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Is Manchester really the worst city in Europe for clean transport? We take a look
Plus: The reviews roll in for Manchester International Festival
Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s Mill briefing, which delves into the question of whether Manchester really is the “worst city in Europe for clean and green transport”, as a story in yesterday’s Observer reported, and brings you some excellent recommendations for the week ahead. Plus: scroll down for our Home of the Week, an enticing 2-bed in Dunham Massey with a very spacious garden.
This email goes out to 35,393 Millers after a nice bounce in new readers over the weekend. If you know someone who might enjoy The Mill, please forward this edition and encourage your friends to sign up. So much of our growth has been down to many of you telling friends and sending our stories around, so thanks and please keep it up. Every recommendation gives us a great boost.
Sophie’s weekend read about Manchester’s new £210m arts venue Aviva Studios, and the Manchester International Festival that it was built for, has sparked more tweets, comments and responses than anything else we’ve published this year. Lots of people shared it on Twitter, with one reader calling it “a bravura piece” and another writing: “This is such a good read. Written by someone who knows their stuff but is not in the milieu.” Another tweeted: “I’ve been asking the same question about MIF since the beginning. It’s not really ‘for’ local people.” If you haven’t read it yet, do click below.
There was a big discussion in the comments under the piece (only members can comment), with some arguing that MIF “leaves me completely cold” and others arguing that Aviva Studios does in fact have a clear remit: “The whole point of the thing is that it's going to commission new work which could cover any manner of disciplines,” wrote one member. “Now while that may sound vague in terms of detail, it is necessarily so.” It’s not too late to join the debate.
Coming up this week, we have two fantastic members-only stories. Tomorrow, we investigate the old tale of two Manchester businessmen who got into trouble over a silent film that outraged half — but only half — of the country. On Thursday, we bring you the story we meant to publish last week, about a very high-profile property development in the city centre that has apparently been undermined by a “noisy minority”. Can property developers create “real community” in new developments — and are they prepared for what real community looks like? If you’re not a Mill member yet, this would be a very good week to join so you can read both of those pieces.
A rare chance to explore one of Manchester’s most storied buildings
From our sponsor: It once brought in business people and tourists from across the country, many arriving at the grand old Victorian station in high-speed trains from London St Pancras. Nowadays, renowned conference and events venue Manchester Central attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the world, providing a massive boost to the local economy via events like the Convention of the North and the Manchester Art Fair. In fact, it’s estimated that for every £1 delegates spend at Manchester Central, £6 gets spent in the city’s restaurants, cafes and shops. Next Wednesday (the 12th) you can explore one of Manchester’s most important buildings yourself at a special Open House event. It’s a rare chance to learn more about the venue’s amazing history since its distinctive railway arches were built in 1880, including the times it hosted New Order and The Smiths. Book your free tour now before they all sell out.
🌦️ This week’s weather
Tuesday 🌦️ Breezy with sunny spells and heavy showers. Max 16C.
Wednesday 🌦️ Sunny spells and showers, though less widespread compared to Tuesday. Max 17C.
Thursday 🌥️ Mostly dry with hazy sunny spells. Warmer. Max 20C.
Friday 🌤️ Much warmer with long sunny spells. Max 25C.
Weekend 🌦️ Warm with some sunshine but always a risk of showers and thunderstorms developing, as low pressure will be close to the west. Temperatures in the low twenties.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Is Greater Manchester really at the bottom of the clean transport table?
Top line: In last week’s big story, we covered the travails of the Greater Manchester cycle hire scheme. Over the weekend, the organisation Clean Cities went further, brandishing Greater Manchester the worst of 42 major cities in Europe for shared and electric mobility.
In a brutal assessment, GM was given an F grade — with only Dublin for company at the bottom of the class. (School swots Copenhagen and Oslo were the only ones to net an A). That puts it behind the other UK cities included in the study — London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Birmingham.
Reasons for failing: According to the report, Greater Manchester does badly because it has:
A very small number of shared bikes and e-scooters.
A negligible number of shared electric cars.
Only a fraction of its buses are zero emission (though they acknowledge that once new electric buses are delivered in 2023, the city region will move up — all the way to an E).
GM does a bit better on electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, though with 12kW available per 1,000 population, it’s got less than a tenth of the capacity of top performer Amsterdam.
The pushback: As you’d expect, few are taking this lying down. Objectors have pointed to what they see as the study’s two main flaws:
Firstly, it doesn’t include the MetroLink, GM’s most important form of shared, electric transport. The technical report comments that it planned to recognise “the contribution of other potentially zero-emission public transport modes within cities (e.g. metro, tram etc.)... however, despite requesting information directly from cities to calculate the indicator on this basis, the required data was not consistently available for all 42 cities.” It’s questionable, anyway, as to how much including MetroLink would help GM’s case. Although our tram network is extensive in UK terms, it still lags some way behind a lot of European comparators.
Secondly, there’s the age-old question of where you draw the city boundaries. The data includes all of Greater Manchester, with a population of over 2.8 million, but within GM, the cycle hire scheme only covers the urban core. The city region was one of the largest included in the study (although smaller than Greater London, Berlin and Madrid, which all perform better). In smaller cities like Copenhagen (population: 644,000) it’s easier — unsurprisingly — to have wide coverage of shared mobility.
Scooters: Greater Manchester is also behind the curve on e-scooters. A trial in Rochdale and Salford is currently underway in preparation for a roll-out. But not every city thinks they’re the way forward. In a referendum in Paris, voters decided to ban shared e-scooters, amid concerns around security and their potential for cluttering the streets.
It’s all relative: Many of those taking to Twitter were quick to point out that GM fares a lot better for clean transport than other British cities — such as Bristol and Leeds (neither of which have a tram network). But others recognised that there may be some truth in the idea of GM being behind its European competitors. Similarly sized Berlin has a much larger tram network, and Lyon’s cycle hire scheme has 5,000 bikes, compared to the (in theory) 1,500 here.
Bottom line: None of this should overshadow the progress that has been made and continues to be made in GM to make it easier to get around by public transport and active travel. Our tram network has grown at a rapid rate over the past decade. But, with the exception of London, all UK cities lag behind what’s considered normal in much of Europe. Fixing the cycle hire scheme and rolling out more zero-emission buses are the top priorities to clean up GM’s transport.
Your Mill briefing
Is Manchesterisation a thing? At a Bolton Council meeting last week, the “Bolton for Change” party — one of a few hyperlocals in the area — sparked a debate after a petition it circulated, calling for a referendum on leaving the Greater Manchester conurbation, secured 3,000 signatures. Dylan Evans, a BFC councillor, said: "We contribute millions of pounds per year and we get little back apart from a few yellow buses which won’t run on time.” Bolton was incorporated into GM 50 years ago, having previously been part of Lancashire. The motion was cut down pretty swiftly, but Tory opposition leader Martyn Cox said: “I would caution we don't see too much ‘Manchesterisation’ because within Greater Manchester we've got a number of towns with strong identities and they don’t want to lose these identities.” What do you reckon? Is your area at risk of losing its identity to Manchesterisation?
Sacha Lord wants to take the government to court again. You may remember him taking the government to court over lockdown rules in 2021. Well this time, the founder of Parklife and the nighttime advisor to the mayor is at loggerheads with the Home Office over drugs testing. That’s where illegal substances can be tested at festivals and events — either after being confiscated or handed in — and warnings can be issued if any are found to be particularly dangerous. Lord says that, at Parklife last month, it was sprung on him that he would need a licence to perform these checks, something the Home Office says has always been the case. Lord claims that he and other festival owners weren’t properly consulted in time. A letter co-signed by the Night Time Industries Association — which Lord chairs — demands the government allow testing to go ahead without a licence while festival owners go through the process of obtaining one. If the powers that be don’t respond by 7 July, legal action will begin.
The Stock Exchange Grill — the restaurant that took over from the Bull & Bear in the very grand, domed dining room of Gary Neville’s Stock Exchange Hotel — has closed four months after opening. The eatery was opened by brothers Daniel and Joe Schofield, who own Sterling, a splashy cocktail bar under the hotel. In a statement, they confirmed the restaurant would continue to serve hotel guests, but for now most of their energy would be focussing on developing the bar.
And some exciting news from the Tour de France: Adam Yates, from Bury, won the opening stage of the race. He beat his brother, Simon, to take the yellow jersey and his first Grand Tour stage.
Our favourite reads
untitled f*ck m*ss s**gon play, a spoofy reworking of the musical theatre classic Miss Saigon which is currently showing at the Royal Exchange, is an “assured production” that takes aim “at a century of Asian stereotypes in western culture”, according to this review. The play begins in 1906 with Kim, a peasant who falls in love with a hunky American who returns to her four years later, promising to give her child a better life in America and leaving Kim to commit suicide. The scene is repeated throughout the play, showing how Hollywood “repeatedly embeds the same tropes: demure submissive women, macho heroic men, America itself as white saviour incarnate.”
The large-scale installation of Yayoi Kusama’s inflatable polka dot-covered yellow and pink pumpkins and tentacles at Aviva Studios is a reminder of how going big can “achieve something simple”, according to this Guardian review. While the inflatables could be seen as freakish, strange and vacant, as an expression of Kusama’s lifetime struggle with poor mental health, this exhibition reminds us, instead, of the artist’s need to make her work as large as possible in order to reach as many people as possible. “In its generosity, the inflation of Kusama’s vision expresses a desperate, unguarded need to be understood… She wants to reach out, to be felt, to be understood. It’s the artistic impulse at its least veiled. The bigness is a largeness of heart. You sense that, and feel happy, satisfied, alive.”
A Queer Revolutionary Classic Book, Now Onstage With Music — The New York Times
“There are two important things to remember about the coming revolutions,” begins the musical adaptation of the book The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions, which debuted at Manchester International Festival last Thursday. “The first is that we will get our [expletive] kicked. The second is that we will win.” The play charts the rise of an imperialist capitalist patriarchy that is eventually overthrown by a revolutionary queer coalition, and incorporates baroque music, folk dancing and “feats of technical bravado” such as characters being moved about on stage while playing complex music on the viola.
Home of the week
This two bedroom hideaway in Dunham Massey has a large rear garden, as well as a quant kitchen with exposed brick and a log burner. It’s on the market for £300,000.
Our to do list
🎨 The work of Albrecht Dürer, a leading figure of the German Renaissance and acclaimed painter, printmaker and artist, is now on display at the Whitworth until March next year. The exhibition explores his graphic art, in which he represented everyday objects made by local manufacturers and craftspeople. The north west has an unrivalled collection of these works, due to a long history of acquisitions by local collectors. Visit for free.
🎭 He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, a new play at the Lowry exploring coercive control, was written by local charity worker and writer Anthea Cribbin, in partnership with young women in Manchester who have survived abusive relationships. The play was written as a “response to creatively engage teens [who were] reluctant to access professional services” and Cribbin hopes to open up conversations about how to access support. Tickets here.
📚 Ever fancied being a tourist in your own city? We recently enjoyed a tour of the stunning Chetham’s Library, the oldest surviving free library in the English-speaking world, best known for being a regular hangout for Marx and Engels. The tours of the beautiful medieval building last roughly an hour and there are slots available in the mornings and afternoons most days this week. Book here.
😆 On The Spot is a regular comedy night at Creatures Comedy Club in the Northern Quarter which asks the audience to make suggestions, forcing comedians to think up original material on the spot. The result is a spontaneous and fun evening with a few surprises along the way. Book here.
🎭 Our recommendation for Manchester International Festival this week is They by Kay Dick, a dystopian masterpiece set in the rolling hills of Sussex, where bland conformity rules and art is outlawed. Maxine Peake will perform a dramatic reading after hours in the John Rylands Library. Tickets here.
🎞️ There’s a short film festival at 53two in Deansgate, showing the best independent horror cinema from talented filmmakers. Tickets here.