Community parks for the community of inner Manchester

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Cities are always in flux however, our values/needs as humans don’t flux so much. Green space is important to us, even a total city boy like myself loves green nature space at times. This is beyond gentrification and more about city planning. Something Jane Jacobs knows plenty about.

Its clear green spaces are essential and lets say Manchester like London doesn’t have a lot of them. There’s got to be a connections between the mental health epidemic and the state of our biggest cities.

There are 3 spaces in the very local area which have been marked for building of some kind of redevelopment.

  1. Former Central Retail Park Great Ancoats Street Manchester M4 6DJ
  2. Green space at New Islington tram stop
  3. Mayfield train depot park plans

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I joined the talk yesterday at Central Retail park

From friends of the earth Northern Quarter

Currently Manchester City Council plans to turn the old Central Retail Park on Great Ancoats Street into a 440 space carpark with the application going to planning on 22nd August, we have until 17th August to make our voice heard.

This is a 10.5 acre space, half the size of Whitworth Park.

There will around 1000 cars moving in and out onto already busy Great Ancoats Street. This will increase pollution including known carcinogens such as Nitrogen Dioxide, in a city of appalling childhood asthma rates and one which consistently ranks amongst the worst air quality in Europe.

This space is right next door to a Primary School.

This seems in total contradiction of Manchester’s campaign for clean air when Manchester City Council has declared a Climate Emergency.

Legally the land is owned by Manchester City Council making it public property, meaning you can walk on it. The fence around the old units is fenced off and there is a security which keep an eye on the space; but the advice from the talks was to build a park on top of whats there already.

Currently the plan is to use the space to show potential use. Events, guerrilla gardening, market, skateboard park, etc. I’ve already been thinking about a massive community bring your own BBQ type event – if I could sort out the toilets?

Anyway you can learn more at treesnotcars.com, and if you get a chance do drop in and see the space and the chalked ideas people have for it.

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Ancoats… hip? upcoming?

The Ashton Canal by Ancoats

Ancoats is the area just north of the city centre in Manchester. It has a large population of people who have lived in and around that area for generations. From the things I’ve seen, it use to be the Italian Quarter.

When I first came to Manchester 9 years ago, it was seen as a place you don’t want to go too often.

I still remember talking to a taxi driver asking for New Islington (about 5 years before the Tram stop opened), he seemed very confused and when I finally showed him on google maps; he laughed and said “You mean Ancoats!

Although I don’t strictly live in Ancoats, I live between Ancoats and New Islington in the ward called Bradford. Basicilly for aguement sake, I live in Ancoats or on the edge of the northen quarter.

Recently its started going through the genertification phases. I assume it started once different groups of people started making it their homeincluding myself. So many changes than Rudys Pizza place has been named best Pizza place in Manchester and beyond. Vivid Lounge named second best thai restaurants in Manchester, although its a local cafe under my flat. I’m seeing the Ancoasts Coffee company beans appearing all over. Recently theres been a restaurant called squid, matcha tea room and some clean living restuarant called Kettlebell.

Kat with cocktail

And its not just the food places… The area is growing homes, unique flats, schools, hackspaces, nurseries, etc. No wonder its been featured among the hippest places in the UK.

Now listed among the hippest places in the UK , Ancoats has blossomed beyond recognition into one of Manchester’s best areas for independent food and drink.

The district was home to some of the largest mills in the city. It fell into disrepair after the slump of the cotton industry, and was more notorious than it was desirable. But the forgotten corner of the city soon attracted low-budget creatives. As the trendy Northern Quarter became satiated and prices rocketed in the city centre, young entrepreneurs looked slightly further afield to set up innovative new businesses.

Now, old mills are regenerated by indie cafes, restaurants and bars with a focus on high-quality, artisan products. One journalist for the New York Times heaped praise on the ‘ entrepreneurial spirit ’ of the area, while the San Francisco Chronicle named Ancoats as a must-see area for any tourist in 2017.

Some people are calling it the new Northern Quarter. But in reality, it’s an eclectic, inventive, and exciting foodscape all of its own.

Waterside # 2 - New Islington, Manchester

Certainly a shift from Ancoats very different past.

No more battling ISIS…

https://twitter.com/cubicgarden/status/732977095912067075

Today I came back to find a letter from ISIS (now called Waterside places). It made me laugh a little.

In light of the current connotations to the militant terrorist group we have decided to change our name. We want to avoid any confusion or offence it may inadvertently cause partners, residents and local communities

The new name will be Waterside Places…

…The new name and branding will be effective from 11 August

I always wondered when they were going to change the name, the embarrassment alone must have devistating?

Don’t worry Waterside Places (Muse and Canal & River trust), you won’t be getting any less slack from me and others regarding the problems with Islington Wharf phase 1, 2 and 3!

https://twitter.com/cubicgarden/status/704786858413330432

Islington Wharf isn’t on fire…

Islington Wharf, Manchester

The Manchester evening news broke the story today that people in Islington Wharf Mews are being told that they will have to leave their homes for a good part of a year.

People are being forced to move out of a brand new city centre apartment block – because it breaks fire safety rules. Many of the residents in Islington Wharf Mews, on the edge of the city centre, had only bought their waterside properties last year.

But it soon emerged that their newly-built homes were not properly fireproofed. The M.E.N. understands they now have to move out for up to 10 months while the defect is fixed.

Yes ISIS waterside development hadn’t fireproofed the new apartments to the safety standards required by law!

This is frankly not only shocking but a total disgrace; putting many peoples lives in danger. I’m glad this was discovered or revealed before something happened and people died!

Of course as a home owner of ISIS waterside’s Islington Wharf (phase 1) I’m happy to finally see some press attention about the on going shocking state of the heat gain problem in the apartments. This was not taken lightly, with the worry about the affect on property value of course.

Meanwhile the same developer – ISIS Waterside – is also embroiled in a row with people living in the first phase of the development next door. People living in Islington Wharf, which was built in 2008, say they are considering legal action because temperatures soared to more than 35C in their flats every summer. The developer is planning to replace the windows and temporary air conditioning units have been handed out.

This is also pretty much true, its the number one reason why people leave the apartments. We have seen reports of things melting into sofas and temperature reports with photographic evidence of closer to 40c a few years back (we have them backed up). Yes its nice not having to put the heating on in winter but at least my flat is liveable in summer. Some residents have rooms with no chance to open windows!

There have been many tests, and I even had some equipment in my flat testing the heat in the past. Every-time, they (ISIS and others) all pretty much agree something needs to be done. However the proposals to the committee (which I am a part of) have been poor, short-sighted and full of holes.

The air conditioning units were/are temporary till a sustainable long term solution is found. The committee will not be pushed into a solution which ultimately is bad for everybody involved (we have meeting minutes also backed up), but we have been working very hard to make this a reality.

Its worth saying a few things…

The heat problem affects roughly half of Islington Wharf, I’m not affected as my flat faces the sun in the morning and evening only (by pure chance not by design or choice). Islington wharf has had many problems in the past including the terrible communal boiler system, but things have gotten better with a new management company, Revolution.ISIS have been granted approval  to build the 3rd phase of Islington Wharf, very much against the Islington Wharf committees support and many of the residents.Its my view that, their track record across Islington Wharf Mews, Granary Wharf (I remember their was a serious problem a few years back, but cant find anything about it now, maybe results have been removed?) and of course Islington Wharf. Should be a clear sign to put the 3rd phase on hold till the other issues are actually sorted out and the residents are happy. No matter what Nigel Franklin, Director of ISIS Waterside Regeneration thinks or says…

Hate gentrification? Think about the community

Warning in lift of Milliners Wharf

There has been a number of issues around the New Islington (Ancoats and Northern Quarter) area as of late. including Mans body found in the Ashton Canal and the calculated mugging of someone at 7pm a few weeks ago. The later, took place on the tow path under the bridge by VividLounge and I say calculated because their were 4 people involved and they locked a gate forcing people to walk under a bridge, straight into their trap.

Warning in Islington Wharf lifts

Although not good for those involved, its a careful reminder of the not so nice side of living with gentrification.

Theres been a ton of tension in San Francisco recently, which was going to write about here but opted to write on Single Black Male if they accept it.

Woolwich

I’m under no illusion that we are the outsiders moving in on what many have classed as their home forever. You can feel the tension in the air sometimes, specially as planning permission is given and locals see another highrise which they can’t ever dream of living in. Its not the first time I have experienced this. When me and Sarah moved to Woolwich, we lived in a small set of houses in the shadow of some council estates.

The only real trouble we ever saw from some young kids, who decided to throw stones into our garden while we were having a BBQ with friends. Which to be fair is nothing compared to the Beckenham Halloween incident.

They were planned to be knocked to the ground (not sure if it ever happened?) but Woolwich centre is a different place, as I witnessed when I went back 2 years ago. This mainly due to the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) which connected Woolwich with the city of London in all of about 25mins and the Olympic games which had money filter down from Stratford (East London). One of the last deprived areas of London suddenly became pricey and we sold our house at the right moment, getting a buyer pretty much straight away. That is the upside of gentrification… and to be fair it was quite a nice place to live if you were careful and avoided trouble.

Neither me or Sarah were attacked or even hassled from memory. We knew our neighbors and some people in the area. We also took part in the residents committee when possible. Woolwich wasn’t bad, it had a nice local market and I could get a haircut at 10pm.

New Islington to Brixton via San Francisco

The problems with New Islington, seem to stem from property developers who have gone into the area and I gather promised a lot and failed. Not only that they screwed over a lot of the locals and refused to enter into a dialogue with them. Not only that they have carved out a section for themselves rather than opt for a softly softly approach. Ask anyone about the promises for new islington by Urban Splash and the Ancoats medical dispensary.

But its not always the tensions are the fault of building developers. Sometimes you get a community of people who refuse or don’t get the idea of joining a existing community. I would say this is whats happening in San Francisco from what I have been reading and heard. I’m not blaming the geeks, startups and general people. But I am saying if your company starts to put on special transport and security (yes I’m pointing the finger at the BBC too) this is not a good message to the local community. It basically reads, the local community can not be trusted. Trust is essential for community to grow.

My next stop is Brixton, South central London. Lovely diverse area with a rich history and some very troubling moments. When I was in London, it was a good place but like Woolwich, there were places you don’t go. Having spent some time on the jury there, I have seen what happens when you ignore this and go looking for trouble. However I recently went back to visit my sister who lives on the outskirts of Brixton because she can’t afford to live in the area anymore. We met next to the station which had a small Starbucks! This alone was shocking for me but then we walked around the Brixton market/village? which had transformed from a standard market to South London’s Shoretditch or Northern Quarter.

Trendy makeshift bars and restaurants selling over priced food and drink. Don’t have a problem with this part so much. But my sister told me the tale of how locals are being forced out in favor of more bars and restaurants to cater those who wonder from the tube, 200 meters into the market and back.

Novelist Alex Wheatle describes how his native Brixton has changed from being an area where many outsiders feared to tread to somewhere where south London’s young professionals can now go for an £8 burrito. But has Brixton lost its unique vibe? ‘It’s very pleasant,’ says Wheatle, ‘but I do miss that constant pounding of reggae’

Alex is right on the money, its cool but something might be missing, be it pounding reggae or something else.

If you haven’t heard Spike Lee’s gentrification rant about Brooklyn, New York its a must… Here’s just a few of the snippets I found interesting…

You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code.

Or even move them all out…?

You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!

Like I said originally, Ancoats was the Italian quarter, and although its changed. You got to have some respect…

That’s another thing: Motherfuckin’… These real estate motherfuckers are changing names! Stuyvestant Heights? 110th to 125th, there’s another name for Harlem. What is it? What? What is it? No, no, not Morningside Heights. There’s a new one. [Audience: SpaHa] What the fuck is that? How you changin’ names?

Remind you of New Islington or Brixton Village anyone?

Spike is kind of right in what he says, its a rant but most of the points are good. But I’m not so sure gentrification is 100% bad.

My hope is for communities to form and connect becoming stronger together. I mean who doesn’t want to live in a strong community where people look out for each other and their space? I am personally starting to do more to unite the residents but we do need to think bigger picture…

I think this is where the study of familiar strangers comes in to play nicely. I also heard about a hyper local project around microblogging, which I think could do wonders if people are engaged enough to get involved. Of course throwing Technology at a social problem is never the solution but it can help if used in the right way.

I mentioned recently in Return of the JFDI, the Ancoats Canal clean up project. James actively works with the local community on the project. He’s very active in the Ancoats area and adores where he lives.

The project is a great example of how two communities can come together to help bring together a better community. I will spell it out if you’re not aware, a tight community generally face less crime. Yes you’ve all heard it before, its all part of the Broken Window phenomenon. Want more… have a read

My point is… Gentrification doesn’t have to be aggressive or seen as them vs us. It can be nice and gentle, where everyone is involved and everyone is happy with the changes. I’m also not saying the local community are to blame for the crime but it in the interest of both communities to come together to push out the undesirable behavior.

A good time to be in New Islington?

From the Manchester Evening News via Steve on Twitter,

An ambitious plan for a multi-billion pound regeneration around a new-look Piccadilly station can be revealed by the M.E.N. Town hall chiefs want to unlock the rewards of the planned High Speed 2 rail link long before it arrives – in a regeneration bonanza dubbed the ‘opportunity of the century’. Planners want to create a new ‘gateway quarter’ modelled on Amsterdam and New York.It would be centred around the new HS2 terminal – and a grand new entrance plaza replacing the existing front of Piccadilly station.

The plan would also include:

  • A leafy boulevard linking London Road with east Manchester, ending in a park on Fairfield Street – creating a green corridor between the Medlock Valley and the city centre.
  • A ‘Spinningfields-style’ business centre between Great Ancoats Street and the Rochdale and Ashton canals.
  • An ‘East Village’ of waterside homes, shops and offices in Piccadilly Basin.
  • 10,000 new homes between Piccadilly and the Holt Town area of Bradford.
  • New homes, green spaces and offices on the former Mayfield Depot site.
How Piccadilly station could look after the arrival of HS2

Sure there will be some kick back on the plans but honestly from Piccadilly Station to Great Ancoats Street is pretty poor. Heck part of it is the red light zone. I do wonder about Piccadilly Basin which currently is a nice quiet part of the city but as long as none of the Northern quarter is taken over, I don’t have much of a problem.

If the plans go ahead along with the new retail park which will include a cinema, it will be a great time to have bought at Islington wharf.

Barbra Streisand moves to Islington wharf?

My Dad Found This In A Dumpster

Ok the title is misleading, Barbra Streisand is not moving to Islington Wharf. But I bet if you lived here, you might not be so surprised, heck the chances are you might be excited! Maybe if I changed to another gay icon like Nick Frost, I might have you convinced?

Its Manchester Pride this bank holiday and its amazing to see how large a venture its turned into. I was seeing reports on Twitter that one of the events was warehouse project styled. For those outside of Manchester, the warehouse project is…

The Warehouse Project is a series of club nights organised in Greater Manchester, England, since 2006. It runs from September through to New Years Day each year plus occasional one off dates such as Bank Holiday weekends. It began operations in the disused Boddingtons Brewery in Strangeways, and then moved into a space under Manchester Piccadilly railway station, which previously served as an air raid shelter

The key point is Pride is massive and I was talking to Jane yesterday. I estimated 40% of islington Wharf might be gay… However Vivid Lounge’s Sam, suggested to me that I might be in the minority. In other words there may be a lot less straight people that I think living at Islington Wharf.

So what is it about islington wharf/new islington/northern quarter which seems to attract gay men and women? Me and Jane were talking about this yesterday too. Could it be one of these?

  1. Is it the proximity to Canal Street (Manchester’s famous gay village)?
  2. Is it being close to Piccadilly train station?
  3. Is it the flat prices?
  4. Is it the 5% deposit scheme?
  5. Is it that islington wharf is gay friendly generally?

Sam thinks its a chicken and egg problem, but the proximity to the village (canal street) is great for gay people. I don’t personally think its that close but considering other areas, like castlefield, green quarter, spinning fields, etc he might have a valid point. The proximity to Piccadilly station is attractive for everyone including myself. I can go from door to train in less than 15mins walking.

Sam suggests maybe lots of gay people working away from Manchester and this would be high on the list maybe? I do know a few people who work in London 3 days a week and yes they are gay.

The price of the flats and the deposit scheme might work hand in hand. Saving up 5% deposit for a flat is great news and to be fair if your buying it alone this can be done. Usually saving a deposit of 10% is a struggle and only a couple can do it maybe? (before you scream at me in the comments yes I know lots of gay couples but generally I would say most gay people in Islington Wharf are single, judging by the shocking amount of men on Grindr – that I’ve been shown!)

The chicken and egg problem Sam suggested might come into play with the last one. How do you make it gay friendly? I would suggest Islington wharf is full of modern thinking/liberal people who don’t have a problem with gay people in society. I remember one guy who was gay himself, who seemed a little shocked that I was so accepting of gay culture (he assumed I might have a slight problem). I think he expected me to be upset about it or something?

If anyone works out the answer to the question, they will be very wealthy (and of course rich which would be a shame)

What ever the reason, there are some interesting studies about the difference a Gay community can do. I’m just happy to be living in a place full of interesting liberal minded people… Starbucks and Pizza Express (meant to be the sign of a up and coming area right?) do not have a patch on the rainbow flags and consistent looking at mobiles screens of the gay community. Funny enough, Umair Haque said something which is very fitting

Never bet against love. It’s the only force that has ever truly changed the world…

What a difference a year makes… Vivid LoungeUK

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Fran of Vivid Lounge UK welcomes you with that warm smile, while Sam hides in the Kitchen (maybe to keep his head from exploding)

Over a year ago I wrote a blog post which made me one of the most hated people in my apartment block (islington wharf). It wasn’t deliberately made to piss anyone off but I guess no one wants to hear the truth, specially when things are on the line. Some said I was in-sensitive and my timing was very bad. No matter what they think, I wrote a number of points which I suggested could be to blame for the rapid shutdown of Vivid Lounge.

  1. Engagement with the residents and residents committee…
  2. Get Decor
  3. Environmental factors
  4. Taking feedback on the chin
  5. Celebrate every moment
  6. Its not just about us…
  7. Whats on the menu?

Each one I backed up with some of my own thoughts….

Anyway over the last year or so, I’ve witnessed a place go from closed to busy and delightful.

So what happened? Well frankly they did most of the things I suggested in the blog post. Of course I’m not suggesting I was directly responsible for the transformation but the owner(s) did read the post at least.

So whats changed?

Wooden Tables throughout

The decor of the old Vivid lounge was too plastic and white. It didn’t feel homey and because of that it suffered deeply. Well now the white plastic table/chairs are gone (good thing because they were falling apart anyway) and we have wooden tables and benches. Ok from Ikea but to be honest I and others couldn’t care less. Every single customer who has come in has said great things about the new look. More wood is planned and I’m sure it will be a similar effect.

The bright stark lights are all gone and now theres gentle hanging lights and plenty of tealights/candles. Its really making use of the space better now (at least on the ground floor). The top floor still needs to be sorted out as its basically a store room right now.

Feedback is less welcomed, but only because Sam the owner is convinced he knows everything. I guess its like telling Steve Jobs how to run Apple. And like Jobs, Sam has his own strong opinions which drive the momentum of VividloungeUK. He’s a bit of a perfectionist, so at least he can spot the problems. He also seems to be amassing the right people behind him (including a Fran who was a manager at Starbucks). On top of that the amount of staff has dropped down to about 2 -3 on the weekends and 1-2 during the week. Much more sensible levels of staffing.

Vivid Lounge

Saturday and Sunday before 1pm its possible to get a full english cooked breakfast and its even possible to have it delivered to your door if you call up or leave details on facebook. But there are limitations to the size of the kitchen, meaning the hugely popular vividboxes had to go. Now you have a couple choices from the specials which is every day now. There is also a menu with daily pre-made sandwiches in a fridge you can just grab if your in a rush. When I walked in today, there was some made menus on the table. I hear the full menus are coming real soon but generally you can see what they got from whats on the board and stuff in the fridge.

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Theres much more engagement with the other apartments in the area and they even deliver to Milliners Wharf, Vulcan Mills and Chips. Vivid isn’t reliant on just islington wharf anymore, theres a much more local pub feeling and they even play with the local and homemade idea in their branding.

I can’t praise Sam and VividLoungeUK enough (although I wouldn’t do the first one to his face because we regularly takes the piss out of each other). I do wish he got a proper website and there were changes to upstairs but honestly I’m impressed.

Well worth visiting and making your local if your in the New Islington area of Manchester. Look forward to a review update in another year…

Want to run a bar? VivID Lounge

Autumn BBQ

I’ve enjoyed having VivID Lounge right below where I live. It was like having a local pub (I assume) but it was a European styled lounge. However there were problems right from the start and it looks like its the end of the road for this current version of the lounge.

This will be a very difficult blog post to write and I’m going to leave out peoples names and dates because its not really fair. Its also worth noting I’m not really in a position to be talking because I’ve never opened a bar or ever run an physical establishment. So really this is the thoughts from a outsiders view. I’ll probably get peoples backs up but, hey I’m doing it for the right reasons I believe… and I would happily say most of the same stuff to the previous owners of VivID lounge…

VivID lounge was one of those jokes for the longest time. Some of us believed it was a hoax by ISIS to get interest in the space. However it turned out to be real soon after I moved into Islington Wharf, with a paper survey through everyones postbox. Months after, things started happening. First a council application for food and alcoholic drink then one for a late night licence. It was clear it wasn’t a hoax after all. Then finally things started happening in the glass space, including a call for employment.

Due to open in July in time for the Ice Cream Festival, it didn’t quite happen and it was another 3 months before it actually opened, missing most of summer. It also opened with no big fanfare or announcements. The owners said they didn’t want a big opening.

So for months, people have walked past it and seen its open but haven’t gone in. Don’t get me wrong sometimes it was busy but generally its quiet and there 1-5 people sitting reading the news, enjoying a coffee. Why…?

There’s a whole host of reasons I believe… but here’s my thoughts…

  1. Engagement with the residents and residents committee…
    I’m on the committee and also form the social committee and although we had a very successful night for the residents just recently (pics you can see here)… It wasn’t enough. I had planned to do feedback sessions to the residents about whats going on but got busy, and it didn’t happen. Ultimately I would suggest that more work needed to be done to engage residents. Not just sticking flyers through there post boxes, but actually banging on doors and massive discounts just to get people through the door everyday. This seemed to fall between the cracks of the owners and the residents committee, I can only suggest if we had known things were going so badly we would have got involved far earlier
  2. Get Decor
    Yes named after a favorite tune but ultimately the decor of the lounge was very uncomfortable and unfriendly. Plastic white chairs with white tables and only one sofa (next to the toilet). What it really needed was to take a note from places like North Tea Power, NoHo, Apothica, Common, etc. Simple cheap sofas with simple cheap wood tables. It would feel a lot more friendly with all those wood/earthy tones instead of stark white/orange colour scheme. Its a lounge… and the décor just didn’t quite match what you think about when you think European Lounge.
  3. Environmental factors
    VivID always struck me as very light and breezy due to the massive amounts of glass throughout but at night it always had the lights on very high… It was always a mood killer and although they had tea lights, they were over powered by the heavy lights throught-out the space. They really could have done with killing most of the nights and using many more candles (but there might be other reasons for this)
  4. Taking feedback on the chin
    In the early days, it was mentioned many times by many people that it would be great if VivID lounge would do a cooked breakfast on the weekends. VivID would only do healthy/hearty breakfasts containing porridges and muesli… The excuse was sometimes “the kitchens not big enough…” “We don’t want to be a greasy spoon” “If we gave everyone what they wanted… we would be bankrupt.” It was so bad, that people would come to me and moan to me about it! So in the end I ended up telling them again on behalf of others. If I had known things were so bad earlier, I would have been much more forceful at the very start.
  5. Celebrate every moment
    VivID missed its original opening date by a few months, but even when they opened it never did a launch event… This is a crying shame because many people didn’t know it was open for a while and even if they did, there was no real reason to go and check it out. I could mention social objects here but I won’t… People like an excuse to be there, thats why the quiz nights worked. Lastly there was no closing party (from what people tell me). There wasn’t even a “thanks everyone for supporting us type thing” (I wasn’t there on the last Saturday, so I’m going on hear-say), instead there was a message on the facebook group. So much for celebration…
  6. Its not just about us…
    Islington Wharf wasn’t the only flats in the area. Yes it was right underneath but actually there was Chips, Quantum, Millerners Wharf, Piccadilly Basin, etc, etc.. I don’t personally know how much effort went into engaging with those people but theres been a estimation that at least 1200 other people are a short walk from VivID. Even if they could convince 10% to come in regularly that would be great for business. VivID is also on the way to the Manchester City ground and the couple of times they tried selling things to the fans, its been very well received. I guess what I’m saying is, I believe there is enough footfall and someone will make a killing
  7. Whats on the menu?
    The menu was a mess of new and old items. Some of the old ones were no longer sold and the new ones you had to ask for. On top of that, there was only a few choices in certain categories. For example, only one black tea (my own bug bear) but about 4 different types of fruit & a green tea… Many times I wanted a earl grey but couldn’t get one. Near the end I learned they had them but it wasn’t on the menu or board! Seriously… This is systematic of the problems with the menu as a whole. When dim sum was added to the menu I was excited and told people about it, but later when a friend came in for dim sum, they couldn’t see it on the menu, so was disappointed. This is the same case for the fried breakfast… I understand the menu was fluid but they really needed paper menus to reflect this.

Autumn BBQ

There are many more but these are the main ones…
Of course it would be wrong of me to just highlight the negatives… It was a centre piece in the islington wharf community and the amount of people who we met there was great. As I said before I imagine its like a old town pub which all the locals hang out and socialise. In actual fact VivID lounge was the social object. It was the reason why people left there flats and chatted to each other. Its the reason why I spent a ton of money at VivID lounge even though the coffee and tea wasn’t as good as they could have been (North Tea Power can sleep well). The staff were generally friendly (specially some of the women, who were very cute), and the people you found hanging around were always cool and friendly. I’m sure there were many friendships which were formed via Vivid and as it seems will out live VivID.
Once again its a shame and to be fair its a difficult time for all independent coffee shops (Outlet closed down a while ago too) and you’ve got to be prepared to not make any money for at least 2 years it seems. Real businesses are a total different game from what I’m use to and I have total respect for the people involved in making vivID lounge…. I hope there not too hard hit and they will bounce back very soon…
Of course if your interested in taking over VivID lounge, do get in touch… I’ll happily pass your details on to the owners. I’m very confident with the right understanding of the mistakes above, enough money and once the new tram station and marina opens it will be a killer coffee bar

A halloween party for my fellow residences

Halloween Party

Islington wharf where I now live now has a fantastic communal garden (which I’ve been using to read my kindle and play with my pacemaker) and I thought it would be a grand idea to have a party in the garden for all the residences of islington wharf.

So the plan is to have the party and allow people to bring a couple of friends with them. I will lay on a bit of party snacks (I got plenty left over from my flat warming party back in September) and everyone will bring there own drinks. On top of that, there will be two contests, one for the best carved pumpkin and another for the best fancy dress on the day. I’ve roped ISIS’s hollie into supplying the pumpkins and maybe supplying some really nice prizes on the night to the winners.

Finally I thought it might be nice to have a organised trick or treat for the kids of islington wharf. Get everyone ready with treats and go around the flats with a couple of adults to supervise the whole thing. I’m not sure how many kids there are in the flats but I’ve seen a couple playing in the garden since I’ve been here. Its slightly ambitious but even if we get 10% of the residents down on Sunday night, thats still over 20 people.

So why am I doing this?

Well when I first saw the location the garden was certainly a selling point. I really wanted a balcony but I gladly gave it up for a communal garden which I could relax in and share with others. I’ve seen a few people using the garden but not nearly as many as I would have thought. The thing about flats is they have a rep for being impersonal and loney places where people tend to not talk to each other as they leave there flats. In actual fact Tracey Langford said it in her recent interview for east manchester.

Tracey, who runs her own business, says the idea of a community appealed to them too: “We didn’t want to live in an soulless place where nobody spoke in the lift.” She adds, “We also wanted a high proportion of owner occupiers so that people really cared about the building. There is a mix of properties here with houses that face on to the communal garden, which are ideal for younger families.”

And that communal aspect prevails. Says Tracey, “In fact, the first Islintgon Wharf baby was born here a couple of months ago and the whole building was invited to the first birthday party of one of our residents!”

Its all about Community

Community, yep the big C word. Its one of those things which is very hard to just do, it needs to be organic. But fear not, this is just one of the ideas I have to bring people together. ISIS haven’t done a bad job so far but theres certainly some room for improvement. The next logical step I think is to sort out the community forum which is currently hosted on a external site somewhere. I signed up to join the forum ages ago and my membership is still pending (even after months).

My neighbor across the hallway is talking about setting up another better supported forum but I’m wondering why we don’t just setup a facebook group? Although to be fair it seems I’m not the only one who thought about this. The tricky part in a community is getting everyone on the same page (or getting the word out about the site), this requires actual physical work like putting up posters and speaking to people, something which seems to be sadly missing it seems.

ISIS should be involved in the community process too, but not be the driver of the process. It needs to come from the community/residents its self.

So I’m hoping to improve on the community building which has already started. I can’t say it will translate into sales for ISIS but for me this isn’t about that. Its about building a lovely place to live. I already live in a amazing place with some great views and great architecture but in this case, theres nothing wrong with wanting more. A rich vibrant community of caring people who I can share a wine with in the garden? I’m working on it one step at a time…

The people of New Islington

I was interviewed by East Manchester a little while ago about my move to Islington Wharf in New Islington. Today I discover my interview has finally gone live.

Here’s the interview bit with me, its worth checking out the rest including the Langford family and amazing story from James Gilhooly…

Originally from Bristol, Ian is a senior development producer for the BBC. He fronts BBC Backstage, the BBC’s early adopter network to encourage participation and support creativity through open innovation.

“When I first heard that the BBC were moving to Manchester,” says Ian, “I thought NO WAY. I had never lived up north before and I believed all the stereoptypes.”But Ian, who was living in the London borough of Woolwich at the time, lived up to his early adopter claims and spent some time researching the area before moving up three years ago. “I soon realised I could afford somewhere really close to the city centre,” he says, “having been used to driving across London.”

It’s close to the city centre without any of the disadvantages.

One of the first BBC employees to have moved north, Ian says he was pleasantly surprised. “It was really lively,” he said, “and there were loads of diverse areas but not so far apart.” Ian spent three days looking at flats and gauging how much he could afford to buy. He settled on Islington Wharf and hasn’t looked back.

Even in the short time he’s been here, Ian feels like he’s seen a lot of changes: “It really does feel like they’re getting on with things,” he says, “I like the idea of being part of something new and exciting.”

There are ways Ian’s life could be improved. “I can’t wait for the tram to be finished,” he says, “I should be able to be at work in 27 minutes with a change. With no change, it could be as little as 15 minutes, which beats driving across London.” And he’s keen for the community to develop a little more. “There’s a nice mix of young professionals, older people and even families,” he says, “but we could have more going on between Islington Wharf and Chips and the other buildings.”But East Manchester has the potential to be great, says Ian. “It has the potential to attract a lot of the Northern Quarter crowd and once the tram line is open, that will make a huge difference.”

It was a fair interview, not much changed from what I said. I never thought I’d end up back in the East of the city (Woolwich is in south east) but I do think New Islington could be like the east Castlefield if things are well developed in time. Like the south east of London, this area is really up and coming so its really good to get in early.

Some people have asked me if New Islington is like Islington in London? I got to say not a chance, although it would be great to have a load more restaurants.

Window Cleaning Islington Wharf

Window cleaners

We got a note in our letter boxes on Thursday that the window cleaners would be doing our block on the weekend. I did wonder how they were going to do it because the top of Islington Wharf is not level or very friendly for window cleaners. Actually after a talk with the window cleaning team, they are actually using the penthouse gardens on the top floor to tie there ropes, hardly ideal. The building is also a weird shape, making cleaning it even more of a challenge that say something like Beetham Tower. Although they did point out that the over hang certainly makes things tricky. Islington Wharf has lots of overhangs and angles, so it requires many “drops” according to the window cleaners.

I took a load of shots with my new Nikon d40x. Nice guys and what a job, I certainly wouldn’t do it, my fear of heights would be a killer.

My new home in New Islington

The stunning view from my new flat (islington wharf)

So I’ve finally got the new flat about right, there was plenty of unpacking and even more putting together of furniture thanks to my great parents and lovely friends Sheila and Glyn (who traveled all the way up from London to see me and help me move in, I will never forget that)

I just last Friday put up the last piece of Ikea furniture (the Lack coffee table) and shifted things around in the flat. I expect theres plenty more shifting needed for everything to fit and work in the spaces I have put them in. I still have a ton of flatten Cardboxes in my main bathroom because the recycling is totally filled up and there too large to take somewhere else for recycling.

One of the best parts about the new flat is the amazing view I have in the main room. There is 2 walls of double glazed glass so you really get a fantastic view of North East Manchester (including the New Islington area aka Ancoats). I can easily see the Manchester City stadium, Chips (the weird shaped urban splash flats), 3Towers (another urbansplash set of buildings), Tutti Furti (the self build scheme), Royal Mills flats, the new east Manchester tram line and lots more. On a clear day, you can see the mountains/hills which are the start of the pennines which split Leeds from Manchester. The clouds are also pretty amazing at this height. You can almost see the rain clouds coming in slowly and the thunder storm we recently had was pretty impressive. You could almost see the lightning hit the ground in some places. Wish I had found my camera earlier, as it was simply stunning.

So if you didn’t know already, I bought this place. So I’m now a home owner again. I won’t say how much I got the flat for but its a very reasonable deal with the old governments homebuy scheme. Unfortunately I can’t recommend it much because the new government got rid of it on the 1st August. Its a good scheme no wonder they killed it off. Either way, my monthly mortgage is well below my rent for the other place, I’m actually quite shocked how low it is. Of course its fixed for the next few years, which should give me plenty of time to re-morgage at a lower rate in the future.

All in all, I’m really enjoying the new pad at islington wharf and friends of me look out for the flatwarming party which will most likely take place in the secret garden instead of my flat. If the weather keeps up, I might turn it into a massive bbq instead….

Photos of my new flat at Islington Wharf

The view from my new flat

So this is the view I’ll be seeing a lot more of in the very near future. It is the view looking northward across the Ancoats, i mean new islington area which I learned on Saturday use to be the home of the italians who moved to Manchester in the early 20th century. Of course I’m nice and high in the islington wharf block of apartments. I would have like to have been on the other side but it was an extra £10k to be on the south side with a balcony. Hey at least I get to see the Manchester City stadium (sport city) and the rest of new islington including the planned beach which meant to be put in just next to Chips (the two tone block of apartments in the middle of the picture).

So to go with the floor to ceiling windows, is two bedrooms a nice large lounge with kitchen and two bathrooms. There’s also a huge community garden for everyone in the building. I took advantage of the governement scheme which is now ending this weekend. Basically its a interest free loan for 30% of the property while you put in 65% in a mortgage and 5% via a deposit. Its a good deal because the loan is interest free for 5 years then you can either pay it back via the sale of the flat or pay it back slowly at a low interest rate.

I get the keys on Thursday, so only a week now and everything seems to be swimming along nicely. Thanks in part to my sister (Sharon) and Billie Wilde (my estate agent and mortgage advisor). Billie kept trying to get hold of me on my mobile phone but couldn’t get through due to #mybrushwithdeath. So in the end my sister picked up the call and got back to Billie with the bad news about me being in hospital with the bleed on the brain. Billie informed everyone involved and held the mortgage for as long as she could.

When I was well enough to continue the flat buying process she came to my house with everything to sign before I went to Bristol. If Billie and Sharon had not done what they had, I would have lost the flat for sure or at least the mortgage which would have been a real lost. So thank you to both of them, I’m very happy to pay the small fee to Billie because she really did over and above what she needed, to make sure I got the mortgage and ultimately the flat. And of my sister for being my caring sister. I owe you one, hope you enjoy the flip camera I bought you.