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There’s a Brexit Escape Room in Manchester and it’s scarily realistic

Leave or Remain?

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Whichever side of the Brexit debate you’re on, the one thing I think we can all be united in is the fact that the whole process has been a complete unremitting disaster, which has not only divided the country, but also made us an international laughing stock. Merry Christmas!

With much of the debate just seeming to centre around people on both sides trying to shout or condescend their opinion into the brains of people with a differing view, a bit of a light-hearted escape from the whole thing sounded fun to me. An escape room, to be more precise. 

Alternate Escapes, one of the residents at the new Pollard Yard, located on Pollard Street next to Wellington Mill – a hub for creative independent businesses housed in repurposed shipping containers, run by a company called Meanwhile Creative – offers themed escape room challenges. The current theme is The Battle of Brexit and there are new themes in the pipeline for 2020.  

Ben Fowler, the man behind Alternate Escapes, explains: “The escape room is about giving people the chance to take a fairly exhausting, serious topic, and enjoy it in a far more light-hearted and satirical way”. 

Before you start you have to pick a side: Remain or Leave. We picked Remain, and you have a quick introduction in a separate cabin to go over the rules.

The set up being that our host is our campaign manager, and he has surreptitiously gained access to our rivals HQ for a short time and in the true spirit of real life Brexit, our objective is to try and gather sensitive, confidential information to besmirch our rivals by seeding their grubby secrets out to the press. 

It’s not really a case of escaping per se, but if you get all the secret documents, you succeed in destroying your rivals credibility, and ultimately win your chosen Brexit outcome. Or you fail, and they win. 

It was at this moment I made a decision. When I was younger, if there was a big football game approaching, I’d often play the game virtually on Fifa beforehand, deciding that whatever the outcome on Fifa would be the outcome in real life in some sort of inexplicable cosmic quirk, with myself at the centre of the universe. 

That’s what I decided would happen with Brexit, 100%, without question. Whatever happened in our Battle of Brexit escape room would manifest in real life. 

Naturally, being an escape room, they haven’t made it easy. In order to get our hands on confidential documents we have to work out access to various cupboards, drawers, cabinets, lockers and rooms by following a series of cryptic clues dotted around, with our campaign manager watching over from our HQ and able to provide clues on a screen occasionally, for which you’re notified by a little gong sound.


One such gong during our session was to dissuade one of our team Danny from trying to hack into a tablet, which we weren’t quite ready to use at that stage as we hadn’t discovered the clue to do so yet. 

While Danny didn’t quite manage to hack into the rival’s profile, he did somehow manage to log out of it completely and, impressively, hack in to the Alternate Escapes chap’s girlfriend’s personal profile, which we quickly were notified wasn’t part of our game, leaving us having to un-hack and re-hack back in when we were ready.  It was some serious espionage. 

I’ve done a couple of escape rooms before, with mixed success and experiences, and this one was well put together, good fun, and actually quite tough. It’s a simple-looking layout at first, but the complexity of it builds out as the game progresses. 

We had waves of being pretty prolific, then hitting a roadblock, with each new discovery greeted with a collective cheer. With actual seconds to spare, we managed to get the last clue and succeed in getting all documents, meaning that we won. 

Therefore, the cosmos has spoken, the outcome of Brexit will be Remain

Then again, if the universe was as aligned around me as I like to think, England would have won every major football tournament since about 1998 based purely on my Fifa endeavours, so I won’t hold my breath. 

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Full details of this year’s Manchester Christmas Markets as they get into full swing

The markets are billed as ‘bigger and better’ than ever before…

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Manchester's Finest Group

With the Manchester Christmas Markets now in full swing, let’s take a look at the full list of traders and locations for this year’s festivities.

The Christmas Markets opened on November 10th, transforming Piccadilly Gardens into the Winter Gardens, with over 220 stalls open at the usual locations of Market Street, Cathedral Gardens, Exchange Street, New Cathedral Street, St Ann’s Square, Exchange Square, The Corn Exchange, and King Street. 

The council also confirmed the return of the magical Manchester Christmas lights trail, which will illuminate the city centre throughout the festive season with its walk-through giant baubles, light arches and a Manchester bee. 

And the iconic Big Santa has made a return to the Central Library at St. Peter’s Square, where he will be keeping an eye on all things Christmas in Manchester from his perch.

Here’s the full rundown of what to expect at this year’s Christmas Markets:

Winter Gardens

Piccadilly Gardens is once again transformed into the Winter Gardens, which the council has promised is ‘bigger and better’ than ever before.

On the food and drink side of things, the Winter Gardens is serving up the likes of pancakes, churros, cookie dough, vegan bratwursts, Korean hotdogs, pork barms, and Amsterdam Frites. There’s also be an array of winter tipples and a selection of continental and foreign ales. 

There will also be dedicated weekly trial spots for new local traders as they step into winter trading and try out their wares on the Christmas Market crowds.  

And brand new for this year, the Winter Gardens is hosting a giant Nordic-themed double tipi bar, fully heated, and festooned with ambient lighting, wooden benches, fake furs, and a roaring fire pit.

There will be live music and entertainment within the tipi bar most nights, making it the perfect spot to spread some Christmas cheer throughout the whole week.

St. Ann’s Square and Exchange Street

St. Ann’s Square – which is actually the original site for Manchester’s Christmas Markets – is returning with its large undercover bar providing German beers and warm cherry Gluhwein, all of which will keep Christmas revellers warm and merry throughout the winter season.

St. Ann’s Square and Exchange Street is also host to a number of local traders, including Yard and Coop with their salt and pepper chicken fries and Manc and Proud, who are serving up Mancunian themed treats, plus continental chocolates, English cheeses, and art emporiums. 

Market Street

A firm favourite with Christmas shoppers, Market Street is home to stalls selling a wide range of gifts from a whole host of amazing crafters and producers. Customers can get everything from tweed hats, spiced rum and Christmas decorations, to candles, jewellery, and gift sets of cheese truckles. 

King Street

Home to some of the best food in Manchester, the Christmas deli stalls on King Street take foodies on a world tour of some of the best loved dishes on the planet, ranging from Italian cannelloni and arancini, Greek gyros, halloumi fries, French garlic mushrooms and even Salford Rum.

And new for 2022, middle eastern restaurant Habas is bringing its Middle Eastern menu and seating area to King Street – great for those wanting to eat their way round the world!  

New Cathedral Street

New Cathedral Street boasts a range of stalls selling high-end gifts including fine-cast ornaments, old fashioned liquorice, handmade cocktails for home, and light up Christmas decorations.

There’s also a number of tasty food stalls offering everything ranging from vegan five bean chilli to New York Bagels. These can then be washed down by one of cosmopolitan Bar 3’s famous smoking cocktails. 

Additionally, the famous Witch House is making its grand return to New Cathedral Street armed with its traditional steins and mouth-watering currywursts. 

Exchange Square 

Market-goers will be able to warm up at the beloved Mill Exchange bar, who are bringing back their special Mancunian mulled wine.

2022 also sees the return of the famous Porky Pig’s Yorkshire Pudding Wrap, alongside stalls selling hot curries, German kebabs, gourmet Italian pizza mini pancakes and fresh fudge.

The Corn Exchange

Nestled between Manchester’s historic Corn Exchange building and Shambles Square, visitors can expect to find unique fairtrade hats and jackets, character themed hats and belts, as well as handmade pies, cupcakes and soaps. 

Cathedral Gardens

The much-loved undercover ice rink Skate MCR opened in time for the half term and Halloween. There is live entertainment on from Thursday to Sunday each week, all the way through to New Year’s Eve.

Next to the ice rink, hot food, warm drinks, pancakes and tipples are on offer from nearby market stalls to help warm up cold hands and feet after a skate on the ice.     

Councillor Pat Karney, lead councillor for Christmas at Manchester City Council, said: “Christmas is looking better than ever this year in Manchester with our world-beating Christmas markets set to open in four weeks’ time, and a whole host of other unmissable free festive treats also coming our way. 

 “Everyone knows that Manchester does Christmas better than anywhere else and I’ve been counting down the days to the opening of our Christmas markets again since the day they closed last year.   

 “We’ve got some fantastic new festive additions to the markets this year, as well as some other soon-to-be announced unmissable festive surprises which are set to get everyone in Manchester smiling in the run-up to Christmas. More announcements on this very soon – I can’t wait!” 

The Christmas Markets are now open and will close on Thursday December 22nd. 

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A huge party with £2 drinks and FREE cheese boards is happening on Friday

Get this in your diaries!

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alvariummcr / Instagram & Manchester's Finest Group

If you love cheap drinks AND cheese then we’ve got some very good news for you on this grey, dreary Monday.

Alvarium, Tib Street’s hidden gem and home to some of Manchester’s best food offerings, has announced a huge party with cheap drinks, FREE food and DJs all night long.

It’s happening this Friday, November 18th, and you can can expect a massive party featuring £2 drinks (selected single spirit mixers, bottles of beer, small glasses of wine and selected cocktails).

alvariummcr / Instagram

There’ll also be free canapés of cheese and meats from 8pm and a local DJ spinning records from 7pm – 1am.

The bar has made a name for itself over the past few years, serving as not only a space to enjoy a delicious tipple, but also to sample some of the city’s finest independent food pop-ups.

It’s seen the likes of Lazy Tony’s Lasagneria, Black Leaf and Abeja all make the move into its intimate basement restaurant, each producing delightfully different dishes.

alvariummcr / Instagram

Alvarium also does an excellent Friday happy hour deal that runs from 4pm – 1am. This will get you two for £5 bottles of Mahou, £20 bottles of Prosecco, £12.50 wine and two for £10 cocktails.

The party this Friday is set to celebrate everything the bar is known and loved for – excellent drink deals, a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere and a proper good knees up.

Make sure you get yourself signed up – either HERE or on the form below – to attend.

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A huge vegan festival is coming to Manchester next weekend

All proceeds from tickets bought will be donated to animals in need

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Seitan's Kebabs & Saco Superfoods

Manchester is set to welcome a huge vegan festival with over eighty stalls of plant-based goods this month.

The Manchester Vegan Winter Festival will be taking over the Trafford Bowlers Exhibition Centre next weekend, and will be bringing with it the very best elements a vegan lifestyle has to offer.

There will be a number of local plant-based traders in attendance across the festival, all serving up delicious vegan meals both hot and cold.

This includes Manchester’s very own House of Habesha, who will be dishing up traditional Ethiopian curries, and Seitan’s Kebab, who recently made it into the finals of the British Street Food Awards 2020/2021 for their famed vegan hot dogs.

@houseofhabesha_official / Instagram

There will also be Salford’s very own DevilDog at the festival, selling bottles of their famous plant-based hot sauces, as well as Gillie Foods with a delicious range of Asian-inspired dishes.

Salford-based Saco Superfoods, which works directly with small-scale women producers in West Africa, will also be at the event selling a range of superfoods including Organic Mango, Baobab Powder, Hibiscus Flower and Ginger Flakes.

Other local businesses due to be in attendance include itreatskin, which sells 100% natural products ideal for eczema, acne and psoriasis and Northern Lashe, an eco-friendly company providing handmade vegan eyelash products.

There will also be Sea Moss Elixir, a local drinks brand that produces herbal and nutritous beverages.

@theseamosselixr / Instagram

And those looking for Christmas present inspiration, Bo’s Book stall – a new vegan cookbook boasting easy-to-follow recipes for both dogs and humans – will be selling its books and cooking products, with all the profits going to help needy dogs at animal welfare and education charity Miracle’s Mission.

The Manchester Vegan Festival will be taking place at the Trafford Bowlers Exhibition Centre next Sunday (November 20th) from 10:30am to 4:30pm

Entry is just £5, with all proceeds from tickets going to support animals in need. There is also a £15 VIP ticket option available with fast track entry on the day and a goody bag full of vegan products, samples, discounts and offers.

Get tickets here.

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