Category Archives: Manchester

Does anyone still care about tourism in England’s Northwest?

Hit the North returns from a somewhat enforced break with a question: did we give up on tourism around the Northwest?

After all, when I first started this blog’s latest incarnation in January 2010, the central theme was exploring my own backyard – the diversity of the area from Cumbria to North Wales and all those in between. I found plenty to celebrate and met others who shared my enthusiasm.

But during my recent hiatus I’ve noticed a decline in efforts to keep the tourism momentum rolling. Should I call time on Hit the North?

Filthy lucre

The issue is, of course, money. The Northwest Regional Development Agency had its funding withdrawn under Government spending plans and is currently being wound down. It will finally close its doors around Christmas; read more here.

Responsibility for tourism promotion has been handed back to the five regional tourism associations. They, in turn, have suffered those now-infamous swingeing budget cuts despite a pledge by Prime Minister Cameron to make Britain one of the world’s top five tourist destinations in the world.

I know for a fact that Cumbria Tourism still has a marketing effort, albeit a reduced one. I’ve worked with them recently and you can read about the trip here next week.

But I haven’t heard a peep out of Visit Chester & Cheshire this year, nor Visit Lancashire or Marketing Manchester.

I’m not looking for a red-carpet fanfare but I am keen to find new angles on familiar destinations and uncover real stories behind the mundane.

Is money tight, or have they just run out of ideas?

Short sighted

Either way, I think silence is a mistake. The diversity of the region is as rich as ever and tools available to tourist boards are cheaper, more user friendly and more readily available than at any other time. 

So I’m not  throwing in the towel. Over the next few months Hit the North will be staying vehemently close to home and trying even harder to uncover stories from across the region. I may be ploughing a somewhat lonely furrow at times but at least I’m trying.

Join me.

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Filed under Chester, Lake District, Manchester, Northwest, Tourism

Coronation Street celebrates 50 years of Mancunian kitchen-sink dramas

To Manchester. Not for sparkling urban regeneration, nor pop-culture heritage, but a lowly street with a corner shop, a local pub and a cast of everyday folk.

Coronation Street celebrates its 50th birthday on December 9 and ITV will mark the big day with what is alleged to be the most expensive shoot in soap history.

Urban renewal

Me? I’m a lapsed Corrie viewer. Lapsed since I was a teenager in the Eighties, to be honest, although I do remember coming to the now-defunct Granada TV Studios tour as a child.

But I’ve come to Manchester to see how – or if – the story reflects the way Manchester has changed since the gritty, monochrome days of industrial decline in the early Sixties.

Manchester is a pretty different place to the city where three TV producers gathered in 1960 to work on ideas for a new programme called Florizel Street, just commissioned for a 13-week run.

The Beetham Tower is Europe’s tallest residential building, MediaCityUK will come alive at Salford Quays in May next year when the BBC moves into its new premises and the Manchester International Festival returns in 2011, attracting European visitors to its high-profile cultural events.

Walking tour

But does Corrie accurately reflect Manchester life on the screen? To find out, I joined a walking tour this week led by Ed Glinert of New Manchester Walks.

His Corrie anniversary tour is a two-hour spin around the city, revealing Corrie-fan anecdotes and uncovering nuggets of showbiz gossip at each location we visit.

“It’s still compulsive viewing but I yearn for the great characters,” says Ed, who loves what he calls “the golden age of Coronation Street” – that’s 1975 to ’85.

Read more

Where did we go? What happens behind the Checkpoint Charlie facade of the studios? And what inside gossip do I know about the storyline this December?

You can read more in my stories over the next couple of months. I’ll be posting links up here and to my Twitter account.

Meanwhile, how do you feel Manchester is portrayed by Coronation Street? Post your thoughts below.

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Filed under Manchester, Northwest, Travel writing

Can Manchester lead the way for digital tourism promotion?

Do you know what a Application Programming Interface is? Me either. But Marketing Manchester has one and is not afraid to use it for the new tourism website launched today, May 21.

The press release explains:

[It] weaves its way across the web and through the city itself, providing an ever-growing source of information about Manchester …

Glad we cleared that up, then.

Manchester has lead the way in the Northwest over recent years, reinventing the urban cityscape, revolutionising tourism and engendering northern pride. It may well continue to do so with this project.

Today’s launch promises to be just the first stage in an evolving digital strategy. The next phase will be multi-touch interactive surface tables at the city’s new visitor information centre, opening next month.

But what do people make of the new website? And do you get the concept. If so, please enlighten me.

Finally, a word of advice: put a link for press on the homepage. I’m sure other writers will have questions.

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Filed under Manchester, Tourism

Manchester vs Liverpool: the great debate

Interesting piece on the Times website this weekend. Read it here before the paywall ensures we all stop reading the travel section for good.

Well, I say interesting. The story, written by Northwest tourism stalwart, Stuart Maconie, is more of a puff for his new book Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England.

But the comments at the end of the piece make for some fascinating reading and an insight into an age-old debate.

So, to keep the discussion going, it’s time for Hit the North’s first poll. Your votes please.

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Filed under Liverpool, Manchester, Tourism

LEGOLAND fails to build a new following

Bad weather and school holidays. That old chestnut.

No wonder, then, that the much-plugged new LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Manchester’s Trafford Centre was heaving at the weekend. I was there with my four-year-old toddler to test it out.

Great Danes

Now I love a big of LEGO. I’ve been to the original LEGOLAND in Billund, western Denmark, and interviewed the LEGO boffins behind closed doors in the secretive LEGO development labs.

The company was founded in 1932 when local carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen started making wooden toys. He named them LEGO, a contraction of the Danish ‘leg godt’, meaning ‘play well’.

Play Well

But does Manchester’s new LEGOLAND Discovery Centre play well?

The visit starts fine with The Factory, a hands-on introduction to making LEGO bricks. The next stage, Kingdom Quest, is a ghost train-style ride better suited to older children.

But after that it’s a major letdown. MINILAND, a model village recreation of key landmarks across England’s Northwest, including the Blackpool Tower and a walk-through street scene under Chester’s famous Eastgate Clock, is deceptively small.

And the themed play areas are just small spaces around the cafe. The idea is clearly to force tired parents to fork out for mediocre food and luke-warm coffee while the kids make for the LEGO play stations.

High Price

That’s it. The walk-in price for adults is £13.95 and £10.95 for children, although special offers are available through the website.

Okay, so it’s indoors on a rain-sodden afternoon in the school holidays. But so is my local library – and that’s free to visit.

My advice? Save up for a trip to Denmark.

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Filed under Manchester, Tourism

Manchester Airport’s new mile-high club

Manchester Airport has been claiming firsts of late, notably the introduction of full-body scanners and faster security clearance thanks to the revamp of Terminal One amongst them.

I blogged about the latter in the previous incarnation of Hit the North here.

The latest wheeze is to invite interested parties to develop the world’s first converted control tower into a leisure and entertainment facility. The elevated 110sqm space lies at the heart of Manchester‘s Terminal 1 and the new sky bar would boast 360-degree views.

Air travel has lost its appeal in recent years with the glamour of the terminal sapped by queues, charges and hassle. Not to mention the whole green issue.

So would a mile-high martini before take off entice you back to the airport? Or has air travel had its day? Over to you.

Manchester Airport Terminal One

Control Tower, Terminal One

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Filed under Manchester, Northwest, Travel