I know, I know. I’ve been bad and neglected you a little last week… slap on the wrist. But, I have an excuse. Two excuses, actually. Firstly, it was my birthday (and you can never be angry at someone on their birthday) and secondly, I treated myself to a weekend getaway in Manchester, England, to see the sights and catch up with some friends. I wanted to take you with me I promise, but baggage restrictions were firm so instead I brought back lots of pictures and stories about my trip to keep you up to date.
Forgiven? Great 🙂
Unlike their football team (too soon to joke?!) Manchester is currently shooting and scoring, and just last year was ranked #1 best UK city to live in by The Global Liveability Survey, outranking even England’s capital city of London. Despite living a 45 minute plane journey away, Northern England is somewhere I’ve never been, so after some gentle persuasion from friends in the area, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. Plus, I needed something to distract me from becoming another year closer to that looming zimmer frame!
I’ve become more attuned to architecture recently, and the first thing I noticed about Manchester is the blending of old and new buildings which make up this metropolitan city. Manchester Town Hall and The Albert Hall, for instance, showcase the Victorian industrial scenes as if fresh off Lowry’s famous canvases, yet these are juxtaposed with new additions such as the futuristic Beetham Tower which highlight the city’s evolvement and prosperity as a modern hub of activity. Public reaction to the Tower and similar recent buildings has reportedly been mixed, but I enjoyed the duality of old vs. new which, in my opinion, adds greatly to the city’s wonderful diversity.
I’m a traditionalist at heart though, and as predicted the Northern Quarter was my favourite area with its vintage shops, record stores, jazz clubs and underground dive bars (one bar I visited was converted from the city’s Victorian public toilets!). I got a real feel for Manchester’s famous music scene from these streets, finding interesting references and musical inspiration around every corner.
I had unrealistically scheduled so much to see and do in Manchester in my travel planner (just call me Michael Portillo) that I didn’t get time to explore, but at least that gives me the excuse to go back again soon. One thing I did fit in however, was a trip to the Richmond Tea Rooms with a good friend I made in Toronto who recently moved back to the area. Catching up over china teacups and cream bun canopes on a Sunday afternoon was rather bizzare, and momentarily made me question whether I was still in Manchester, or had somehow fallen down the rabbit hole, but either way I was content to stay in this wonderland.
Manchester Art Gallery was high on my list of “things I must see” so after tea we ventured over to check out the latest exhibition by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. If you ever get the chance to see any of her work I strongly urge you to go (this current exhibition runs until June 1st), but make sure to take an extra pair of socks… as your first ones will most definitely get blown off!! TUMBLEWEED…
Her collection entitled ‘Time Machine’ was quite simply, stunning. I don’t want to spoil the surprise for any future visitors so I’m just going to show you my two favourite of the pieces displayed in the gallery.
Lillicoptère is breathtaking, and looks even better up close. Made with Ostrich feathers, Swarovski crystals and gold leaf it blends the ideas of power and delicacy, of bird and machine. In the artist’s own vision, it is what Marie Antoinette would be travelling in if she were alive today. Let them eat cake, indeed.
It is highly apparent that Joana Vasconcelos uses the majority of her artwork to challenge traditional ideas about women and the role of the female in the past, present and future sense. She herself purposely subverts the idea of women creating delicate handcrafts by working mostly on a colossal scale with machines and vehicles.
The second piece I want to show you is her series of robots entitled Full Steam Ahead, notably created in the colours of the Portuguese Flag.
Science Fiction meets Domestic Appliance. Like the petals of a flower, these futuristic robots are synchronized to periodically open and close in gentle but dangerous motions. Once fully opened they let out a hiss of steam, a hot warning for visitors not to get too close! Masculinity and femininity combine here again to embrace the idea of interdependence for optimum strength.
I loved this exhibition; in fact, it was probably my highlight of a very enjoyable birthday weekend. I also got to see the Cornerhouse gallery, and The Lowry, but alas, the dinosaurs in the city’s main museum will have to wait until my next visit…
Overall, my first impression of Manchester was very favourable; it’s a vibrant and buzzing city with lots going on, even on a quiet weekend in February. If you’re thinking of heading that direction soon, do what I did and check out Trip Advisor’s top recommendations, only perhaps be a little more realistic with your time allocations than I was. Three museums in one day was never going to happen!Lots of Love,