A community tries to adjust to its new neighbour — a homeless hostel
Plus: What's sexy about fish?
Dear Millers — it’s Friday, and our to do list is packed with great ways to spend the weekend, from flea markets to book launches and beer festivals. But before any of that, we have two stories that sit on either end of the ever-widening spectrum of modern Manchester.
First, we mix it up with a crowd of influencers, property tycoons and local celebrities at the opening of Sexy Fish, a gaudy new restaurant launched by the permatanned London hospitality tycoon Richard Caring. Then, we look at how a leafy south Manchester community are dealing with a homeless hostel opening on their street. That’s all below.
A reminder from our friends at the Manchester Literature Festival: The best literary event in the North kicks off this weekend and runs until Sunday 22 October, featuring an incredible line-up of award-winning novelists, poets, actors, artists, activists, historians, musicians, broadcasters and emerging talent. The big names include Richard Armitage, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Doon Mackichan, Annie Macmanus, George Monbiot, Thurston Moore, Zadie Smith and Jeanette Winterson. To explore the full lineup, click this link here.
Your Mill briefing
Mark Hunter, the Lib Dem leader of Stockport Council, is calling on Manchester Airport to refuse flights that contain live endangered macaque monkeys destined for UK animal testing laboratories. Our investigation revealed that 2,245 long-tailed macaques were flown into Manchester Airport last year, a fact that the airport does not dispute but argues it is “not complicit” in. Since our story came out, Jane Smith, an animal rights activist based in Cheshire, has been putting pressure on the nine Greater Manchester councils that are shareholders in the airport to use their position to stop the flights. In a Stockport Council meeting on Wednesday evening, Hunter described the practice as “deplorable” and said he has already written to the airport about the flights but “didn’t receive a satisfactory response”. “I’m more than happy to work with any other council leaders to do what we can to press Manchester Airport to cease this very poor and deplorable practice,” he added. Know more about this story? Please get in touch with Mollie.
HS2: After Rishi Sunak’s decision to scrap the northern part of HS2, the government’s “Network North” plan — which was supposed to re-invest “every penny” of the HS2 savings in vital transport projects has already begun falling apart. See: its promise to extend Metrolink to Manchester airport — something that already happened, nearly a decade ago — and how the map on the front page of the plans relocates Manchester to somewhere around Preston. Local leaders have criticised Sunak’s decision to sell off land and properties acquired by compulsory purchase order to make way for the route because the sales will make it much harder for any future government to revive HS2 to Manchester in future — described by commentators as “salting the earth” so that a possible Labour government couldn’t deliver HS2. “We expected him to kick it into the long grass,” one source told the Guardian’s Helen Pidd. “We are now trying to understand where this leaves us. Selling off the land was unexpected.” All eyes are now on Manchester’s conference to see what Sir Keir Starmer is willing to commit to when it comes to northern transport. It would probably not be wise to hold your breath.
Student Haus, a student housing provider, is accused of falsifying the signature of a University of Salford student living in one of its buildings. The signature was allegedly pasted onto a waiver that said the students knew there was “outstanding maintenance to be completed,” when they moved into the property. Finley Heffernan, the student who says his signature was falsified and has been backed up by a forensic document examiner, said: "I still can't get my head around them doing it, it feels unreal.”
A surgeon who worked at North Manchester General and Royal Oldham Hospital has been struck off the medical register for calling Covid-19 a hoax. Muhammed Adil posted anti-vaccination comments online and appeared in videos "expressing his views about the Sars-CoV-2 virus, the Covid-19 pandemic and the proposed vaccination programme.” A tribunal found he used his position as a doctor to promote opinions that undermined public health guidelines.
Manchester City Council has cancelled bonfire night celebrations, forever. The council hasn’t held bonfire night celebrations since 2019 and after a review have said they will not be reinstated. Instead, there will be a “bespoke programme of autumn and winter park activities".
Sponsor message: Now home to Manchester Cathedral and Chetham's Library, the spot where the River Irk and the River Irwell meet was the centre of medieval Manchester. This stunning tile is available from The Sculpts, a local company founded by illustrator and architect Richard Bennett in 2020, which designs and makes beautiful homewares and textiles celebrating Manchester's history, heritage and culture. Check out the full range of tiles and artwork here.
Manchester’s newest restaurant is glad to be gaudy
By Jack Dulhanty
“Sexy Fish?” a man asked, walking up Deansgate last night. “What’s sexy about fish?” It’s a good question, one that Sexy Fish — Spinningfields’ newest restaurant — does its best to answer.
Mostly, the answer comes in the form of giant, theatrical sculptures. A flotilla of glittery swordfish, designed by the artist Damien Hirst, erupts from one wall, while giant columns shaped like tentacles and designed by Venetian glassmakers pulse with pink light. Fish-shaped lamps by the architect Frank Gehry frame a bar made of pink onyx.
Sexy Fish is unabashedly gaudy. It is as if the interior designer has thought of the legendary Coco Chanel advice, to always remove one accessory before you leave the house, and flipped it: more is more is more.
Why not add an indoor coral reef? And an aquarium, and a topless mermaid, and another one with areolas covered, and some shell lights? You turn from the staff’s waistcoats, covered in orange and blue fish, to see their managers are wearing blazers embroidered with starfish. You look up from the glowing marble floor to realise there’s also a waterfall behind the bar. You’ll go to the bathroom in the hopes of sensory decompression and be met by either burning hot pink or more hand-carved onyx.
So what about the food? It’s sushi, mainly. There’s also cuts of wagyu beef, tempura and yakitori skewers. Six pieces of sashimi here will set you back about £25. But it’s pretty clear that if you have come primarily for food, you’ve missed the point.
This, like so many places opening in Manchester right now, is somewhere to be seen. And Sexy Fish is something of a pioneer of that genre. This is the third Sexy Fish to be opened by Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings, which also owns The Ivy and has a major stake in Soho House. The other two are, alliteratively, in Mayfair and Miami. The Mayfair restaurant, opened in 2015, has become synonymous with Instagrammability but has been known to slip on food.
Last night, Caring lapped the restaurant in a black leopard print dinner jacket, flanked by security and speaking to almost no one. There were dancers appended with fins and scales on podiums who seemed contractually obliged to hold eye-contact with you should you look at them. Servers ferried perilously sushi-laden trays past a full-wall fish tank.
The MEN refers to Sexy Fish as a “celeb haunt”, so I am hopeful: will I see a movie star? The reality is a little less glittering. The crowd is made up of hospitality’s great and good, property developers, sub-celebrities (an ex Real Housewife of Cheshire stands on your humble correspondent’s toe, a couple of Corrie and ex-Corrie stars dot the edges of the room), and journalists. But, mostly, it is influencers, as luminous and heavily adorned as the Hirst sculptures.
Once Sexy Fish officially opens next week, you can expect it will rely heavily on those looking to take selfies in its incredibly pink bathroom. And, less so on the ones who have already had all the free margaritas and hors d'oeuvres they could stomach before going for a kebab.
A community tries to adjust to its new neighbour — a homeless hostel
By Jack Dulhanty
Once, Daisy Bank Road in Longsight was part of a gated community of cotton merchants called Victoria Park. It was fenced off from the rest of the city and operated as a private community with its own toll gates and police service.
Even the names of its residents — Bernard Alexander, Julius Heyness, William Kessler — exuded wealth. Victoria Park was meant to be somewhere these leading citizens could find sanctuary. A short account of the park, published in 1937 as part of its centenary, said: “the Park was free from the atmospheric objection so common in Manchester, namely its smoke.”
It was also free of anyone who didn’t have the money or social clout to be there. But that couldn’t last forever, and the rapid expansion of south Manchester in the 1920s brought a public thoroughfare and tramline right through the middle of the park, and its residents bemoaned their community opening to the hoi polloi.
Since then, things have changed on Daisy Bank Road. “It is a mixed but quiet residential area,” says Jill Lovecy, a local councillor in Rusholme. “There’s not been any commercial-commercial development.” Most of the area is cheap low-slung student housing, plus the old villas and terraces from Victoria Park’s heyday, the ones people like Ford Madox Brown and Emmeline Pankhurst lived in.
And what could symbolise the area’s economic slide better than a building known locally as Methodist International House — a hostel opened to house vulnerable people who have presented to Manchester City Council as homeless? Before that, the building was accommodation for international students, which I’m told caused little fuss.
Apparently, that is no longer the case. “The drug dealers are around like a pack of wasps around a jam jar,” says Julian Craddock, a local landlord whose residents say they are frightened to leave their homes due to a rise in antisocial behaviour and open drug dealing, which they blame on the hostel’s residents.
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