‘They sing chants about being vegetarians and eating hummus’
Chorlton's football ‘yobbos’ are like no other
Dear Millers — following the peace and goodwill generally associated with the festive period, we’re crashing back into your inboxes with something a little different: neighbourhood tension, low-level drama and some very niche strategic environmental inquiries (moth survey, anyone?).
Community football club West Didsbury and Chorlton AFC have gone from strength to strength over the past few years. But for some Chorltonville residents, the swelling of foot traffic and fans in the area has challenged their patience. We sent Mollie to investigate the ins and outs of why certain residents are absolutely not having a ball when it comes to the Beautiful Game dominating their neighbourhood.
But before we get there — the Home Office looks at a hotel in the leafy suburb of Hale (popularly associated with footballers and bougie eateries) to house asylum seekers, plus: our guide to what’s coming up in 2023.
As usual, our Thursday edition is for Mill members, but if you’re not a member you will still be able to read a few bits at the top. But, be in no doubt: you are missing out and should immediately make the tiny investment of £7 a month so you can start reading all of our lovely culture writing, local political analysis, eye-opening long reads and important reporting on heated rows about football clubs in affluent South Manchester suburbs.
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Your Mill briefing
The Corn Exchange — the 190,000 sq ft Grade II listed retail space near the Arndale — has been sold to an unnamed property investor in the Middle East for £43m. That's £24m less than Aviva, the sellers, paid for it back in 2005. We won't bore you with inflation-adjusted loss calculations, but it doesn’t seem like a great deal, especially considering the property boom that has taken place in the city during that time. Nevertheless, Will Andrews, a spokesperson for KLM Real Estate (who helped broker the deal) said Aviva took the Corn Exchange "from being a second-fiddle shopping centre to the Arndale on quite an intense journey to where it is today. They created a space that the people of Manchester want to be in.” Which feels debatable.
The new leader of Trafford Council has been named and it's Tom Ross, 41, the council's ex-lead on finance and governance. It comes after previous leader Andrew Western was comfortably elected as MP in the Stretford and Urmston by-election last month, taking 70% of the vote. Mill readers will have already had an inclination that Ross was in for the role, as we reported he was the obvious choice in our coverage in the run up to the contest. Ross said to lead the authority was "the privilege of a lifetime".
On the subject of Trafford: the Home Office might be looking at a hotel in leafy Hale to house 112 asylum seekers. A final decision is yet to be taken, but local MP Sir Graham Brady says the Ashley Hotel — set amongst high-end bars and restaurants, fro-yo destinations and tailors — would be “the most obviously inappropriate location you could imagine”. He has called for a meeting with Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, and said the proposals have already caused "considerable disquiet" in the village. Insight: Brady, the last Tory MP in the borough, is considered to be "massively at risk" at the next election, sources tell The Mill.
Glossop isn't technically in Greater Manchester, but we like to think of it as clinging to the edge of Tameside by its pinky toe. And new data says it is something of a high-street darling. Analysts have found increased activity in town centres and high streets — as opposed to the city, where it has decreased — and Glossop is one of the top performers. The town has seen a 33% increase in activity between 2019-2022, according to anonymised phone data.
Tony Redmond OBE, the founder of front-line medical aid charity UK-Med, has stepped down as chair of the organisation. Redmond has spent 29 years in the role, and in the last two UK-Med has responded to 22 calls in 21 countries, including Myanmar, Yemen and Ukraine. You can read our long-read on Redmond here, and listen to us interviewing him on our podcast below.
The cities keeping their car-free spaces: Finally, as readers will know, The Mill is a fan of more pedestrianisation in the city centre, and we enjoyed this read in Bloomberg about the cities around the world that are prioritising public space. "In the last three years, many cities have taken back streets and parking lots from cars, turning them into dining and play areas for pedestrians. And as biking boomed, some governments fast-tracked efforts to make major city arteries safer and more accessible for cyclists". After reading, we were deflated by how little these policies seem to resemble the ones here, and took to the office chaise longue for a lie down. Images of drab wooden platforms and forlorn shipping containers swirled before our eyes.
🎧 Listen to our podcast
In our latest podcast, Joshi and Darryl talk about their new year festivities — mostly spent on trains — and look into the subject of today’s newsletter: a budding football club that has become a bone of contention in a quiet corner of Chorlton.
They also talk about how rising energy costs are putting local sports clubs in Greater Manchester at risk, what to look forward to in 2023 and who might be stealing your parcels. Listen on your favourite streaming platform here.
What we’re looking forward to this year
We asked the team what’s in their diaries for the year ahead.
📚 January: It’s winter, we’re all sleepy. The House of Books & Friends, a cosy independent bookshop in a gothic building on King Street, conjures dreams of book dates and finding a bit of respite in a chaotic city — and a portion of their profits go towards charities that combat social isolation. More here.
🏛 February: Following a £15 million metamorphosis, Manchester Museum will be reopening on 18th February — with new spaces such as the South Asia Gallery (opened in partnership with the British Museum), the Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery, the Belonging Gallery, a new dinosaur display and a gold-laden exhibition on the Golden Mummies of Egypt.
🌱 March: The Northern Vegan Festival is based in Stretford, offering a massive selection of innovative vegan food, skincare and beauty products from over one hundred independent traders. A standard ticket is £5.
🎸 April: Sounds From The Other City festival is returning on spring Bank Holiday weekend, scattering up-and-coming local artists at quirky venues across Chapel Street in Salford, which include a trading estate, a parish church and a pub on the side of the river. Tickets are steep at £40, but it’s a great chance to be able to say “I saw them live before they were all cool.”
🗳 May: Expect high political theatre in this year's local elections. This time round, they'll be "all-out" elections in Trafford, Oldham, Stockport and Bolton. So all council seats in these boroughs will be up for grabs, with each borough containing its own tribulations. The Tories in Stockport will be looking to stem the bleeding after disastrous results last May, and Labour will look to re-take the council from the Lib Dems. Ex-Oldham Council leader Arooj Shah will be hoping to make a comeback after she was deposed by what she describes as a "smear campaign" in 2022. Bolton will have its usual patchwork of hyperlocal parties to keep an eye on, with Labour hoping to end up as the biggest party. The Green Party, led by Astrid Johnson, is expected to make more gains in Trafford as well as in Manchester. Watch this space.
🌞 June: The £210 million arts venue Factory International is finally opening its doors. It has a lot to live up to — the hype, the spectacularly blown budget, and its location, with the building constructed on the site of the former Granada television studios. So will it be an instant classic or a white elephant? See for yourself.
🎭 July: Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play — the inaugural winner of the International Award for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2019 — will be open at the Royal Exchange from June to late July. It's been described as a "stunningly observed and sharply comic" meditation on Asian stereotyping and "wrestling history for the right to control your own narrative in a world that thinks it can tell you who you are". Theatre-heads may recall the news last year that, in a stunning coincidence, Miss Saigon will be playing at the Sheffield Crucible at the same time Untitled F*ck M*ss S**gon Play is playing at the Royal Exchange.
🏳️🌈 August: Manchester Pride will be held over the Bank Holiday weekend, a five-day extravaganza including a concert, parade, party, and myriad other events and celebrations. Pride has attracted a lot of criticism and negativity in recent years for the way it distributes funds to charities and the way the business is run. Listen to our very revealing podcast interview with Manchester Pride’s CEO earlier this year, in which he answers his critics.
🚴♀️ September: On 3rd September, cycling’s Tour of Britain eight-day race will start in Manchester city centre, which makes sense, because apparently “our velodrome is internationally renowned as a gold medal factory,” says Manchester City Council's John Hacking. We’re overexcited for some fanfare surrounding a non-football sporting event in this city.
🍻 October: Yes, there is Halloween, but a better use of everyone's time is Oktoberfest. Usually taking place in Manchester in early to mid-October, it'll celebrate the 188th such festival, granted for a shorter time than it is celebrated in Germany. Albert's Schloss will naturally become the epicentre but we recommend trying out some of the more authentic affairs that cropped up under big gazebos at Platt Fields Park in 2022 — with thousands of litres of beer imported from Bavaria and traditional Oompah bands playing — and are set to return this year.
🕺 November: There are always impressive lineups at The Warehouse Project, but no more so than at HOMOBLOC, a celebration of queer music and culture which runs all day and night. We loved I. JORDAN, Self Esteem and Róisín Murphy’s performances last year, and next year will be a sure highlight.
🎤 December: There’s no exact date set yet for the opening of Co-op Live, the brand new 23,500-capacity arena in East Manchester, that will be the UK’s largest indoor arena — but we know it’s coming in the final month of a year dedicated to huge cultural spaces. Alongside the arena, expect access to 32 bars and restaurants — perhaps as well as access to Redditch heartthrob Harry Styles, one of the investors in the arena.
Half a million in funding, big ideas for change
In Wythenshawe, a women’s group was recently granted £500,000 to enhance the services of ten charities in the area and empower women to decide for themselves where they think funding should go. Charities such as Lifted, who work with female carers to offer them financial support, will receive a total of around £20,000 in instalments over the next three years.
“It’s making women feel stronger about themselves,” Sue, a family support worker at Lifted Carers, told us. “You’re not just a little woman at home, do you know what I mean? You’re powerful. You can be a powerful woman.”
To find out more about the Women of Wythenshawe, click here.
In Chorlton, the Beautiful Game is causing ugly tensions
By Mollie Simpson
“They behave like yobbos,” Mary says, sitting with a blanket on her lap. Next to her, a cup of tea in a blue garland china cup on a side table (her name has been changed to protect her anonymity). “Screaming and shouting and yelling. As far as I’m concerned, it’s bad behaviour.”
Mary lives on Brookburn Road, in an affluent neighbourhood in Chorltonville next to the training grounds of West Didsbury and Chorlton AFC. It’s also known as ‘West’, a non-league football club which plays in the premier division of the North West Counties League, with an affiliated women’s team, a junior’s team and a veteran’s club. Around 350 children play in the junior team and the team is committed to being a community club which welcomes everyone.
The club is enjoying a bigger following, partly thanks to the pandemic forcing people away from Premier League matches at huge stadiums and into the stalls at their local football club, and also due to their promotion last April. When Matt Durrant started attending West matches ten years ago, there would be around 100 people there. Now, crowds reach over a thousand.
To get to the football pitch, they walk down Brookburn Road, past the houses and down a little path that leads onto the pitch. A small but fierce gang of local residents in Chorltonville are unhappy about the footfall and the club’s success. In a recent MEN article, local resident Jonathan Green declared "the quality of life in this area is just going to plummet.”
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