London has decided to give up the job of capital and go into quiet retirement. When everyone north of Leicester is done cheering, England looks around for a substitute and after some consideration the nation turns to... Sorry Birmingham, but it can be only Manchester, the uncrowned capital of the north and a city embracing change like few others in Europe.
Manchester knows all about improbable scenarios and has never shied away from responsibility. After all, this was the city that gave birth to capitalism and the Industrial Revolution, so what’s a little self-inflating urban redesign to a burgh that knows a thing or two about altering the history of the world?
The change and influence of the last decade and a half has been nearly as dramatic. It began with a musical revolution, was interrupted by a bomb and has climaxed in the transformation of Manchester into a modern metropolis that has embraced 21st-century style and technology like no other in England. The envy of any urban centre in Europe, it is surely indicative of more than just northern one-upmanship over London and the south that Manchester looks to Barcelona as its main rival and inspiration.
Not only does Manchester have a wealth of fascinating museums that reflect its unique role in the pioneering developments of the Industrial Age, but it has managed to weave the mementos of its past with a forward-looking, ambitious programme of urban development that has already offered a vision of what the future might hold.
The future, according to Manchester, is to ensure that form follows function, and that cities are first and foremost human dwellings. Testament to this belief is the remarkable life on show at street level, from the trendy bars and boutiques of the bohemian Northern Quarter to the loud-and-proud attitude of the Gay Village and the chic, self-possessed stylings of the Castlefield area. Spend enough time here and you too will be infected with the palpable confidence of a city that knows it’s onto a good thing.