The City

Manchester, England is one of the most vibrant, creative and exciting cities in Europe and without doubt offers something for everyone. Manchester has always been an explosive, unpredictable, and volatile city, the site of working class protest and struggle, feminist liberation and gay pride. Any attempt to summarise or synthesise what Manchester has to offer, however, will inevitably be a partial and selective reading of its histories and futures. 


For many it is a history of chemicals and drugs, nuclear physics, the site where Ernest Rutherford first split the nuclear atom and as one of its most famous citizens, Mark E. Smith of the pop band ‘The Fall’, sang ‘Manchester … it’s a powderkeg!’. Manchester was one of the first truly modern industrial cities, the famous ‘workshop of the world’ at the heart of the industrial revolution where the Hargreave's Spinning Jenny and Crompton's Mule were first invented. The first extensive canal system was built in Manchester in the late 18th and 19th century (the Bridgewater Canal was completed in 1776) and the first passenger railway route opened in Manchester in 1842. The world's first electronic stored programme computer was developed at Manchester University in 1948 and arguably the development of artificial intelligence records its birth at the same time with the appointment of Alan Turing as reader in the mathematics department whose pioneering work in the computer laboratory led to the development of the ‘Turing test’. It lays claim to being the first ‘media city’, from the media of Victorian canal and railway engineering to the explosion of digital artists and businesses who took over and restored the old mills standing by the side of the canals to help build the World Wide Web for the information economy in the 21st century.


Manchester is ostensibly a “new city”, a little over 150 years old; but it is this very lack of roots and ancient traditions that have arguably helped foster this restless innovation and creativity. Always a city of entertainment, excess, and leisure, Manchester has become associated in recent years with the development of the creative and cultural media industries. Factory Records once captured the zeitgeist of a generation releasing the music of Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays, but from post-punk to the football ‘poetics’ and ‘sculpture’ of David Beckham, Manchester continues to prove the old adage that ‘what Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow’. 


Today, urban redevelopment projects in Salford Quays, the Castlefield Basin, the Bridgewater hall, Exchange Square, and the recent regeneration of the Northern quarter have helped create a tremendously rich and exiciting new environment that promotes a diversity in lifestyle and astonishing cultural hybridities that span all manner of racial, class, ethnic, gender and sexual differences.

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