Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Manchester, London of the North

By 'eck, I get comments on my blog from all sorts now.

Someone called called "anonymous" was just plain abusive (how brave) and someone called "Armley" (a pseudonym), bizarrely, also got personal. Whatever. He/she took issue with the comment I reported from my presentation to a forum of marketing and PR people from the professional services sector that Manchester is becoming a "London of the North".

Armley spent a good 500 words dissecting a short remark about Manchester's relationship with other cities in the North. Like this, with a reference to what the BBC staff think about Manchester:

"You may have bought into the Manchester regionalist propaganda machine's line that Manchester is a northern Shangri La, a booming cosmpolitan city of international importance that outclasses everywhere in England besides London. They don't; they still think it's a grim, crime-filled milltown shithole."

Who says I have "bought into" that hype? A common theme of this blog is that Manchester is not living up to the story in the glossy brochure. But to not also see the success that is around us is just stupid. Temper that instead with what you hear, as I do, when you go to Carnforth, Blackpool, Burnley and Barrow and hear what people think about the fact that Manchester has won the casino bid, or the Commonwealth Games, or the BBC relocation, or is launching the Manchester Festival, and you hear the resentment in their voices. It's not unjustified either. Blackpool is well hacked off with Manchester. They think Manchester is taking everything. They think Manchester is sucking investment and glory from them and from the rest of the North. It's "the big smoke" with all its airs, graces and pretentions.

Mention Manchester during MIPIM, the international property exhibition, in the company of people from Bradford, Birmingham, Leeds, even Liverpool, and they grind their teeth in frustration.

Then, in the context of professional services, look at how the professional service firms, the private equity houses and the banks have shifted their Northern regional offices to Manchester and closed down in Leeds. Listen to how Leeds complains about the lack of a concert arena and a much smaller Harvey Nichols. It's not me talking, it's the truth.

No, Manchester is NOT London in the sense that London is a massive international capital city of a major economy. Or the sense that London is culturally, economically, politically, physically at the centre of this nation's decision making.

For those reasons - and many more - London is not held in great affection by the rest of the UK. To most people in the UK it's actually a dangerous, expensive and crowded mess that has too much power over the rest of the country. And that same type of resentment is beginning to be directed towards Manchester. That's all.



MT - There's some truth in this but I'm not sure anybody outside of Manchester's civic leadership gives a fig that its neighbours harbour any resentment of its success. Come to think of it, I'm not sure anyone within the city's civic leadership would care either.

I briefly touch on this issue here:

Manchester is an excellent city. The ambivalence of its citizens towards its reputation among smaller 'competitors' is one of the things that marks it out as such.


Erikka, Deputy Editor, Scottish Insider said...

Even Scotland is feeling the 'manchester burn'. Albeit it doesnt seem to take much to get a Scot making a dour face into their single malt, they have been peering south of the border with growing trepidation since Manchester: did a great Games (Glasgow is trying for 2014); attracted Bank of NY; saw price of rents for new office space go up faster and higher than those in Edinburgh or Glasgow. The Manchester Festival is only another cause for getting kilts in a twist.
Say what you like about bombast and propaganda. If you say something often enough people will believe it.