Last week I took a trip into Manchester by train from Cuddington in Cheshire, a journey time of just over one hour and ten minutes (I could probably have walked there quicker!).
It is quite a pleasant journey through the Cheshire countryside into Piccadilly Station, and my goodness how that place has changed. It must be twenty years or so since I was on Piccadilly Station so I was quite unprepared for the airport style layout and the sheer numbers of people.
I was going to catch one of the free buses that go across the city, but there are now three routes and after spending several unproductive minutes trying to figure out which would be the best one I gave up (old age!). So I set off walking towards Piccadilly Gardens and was immediately struck how “down at heel” the city was beginning to look. Opposite the gardens there was a large group of people (about 20+) congregating outside Mc Donalds but who appeared to be getting food and drink from some kind of informal soup kitchen outside the takeaway shop. They looked in the main to be homeless / beggars or people just down on their luck.
Walking down Market Street I saw several homeless people sleeping in shop doorways and who looked to have been in “residence” for some time. I have not seen such numbers of people on the street in all the years I have been visiting Manchester.
What is even more depressing is the bridge at the Arndale Centre which crosses market Street, why Oh why didn’t they restyle this place after the IRA bombings a good number of years ago. The Arndale Centre is a blight upon the city.
A walk through St Anne’s Square, now looking somewhat shabby took me onto Deansgate. What once was quite a classy street has become a haven for fast food joints, coffee houses, with the odd Tapas bar thrown in for good measure. Kendals department store is still going strong (I think), but generally speaking it is quite depressing walking along the street.
Rough sleepers on Deansgate
What is even worse is that King Street, once considered the epitome of style, elegance and class with its shops appears to have gone down market and there are several shops still empty.
As I walked back to the station I reflected on what a majestic city Manchester used to be, but no longer. The financial sector just off Deansgate is made up of skyscraper buildings of glass, with little architectural creativity / design to give them style. Moreover, the number of people on the streets does nothing for the image of the city, I will pass no comment on the reasons for them being on the streets.
I travelled back home quite depressed and sad at what I had seen, as Manchester used to be my favourite city to visit in my late teens and twenties. Anyone remember Barry’s Record Rendezvous on Blackfriars Street, a meeting place of hard-core jazz fans?
Perhaps I need to visit Manchester again in a little while for a reappraisal of what the city has to offer.