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The Senses of Manchester – TOUCH

October 26, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize wall

So, we reach the last day, the last post. A post about the sense of touch and feel.

Manchester feels like edges.

Some of the edges that are warm and nice to feel. Run your fingers over them, push your face into them. Snuggle up.

Some of the edges are a bit sharp. A bit rough. But you get used to them. It really wouldn’t be the same here without them, so don’t go wishing they weren’t here.

Manchester feels like the edge of a wall. The edge of a wall in Piccadilly Gardens.  Or, to put it a slightly different way, Manchester feels like the edge of the bony shoulders of an upset old man whilst you look at the wall in Piccadilly gardens. Let me explain.

In 2002, a brand new Piccadilly Gardens was unveiled, featuring a controversial concrete wall designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando. A few days after the wall was unveiled I stood there admiring it. I liked it a lot. l I touched it. Let my fingers drift over the cold stone. I walked around it. I smiled.

An old man in threadbare trousers and a black blazer stumbled over to me, and fixed me with a steel gaze. “This is horrible,” he said.
“I like it” I replied. “I think it’s good.”  Those words were also what my wife and I jokingly said to each other about the disease SARS. Although I think we actually ripped it off from someone else, but there you go.

“No. It’s awful,” he said, vehemently. He began to shake a little. “How long,” he continued, his mouth foaming slightly, like a rabid vole, “How long will it be until this wall is all around Manchester?”

He beat his puny fists against my chest for a moment and let out a low sob “How long will it be until they use the wall to keep us all trapped in here?”

I’m a bit socially awkward. I didn’t really know how to answer him. I felt a bit like giving him a hug, but I only put one arm around him, like I was helping him across a road or into a taxi because he was a bit drunk.

We stood there for a few seconds before looking at each other awkwardly and then walking off in opposite directions.

Even if he was talking metaphorically though, he was wrong. I’ve never felt that Manchester is a city that has barriers up to people coming or going. Everyone is welcome.

(Guess what?) Manchester feels like my City. (Join in now…) Because it is.


Today is my final post. It’s been a blast. Thank you to everybody who has looked at my ramblings. I really hope you’ve got something out of it, and I very much appreciate you taking the time to read. Thank you very much to Chris Meads for asking me to be involved. He is a man amongst men.  Thank you also to all the previous Guest Curators. I’ve enjoyed each and every post and I’m sure I will from those to come in subsequent weeks too.

Last week’s curator Jonathan Greenbank asked me: “Using the other cities’ Liver Buildings, Coles Corner and the Tyne Bridge as reference points, where are the most romantic places in Manchester?”

And my answer would be:











It’s not a cop out answer. It’s not.

My question for next week’s contributor Michael Duckett, writer of the marvellous Zine-it-Yourself blog, is this: “If you could bottle up the senses of taste, smell, touch, sight and sound of Tyne & Wear and sell it as a fine wine (or beer!”) what would you call it and why?”



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Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at

The Senses of Manchester – SMELL

October 25, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities


Smell. Regularly voted the sense that people would feel the least worried about losing.*

*(in a poll just conducted in my head).

Right, let’s get something out of the way before we get started. Yes, I know that the bit of Tib Street nearest to Market Street smells of wee. This is not what this post is about. I expect there are lots of cities and towns and villages that have areas that smell of wee. Don’t tell me what area that is in your city or town or village. I don’t want to know. I don’t keep that kind of information in a big book of wee.  Although you all now think that I do.

Other things I am not going to say Manchester smells of: Buses. Beards. Rain. Pigeons. Muno from “Yo Gabba Gabba”. That table over there.

With that out of the way, here’s something that might surprise you:

Manchester smells of parks. That might seem a bit strange, especially to those of you who believe that Manchester should have more green spaces (and I don’t disagree with you there). Certainly there’s no massive area to compare with anything like London’s Hyde Park, for example. But where does in the a major UK City? An immense part of my childhood was spent in Platt Fields. My uncle Charles told me that the mannequins in Platt Hall come to life and chase you (to clarify, he told me this while I was a child, not just last week or anything). The thought of that still makes me shiver. Brrrr. And it was only a shortish journey to Cheshire’s Lyme Park or Dunham Massey. Which one had the deer? I forget.

Yeah, we were always off in parks when I was a kid.

Manchester smells of biscuits being baked. It is always a pleasure to drive down Stockport Road past the McVities factory with the car windows open and take it all in. Similarly it smells like breakfast cereal, with the Kelloggs factory out near Trafford Park. Similarly again, it used to smell of jam with the Robertson’s factory in Droylsden, but this sadly closed down a few years ago.

Manchester smells of Freedom. The freedom to try. The freedom to create something that will make like minded people take notice.

Manchester also smells of coffee. So much coffee. Everywhere. Rivers of the stuff. I can’t take any more coffee. Stop with all the coffee now.

There has even been a ‘Manchester Smellwalk’ tour, conducted by Manchester University’s Dr Victoria Henshaw. I hope you don’t think I’m too lazy by linking to her Great Smells of Manchester graphic

I suppose I should probably say that Manchester smells like my City. Because it is.


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Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at

The Senses of Manchester – SIGHT

October 24, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize Sirens

No prizes for guessing that Day Three is about the sense of Sight. Because it says it in the title just above this. That would be a very undemanding competition.

What does Manchester look like..?

…well, that’s not really an easy question. To borrow some gubbins from a wedding custom, some of it looks old, some of it looks new, some of it looks borrowed. Some of it is certainly blue. Which, let’s face it, is better than red (bye bye half my readership…)

…and some of it looks like Godzilla sat down on it for a while. Maybe had a little disco nap before going off to fight a giant mutant cockroach from Warrington.

It happens.

William Gibson started his debut novel ‘Neuromancer’ by writing that ‘The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’ Substitute the word ‘port’ for Manchester and you’re mostly there. It might be grey, but it’s our grey and I’m very fond of it.

I used to always prefer the look of Manchester when it rained and was getting slightly dark, being able to watch reflected neon in puddles before they’re splashed by a bus. It was beautiful. But I was wrong. Manchester is best in the sunshine, when you can sit down in Piccadilly Gardens or St Anne’s Square and just watch the world go by. I love to people watch. Love to see the amazing characters pass. I enjoy making stories up about those people, where they are going, what they are doing, what ridiculous items they’re carrying in their bags. What their favourite swear word is. All that sort of thing.

Manchester looks like my puzzled face reflected back from the dazzling windows of new buildings. There’s a place for new buildings, though some are much better than others. The shine, the sparkle, the bright lights. I suppose that if I ever lose my sense of direction then the Beetham Tower will draw me home, calling like a Siren on the rocks (see image above).

Don’t get me wrong, I do like some new buildings. I love the future, I love innovation and shininess. I like chairs that look space age. But…

Manchester looks like old buildings, and abandoned buildings and empty streets. These are my absolute favourites. There’s an immense allure in an old mill that you can catch in it’s empty, vacant state before it’s picked up and turned into yet more (near) city centre flats, or a potholed road with a big rusty gate at one end and not a person in sight.

A lot of my favourite album covers feature empty buildings and empty streets, and if they happen to be in Manchester then even better. I’m just an empty street and building kind of person, and I won’t apologise for that. One old, semi-abandoned building in particular, the old Fire Station on London Road, is the biggest object of my fascination in this city. I don’t want to see it turned into a hotel or to just rot away without marveling at the interior, and I don’t know anyone else who does. I need to get in, need to experience standing in the yard, seeing the gas meter testing station inside. Need to see the rooms, which I believe are beginning to resemble the inside of rooms in the abandoned city of Pripyat near Chernobyl. This is certainly relevant to my interests.

This building, more than any other in Manchester, is my Wondrous Place (see what I did there?). Or at least it would be if I could get inside.




You can probably guess what I’m going to write next:
Manchester looks like my City. Because it is.

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Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at

The Senses of Manchester: TASTE

October 23, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Vimto Statue resize

Day Two, and we’re onto the Sense of Taste.

If you haven’t already (and you haven’t really got an excuse if you haven’t), you should first go and read Natalie Bradbury’s curation week about the Taste of the North.

I’ll wait patiently.

Make sure you come back though….

…Hello again!

Manchester tastes of rain. Yes, the rain had to make an appearance at some point in my posts. It might as well be now, we can’t ignore it. Open your mouth and drink it. It’s not that bad really. You’ll enjoy it. Go on. Open wide. Wider.

Do not drink from puddles though. That is just odd.

Consequently, Manchester tastes of Umbrellas. Umbrellas accidentally shoved into your mouth while you’re trying to taste the rain.  That is not quite as pleasant as tasting the rain itself, but a necessary evil when you’re waiting for precipitation to fall into your face hole.

Manchester tastes of Vimto. The fruit drink that kicks any other fruit drink square in the cubes. And I love the wooden sculpture of a bottle of it on Granby Row next to UMIST, near the site where Vimto was first produced (see image above).

Come to think of it, Vimto rain would really be quite something, even for just a few hours. I should write to the Council. Start a Twitter campaign. Hang a flag out of my car window. We can make this happen.

Hot Vimto, though, is an aberration. I don’t want that as a drink OR as rain thank you very much.

I must advise you that, just like drinking from puddles, it is not a good idea to try and drink from a giant wooden sculpture of a Vimto bottle either. Although I think I know why the nearby statue of Archimedes is really straining to get out of the bath..











Manchester (well, Salford really) tastes like honey (thank you Shelagh…)

Manchester tastes of feathers. And if you don’t know why, pick up a copy of Jeff Noon’s ‘Vurt’.

Manchester tastes like my City. Because it is.


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Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at

The Senses of Manchester: SOUND

October 22, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Resize Tannoy

Is this on? Is it my turn now?

Yes. Yes it is.  Hello from Manchester!

Unlike a few of my fellow Wondrous Placers from previous weeks, I have not moved to my city from elsewhere.  I did not choose it. I was born here, and despite some attempts I have never fully escaped for any great length of time. And it really is a Wondrous Place, despite my escape attempts. It’s a place I have immense love and hate for.  It’s a place that stimulates all of your senses. Which is very lucky, as my posts are all linked by the five senses. Phew!

I always liked the Sensory homunculus. It looked a bit like this:











Yes, I added a Mancunian twist. You can choose a different famous Mancunian face if you like. I’m not precious like that.

Somewhat surprisingly for someone who writes and draws what might be loosely described as a music blog, when I talk about the Sound of Manchester it’s not the bands or the tunes that I think define the sounds of city. There’ll be no eulogising about the same old bands, or name dropping new ones in this post.

I hear the sighs of relief. Yay!
(And those of exasperation too. Sorry!).

Manchester is the sound of differing accents.

I’m not just talking about the amazing diversity of cultures and races within Manchester. No, what I mean here is the accents of locals from North Manchester, East Manchester, South Manchester. All different (Don’t bring West Manchester into it though. That’s Salford, home of the Salfordian Clan, fiercely proud of their own city, and they don’t like to be confused with us Mancs).

And it brings about the debate about what to call Chip Sandwich from a Chippy (In case you’re wondering, the proper answer is “Chip Barm”).

Really. Don’t shake your head.

I grew up in South Manchester. Despite spending the last 8 years living in East Manchester (about as far as you can go east and for it still to be Manchester, before you drop the edge of the earth – because no one really believes Tameside actually exists, do they? It’s a story made up to scare young children), I still get accused of being a “Posh Manc”. In fact, as a girl from London whom I met recently put it:  “Are you sure you’re from Manchester? I can understand what you’re saying.” That surely ranks as one of the most absurdly back handed compliments ever.

What else? Well…

Manchester sounds like someone putting their hands over the ears and shouting “la la la la la la la la la I can’t hear you la la la la la” any time anyone says that there is a better city anywhere else, ever. It is an annoying trait, but I’ll admit to it doing it sometimes if the City is criticised by non-Mancs (even if I agree with them).

Manchester sounds like planes taking off. My parents used to take my brother and I to Manchester Airport when were were young, just to watch. Maybe have a cake. I liked the old dangling chandeliers in Terminal one. They looked like a giant had had a massive cold and that was what had fallen out of his nose.

My Grandad was one of the people who installed them, you know. And he made the lovely old wooden bar at the Briton’s Protection pub too.

Manchester sounds like hundreds of tannoys following you down the street, poking you in the back and then screaming in your face “Metrolink apologies that there is a delay of at least 12 minutes”. (See the image at the top of this post) It’s a strangely reassuring noise, and something that will always remind me of home.

Manchester sounds like the broken 3 stringed guitar of the Market Street busker who changed his name by deed poll to Marc Bolan. I miss him.

Manchester sounds like my City. Because it is.


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Pete Collins

"I'm a socially awkward Mancunian, drawer of what could loosely be described as a music blog: 'Having A Party Without Me', bass player for Flange Circus and Belgiophile."We think 'Having A Party Without Me' is brilliant. We think you will too - find it at