What a pleasure to see Manchester looking so well! I was at university there in 1996 when a massive IRA bomb destroyed a large part of the city centre. Before today, I had been back only once. It was after Jason Prior and his team had rebuild much of what had been lost, but it was not a happy time for the city and any improvements in the streetscape were lost against a backdrop of people fighting and being sick. Once glamorous districts, such as Canal Street, had become grubby. I didn’t rush back.
Today, it is a confident city once again. The everyday buzz was perhaps enhanced by the hosting of the Labour Party Conference (my reason for coming), and a food and drink fair – aswell as a lack of rain. But walking to the conference centre from Victoria station, I went past good looking squares and happy looking people. Just like in Lowry’s day, folks still like to hang out in Piccadilly Gardens, which is an attractive place from some angles (just don’t look towards the Mercure Hotel). Meeting old university friends in a bar overlooking the square, we looked out onto a confident city centre. Even the large Queen Victoria statue seemed to approve.