12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
21 November, London Hilton Metropole
O N T O U R: Manchester for a Break
Although history tells us that there was a settlement on the River Irwell before Roman times the real story of Manchester as one of the great industrial cities of the world started with the opening of the Bridgewater Canal (1760) and the invention of the spinning jenny by Richard Arkwright in 1780. Times were different. Arkwright's employees worked from six in the morning to seven at night. Although some of the factory owners employed children as young as five, Arkwright's policy was to wait until they reached the age of six. Two-thirds of Arkwright's 1,900 workers were children. Like most factory owners, Arkwright was unwilling to employ people over the age of forty.
Today Manchester is refocusing itself in a different age with the highly successful Commonwealth Games of 2002 really putting it once again on the international map. Virgin Trains chose Manchester as the destination for its first brand new 140 mph Pendolino units. The Commonwealth Stadium will soon become the home of Manchester City, a very visible gateway (not unlike the Stade de France on Eurostar at Paris) as you approach Piccadilly Station on the train. Tickets for City matches, even at the current Maine Road ground, are usually available, but for United forget about it. Try booking through an overseas agency who might have an allocation. The Old Trafford Tour is to be recommended.
Manchester is an ideal destination if you want a city weekend break without leaving the UK. Until more units arrive you will need to travel on a Thursday afternoon if you want to use the Pendolino. The cheapest return ticket, which can be booked on the day, is ”50, and the buffet in ”standard class” is easily the best so far on a British train. You can fly from Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, or try VLM”s four times a day service from City, easily the best timekeeper of the lot. Reckon on three hours by car from north London, 200 miles. From Scotland there are air service from the three BAA airports and now Inverness.
Manchester is surprisingly somewhat limited regarding hotels. ABTN stayed at Rocco Forte”s imposing Lowry (see left), which is some way from the art Museum in Salford Quays ” don”t get confused, just outside the central area, but within easy walking distance of the city centre. 174 large stylish rooms mainly overlooking the Irwell and a very late night bar at sensible prices. Arsenal football club were in residence. It”s a ”5 taxi ride from the main station but much better value, and more fun, is the free bus service that covers the city centre and is ideal for a quick tour to spy out the lie of the land. Three-star budget hotels are springing up in the city centre, ideal for those on a tight budget.
Manchester is like many cities, now much pedestrianised. In 1996 the centre was devastated by the largest bomb ever set off by the IRA on the British mainland. Nobody was killed, remarkably a red post box situated at the heart of the explosion remaining intact, the mail from inside delivered undamaged with only a slight delay.
Quickly rebuilt Manchester today has some of the smartest and most up to date stores in the country. Just outside the City the Trafford Centre is immensely popular with shoppers, particularly from the 10 towns that actually make up the Manchester conurbation.
There is always the argument as to which is the best UK city outside London for entertainment. ABTN tried the Opera House (in truth a variety theatre) where Cliff, a new musical, was having a-pre London try out. Sixty-five hit tunes in two hours. At the much smaller Palace Theatre Fiddler on the Roof with Paul Nicholas is due shortly. There is a fine selection of night clubs (which we did not try) and a branch of the Comedy Store. The MEM arena has Paul McCartney appearing shortly, but don”t bother about tickets. They were all gone in less than two hours. There are great pubs and fine eating too.
Art wise the Lowry Gallery is world famous and the Manchester Art Gallery is very much into textiles. All the museums are free except for the unique Urbis in the centre of the city (”5), a new kind of exposition set in a dramatic glass building rising high above the Arndale shopping complex. Interactive exhibits lead you on a journey exploring life in different cities around the world. Urbis focuses especially on the cities of Los Angeles, Manchester, Paris, Sao Paolo, Singapore and Tokyo. Your visit to Urbis begins with a one minute sky glide in The MEN Glass Elevator. With the city as backdrop, you can then explore the four cascading exhibition floors at your own pace. The Le Mont restaurant on the top floor serves French cuisine at London prices. The spectacular new Imperial War Museum of the North (by Daniel Libeskind, winner of the New York Ground Zero competition) is drawing crowds and the Museum of Science and Industry includes the world”s first railway station and the story of the Trident aircraft. A fascinating museum covering 300 years of technology in all its facets. http://www.destinationmanchester.com