A bridge, a barge and no one in charge
Plus: The Mill in the New York Times; and we reveal Greater Manchester's ENO bid
Dear Millers — welcome to this Friday edition of The Mill, which is rather more lovely and gentle than our previous fare this week. We’ve been very housing heavy of late, writing about spiralling interest rates and analysing where most of the mortgage payers are in Greater Manchester; and then digging into the thorny question of why developers are refusing to build affordable homes. So we’re going to get away from housing today. In fact, we’re going to get away from dry land altogether and take a ride up the Manchester Ship Canal in a boat that may or may not fit under the various bridges it needs to pass. That’s today’s feature.
We’re picking up some new global Millers this lunchtime because we’ve been mentioned in the New York Times. Joshi is quoted in a very interesting piece about Aviva Studios, known until Tuesday as Factory International. “It marks how the city’s cultural scene has transformed in recent decades, from a site for D.I.Y art-making to a desirable home for large-scale investment and corporate sponsorship,” writes Hugh Morris. What do Millers think of the venue’s new corporate name? When we asked on Tuesday, 73% of members said they despised it, 26% said they don’t mind it and 0% said they adore it, which doesn’t even add up to 100%, emphasising how scientific the survey was.
In the latest episode of our podcast, Darryl and Joshi are joined by Daniel Timms, our amazing data and policy reporter, who talks us through his recent reporting. Why are nearly all of Manchester’s protected trees in the south of the city? And why are our schools falling behind those in London? Click here to listen wherever you get your podcasts.
Your Mill briefing
The Hallé has a new leader, or will do from September next year, when the 36-year-old Singaporean Kahchun Wong takes over as Principal Conductor. It’s very big news in the world of classical music — Elder has been in post for almost a quarter of a century and he’s credited with transforming the fortunes of the Hallé and re-establishing it as one of the country’s best symphony orchestras. Wong’s appointment is something of a surprise because he hasn’t done many concerts as a guest conductor. “He’s hardly a Hallé regular,” says one classical music watcher, who notes that any appointment following Elder is going to be a big change. Elder, it was sometimes noted, has a property in Manchester but calls London home, which rankles with some concertgoers. “I would love him [Wong] to move to Manchester and really make the city his base,” the source adds. “It feels like the perfect time for a conductor-as-citizen to enter the fold in Manchester.” As a taster of what’s to come, you can see Wong conduct the Hallé tomorrow evening, playing Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Book your £10 tickets here.
And what about the opera? When the English National Opera narrowed its search for a non-London base down to five cities in early May, it said it would create a shortlist of three by the end of last month. So far, there’s no sign of that. Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Nottingham were among the five, plus Greater Manchester of course, the most sensible destination for this move (as we’ve been arguing for ages). Liverpool’s leaders seem to be frustrated with the process, recently writing to the government to seek “assurances that there is no substance to the reports we have heard of government officials seeking to apply pressure for Manchester and Birmingham’s bid to be successful as an addendum to their ‘Trailblazer Devolutions’ deals”. But what is Greater Manchester’s bid? We’ve been told it’s a rare moment of collaboration between Manchester and Salford, in which The Lowry in Salford Quays and Aviva Studios (the new name for the soon-to-be-opened Factory International) would both host ENO concerts. The two councils, whose relations seem to be de-frosting after years of bitter competition, haven’t decided where the ENO’s office space would be if the bid was successful, but it suggests they think Manchester’s £210m new venue can offer the acoustics required by opera after all.
A £50,000 reward has been offered for help catching a gunman who killed two men at a party in Moss Side. Junior Ajose, 36, and Cheriff Tall, 21, were killed in the summer of 2020. GMP’s Neil Higginson said the force has a “good understanding of what occurred that night and we do have an outstanding suspect, but we need more evidence". The police have already interviewed 300 people as part of the investigation. Go deeper: Read our profile of Jayvon Morgan, a close friend of Tall’s, looking at what violent crime leaves behind in communities like Moss Side.
Walk Ride GM, an active travel campaigning group, are calling for TfGM to launch an urgent review into Greater Manchester’s cycle hire scheme after lots of users have reported not being able to find bikes in the city centre. “The operator, Beryl, has struggled to deliver,” says Harry Gray from Walk Ride GM, “with many bikes going missing and stolen.” Gray says that it has become “almost impossible” to hire a bike in the region, inhibiting the launch of Andy Burnham’s Bee Network. Got something to tell us about this? We’re doing more on it next week, and the wider progress of cycling schemes in the Bee Network, so please email email@example.com with your thoughts and info.
A bridge, a barge and no one in charge
By Jack Dulhanty
It’s a cold day in April and I’m standing on the top deck of an 1880s Dutch barge named La Pinta, drawing in rope. “Heave, ho!” shouts David, an 86-year-old military veteran from York, who is taking on the bulk of the work. “Heave, ho!” The rope is thick, wet and heavy, covered in a green bile that stains your skin. To my left, skeins of fog hover, shadowless, over the water in Salford Quays.
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