Artist Akse spray paints a mural of George Floyd
Artist Akse spray paints a mural of George FloydPhoto: Shutterstock

Manchester Beyond Football

Manchester is a hub of contemporary art and culture, hipster cafés, and experimental food and drink joints, but it remains rooted in its egalitarian, workers’ movement-oriented, radical heritage

Manchester may be known for its industrial past and football clubs, but the city also has fantastic street art, a legendary music scene, and strong ties to the women’s and worker’s rights movements. This is where "Baby," the world’s first stored-memory computer, was invented. Several legendary music bands, such as Oasis and Simply Red, have roots in Manchester. The city has reinvented itself as an eclectic mix of tech start-ups, vintage markets, eco-friendly co-ops, and world-class eateries.

Stage adaptation of Alice in Wonderland
Stage adaptation of Alice in Wonderland

John Rylands Library

Few know that Manchester has some of the best museums and libraries in the UK, outside of London. Take the John Rylands Library, for example. Set up in the memory of a textile entrepreneur and philanthropist of the same name, the jaw-dropping neo-Gothic building houses ancient books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, and visual materials spanning 5,000 years. It has the oldest known piece of the "New Testament: the Fragment of the Gospel of John," the "Epic of Gilgamesh" written in cuneiform script on a clay tablet, first editions of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a "Gutenberg Bible," and personal notes as well as correspondence between famed literary figures.

Chetham's Library

Founded in 1653, Chetham's Library, with its oak-panelled rooms and secret passageways, could have been the setting for a scene from a Harry Potter film. One of the oldest public libraries in the UK, it is home to over 100,000 books. Look out for the first editions of Isaac Newton’s "Principia Mathematica" and "John Milton’s "Paradise Lost." This was also where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels met. Their favourite seat by a window alcove has been preserved, alongwith the books that the two would peruse. Nowadays, Chetham's doubles up as a backdrop for weddings.

Street Art

Manchester is famous for street art. Spend a day walking around the hipster meccas of the Northern Quarter and Ancoats. This was once a mass of derelict buildings after the decline of the textile industry. A stop-in-your-tracks work is the mural featuring a honey heart with 22 worker bees (the Manchester symbol depicting the city’s work ethic). Each bee represents victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. At Affleck’s, you can spot a wall of mosaic artworks created by celebrated local artist Mark Kennedy, featuring iconic Manchester symbols like the distinctly-British drink Vimto, the animated character Danger Mouse, Emily Pankhurst and the suffragettes, and the cast of the popular TV show, "Coronation Street."

Sunday roast at The Refuge
Sunday roast at The Refuge

Eating Out

Manchester also has a very happening food and drink scene, from traditional British pubs, quirky cafés, and curry houses to cutting-edge restaurants and cocktail bars. Book a table at The Refuge, an atmospheric cocktail bar, nightclub, and restaurant housed in the former Palace Hotel designed by 19th-century architect Alfred Waterhouse. If you want to sample some of the best food Manchester has to offer, then head to Mackie Mayor, a communal joint where you can sample the culinary works of different food entrepreneurs and chefs under one roof. Plus it is housed in a gorgeous Grade II-listed building in the Northern Quarter that used to be a Victorian meat market.

The Worker Bee Trail

With a thriving textile industry, Manchester was considered one of the hubs of the industrial revolution. The industriousness of Mancunians (as the people of Manchester are known) was compared to the "worker bee." The symbolic reference became so popular that the worker bee symbol was incorporated into Manchester’s coat of arms in 1842. When you are here, factor in a bee-spotting trail around the city, looking for the symbol as artworks on walls, manhole covers, and public spaces.

Statue of Frederich Engels
Statue of Frederich Engels

The People’s Museum

Take some time to visit the People’s History Museum (PHM). Also known as the National Museum of Democracy, it is a place to learn about, be inspired by, and get involved in ideas worth fighting for, such as equality, social justice, cooperation, and a fair world for all. The museum, through its galleries, exhibitions, and workshops, focuses on revolutions and reformers, workers, and voters.

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