Manchester is a city of immense pride, whether it be for two world-dominating football teams, or for its succession of music artists - also world-dominating! - for its fashion, food and culture, Manchester is teeming with life. It is a city whose people won’t let a spot of rain keep them down, a city of resilience and immense perseverance to get them through the toughest of times, symbolised by the great Manchester Bee. This bee signifies the city’s communal spirit - hive-minded in more ways than one, it is a city whose people work hard to support their own. It might be rare to meet a Manc who doesn’t proclaim Manchester the greatest city in the U.K. Of course, the neighbouring scousers might say the same about the great city of Liverpool, and whilst we won’t name a King of The North, we will take a moment to talk about what makes Manchester such a special place. But we aren’t the only ones who think Manchester is great, Lonely Planet has named the city one of the top ten places to visit in the world!
The Industrial Revolution
We might not have the cosy lives we live today without Manchester’s contribution to engineering. The Industrial Revolution is considered to have begun in Manchester, kickstarting an unprecedented rate of invention across the U.K., Europe and the world over. In the 1900s the city was a manufacturing hub and has been recognised as the world’s first industrial city thanks to its thriving cotton industry. Even through success, Manchester never forgot its humble beginnings, and the city continued to be the city of the people. A city built by ordinary working people, for ordinary working people. The hubbub of life, of bustling crowds and factory skylines, has been immortalised in the paintings of L.S. Lowry, perhaps the most popular British painter of the 20th century. Lowry’s paintings of Salford combined art and industry - a relationship Manchester has continued ever since, a city of pioneering and innovative people.
The Independent Spirit
Although Manchester is no longer the manufacturing hub that it once was, the City is more creative now than it has ever been - and is now known for the number of successful independent businesses. The Northern Quarter has becoe the heart of the city’s independent business across an eclectic mix of industries, such as bars and restaurants, homeware stores, clothing stores, or arts and crafts between market stalls and independent galleries. Cafe culture is alive and kicking in trendy cafes like North Tea Power and The Koffee Pot, whilst you can fill your home with stylish oddities in boutiques and general stores like Deadstock and Oklahoma. Upgrade your wardrobe by visiting countless independent clothing stores offering thrifty throwback pieces to contemporary chic choices that wouldn’t be amiss from a runway. Independent shops like Oi Polloi, a menswear store, has become a manchester institution after being a staple of the scene for 17 years.
The Northern Quarter opens creative spirit with open arms; it is here that you can find independent creative businesses of all levels and experience, from market traders to established brands popular enough to rival corporate businesses. Kula is an independently run gallery in which you can find work by local designers and makers - but it is the Manchester Craft & Design Centre that is the hub for independent traders in the Northern Quarter. Here you can find designers selling from their studios, some making their products there and then. It is here that you can feel the creative spirit alive and well and see first-hand the Manchester brand of ingenuity that inspired the industrial revolution all those years ago. In the Craft & Design Centre, you can find a one-of-a-kind piece from a one-of-a-kind city.
Manchester’s creativity is known around the world thanks to its success stories that have gone on to shape the nation’s culture. This has drawn huge companies to set up shop in the city, including BBC, ITV and Arts Council England - all eager to get a taste of the unique pool of talent within the people of Manchester.
Food, Drink and Culture… of the people, for the people
Manchester is a proud city whose people back their own, contributing to the fastest growing British economy outside of London. High wages and a low cost of living has given the people of Manchester the best of both worlds, proving that the city is eager to maintain the label ‘city of the people, for the people.’ Independent and big brand businesses mix hand in hand - in the hospitality sector some of Manchester’s most successful indie restaurants are SOUP, Kosmonaut, Almost Famous and Mana - who brought a Michelin star to the city for the first time in 40 years. The Manchester Food and Drink Festival has quickly become a staple in the city’s calendar, drawing in the best of the business from the city and abroad.
Manchester’s bars are a staple of the city, with a thriving post-work drinking culture. Thursday and Friday's nights are packed with those eager for an after-office pint, with Spinningfield’s being the hotspot. Nestled in the city’s financial district are a host of elegant cocktail bars and craft beer houses. The Opera House is next door, whilst the People’s History Museum is only down the road - a museum dedicated to telling the history of Manchester’s working class, a testament to how the people of the city keep in touch with their roots.
And it is not only the financial district where you can find world-class bars - all over the city you will find all kinds of places, from classic open houses to trendy hotspots - Manchester has something for everyone. There’s no wonder so many people come to Manchester to spend their weekends when the city has some of the best bars in the country.
The city’s nightlife is so well-renowned that it even draws crowds up from London eager to experience uniquely-Manchester events, such as The Warehouse Project which hosts top-tier global music artists year after year. When more and more local music venues across the U.K. are closing every year, Manchester’s independent venues are staying strong - places like Night & Day, The Deaf Institute and Gorilla draw talent from across the nation and abroad, eager to get a taste of the scene which brought bands like The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Oasis and New Order success. Whilst Matt & Phred’s, ‘the only true dedicated Jazz venue in the North-West of England,’ can be found in Manchester.
A city of perseverance
A city with such a thriving hospitality sector was always going to be hit hard by the pandemic. The BBC reported that it would take the industry five years to recover from the effects of COVID, with a report suggesting that a devastating one in ten businesses had to permanently close in the pandemic. But Manchester is a city of perseverance, and it wasn’t long until Greater Manchester Mayor - and member of the Labour party - rose up to call the people of Manchester to focus on recovery, and to ‘build back better than we did before.’
"Despite the difficulties ahead, I remain confident in the resilience of Greater Manchester's nightlife scene and its ability to return bigger and brighter, albeit looking significantly different." - Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester.
People across the city responded to the Mayor’s call and came out in droves to support the hospitality industry. Early on in the pandemic leaders in Machester’s hospitality industry came together with Sacha Lord - the ‘Night-Time Economy Advisor’ to the city - to launch the #payitforward campaign. The campaign involved buying local restaurant vouchers, with the intention of cashing them in once the pandemic drew to a close. As the pandemic continued, the campaign also continued well into 2021, until the industry began opening up regularly again. To further help, £1 of each restaurant voucher was then donated to the charity Hospitality Action, which supports individuals in the hospitality industry by offering support for illness, mental health, financial difficulties and more.
Another great pandemic story is that Manchester breweries stopped brewing beer, and began brewing hand sanitiser. Back when sanitiser was in short supply, Manchester breweries including Didsbury Gin, Four Sisters and Forest Distillery used their experience with alcohol to begin distilling alcohol-based sanitiser. This is only one of the many, many stories of how the people of Manchester rallied together in the face of difficulty.
A number of businesses took to distributing food to those in quarantine, including Vermillion, and Indian restaurants, who offered free food to the staff at North Manchester General Hospital. Locals rallied together to create the initiative Eat Well MCR, to team up with local restaurants and donate meals to families and those left in vulnerable situations. Despite a seemingly tougher set of restrictions placed by the government on Manchester than Southernly cities, Manchester - a city of hard-working, persevering people - wouldn’t let COVID restrictions put a dampener on their relief efforts. The city has come together more than ever, and as Mayor Andy Burnham said, they are ready to ‘build back stronger.’
The future looks bright for Manchester. Even looking through the gloomy clouds and rain, the city and its people will never let its industry die. It seems that hotels in the city are the first to experience a post-pandemic boom. With travel restrictions still in place, U.K. holidays and city breaks are becoming more popular than ever, and Manchester is at the top of many people’s lists. And no wonder, with the city having so much to offer, and let’s not forget that pre-pandemic Lonely Planet, one of the world’s most popular travel and tourism companies, named the city one of the top ten places to visit in the world! Hotel bookings in Manchester in 2022 have exceeded those of 2019, pre-COVID. This year the city is set to see a number of new hotels opening, with large chains including Dalata Group Hotels, Hotel Leonardo and The Alan setting up shop. It seems that Manchester might be drawing in more guests than ever, suggesting that the city will have a foothold in U.K. tourism for years to come. With news coming this week that all travel restrictions in the U.K. have ended, it seems that it’s all things go for the great city of Manchester.
This is great news for the city - with so many people set to visit Manchester, there is no doubt that the hospitality industries will benefit. What’s more, with the U.K. extending the pavement licences, the tourist-heavy summer might begin to eclipse the success of our European neighbours. If bars and restaurants embrace the licence extension, for the first time we might experience the buzz of Alfresco eating like the great cities of Barcelona, Paris, or Rome. (You can read more about this on a prior Brigad article, here) With hotels packed, bars and restaurants will follow, then the great independent artists across the city will also experience the benefit of the renewed interest in Manchester. And whilst it will take time for the industry to recover from the pandemic, it looks as if we’re on the right track. If we know anything, it’s that the hard-working people of Manchester will find a way.
And as Manchester’s values resonate so strongly with Brigad’s own, we are delighted to announce we will be arriving in the great People’s city from May 2022. With a city with a strong focus on making an impact, something we’ve clearly illustrated, and Brigad having an impressive impact on businesses across London, Brigad operating in Manchester makes complete sense. The seasons ahead will continue to prove that Manchester will always shine bold, differently and bright, and Brigad alongside it on the same path.
We are a company that is constantly working to improve the industry of work and encourage fair, valued pay for high quality, professional work. The industry is changing and we are at the forefront, allowing businesses to find temporary staff that suits them, without the staff having to compromise. Staff can earn as much as they choose, and work wherever they decide, on a schedule that suits them. Not that it's necessary after all the examples we've illustrated here, but to explain a little further our decision to launch into Manchester, read our most recent press release here.