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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The North isn't a place and Manchester certainly isn't its capital city

Amused by this story of the Yorkshireman who broke out of his prison near Preston because it was full of Lancashire and Liverpool people. It came not long after there had been suggestions that the country should counter the magnetic effect of London by moving the seat of government to Manchester.

As a Yorkshireman who has lived in London far longer than I ever lived in Yorkshire I feel I'm allowed to ask "WTF?"

Why is it always Manchester? Why do metro-centrics in the media-government complex always say Manchester when what they really mean is not London? Why not Peterborough or Norwich or Middlesbrough or Leeds? Or a million other places they never mention because they've never been there?

(You can always tell when letters are made up in magazines because they pretend to come from somebody in a large industrial city in the north. People who live in those places always identify precisely which town, village or suburb they're in. They never mention the metropolis.)

It's always Manchester. Let me tell you, when I was living in Yorkshire Manchester seemed like the dark side of the moon. We hardly ever went to Manchester. We were much more likely to go to London or Scotland.

I may be wrong but I don't get the feeling that people in the north-east felt much better about the BBC on learning it had ostentatiously moved everyone (well, everyone but its senior management and star presenters) from London to Salford. If you're in Barnsley or Derby it seems just as far away. This comes as a shock to metro-centric planners. They think the North is a place and Manchester is its capital city.  Wrong.

16 comments:

  1. Moreover, those of us who are Scottish and therefore - for now - part of the UK can become moderately irritated by references to "the North", when it's used to mean somewhere several hundred miles south of where we are.

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  2. Exactly. I was one of the 5-Live staff who refused to move to Salford, and as born-and-bred Hull boy, at least one of the reasons I was never tempted to move was because it was west of the Pennines. I also have a longstanding and irrational prejudice against Mancs who believe the North begins and ends within the orbit of the M60. Plus it rains all the bloody time...

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  3. It's not just "the North" that's an artificial concept. So is "the North West". I'm from Manchester. I have never been to Liverpool in my life.

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  4. Don't tell Paul Morley.

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  5. And thereby hangs the crippling parochialism that ensures the UK remains ridiculously weighted towards its capital.

    The variety of accents is pleasing, but it obviously comes at a cost of pig-stubborn Nothing Good In Their Backyard Even If It's Closer To Mine nonsense.

    No wonder the metropoles mock us.

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  6. I hate the way the media treat Manchester as the second major place after London for a different reason, I'm a Brummie and we don't even count.
    It's because we have silly voices isn't it?

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  7. I'm a proud North West resident and I love Manchester. I naturally think Manchester should get everything but I would be delighted if government was moved to Leeds or Birmingham because they're great cities and I'm not a tedious, insular nob like some who live in London.

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  8. I was born in London, to a family of Londoners. Relocated to Southend as a Tot but regularly visited family in the north and east of the capital throughout the 70s and 80s. Work in the city, and Still do trips to town with the kids

    And even I get London-centric fatigue from the constant over-frothing.

    ES mag' makes me gag like a cat with a furball. And I never liked silly goose Robert Elms, but his constant quacking about 'what's your favourite London manhole cover' or somesuch - is why I gave up on whatever GLR's called now..

    Although, at the risk of doing a complete U turn - I can recommend Spitalfields Life for a graceful take on the best and most obscure London aspects

    http://spitalfieldslife.com/

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  9. I was born in London, to a family of Londoners. Relocated to Southend as a tot but regularly visited family in the north and east of the capital throughout the 70s and 80s. Work in the city, and Still do trips to town with the kids

    And even I get London-centric fatigue from the constant over-frothing.

    ES mag' makes me gag like a cat with a furball. And I never liked silly goose Robert Elms, but his constant quacking about 'what's your favourite London manhole cover' or somesuch - is why I gave up on whatever GLR's called now..

    Although, at the risk of doing a complete U turn - I can recommend Spitalfields Life for a graceful take on the best and most obscure London aspects

    http://spitalfieldslife.com/

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  10. They have cities north of Watford?

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  11. Well, quite. As a lad in Northumberland I was often perplexed by the references to Manchester and Liverpool being in the 'north of England'.

    I consulted my Dad's AA Road Atlas (the bit at the front where they show how the pages overlap) and was presented with the obvious proof that they were both in the Middle of England.

    Any trip we would have made to either would have meant a drive of at least 2 and a half hours towards the equator.

    Manchester. Middle.

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  12. Keith Waterhouse invented a typical northern town and he called it Stradhoughton. And when he put Billy Liar in it he gave him a thousand reasons to leave and reinvent himself in London. But Billy couldn't leave. Some people can't. Or just don't want to.

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  13. I have no strong views on Manchester or the North, butI do think this is an interesting and stimulating post, thank you Mr. Hepworth.

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  14. Why Manchester? Because they worked for it. I come from Hull, studied in Leeds, live in Bradford, lived in Manchester for 8 years and support Liverpool. (missing are 8 years in Teesside, which were indeed lost) Manchester put a LOT of effort into convincing people that it is England's 2nd city (which is in reality Birmingham, or London if you come from Liverpool). There was a lot of money spent on PR, spin and advertising (Made in Manchester etc.) Grabbing 5live was the jewel in the crown, but 2 Olympic bids and the Commonwealth Games were part of it. The 5 constituent boroughs of Greater Manchester may not like each other much (and Bolton & Oldham even less) but the profile raising is a job well done. Attracting TV programmes such as Cold Feet, the Oxford Road show etc. helped. As did Tony Wilson (RIP). Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool or Birmingham need to put the same effort in over 20 years to catch up.
    London has effortless superiority over the rest of the country - you can live with it or try to do something about it. Or or course, move to London.

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  15. ManinManchester1:15 am

    This reads like Yorkshire jealousy to me. Look, I'm from Oldham. There's no love lost between Oldham and Manchester, believe me. But I support Manchester because it is the only city that can offer any sort of challenge to London, as Mr Dragon's Den Davies (eventually) pointed out in his Mind the Gap programme. Without it London would have trampled 'the regions' into the dust long before now. Manchester succeeds where others don't because it doesn't just sit there ruminating ideas through committees. It gets things done. It has always done this. It is the most radical city in the country, just read its history. That's why it bid twice for the Olympic Games. It may not have succeeded but it gained international recognition. It's also why the BBC and other organisations moved to Media City. It's why there is a leading international festival of genuine global calibre and why there is the UK's first airport city under construction at an airport that dwarfs those of other regional cities. It's why there is a comprehensive urban light rail system while other cities make do with one or two lines or none at all. It's why the city region was the first outside London to be ceded powers over its own transport infrastructure and economic development. It's why the Northern (rail) Hub will be completed, to the benefit of the rest of the North. Things get 'sorted', it's as simple as that. And as a consequence the two main political parties love it because it is a beacon for the rest of the country. Leeds could have been the same but it hasn't got the same get-up-and go attitude. You only have to look at its football team. What the hell happened there? (Having said that, I could go along with the idea of an economic axis connecting Manchester and Leeds, but not with Liverpool; God help us that place would just drag us down into the gutter). Manchester looks like an international city, it can play ball with the likes of Barcelona and Milan; no other English provincial city can do that. There is a buzz about the place you simply don't find anywhere else outside of the West End of London. (And I didn't mention that West End plays are now often premiered in Manchester first). And I say all this despite the fact that I hate the f****** place. Incidentally, Trail of Bread, there are ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, not five.

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  16. ManinManchester, 10 - well so there are. When I was there we only counted Manchester, Salford, Trafford, Tameside and Stockport. Rochdale, Bury, Oldham, Bolton and Bury were seen as separate places. Must have been due to the funding boundaries of where I was working. I seem to remember Rochdale being in the "Northern Banana" not the areas I was working in, so I assumed that they were not really GM. You live and learn. (Pretty useless to me unless I can get back though).

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