The Manchester Arena has gone by many names over the years – way back in 1995 when it first opened it was the NYNEX, before being renamed the Manchester Evening News Arena in ‘98, and it also did a brief stint as the Phones 4u Arena.
Now it has another name, after agreeing a sponsorship deal with Bolton-based online electricals retailer AO: the AO Arena.
The news comes just as the Arena’s operator, ASM Global, has submitted a planning application for phase one of its redevelopment plan.
The partnership is a five-year deal, and the rebranded AO Arena has been revealed today ahead of live events resuming – once current coronavirus restrictions are lifted on venues.
AO Founder and CEO, John Roberts, said: “The Arena holds a special place in the hearts of so many people in Manchester so we’re hugely proud to add the AO smile, especially after such an emotional and difficult period.
“Our home is firmly in the North West, something we’ve never forgotten while building the business into a global destination for electricals.
“We hope today’s redevelopment plans for the AO Arena which, combined with soon-to-be-announced good news about the events coming in 2021, will create hope and excitement about the future of entertainment in our great city.
“Through this sponsorship, we can deliver our famous AO smile to millions of visitors every year and we can’t wait to welcome them to the AO Arena. Thousands of our customers will also be able to enjoy amazing events with tickets, exclusive access and money-can’t-buy experiences.”
James Allen, General Manager of the AO Arena, added: “We are thrilled to have secured this partnership and we look forward to a dynamic relationship with this exciting brand.
“Marking our 25th anniversary with redevelopment plans and our new partnership with AO highlights our commitment to the future of this venue in the heart of Manchester. And after such a long period of pause, we look forward to being able to press play and welcome fans back to the AO Arena.”
Redevelopment plans for the venue have been submitted to Manchester City Council, with the aim of delivering a transformed visitor experience, as well as improving the sustainability of the existing Arena to become one of the lowest carbon venues in Europe.
On top of that, it aims to enhance the existing access to onsite transport links, and act as a hub for its local communities.
Mental health nurse fined £10,000 after organising protest over ‘offensive’ NHS 1% pay rise
The nurse who organised a protest in Manchester city centre yesterday about the ‘offensive’ 1% pay rise for NHS workers will be fined £10,000.
Mental health worker and Unison rep, Karen Reissmann attended the demonstration in St Peter’s Square on Sunday at midday.
Attendees were wearing masks and cones were marked on the floor to help everyone maintain social distancing.
However, Karen, aged 61, was spoken to before the protest could go ahead by officers from Greater Manchester Police.
Officers explained that due to the current Covid-19 restrictions the protest would be illegal.
Karen explained that the protest would have to end to those in attendance and the gathering dispersed.
Once the crowd had dispersed, Karen spoke to officers on the edge of St Peter’s Square and was told she would be handed the £10,000 fine.
A 65-year-old woman who stayed with Karen was arrested for ‘failing to provide details having refused the opportunity to leave when asked’. She was later de-arrested after providing details and was given a £200 fine.
Around 40 people attended the gathering according to a statement released by GMP on Sunday afternoon. They added that officers engaged early ‘using the first of the four Es approach – engaging, explaining and encouraging compliance with legislation.’
Supt, Caroline Hemingway said: “With the positive step of schools reopening tomorrow, it is vital that people continue to follow Government legislation on social distancing and avoid gathering illegally in large numbers.
“Regardless of one’s sympathies for a protest’s cause, we would ask the public to maintain social distancing and follow legislation to prevent a rise in infections and provide the best possible chance of a further easing of restrictions in the weeks to come.
“We sought to engage with and peaceably disperse those attending this afternoon’s protest, explaining that the gathering was in contravention of Government lockdown rules.
“Unfortunately officers were met with a degree of non-compliance and it was therefore necessary to enforce issue FPNs.”
Speaking to the crowd, Karen said: “Unfortunately the police have told us we can’t proceed with this despite what’s going on in the health service.
“We’ve been told we will not be able to go ahead with this, I’ll be fined and reported to my employer and disciplined and people here will be fined as well, so we will therefore be shutting it down.
“I think we’ve made the point we wanted to make, we sent a message to the government. I think it’s outrageous that somehow this is deemed illegal when the size of the crowd here will be ten times bigger in hundreds and thousands of schools tomorrow morning.
“This isn’t about safety, this is about the government trying to stamp down on protest which I think is a dying shame. The health service will lose out.”
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Karen pay the fine.
Fred Perry is opening a huge new flagship store in Afflecks
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In some good news for our city centre, Fred Perry has announced that it will be opening a huge new store in the Northern Quarter.
The new flagship store will be located at the bottom of the Afflecks building, and is welcome news following the recent closure of high street stalwarts like Debenhams and Topshop.
Fred Perry will be moving from its current location on Police Street to open the new, bigger flagship store on the corner of Oldham Street and Church Street.
The site will see the iconic British brand move into the 2,820 sq ft unit this summer, joining Manchester’s legendary Afflecks which is owned by Bruntwood Works.
Fred Perry was co-founded by the Stockport-born tennis champion of the same name back in the late 1940s, and has gained worldwide fame for its laurel wreath logo and polo shirts.
Richard Gilmore, managing director at Fred Perry, said: “We’re delighted to be moving to the Northern Quarter. The area has no shortage of strong associations to ground-breaking music and subcultural style – something we continue to champion.
“Our retail spaces aren’t just shops, and we’re looking forward to sharing what we do with the Manchester community as part of an exciting continuation of Fred Perry and Afflecks’ mutual commitment to heritage and innovation.
“We now have a space we can be truly proud of in Manchester.”
Chris Middleton, senior retail manager at Bruntwood Works, added: “Fred Perry is a true icon, and we’re delighted to be welcoming them to the ground floor of our famous Afflecks building.
“The addition of this much-loved brand will bolster the retail community in the Northern Quarter neighbourhood, building on Oldham Street’s offering as a lifestyle-led shopping destination.
“It feels particularly exciting to be announcing the news after what has been a challenging twelve months for retail, as we look forward to a bright future for Manchester city centre.”
The new Fred Perry store will open this summer, although an exact date has yet to be released.
People on working tax credits will get a £500 one-off payment, Rishi Sunak confirms
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Brits on tax credits get a one-off benefits payment of £500, Rishi Sunak reveals in budget.
Outlined in the budget, Sunak explained that a £20 weekly increase in universal credit will extend for a further six months.
The chancellor explains that by the way Working Tax Credits system works people will not be able to receive the extra £20 weekly.
Instead, people will benefit from a £500 one-off payment.
Mr Sunak said: “To support low-income households, the Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown
“We’ll provide Working Tax Credit claimants with equivalent support for the next six months.
“Because of the way that system works operationally, we’ll need to do so with a one-off payment of £500.”
The £500 tax credit boost will run in the same way that the Universal Credit is paid – automatically.
Lots of people have switched from the old ‘Tax Credit’ to the new ‘Universal Credit’ system. Anyone who hasn’t yet been transferred across will now be eligible for this new one-off payment.
The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, reaching 6 million people at the start of this year.
The extra benefit support is welcomed but many are raising concerns that six months is not long enough.
Sunak also revealed in today’s budget that furlough will be extended until September but employers will have to pay 10% of the employee’s wages in July and 20% in August and September.
You can see a round-up of all the key points from the budget here.