Jim Grant’s initial impressions of Manchester

I was very aware of joining something that was changing, moving away from the past. That Manchester talking truth to London thing, was starting… it was very 50s and it dissipated in the 60s. And it was on the way out in the 70s. The idea that Britain was so regionally divided, but it was still very true actually in Manchester in the late 70s. It was remarkably Victorian. It was really still a 19th century city. And the people I met were, without slagging off Mancunians in particular, because everybody was the same, my granny in Yorkshire was the same, everybody was the same. It was… they were intensely regional, intensely nervous about anything else. I mean, I would talk to Mancunians in the late 70s and they would regard a trip to London with the same kind of trepidation and theatre almost that I would regard a trip to Moscow, somewhere very far away, very alien, and where you were likely to screw up and do something wrong and get in trouble. Manchester was way behind the times.

And one of the huge enjoyments for me was, in the time that I was working in Manchester, the city just accelerated like a hundred years into the future almost on a day-to-day basis. It was quite amazing. I mean, in 1977, as I recall, you couldn’t buy a bottle of wine in Manchester and that may be at Yates’s Wine Lodge. If you are an alcoholic, you’d get some syrupy stuff from them, but in terms of what you would call cosmopolitan sophistication, it just wasn’t happening, originally. But it really accelerated. And really one of the most exhilarating progressions that I’ve ever seen in the city with all kinds of random facts is chipping in. But when I left in 1995, Manchester was unrecognisable. Completely different in 18 years.

I go back occasionally on book tours and yes, it’s amazing. Economists say count the number of cranes on the horizon to judge the economic progress, and there’s always a lot of stuff going on.

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