Will this be the site of Greater Manchester’s next industrial revolution?
Plus: An flat in the former ‘Harrods of the North’ is up for sale, and the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear Millers — if you’re calling in sick at work today with a sore head, we don’t blame you. The Lionesses were in spectacular form last night and there are some great pictures of fans watching the Euros final unfold in Piccadilly Gardens. Also in this week’s briefing, we take a look at a big new development spanning Bury, Rochdale and Oldham, dubbed Atom Valley, which local leaders hope will become the “engine room of Greater Manchester’s next industrial revolution."
We witnessed a historic moment on Saturday morning as we walked along the re-opened Castlefield Viaduct with the first group of visitors since it was renovated and planted up by the National Trust. There are now 3,000 different plant species on the viaduct’s walkway, and members of the public are able to visit if they can get one of the (very scarce) tickets, which go on sale every Thursday at this link.
Our verdict? The flowers are beautiful and it’s exciting to see an old space revitalised. But we hope that after this pilot period, the National Trust makes the garden feel more organic and less like a wide, straight path with planters on both sides. The “garden in the sky” also needs to welcome a lot more visitors if it is going to become a real asset for the public — the current limit is 100 tickets per day and they are booked out all through August.
As ever, we have a great list of recommendations for you to do this week, including a play about stories from Ukraine at The Lowry, a relaxed art session at Manchester Art Gallery, plus a night of ‘Celtic dance’ music (think strobe lights mixed with traditional folk) at Band on the Wall. Plus, if you’d like to live in the former ‘Harrods of the North’ building, there’s a lovely flat up for sale in our ‘Home of the Week’ slot.
If you missed our weekend read, it was a fantastic piece about the search for a lost Manchester author called Jack Hilton. The story has quickly turned into one of our most popular long reads ever, with one new reader writing in this morning: “I signed up to The Mill after reading the best bit of journalism I’ve come across in a long time". On Twitter, Mohammed Amin wrote: “This is the kind of quality journalism you make possible as a subscriber. I had never heard of Jack Hilton before.”
The piece is a quest to rediscover a working class writer who caught the attention of Auden and Orwell. After being gripped by an intriguing book cover on the shelves of Salford’s Working Class Movement Library, Jack Chadwick set off on a mission to get Hilton back into print.
Last week, we published an interview with the man referred to as Manchester’s ‘foreign secretary’ — Mike Emmerich, a former Number 10 advisor who helped negotiate Greater Manchester’s historic devolution deal. That story was sent out to our 1,444 Mill members, who also received a report from the scene of a former mill in Oldham, where human remains have been found, suspected to be the bodies of missing Vietnamese nationals.
This week, we’ve got a piece about the ninth edition of the British Art Show, which features exhibitions across Manchester, and another packed Thursday edition to get Mill members ready for the weekend.
If you’d like to get an additional two Mill editions in your inbox each week, and support the renaissance of quality journalism in Greater Manchester, please hit that pink button below.
This week’s weather 🌤
Our forecast comes from our local weather man Martin Miles, who says we’re in for a warm and humid start to the week but “we will see plenty of sunshine as well.”
Tuesday 🌧 Cloudy, humid and windy, with spells of mainly light rain. Drier later in the day but remaining windy. Max 22°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Breezy with showery rain, slowly dying out during the afternoon to allow for a drier and brighter end to the day. Max 22°c.
Thursday 🌤 Much fresher with sunny spells and mostly dry conditions. Breezy PM. Max 18°c.
Friday 🌤 Dry and pleasant with sunny spells. Turning breezy PM. Max 18°c.
Weekend 🌤 Dry and bright with temperatures in the high teens. Warmer next week with dry weather set to prevail.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
Home of the week
This spacious 2-bedroom flat is in the Smithfield Building, Northern Quarter. The building once contained a department store known as the ‘Harrods of the North’, and the flat features cast iron pillars and a mezzanine. It’s on the market for £300,000.
Your Mill news briefing
You may have noticed that England's Lionesses won their Euro 2022 final last night. Two goals — one from Manchester United's Ella Toone and another from City's Chloe Kelly — secured the trophy. Toone’s story illustrates how quickly things have changed in women’s football. She grew up in Wigan and came up through the Manchester United youth system but had to leave to play for Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City because United didn’t have a senior women’s team. She returned to the red side of the city in 2018 when the team finally launched, and now finds herself as a star of the game and a role model for girls across the country, age 22.
You can watch Toone and her United teammates open their Super League season against Reading at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday 17th September (tickets start at £3), although we think they should move it to Old Trafford. Manchester City, whose winning goal and iconic shirt-off celebration last night are on all today’s front pages, will play last year’s runners-up Arsenal on Sunday 11th September (tickets start at £11) at Manchester City Academy Stadium, which is right next to the Etihad and is an easy walk from the city centre.
A 16-year-old girl was injured in a drive-by shooting in Moss Side last Friday. Police believe the shot, fired into a crowd of people on Quinney Crescent, was not intended for her. She was taken to hospital and is in a stable condition. The shooting comes as GMP has been accused of using "deeply racist tactics" in issuing letters to residents in Moss Side explaining that they'll be refused entry to the area's annual Caribbean celebrations because they have been identified as members or affiliates of street gangs.
Nazir Afzal, former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, starts as the University of Manchester's Chancellor today. Afzal is well known for pushing ahead with the first prosecution of grooming gangs in Rochdale two years after a decision had been made not to bring charges. Back in 2020, we spoke to Afzal about the process of reversing another prosecutor's decision, and the support he received from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer — then head of the prosecution service. “Keir was immensely supportive to me,” Afzal said. You can read that here.
Stockport Council's licensing committee is having a rough time, according to Private Eye. Earlier this month, committee member Alanna Vine was suspended from the Conservative party for retweeting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and describing a part of Manchester as "being like Somalia." And now, there are questions about the committee's newly appointed chair, Shan Alexander. She was convicted of causing death while driving without due care and attention in 2009, so having her chair a committee that mainly determines whether drivers are fit and proper to hold a license hasn't gone down well.
Remember the Golborne Spur? The contentious HS2 line, which would have carved through parts of south Manchester, was scrapped earlier this year. Well, after the national audit office found that £190m was wasted on Transpennine line improvements, the Scottish Broadcaster STV filed an FOI asking how much had been spent on the Golborne Spur before it was axed. £52m was spent on "feasibility and development work" before the spur was abandoned.
"My very first memory of Manchester as a kid was taking a bath,” says the writer Frank Owen in our latest podcast, talking about the origins of punk and his upbringing in the city. “Taking a tin bath in front of the fire, my mum would heat up a big iron kettle, my dad would get in, my mum would get in, my sister would get in and by the time I got in it would be black.” You can listen on Spotify here, or on Apple Podcasts below.
Big story: Where Greater Manchester’s next industrial revolution will begin
Top line: A huge development in north east Greater Manchester has been given the go-ahead. It is set to deliver 1.6 million square metres of employment space, 20,000 new jobs and 7,000 new homes. So what’s it all about?
Atom Valley is intended to be a manufacturing hub. It’s been called the “engine room of Greater Manchester’s next industrial revolution” by Andy Burnham, with a focus on high-value sectors like advanced materials production.
Context: On Friday the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) signed off a plan to turn an area that includes bits of Bury, Rochdale and Oldham into a Mayoral Development Zone (MDZ).
This means that local authorities in these areas will be supported by the GMCA in securing funding.
It’s part of the combined authority’s drive to level up within Greater Manchester, focusing on the north of the region.
Why this matters: Back in 2019, the government identified this area — which is mostly industrial parks and brownfield sites — as a “high potential opportunity” area. And local leaders know that the north of GM needs much better jobs — a major document last year described the north east of the city region as suffering from “relatively low incomes, low house prices, low qualifications, low economic activity, low proportions in higher managerial/professional occupations, and poor average health”.
The MDZ is composed of three sites: Northern Gateway — which straddles Bury and Rochdale; Kingsway Business Park — covering Rochdale and Oldham; and Stakehill industrial park — in Oldham.
Northern Gateway is by far the largest of the three, making up 1.2 million square metres of the MDZ. In 2020, the Northern Gateway site was reportedly shortlisted by Tesla as a possible site for a new factory, but they opted for a site in Berlin instead.
Bury Council Leader, Eamonn O’Brien, told The Mill:
It's obviously really positive for my borough, but also for our neighbours in Rochdale and Oldham. Primarily because it's got enormous capacity, not just for any old business to set up in, it's got that strategic importance where you can attract the types of industries at scale that really do make a difference to the local economy.
Transport potential: This kind of development should strengthen the case for much better public transport in some of these areas This is particularly true in Rochdale, where Heywood hasn’t had regular passenger trains into it in over 50 years.
Rochdale Council Leader Neil Emmott told the local democracy reporting service:
The increased employment opportunities are going to open many, many more opportunities to improve transport links, that will be getting the train link back into Heywood — regular passenger trains for the first since 1969 and also bringing Metrolink into Middleton.
Atom Valley is regeneration on a scale equalling that of MediaCity back in 2007 and Airport City in 2012. Indeed, local politicians have described it as a “counterweight” to these other developments. However, large investment in jobs also requires a skilled population who can do those jobs. Otherwise, you end up having to import workers from, for instance, London, as we saw with MediaCity.
Bottom line: Some say let Atom Valley be the jumpstart, with skills catching up later. “I would say don't throw the baby out with the bathwater,” says economist Christian Spence. “Don't worry that there will be quite a large share — at least in the short term — of jobs coming from other places. That's your catalyst. You need something to start this thing.”
Our favourite reads
Manchester’s “Mother of the Sea” — Manchester Special Collections, Medium.com
What’s the connection between Manchester and post-WW2 Japan? A botanist called Kathleen Drew-Baker, whose research into seaweed had such an “extraordinary impact” in Japan that she became known as the ‘Mother of the Sea’. “Whilst seaweed was a staple food of Japanese people it had always been unreliable, attaining the nickname ‘gambler’s grass’ due to unpredictable harvests.” But by the 1950s, seaweed production had collapsed due to war, pollution and natural disasters. Drew-Baker’s work enabled Japanese marine biologists to develop artificial seeding techniques, allowing for the industrial cultivation of seaweed for the first time in the country. There is a monument erected in her honour, overlooking the seaweed fields of the Ariake Sea.
Meet Oldham Athletic's eccentric new owner — Manchester Evening News
Oldham Athletic finally has a new owner, and many fans are feeling optimistic about the club’s future. Frank Rothwell was mobbed last Thursday by ecstatic fans when it was announced he was taking over. Despite having a litany of impressive accomplishments, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, sailing around the world and being the oldest person to row solo across the Atlantic, he says saving Oldham Athletic will be the toughest challenge of his career. This piece ends on a happy note: “At long last, Oldham Athletic feels in safe hands again — a club straight back in the heart of the community in an instant after four years fighting against the town. As a homemade sign read outside the ground on Thursday: ‘We've got our club back.’”
After listening to a friend wax lyrical about cruising, David Llloyd dives into what a ‘seacation’ is, and takes a look at the history (and future) of the cruising industry in Liverpool. “Suddenly a six-hour excursion of the Clyde docks sounded like a spiritual retreat in a Tibetan monastery. It didn't sound like a cruise. It sounded like a migraine with life rafts. They have a name for this kind of thing. They call it a seacation. And that’s the last time I’ll ever use that word again in my life,” he writes in this humorous and insightful piece.
Our to do list
🤖 Longsight Library is calling all wannabe robot makers! Using recycled materials, little ones can make some fun creations to take home. Suitable for ages 4-12. Starts 1.30pm. Info here.
🦢 Goofus Theatre presents Lily and the Heron at Oldham Library, a story about a girl called Lily who’s stopped speaking and needs to find her voice. It’s about courage and magic, with some great puppetry and music to boot. Starts 11am. Book here.
🎶 Isle of Skye band Peatbog Faeries is coming to Band on the Wall. They’re known for their trademark ‘Celtic dance’ music but are also deft hands at jazz, African, as well as jigs and reels. Starts 7.30pm. Book here.
🎭 Stories from Ukraine is a one-woman show at The Lowry and showcases the works of modern Ukrainian playwrights, who have created pieces written after the start of the war in Ukraine. It’s about “confusion, survival, hatred and love”. Starts 8pm. Book here.
👨🎨 Manchester Art Gallery is hosting an hour-long session of relaxed drawing at their ‘Trading Sation’ exhibition. If you fancy a quiet hour to yourself, feel free to pop along. It’s free. Starts at 12. Info here.
📚 People’s History Museum is hosting a reading session with Left Book Club, a non-profit publisher that offers a book subscription featuring some of the “best radical writing”. Each month readers will meet at the museum and discuss a book published by Left Book Club. Book here.
📚 And finally…The 2022 Manchester Literature Festival lineup has been announced. The festival kicks off in October, but tickets are now available to buy online. It includes a talk with Vogue’s first black editor-in-chief Edward Enningful, and Maggie O’Farrell, who wrote Hamnet will be in conversation with Home Fire author Kamila Shamsie. Tickets here.
Letters to the editor
A very moving piece, thorough, focussed and compassionate research (‘He captured the imagination of Orwell and Auden — then he disappeared from view’). I hope the book will be available to buy soon. Thank you for recovering this important piece of our history. Helen
Yet again the quality of your journalism and writing shines and demonstrates exactly why The Mill is such an excellent read and your team has a great example to follow in your craft (‘The story of Manchester's 'foreign secretary', this city's terrible cafes, and what real levelling up would mean’). Great article on Mike Emmerich, and I agree there should be coffee shops like The Moscow in Belgrade which is open all hours and has coffee and cake to die for. Caroline