Discover more from The Mill
Manchester's new park in the sky
Plus: the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear Millers — the newly restored Castlefield Viaduct opens this Saturday after half a century of disuse. The National Trust has spent the last five months bedding in 3,000 different plant species, turning a Grade II listed Victorian viaduct into a sky park. Visiting last Friday, Andy Burnham said: “it’s really something quite special.” We find out what you can expect.
As usual, we've got a great list of recommendations to get stuck into for the week ahead, including a book launch for Milk Teeth, the new novel by Jessica Andrews, who won the 2020 Portico Prize. There is also a street festival in Castlefield and an exhibition about the ‘Golden Age’ of greeting cards.
At the weekend we published a great piece by Frank Owen. After living in America for 30 years, he wrote about how much Manchester has changed since he moved away.
Last week, Mill members got a colourful piece about what it was like for people working in Manchester through the hottest day on record, including an ice cone seller on Market Street. They also got a report by Jack Dulhanty that takes a look inside Manchester’s asylum seeker hotel in our Thursday edition.
Residents are allowed to leave the hotel, signing in and out as they go, but they have their attendance monitored at meal times. “If you get three meals, that’s okay, that means you're staying at the hotel,” says one.
The problem with attending three meals a day is that — according to the people we have spoken to — the meals are bad. “They don't provide a proper amount of vegetables, fruits and so on for children,” one ex-resident told us. “For more than five meals I've seen those kids eating either chicken nuggets or fish fingers.”
In response to these allegations, Serco told us: “We are reviewing the quality of the food being provided at this hotel to make sure it is meeting the required standards.”
To get stories like those in your inbox and support independent, thoughtful and well-researched journalism in Greater Manchester, hit that button below.
This week’s weather ⛅️
Our forecast comes from our local weather man Martin, who says the second half of this week “will offer the best of the summer sunshine.”
Tuesday 🌥 Cool and breezy with fleeting sunny intervals. Max 18°c
Wednesday ⛅️ Warmer with patchy cloud and sunny intervals. The best of the sunshine will be during the morning. Max 21°c
Thursday 🌦 Sunny intervals with the small chance of a shower. Max 21°c
Friday 🌤 Dry and warm with a generous offering of sunny spells. Max 23°c
Weekend 🌦 Warm, but there will be an increased risk of showers. Temps 21-23°c.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Manchester’s park in the sky
Top line: Tickets to the new “sky park” on Castlefield Viaduct are available from today. The park opens on Saturday after months of work by the National Trust planting trees, flowers and shrubs.
The viaduct was built in 1892, and carried goods into the Great Northern Warehouse.
It has been disused since its closure in 1969, during which time, some wild flowers began to grow there.
Now, there are 3,000 different plant species on the viaduct’s walkway, including cotton grass — Manchester’s county flower — and diagonal blossom hedges mimicking the Grade II listed structure’s latticed steelwork. “It’s a collision of everything that the National Trust stands for,” says the trust’s director general, Hilary McGrady.
Gardening in the air has proved challenging. Higher winds cause plant beds to dry out faster, and no accessible water means it has to be carried up in tanks. Then there’s the problem of weight. The age of the structure means planners have to be careful — and innovative.
They have been experimenting with lightweight, peat-free compost for planting.
Bizarrely, the number of people allowed on the viaduct at any one time will be limited to 20. There'll be 100 tickets available a day, split across five 45-minute slots.
Comparisons have been made with New York’s iconic High Line — another disused railway brought back to life in 2009. The scale is somewhat different: Castlefield Viaduct is 330 metres long, about a fifth of the size of the High Line. Plus: Castlefield isn’t New York…
Especially if you listen to local tour guide Jonathan Schofield, who laments how Castlefield’s industrial buildings look scruffy and uncared for, and says the viaduct plans should have pushed the council to bring the rest of the area up to speed. “[The viaduct] is, was, or should have been the big opportunity, to get the public areas up to scratch, fix the lift, sort the stairs, mow, clip, weed.”
Context: The National Trust started work on the viaduct in March. Saturday is the beginning of phase one of the project, running from July 2022 to June 2023.
It precedes more permanent plans, to be submitted later this year.
It is costing £1.8m, with future plans expected to cost £20m.
Bottom line: The viaduct’s first phase is essentially a living consultation, part of the National Trust’s move into more urban areas and post-industrial landscapes — something which is becoming more common across GM. For example, a group of post-industrial landscapes in Wigan are set to become the region’s first national nature reserve.
Tickets for the viaduct are available from the National Trust’s website, but some people are reporting difficulties getting them.
Home of the week
This delightful 3-bedroom house in Worsley is a short walk from Bridgewater Canal. It has a lovely garden and bright, airy rooms. It’s on the market for £395,000.
Your Mill news briefing
Today, the court of appeal unanimously rejected Rotala Plc's appeal against a High Court judgement that found Andy Burnham's implementation of a bus franchising system to be legal. Rotala Plc owns Diamond Bus Ltd, which operates services across Greater Manchester, and opposes a franchised bus system. Burnham said that defeating the challenge paves the way for similar schemes across the North. "This is brilliant news for the people of Greater Manchester. We were always very confident that GMCA had followed all correct legal processes and that the decision to franchise buses and bring them under public control was lawful and right."
There have been calls for assisted dying laws to be changed after Graham Mansfield, from Hale, killed his terminally ill wife. Campaigners say MPs "cannot ignore" the issue any longer, and want a public inquiry into the law. Coroners say they are dealing with more cases of people who "want to take control at the end of life". Speaking about Mansfield, Nathan Stilwell, of Humanists UK, told the Times: "this is another traumatic case in which a family was forced to take a drastic decision because a compassionate route was unavailable."
Strikes will cause serious disruption to the rail and Metrolink networks on Wednesday. Trams on the Altrincham line will only operate between Altrincham and Timperley from 7am to 7pm. Piccadilly station will be closed from 7am on Wednesday till the same time Thursday. It is likely the strikes will affect journeys on Tuesday and Thursday too, so TfGM is advising passengers to regularly check the status of their journey for the next three days.
Pet dogs will be allowed to travel on the Metrolink in a two month trial starting in August. They have been banned from boarding trams since the Metrolink's inauguration in 1992 (guide dogs have always been allowed). Campaigners have been trying to get their dogs on trams since Manchester City Council reviewed its bylaws in 2013 and kept the ban in place. Phil Bradby, founder of the Campaign to Allow Dogs on Trams group, told The Mill: "it’s great to see that the message is getting through at last. Many people need to take their pets on the tram to go to the vet, travel to a park or visit family and friends. There is no good reason to ban dogs from travelling on a public service." Please do send us your best photos of dogs commuting in from Audenshaw and East Didsbury next month.
Our favourite reads
‘As an African cellist, I’ve always been looking for a home’ — The Observer
Cellist Abel Salaocoe, who performs with Manchester Collective, is from a township in Johannesburg. When he was 13, he won a scholarship to South Africa’s equivalent to Eton, St John’s College. His mother worked as a cleaner for a well-off family and lived away from home. They were in disbelief that “their maid’s son was going to St John’s College.” Later, after Selaocoe moved to Manchester, his mother’s employers paid for her to come and hear him perform at the Bridgewater Hall. "She was fascinated by the place but one thing she advocates for is groundedness,” he told Kate Kellaway. “When she sees a lot of people, she has this idea that you can easily be taken by the current. She was really happy to see me but said: ‘Stay on the ground.’”
How I Became a Bingo Champion — Ian Burke, Medium.com
Mancunian Ian Burke, who runs a blog about the joys of bus journeys, has written about his memories of his 90-year-old Nana Meg’s brilliance at bingo (a sequel to a previous piece about her recipe for tater ash, “Manchester in a bowl”). They’d go to the Astoria in Hyde together for a night of “high-octane dabbing”. The bingo hall has since been bulldozed. “She had cataracts on both eyes, muffled hearing, and fingers gnarled into bonsai trees after years of chronic arthritis. It robbed her of the dexterity that made her the personal seamstress to a clutch of mountaineers and adventurers. However, filled with the spirit of competition, she marched into the Astoria, bought a handbag full of game strips, and set up her bingo playing field to precise measurements,” he writes.
Author Lemn Sissay, who is Chancellor at the University of Manchester, gathered 59 people who experienced care to create a group portrait to inspire young people in care today. Sissay was born in Wigan in 1967, and was put into “long-term foster care” against his mother’s wishes — his memoir My Name is Why, outlines his 34-year campaign to retrieve his care records from Wigan council. Manchester’s poet and playwright Louise Wallwein MBE, who we interviewed last year, was one of the people in Sissay’s group photo. “I was born in the era of forcible adoption — my mother was coerced into giving me up,” Louise says in the Observer.
The legend of Manchester Corinthians — Manchester Evening News
"It is silly to think of women playing football and cricket as to imagine a man comfortably darning stockings by the fireside,” wrote a reporter for the Manchester Courier on the spectacle of seeing women on the pitch in 1895. We thought this was an interesting article about the history of women’s football in Manchester, including the huge achievements of the Manchester Corinthians Ladies Football Club, which was formed in 1949, and once played in front of crowds in Portugal totalling 50,000. The sport was considered “unsuitable” for women, so the FA banned women’s football from their grounds.
Our to do list
📚 The Portico Library is hosting the launch of author Jessica Andrews’ eagerly anticipated new novel Milk Teeth. Her debut novel Saltwater won the 2020 Portico Prize. Starts 6pm. Book here
🔍 Boltonians are being invited to be part of a dig at Hulton Park, working alongside a team of archaeologists from the University of Salford. The community dig will hopefully uncover some important secrets from the past. Info here.
🎸 German indie pop band Giant Rooks will be performing at Manchester Academy on Oxford Road. Their songs are upbeat and catchy, perfect for summer. Starts 7.30pm. Book here.
🖼 HOME is presenting a new exhibition from Pool Arts, an organisation that helps artists who are isolated or disadvantaged. It’s called Random Acts of Kindness and features a wide range of mixed media work including painting, drawing, and collage. Starts 6pm. Info here.
👨🍳 There’s a Vietnamese cooking class in Didsbury. You’ll learn how to make three courses, including Vietnamese chicken salad and lime caramel fish. Starts 7.15pm. Book here (scroll down to 29 July, ‘Cooking Together — Vietnamese’).
📚 Manchester Poetry Library has a free exhibition in collaboration with the Special Exhibitions Museum that explores the relationship between poetry and pictures on greeting cards printed between 1840 and 1920, the era known as the ‘Golden Age’. Book here.
💻 Power UP is an interactive gaming experience at the Science and Industry Museum. You’ll be able to play some of the best video games from the past five decades, including Pacman, Street Fighter and Mario. Book here.
🎭 On Saturday, “street theatre with a twist” Castlefield Follies will be putting on a weekend of “wicked, weird and wonderful” performances at the Roman Fort, Arena and around Castlefield. Included are “dancers getting very wet”, a giant wolf and an even bigger lobster, plus circus performers coming to a grisly end. Starts 2pm. Info here.