Sunday, 7 September 2014

Levenshulme Antiques Village, Manchester

Well, what a treasure trove this is! Levenhulme Antiques Village is an emporium of old, dusty, amazing things from the past, piled under one roof (and a few stables) in Levenshulme, south Manchester. Set within the walls and grounds of the old Levenshulme Town Hall building on Stockport Road, the antiques village is more of an undercover shopping mall, (just minus the McDonald's and add a greasy spoon, in the scullery.) 

Levenshulme Urban District Crest

A majestic Victorian tiled staircase greets you when you enter, with the large offices and waiting rooms to either side packed with antique furniture and collectables. The treasures take over the entire first floor too and well into the staff/servants quarters and out into the courtyard and stables. It's like stepping into Narnia.

Each room, or collection of rooms is effectively leased, stocked and managed by an independent antiques dealer, making it a kind of market hall with lots of different traders. The traders themselves are all really friendly and knowledgeable, they really add a genuine feel to the place, like they've been there as long as the house.

The perfect destination for a cheeky Sunday outing, sure not to disappoint.


Friday, 15 August 2014

Hooked On Music, the MOSI experiment

The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Manchester are hooked on music. Not that academic? Well there's some science to it.

The museum has teamed up with Dr Ashley Burgoyne of the University of Amsterdam's Institute for Language, Logic and Computation and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision’s Research and Development department. Basically Burgoyne is interested in music cognition and has partnered with MOSI to deliver a citizen science project at next year's Manchester Science Festival. 

The project? To decipher just what makes a piece of music catchy and how can this eventually be used to help treat memory degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. How do they do this? A game, of course!

The Hooked On Music web game invites participants to play one of four games based around listening to clips of music. Lots of people have already played, with 62% of them being women and 20% of them being children of the 1970s and 80s. 2000 players have listened to over 50 tracks on the game, with the highest number of tracks listened by a single player being 6696!

So far, the #1 most recognisable song is Wannabe by Spice Girls with Che Sera Sera and White Christmas a close second and third respectively. I wonder where Timber by Ke$ha and Pitbull stands? Y'know, what with it being a classic and all.

Go on, give it a go and your input will shape the results at Manchester Science Festival in October this year.

Play here


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What should men wear on a night out at a casino?

I recently watched Casino Royal again and I can't help but wish all casinos were like that. Swarve, black-tie, decadent, shaken not stirred. The Chinese casino in Skyfall is pretty incredible too, not your average 24/7 slot machine palace 'eh? Personally, I don't often frequent casinos, gambling just isn't my thing, but they can be the source of a brilliant night out, (if you squint and pretend you're Daniel Craig). They offer a change of scene, generally excellent drinks, food, void of too many drunkards and they have cleaner bathrooms to boot. Of course, many people gamble online at casinos like, but that's for the hardcore gamers, here we're talking looking the part without splashing the chips. 

Tuxedo, shirt and accessories, TM Lewin.

When it comes to dressing for the Roulette table, many white-van men will just rock up to their local gambling house and bearly remove their hi-vis vest. However, you can go about things more tastefully. Smart casual attire is one thing, but then again going all out is far more fun! Plus, remember that whilst the local casino on the by-pass will accept a check shirt and pair of chinos as long as you're of legal age, inner city casinos with a little more panache will demand adherence to their more stringent dress codes. So check before you rock up.

On my infrequent visits to casinos I've adopted something between smart casual and pushing it. A John Galliano newspaper print tee with tuxedo trousers and patent leather slip-ons was a sight to be seen at the Grosvenor on the A56, I can tell you. But, I wouldn't be against stepping it up further, but perhaps not that Bertie Wooster look instead something more James Bond. It's not often gents get to adopt a real tuxedo, cuff-links, dress shirt et al and there's no better place to try out this timeless look than in a place with glaring neon lights and patterned carpets under foot.

This post was written in line with my disclosure policy here.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Dig The City Manchester 2014

Dig the City, Manchester's urban gardening festival, is back this week to sprinkle a little compost and blossom across the M post-code. The festival looks to promote green spaces, gardening and getting back to nature in the urban setting + there's Bauhaus style garden living to boot!

The Hanging Gardens of Manchester, by local businesses

The festival is taking place throughout Manchester city centre with businesses and organisations getting involved on their own premises too. The MacDonald Hotel and Spa, for example, have erected their 339th room outside the hotel - taking alfresco to a whole new level. The Royal Exchange Theatre are in on the action and Manchester Arndale take fashion to the lawns with their show garden too.

MacDonald Hotel and Spa's Room 339

Manchester Arndale's #RedKillerHeel Garden

An inside outside kinda space, by Square Roots

You can catch more show gardens on Victoria Street at Manchester Cathedral, New Cathedral Street and St. Anne's Square where there is also a festival hub for food, drink and live talks and demonstrations from the likes of Diarmuid Gavin.

The Hanging Gardens of Manchester by local businesses

I think my favourite garden was the Optical Illusion garden by Dreamscape Gardens. It included a water feature Charlie Dimmock would approval of and cool prism spy holes that distort your view of the garden and create a kaleidoscope effect.

The Optical Illusion Garden, Deamscape Gardens

The prism spy hole, and what is looks like inside

The festival ends on August 10th, so step out and be inspired to pot a pansy or two!

 The green-yfied water fountain at St. Anne's Square


Saturday, 2 August 2014

Cotton couture, Manchester Art Gallery

I was on a random date with the city t'other day (I had a week of work!) and I stumbled across the Cotton couture exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery - quite the treat - so I thought I'd tell y'all about it!

Evening coat in check cotton with black velvet, Owen Lachasse, 1957

It's in the Manchester Galleries on the ground floor of the Mosley St entrance, a space for changing exhibitions about the city we live in. The exhibition looks and the history and influence (or, attempted influence...) The British Cotton Board had during its reign in 1940 - 1972. Based in Manchester and Glasgow the board was responsible for research, marketing and promotion of British Cotton in the global apparel industry as a fabric of choice, and not just for work-wear and underwear. However, between 1956 and around 1962 the board got creative.

Dinner dress and coat, cotton lace with cord embroidery, Hardy Amies, 1957

In an attempt to thwart the idea that cotton was merely an industrial fabric, the board commission British and later French couturiers and designers to produce ball-gowns and cocktail wear from different cottons, to be showcased at fashion shows, or parades as they were known. These works were statements about the changing face of fashion and fabrics and showcase the extremities and variety of 1950/60s European style. Each dress was made for the runway and for models with 18" waists! The designers were only paid around £50 for their efforts too.

Evening dress, robia cotton voile, Jean Dessés, 1957

The results of this promotional activity are unclear, but the sheer breadth of different types of cotton dresses that were produced certainly makes for an impressive collection. Over 60 dresses were donated to the Manchester Gallery of Costume by the Cotton Board and Manchester Art Gallery has chosen 20 pieces for this expo.

The designers on exhibition include a favourite of her Majesty, Hardy Amies and the french designer Pierre Cardin, whose idiosyncratic sporty/daywear style shows through.

Sheath dress, brocade-printed cotton, Pierre Cardin, 1957

The Cotton Board was eventually dissolved, at its own request, with the responsibility for promoting British cotton passing to the voluntary British Textile Council. 

The exhibition is FREE to all.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Giant Spectacular takes over Liverpool

Three enormous puppets took over Liverpool city centre for a three-day spectacular called Giant Spectacular last week, an event that pulled in over 300,000 people a day from around the country and truly showcased Liverpool as a fabulous place to visit.

The festival Memories of August 1914 looked back to the time just before the world went to war and at Liverpool’s place in the Great War. Stories were read allowed by Grandmother Giant to the crowd whilst Girl Giant and her dog Xolo explored the city and met the crowds. These giants are French-made,wooden electo-kinetic puppets, suspended from massive cranes and pulled into animation by teams of expert puppeteers, swinging from cords and ropes as they meander from landmark to landmark through the city. It was quite literally an incredible sight and I don’t think I’ve been in a bigger crowd in my life!

The city was on top form; Liverpool Lime Street Station was ready and waiting for the hundreds and thousands of travellers with great crowd control systems and brilliant staff. Albert Docks and Liverpool ONE were abuzz with visitors and the general tone was one of summer-time bliss and ease. It was a gorgeous day. 

Liverpool has the luxury, unlike my native Manchester, of space. Lots of open spaces for massive public gatherings like this. Manchester’s so built-up and land is at such a premium that there is literally no room for this kind of event. So it was great to be part of! It was also great to wander around the usually quite Albert Docks and neighboring areas with it was filled with people, likewise for the St. John’s Gardens, certainly one of the prettiest city centre green spaces.

All in all, bravo Liverpool, you certainly know how to draw (and cope with) a crowd.


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

That time when I was nearly a supermodel in Stella magazine's Manchester feature.

Now this is a story about a boy named Unlucky, about the time when I oh so nearly got to be included in a glossy magazine shoot, but was unceremoniously slashed from the line-up the day before for bring too "fashion-y," DAMN MY SUPER STYLISH STYLE!

Let me take you back to a couple of weeks ago, when I received an email from a freelance journalist working for the Sunday Telegraph's style supplement, Stella. Following the footsteps of Grazia and Stylist alike, the magazine is looking to produce a regional feature on British cities - well, Manchester, Glasgow, East London and Brighton, an odd mix, but there you go - and they need assistance from the natives.

The freelancer asked me if I'd be up for taking part in a shoot and being interviewed about my thoughts on the "Manchester look," whatever that is. I said of course, I'd be happy to, anything for a bit of free exposure, 'eh? The journalist also asked me if I had any thoughts on who else would be suitable to represent Manchester in the magazine, so, I very helpfully and nicely produced a list of people that I thought represented the eclectic style of the city's dwellers. This list also included a synopsis of each person's job, their age, their style and a link to a social page or website for the journalist to have a nosey at.

Then I didn't hear anything from the journalist. At all. I began to get nervous, was this the usual pattern of events? Did Cheryl Cole say yes to Vogue and then not hear from them for days, not knowing where she was expected to turn up and pout? Was this a test!? Some of the people I'd suggested to Stella started texting and tweeting me to say thanks for the recommendation. Oh jesus, had I been forgotten!?

So, I hit the journo back up to get the low-down on the shoot etc. Oops, the writer had been reassigned and her research (inc. my list) had been passed onto another writer to complete. Hmm, bollocks. I thought I'd wait it out and play cool, to see if the new writer would get in contact to say, y'know, "hey, you who did a spot of unpaid research for our regions feature, here's where we're meeting, what's your Starbucks order?"

Well, they didn't, not until a friend of mine who had appeared on my list queried if this writer had actually spoken to the person responsible for putting her in contact with some of Manchester's style ambassadors. 

Then I got this:

Uh, alas, my future as a global supermodel was over, before it had even begun. Right after I'd helped the magazine construct the feature with my black book. God damn my efficiency and heart of gold. I was supposed to be the new Agnes Deyn, all northern cockiness and fierce cheek bones. But, no, I was too damn fashionable for the fashion magazine! I think it was the statement jewellery to be honest.

Still, I know it's not this journalist's fault that she's been given a task deserving of more time and research to complete in 3 days and I know it's not her fault that Stella supposedly set out to represent "Manchester style" and instead have decided to edit participants to suit their preconceived idea of the Northern look. But c'mon, I'd have rocked that shoot, right?

Needless to say, I don't think I'll be quoted in the mag any time soon.