We asked our readers what they would like to see done with Piccadilly Gardens now that the Christmas Markets have been taken down.
There’s no denying this open space area situated in the heart of the city, which connects the many areas of Greater Manchester, is in dire need of a glow up.
As the gateway of the city, it’s hardly a welcoming place and not representative of what the city of Manchester has achieved and what it means to its people.
Piccadilly Gardens was once landscaped as a pretty sunken garden area with benches for visitors to sit and enjoy the surrounding flowers and open space.
After the 1996 IRA bombing, the city underwent an urban renewal programme and the gardens were made into a one-level concrete pavilion with fountains that spat out from the ground.
The design of the new gardens was drawn up by the renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
In 2002 it also gained a concrete slab nicknamed the ‘Berlin Wall’ which completed the design in time for the Commonwealth Games that year.
Sadly, over the years the area has gained a bad reputation for being a hotspot for crime and drug use and has become the part of town many try to avoid where possible.
Last year, after rainy weather and the Christmas Markets were taken down, the grassed sections of the gardens had completely turned to mud and Piccadilly Gardens became even more of an eyesore than it’s already criticised for.
Manchester City Council re-turfed the gardens and visitors to the city were seen basking in the sun over the summer.
The central site for the Christmas Markets was usually Albert Square, but as the Town Hall has been undergoing huge repairs and refurbishment, the main hub used for the stalls over the festive season has been in Piccadilly.
On the approach of the Christmas Markets 2023, protective decking and walkways were put in place in the hope that it would not happen again.
But although the site didn’t turn into a complete mud bath this new year, it seems the gardens will need some TLC again to give it back some element of ‘garden’ – with a fresh layer of turf put down this week to start the process.
With what was once the focal point of the city looking like it needs some tlc, we asked Proper Manchester readers what they think should be done to improve Piccadilly Gardens.
Mags Hughes commented: “It looks a disgrace. Why can’t Manchester get to grips with this open space? It’s been a thorn in the side for way too long while the rest of the city makes amazing strides?”
Ann Kay suggested the area be transformed into ‘beautiful gardens with flowers and benches so you can sit and have a coffee or a sandwich at lunch times’.
She added: “The old gardens were lovely. Don’t know why they were ever changed.”
Kevin Yates said Piccadilly needs ‘trees, big trees. We need lungs in the city’. Mark Tracey vented: “New grass every year, fenced off for 3 months.”
Janette Harris remembers: “I worked in the city centre during the ’70s and early ’80s. It was a beautiful place to sit for lunch in the summers back then. It’s just awful now. So sad to see.”
Tracy Lyn has an idea – similar to that in Dubai – of what she would like to happen to Piccadilly Gardens, as she says: “A lovely grand fountain. With lights. A small performance area so musicians can perform and deckchairs in summer.
“The fountain can do a light show in time to music. It can be for all ages. What better way to showcase our technology and local musicians.”
Judy Valentine commented: “Gardens, flowers, lawns and benches. Needs lots of colourful flowers and to be regularly cleaned and maintained.”
And Barbara Jones added: “Lovely green grass. New benches to sit on. Beautiful flowers everywhere and a nice little section where you can buy drinks and food.”
It seems the people of Manchester would like to see some colour added to this grey and gloomy area with the addition of flowers, as well as some greenery – putting the ‘garden’ back into Piccadilly Gardens.
The Body Shop to shut half its UK shops after falling into administration
Sad news for retail
The Body Shop is to shut half its stores across the UK resulting in hundreds of job losses.
It comes after the British cosmetics retailer announced it had fallen into administration last week, putting 2,000 jobs at risk.
Closures began yesterday (February 20th) with seven stores shutting: Ashford Town Centre, Kent, Bristol Queens Road, Bristol, Canary Wharf, London, Cheapside, London, Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Oxford Street-Bond Street, London and Surrey Quays, London.
More store closures are set to follow though no timeframe or dates have been announced as of yet.
Administrators FRP said the retailer’s current portfolio is ‘no longer viable’ after ‘years of unprofitability’ and that the cuts would ‘help re-energise’ the brand.
The Body Shop has around 198 shops in the UK and employs around 2,200 people, including 750 staff at its head office.
Around 270 head office jobs are being cut, reducing roles by 40% and leaving around 400 full-time employees. It will restructure roles at its head office to align with its more financially viable strategy going forward.
The Body Shop ambassador programme, where individuals sell the brand’s products for a commission, is also being closed, FRP said.
There will be a ‘renewed focus’ on products, online sales channels and wholesale as part of its restructuring.
FRP said: “A reduced store footprint, will coincide with a renewed focus on the brand’s products, online sales channels and wholesale strategies, bringing the brand in line with industry peers and supporting a return to financial stability.”
The Body Shop was founded by the pioneering British businesswoman and activist Dame Anita Roddick and her husband in 1976.
It established itself as a ground breaking ethical, sustainable brand, rejecting animal testing on cosmetics and promoting environmentally-friendly products and ethical sourcing practices.
The trailblazing brand has since faced tough competition from other ethical brands including Lush, which was co-founded by Mark Constantine – a former supplier to The Body Shop.
In 2006 the couple sold The Body Shop to French beauty giant L’Oreal.
The Brazilian beauty giant Natura acquired the brand from L’Oreal in 2017, and Aurelius bought The Body Shop for £207m at the end of last year.
Aggressive sales and discounting tactics are believed to have played a role in putting customers off being willing to pay full retail price for its products.
Hunt is on for mystery National Lottery winner in Greater Manchester
Could it be you?
The National Lottery is on the hunt for the missing winner of its Set For Life draw in Greater Manchester.
Lottery players in the city-region are being urged to check their tickets and claim their 10k-a-month prize for a whole year.
The search is now on to find the owner of the ticket – which was bought in Greater Manchester – who matched the five main numbers in the National Lottery Set For Life draw on February 5th.
The winning numbers on that date were: 3, 4, 8, 10, 28 and the Life Ball was 1.
But the lucky ticket-holder needs to act fast as they only have until August 3rd of this year to claim their prize. The missing winner, or winners if played as part of a syndicate, could be celebrating in style or jetting off on a luxury vacation now.
Andy Carter, Senior Winners Advisor at The National Lottery said: “If you bought a Set For Life ticket in Manchester for the draw on February 5th, it’s time to look everywhere – in the pockets of clothes you might have been wearing at the time, bags, in the car, wallets and purses and in that sideboard or drawer where we all tend to put bits and pieces – and check your tickets.
“Do you live or work in Manchester, do you have family and friends there who you were visiting or were you just passing through?
“We’re desperate to find this mystery ticket-holder and pay out their life-changing prize – imagine the possibilities for them for the next year.
“We have the champagne on ice and our fingers crossed that the lucky winner comes forward to claim their win.”
To help jog the memories of National Lottery players, here’s was happening in Manchester at the time the ticket was purchased: The day before the draw, Manchester United recorded a 3-0 home win against West Ham United while on February 5th, Manchester City travelled to Brentford and returned with all three points after a 3-1 win.
Players can buy and check their tickets online by downloading the National Lottery app or by visiting national-lottery.co.uk.
Anyone not in possession of their ticket, for whatever reason, but who believes they have a genuine claim to the prize can still write to Allwyn, as long as it is within 30 days of the draw.
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Constance Marten told to say baby died of cot death as tragic details revealed in court
The couple deny all charges
Constance Marten’s partner, Mark Gordon, told her to say the baby was a victim of cot death, the Old Bailey has heard.
On Monday (February 19th) jurors were played more of a police interview with Ms Marten, recorded on March 1st last year, just hours after her baby’s body was found in a shed in Brighton.
Marten, 36, and Gordon, 49, went on the run with their newborn daughter Victoria after their car caught flames and was abandoned by the motorway in Bolton in January 2023.
Fire crews recovering the vehicle discovered evidence of a birth in the back seat of the car.
As reported by the BBC, the court heard how the couple slept in a tent as they evaded authorities, in a bid to keep the baby after Marten’s four other children had been taken into care.
The jury heard Marten tell officers in the interview that she had considered handing herself in to police a couple of weeks after Victoria had died.
The couple are accused of her manslaughter by gross negligence – both deny the charge.
Marten told Gordon to say he was not present when their baby died because she wanted to protect him, ‘because obviously he’s my husband,’ she said.
She also told detectives that he advised her to say Victoria was a victim of cot death. She said: “Mark advised me to say that it was cot death… and that I wasn’t holding her.
“He advised me to say that I lay her down and then when we woke up she was on her front and she’d passed away.”
She went on to explain that what happened was not a cot death and that Mr Gordon might try to tell them it was ‘in order to protect’ her and her ‘interests’.
In the interview, Marten explained how Victoria died.
Warning: some readers may find the following information distressing.
She said she was feeling ‘extremely tired’ and had fallen asleep hugging Victoria, who was in her jacket. But she said the baby ‘wasn’t moving when I woke up’.
Marten wept as she told police how she came to realise their baby was not breathing. She said they had both tried to resuscitate Victoria but that there was no response to their attempts to revive her.
She said: “I tried to breathe in her mouth and pump her chest. So I wrapped her in a scarf and cradled her for a few minutes. I didn’t know what to do.”
Asked by a detective whether they called for help, Marten replied: “No because she was definitely not alive. I mean she wasn’t alive, so who’s going to help?”
In another police interview conducted on March 2nd, 2023, Marten said that they wrapped Victoria’s body in a black scarf and put her inside a supermarket bag. She explained: “It’s not particularly graceful but that’s all we had.”
She also said her and Gordon would take Victoria’s body out with them, saying: “We always carried Victoria with us… just because I didn’t want to leave her in a tent… a bit strange.”
She told detectives the bag became too heavy to carry and so they sometimes left it inside the tent they were sleeping in.
Marten said she and Gordon were both ‘distraught’ when Victoria died.
Asked how she was feeling after the birth of their daughter, she said: “I was feeling fine. I was elated to be with her actually. To be with one of my children. With Mark, together and parenting.
“It was a really nice Christmas period. I was very happy actually. Until all the media attention – that’s my experience.”
The court heard how the couple married in Peru seven years before Victoria’s death but that the marriage was ‘not recognised over here’.
As well as manslaughter, Marten and Gordon, of no fixed address, are also accused of four other offences: cruelty to their baby; concealment of the baby’s birth; causing or allowing her death; and perverting the course of justice by concealing the body. They deny all charges.
The trial, taking place at the Old Bailey, continues.