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Manchester’s ‘first public city centre park’ to open this week

The park has been in the works for the last six years

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Mayfield Park

Manchester’s first city centre park in over 100 years is set to open to the public this week.

Over the last eighteen months, the derelict space next to Piccadilly Station has been transformed into Mayfield Park, a stunning, accessible and varied green space for everyone to enjoy.

The planning, design and delivery of the park has been in the works for over six years, with it receiving £23m of investment from the government’s Getting Building Fund in 2020.

This investment, delivered through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), is part of the Government’s strategy to support ‘shovel ready’ schemes that will help to drive economic recovery following the Covid pandemic.

Martin Moss

And this Thursday (September 22nd), Mayfield Park’s main entrance on Baring Street will officially open to the public.

The park will then be open seven days a week from dawn until dusk, providing local residents, visitors and communities across Manchester with a ‘city centre oasis of green space and beautifully landscaped river walkways’.

Martyn Evans, Creative Director at U+I, the regeneration company leading the Mayfield development on behalf of the Mayfield Partnership, described the opening as a ‘momentous day for Mayfield and for Manchester’.

He said: “The greatest cities in the world offer a true blend of amazing culture, great architecture and green space. Manchester is one such city and Mayfield Park adds a significant piece of new, family-friendly, inclusive green space to the city centre.

Martin Moss

“It’s been a true team effort with our project team and our partners at Manchester City Council, Transport for Greater Manchester and LCR working closely with local building contractors PP O’Connor to deliver the park.

“We are incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and we’re excited to welcome our first visitors on 22nd September.”

The leader of Manchester City Council, Cllr Bev Craig, added: “It’s with excitement then that we can look ahead to the official opening of the city centre’s first public park in 100 years later this week.

“We know the massive health and well-being benefits that green spaces can have for our residents and increasing access to parks for our residents is a key priority for us. Mayfield will be a 6.5 acre oasis at the heart of our city.

Mayfield Park

“Green investment is fundamental to our wider ambitions to improve air quality and underpins our work to strengthen Manchester’s resilience to climate change.

“Mayfield is a park first and foremost, but it is also a statement that development in the city can and should celebrate green spaces to become a focal point in our communities.

“Importantly, Mayfield also represents a significant economic boost for Manchester. The partnership has shopped local when procuring contractors to make sure that employment opportunities have benefited local companies and local people first.

“During the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, it’s this type of development that provides the jobs that our residents need – and makes sure Manchester people continue to share in the success of our city.”

Mayfield Park will open to the public on Thursday September 22nd at 12:30pm. For more information, visit the Mayfield website.

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Blackpool Illuminations to be extended again after huge visitor surge

You’ll have plenty of time to take your kids and reminisce about school trips.

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Steve Fareham/Geograph & Andrew Hurley/Flickr

Blackpool Illuminations is to have the length of its famous winter illuminations attraction — enjoyed by generations of families from across the North West — extended even further after a surge in visitors.

Blackpool Council have said they saw a ‘dramatic rise’ in visitor numbers in last year’s extension. This year, the iconic lights are set to run for an extra two months starting from September 1st until January 1st 2024.

The local authority said a similar November and December extension in 2022 had seen an 18% increase in promenade footfall compared with 2021, with its leader Lynn Williams saying it had found a  ‘winning formula’.

Councillor Lynn Williams said: “The figures demonstrate the very significant economic impact of the Illuminations extension coupled with the Christmas By The Sea event.”

Kmtextore/Wikimedia

She continued: “All of the statistical and anecdotal evidence from tourism businesses, with some reporting record levels of trading during the winter months, suggests that we have found a winning formula to extend Blackpool’s season.

“That is something we very much want to sustain and build upon.”

The footfall also shows an increase of almost 60 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, when the illuminations season finished in November.

The (what’s now a) six-mile stretch of dazzling displays first began 1879 — when they were just a small number of carbon arc lamps — and have since been enjoyed by generations upon generations of people.

Taking children to see Blackpool illuminations is a tradition that brings grown adults back with littles ones of their own, as they experience nostalgia.

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The haunted hotel room where guests have to sign a disclaimer to spend the night

‘For people who’ve not done this before it could be dangerous.’

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My Haunted Hotel

Guests must sign a disclaimer before staying the night in a room at a haunted hotel in Chester.

The 401-year-old building spooks customers, and they rarely stay more than three minutes inside one creepy room at Ye Olde Kings Head, on Lower Bridge Street.

This one room in particular is so eerie that only experienced paranormal investigators are allowed into it. But the professionals will have to sign a disclaimer to spend the night, according to Cheshire Live.

In room eight lives a doll called Grace, housed inside a special glass case, and guests reportedly can last no longer than three minutes with her before they’re scared out of their wits. A special camera has been set up to monitor it 24/7 after it arrived at the hotel in January.

My Haunted Hotel

Paranormal investigator Danny Moss, one of the team members behind My Haunted Hotel at Ye Olde Kings Head, called the Grace doll the ‘UK’s most haunted artefact’, saying:  “Since it arrived in January we’ve already had people really struggling to stay in room eight. It seems to really affect men rather than women.”

He continued: “We’ve had men go in there and they can’t look at it. They feel anxious and have to get out, struggling to last even three minutes.
People are hearing the sound of three knocks which is meant to signify the mocking of the Holy Trinity. Some people have also experienced their eyes burning.

“That happened to me a few years ago when we kept it at Tatton Old Hall. I heard an entity say ‘burn’ and I said ‘what?’ and my eyes felt like someone was chopping onions. We’ve got video footage showing people really scared to go into that room and others with noises coming from it.

“There are a set of rules outside room eight, including people having to call out an audio disclaimer before they’re even allowed in. Room eight is only open to experienced people. For people who’ve not done this before it could be dangerous.”

My Haunted Hotel

The hotel has gained a very spooky reputation over the years for its paranormal activity and has even featured on TV show Most Haunted as well as Sky Pick’s Paranormal.

It was bought by paranormal enthusiast Harry Achilleos 15 years ago and his dream has been to turn it into a top dark tourism destination.

Harry Achilleos, who runs My Haunted Hotel alongside Danny and Brett Jones, also said: “Having the Grace doll in the building just takes My Haunted Hotel to a whole new level.”

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Contact returns with its annual Vogue Ball for LGBTQ+ festival 2023

Make sure you don’t miss this!

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Contact

For its 50th anniversary, Contact is set to return with its annual House of Suarez’s Vogue Ball, celebrating the most extraordinary and exciting LGBTQ+ talent, as part of the Queer Contact festival.

Running from February 4th – 18th, Queer Contact festival 2023 will be bigger and brighter than ever, with Drag Race royalty gracing the stage and its annual extra, show-stopping Vogue Ball, presented by House of Suarez , kick-starting a two weeks celebration of queer artistry.

Set to be even more fierce and fabulous, highlights will include Drag Race UK’s talented queens Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister, as well as an evening in conversation with Heartstopper actor and Contact alumni Fisayo Akinade. 

Along with the outrageous cabaret Vogue Ball — a yearly highlight for fans of Contact — which will take place at Manchester Academy, it will travel back to the glorious decade of disco for a night of glitter and glam MCed by the iconic, Rikki Beadle-Blair. 

Contact

Houses from across the UK compete for the coveted titles of best choreography and best design — awarded by an esteemed panel of judges — as they pose and perform in an unapologetic celebration of inclusivity, queerness, and diversity.

Ginny Lemon and Sister Sister, the breakout stars of Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK Season 2, will not fail to live up to their reputations as the most despised queens, as they try to bring the most disappointing drag show you’ve ever seen to the Manchester Stage — as part of their, You Keep Me Hanging On Tour.

In their debut for Queer Contact, this will mark the duo’s first joint show, and promises to be hilarious, if average.

 François Pandolfo

To add another festival highlight, Heartstopper and Cucumber actor Fisayo Akinade will also explore the many different elements that have influenced his life and career. Inspired by Contact’s celebration of its 50th anniversary, an In Conversation with Contact’s artistic director and CEO, Keisha Thompson, will see her talk with him about the 50 things that shaped his career.

One of the breakout comedy acts from the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, comedy performer François Pandolfo will make his debut at this year’s Queer Contact as Milly-Liu, with his ‘one-man-cat-drag-late-night comedy show.’ Join her as she is ready to spill the beans on all your favourite celebrity pussies. 

You can also jump onboard the queerest Tardis with Doctor Who inspired entertainment by Carrot and Friends. Be transported through time and space with their cosmic comedy as you experience dimension-defying drag, stratospheric stand-up, burlesque to make a Cyberman blush, and an oncoming storm of many other surprises.

Cocoa Butter Club

Bradford’s bad girl Lady Bursha will bring her hilarious and iconic drag queen comedy to the stage. Shortlisted for the 2021 BBC New Comedy Awards, Lady Bushra is the brainchild of British Asian comedian Amir. His alter ego Lady Bushra is known for her stand-up comedy, ingenious lipsync performances and one-liners, often seen performing her sold out ‘Drag Comedy Cabaret’ across the nation.

Other cabaret and comedy highlights include a night with the Cocoa Butter Club, an evening in the company of The Bitter Peach’s Peach Chutney Crew, and Luke Hereford brings their autobiographical musical adventures on their journey of queer self-discovery. 

CEO and Artistic Director Keisha Thompson said: “We’re so excited to be bringing the best in LGBTQ+ arts and culture together once again for Queer Contact 2023. Our flagship queer arts festival has been central to our mission and vision for over a decade and will continue to cement our spot on Manchester’s cultural map for many more decades to come.

“In 2023, as we celebrate our 50th birthday, Queer Contact is characterised by joy; from a Dr Who-themed cabaret to an evening with Heartstopper’s Fisayo Akinade, we’re here to platform a huge spectrum of queer lived experience; focusing on kindness, community and celebration.”

Tickets for Queer Contact 2023 are now on sale and can be booked via Contact’s website.

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