was announced that Manchester chef Aiden Byrne was to invest £2M into the reopening of the pub – however, he pulled out a few months later in July as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

manchesterhistory.net

But now that the world’s slowly returning to a little normality, it’s time for the Black Friar to be given the new lease of life it very much deserves.

It has been announced this month that the property giants, Salboy, who erected the £80M apartment block, Local Blackfriars, on land surrounding the pub which they also acquired, have partnered with hospitality operations manager Neil Burke to turn the Black Friar into a pub restaurant.

Burke is currently putting together a team of professionals and overseeing a fit-out with a view to opening late this summer.

The newly refurbished venue will accommodate for over 100 covers across both floors and will provide space for functions and events. 

Salboy

Burke said: “The Black Friar has a lot of historical significance in Salford, everyone who used to frequent it has a story to tell! We want it to have that impact again, becoming everyone’s local but also a real destination, where you’re guaranteed really good food, a welcoming atmosphere and a place where you feel just at home nipping in for a pint as you do sitting down for a fantastic three course dinner.”

Head Chef Ben Chaplin, previously of 20 Stories, has also created two menus for customers to choose from, with the pub and courtyard offering more relaxed small plates to share and classic pub dishes with a focus on locally sourced food. There will also a breakfast menu available at weekends. 

Black Friar is expected to open at some point next month, though an official date is yet to be confirmed. 

To follow any updates, follow their official Instagram page here.

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Lorry driver who helped stop man jumping from M62 bridge says police were the real heroes

‘I’m glad [the story] brought awareness to a problem that’s been ongoing for far too long’

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Vulnerable Citizen Support Leeds

The lorry driver who gained viral fame last week for parking his vehicle under a motorway bridge to stop a young man from jumping off has spoken out about the incident.

Last week, a striking image showing a young man sitting on the edge of a bridge on the M62 as police officers stood either side of him went viral after a community support group in Leeds posted it onto their Facebook page.

Thankfully, a lorry driver had seen the incident unfold as he approached and went on to park up underneath the bridge to prevent the man from jumping. Police were eventually able to talk the man out of jumping, and he was safely escorted away from the bridge.

Ever since the story broke, people have been hailing the driver of the lorry a ‘hero’ and applauding him for his quick thinking. 

Vulnerable Citizen Support Leeds

However, the driver of the famed lorry doesn’t quite see himself as a hero.

Speaking to Proper Manchester, Tom, a dad of three from Kendal, recalled the moment he realised something ‘wasn’t quite right’ with the three figures on the bridge.

He explained: “Thanks to truck spotters and photographers, seeing people on bridges isn’t too uncommon, it isn’t anything out of the ordinary. But from the distance, something didn’t look right.

“As I got closer and as I could start to see clearly, I realised that with the three people on the bridge, two were stood on either side of the one in the centre. I realised the one in the middle was sat on the opposite side of the barrier with his legs hanging down.”

Tom explained that he immediately put his hazards on and started slowly weaving between the lanes and the hard shoulder – a move amongst truckers to communicate that they haven’t broken down, but there’s an issue ahead. From there, he was able to bring his truck to a controlled stop under the bridge where the man was sitting.

@except_for_access / Instagram

He remained there for around an hour and a half to two hours while the officers above coaxed the young man down from the bridge.

Tom and his wife Kayleigh were inundated with messages following the incident, with Tom being widely praised for his actions and even dubbed a ‘hero.’ However, Tom doesn’t see it this way.

He explained: “I was a guy in the right place at the right time. I spotted something and I did my good deed for the day. All I did was park a truck under a bridge, and I somehow managed to get 100% of the praise, which seems wrong.

“To me, it almost seems fraudulent because the police were the ones to do all the work.”

Tom revealed that the police officers on the scene were actually subject to abuse from frustrated drivers who were caught up in the delays: “It took me minutes to do what I did – not even that, just one minute – the police were the ones taking abuse from members of the public because the incident had disturbed their day.

“The police were the ones who talked with him the entire time and the negotiator came in without having to grab him, and got him to willingly come across to the other side of the barrier, get into the car, and go with them.

“And after that, once I’d gone and was tucked up in bed that night, they were still working. They were still helping this lad. I categorically do not think I was the hero in this story.”

Tom, who has suffered from anxiety for most of his life, was delighted to hear that the young man on the bridge saw a doctor after the incident and is now receiving help.

He said: “I suffer from anxiety myself – I actually have my own mental health issues, I’ve been to some dark places previously. I’m glad [the story] brought awareness to a problem that’s been ongoing for far too long but no, I’m not the hero.”

If you or anyone you know has been suffering with mental health issues, you can call the Samaritans at 116 123, or CALM at 0800 58 58 58. Alternatively, you can find local mental health services and more info here.

You can follow Tom’s trucking vlog series here.

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Feature

It’s been 25 years since the IRA bombing and victims are still waiting for justice

Why was no one ever arrested for the attack on our city?

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Robert Wade / Flickr & Manchester Fire / Flickr

Twenty-five years ago on this date, Manchester fell victim to one of the biggest bombs ever exploded in the United Kingdom. 

It was a beautiful, unusually sunny morning in Manchester on June 15th, 1996 – England were about to take on Scotland in Euro ‘96, football fans were swarming the city centre for the next day’s Russia v Germany fixture at nearby Old Trafford, it was the Saturday before Father’s Day, and the Arndale Shopping Centre – built just twenty years prior – was heaving with weekend shoppers. 

However, the festivities of the warm summer’s day were all set to change when a security guard on the other side of the city received an anonymous tip off. 

Sometime after 9:38am, Gary Hall – a security guard at ITV’s Granada Studios – received a phone call from a man with a ‘very calm’ Irish voice, as per The BBC. The anonymous man went on to inform Gary that he had planted a bomb in the city centre and it would be exploding in one hour. Following the phone call, the police were immediately notified and they sprung to action locating the bomb and evacuating 80,000 people from the area. 

However, this proved to be quite the task. At first, people were not keen to go; it was the 1990s and Mancunians had become seasoned to bomb scares. One hairdresser allegedly refused to let his clients leave because they still had chemicals in their hair, arguing it would be ‘too dangerous.’ Alternatively, a group of workmen wanted to stay put because they were on weekend rates.

Slowly, though, the severity of the situation began to sink in, and authorities were able to successfully evacuate the centre, with some people screaming and running for their lives. 

Amid the chaos, police spotted a stationary white lorry parked on double yellows outside of Marks & Spencer with wires running from its dashboard. A bomb squad was swiftly dispatched from Liverpool; however, their attempt to dismantle the device using a remote-controlled robot failed.

At precisely 11:17am, the 3,300lb device exploded.

Smoke mushroomed above the city as the explosion shattered glass windows and rained building debris onto the people below. In the aftermath, emergency services scrambled to deal with the injured civilians – around 220 of them, to be precise – and fire crews searched shops and offices for casualties. In the confusion, some fallen shop mannequins were briefly mistaken for bodies while, over at Manchester Royal Infirmary, they were treating dozens of casualties within minutes.

Yet despite the horror and the devastation, not a single person was killed in the explosion.

Nevertheless, Manchester’s city centre lay in ruins, historic landmarks such as Manchester Cathedral and the Royal Exchange Theatre needed what has been estimated to be billions of pounds worth of repairs and renovations and, most gravely, hundreds of people were left with life-changing injuries, both physically and mentally. 

But now, a quarter of a century on from the devastating attack, the people of Manchester are still waiting for justice.

Quite remarkably, an arrest for whoever was responsible for the bomb was never made – it is widely believed that, while both Greater Manchester Police and Special Branch investigations identified the prime suspect, he was never actually arrested because of fears it could derail ongoing peace negotiations in Northern Ireland.

Graham Stringer, who led the council between 1984 and 1996 and who is today MP for the city’s Blackley and Broughton constituency, told The Independent: “I am sure the security services know who did this and I think it got caught up in the peace process.

“It’s appalling. In a democratic society, for someone to blow up the centre of a major city and injure hundreds of people, and then get away with it? It is wrong.”

Stringer, who’s own mother was injured in the explosion, added: “Justice should be seen to be done. If bombers are going to be let off then we should at least know who is being let off and why and what the greater benefit of that is… I do think somebody should have been [prosecuted] even if they never got sent to jail.”

In a 2006 review, GMP said there was no longer any ‘realistic possibility’ of a prosecution. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole said: “The Manchester bomb affected many people which is why the case has remained open and has been kept under constant review. As the 20th anniversary of the incident approaches, it is now the right time for another assessment of the case in order to identify and explore any possible potential investigative opportunities.

“If new information comes to light it would be considered, and I would urge anyone with information relevant to the investigation to get in touch with police.”

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