That Sinking Feeling

As soon as I heard Manchester being bandied around as the ‘London of the North’ my heart sank. The problem with attracting attention is that pretty soon everyone wants a piece of the action. First it was MediaCity and the ‘politiks’ that came with it. Then it was little things like the casting agencies who have worked out it’s cheaper to come all the way from London for a day and hold their recruitment days in hired space here rather than staying on home turf. It’s kind of great but it has wider implications and you just know where it’s heading. Pretty soon those casting studios won’t be so cheap.

This week, letters through the post at my studio here in Ardwick confirmed the consulting process for routes for the new high speed rail link through Cheshire and South Manchester to Piccadilly station via an underground tunnel which starts at Wythenshawe and ends in West Gorton, a journey of approximately 7.5 miles.

HS2 was conceived by London for London. Noone else. London eats up everything. And pretty soon it’s going to eat up Manchester and anything significant between us and them.

Manchester does not need London. It never has. It’s doing things very well by itself. It has a thriving creative community, a busy city centre, a media hub, a working tram system. It’s a mecca for film companies and location work. It has a plethera of mill buildings that have been converted into practical and, most importantly, affordable space for new and developing businesses at a fraction of the cost of many other cities. Thankfully it has the protection of the High Peak. But that hasn’t stopped the developers moving in.

Manchester does not need to be London and it definitely doesn’t want to be London. Like most of the north, it is fiercely territorial against the South. And I can understand why. London represents a lot of things. And HS2 sums up what I hate about the bubble London has become.

Don’t get me wrong, London has its plus points. Obviously. I like to visit it. But I wouldn’t want to live in it. I always come away with a sense of relief. I no longer have to do that daily commute. And now that it is winding its commuter tentacles north to Sheffield, Leeds, Crewe and Manchester where will it end?

What does HS2 signify for Manchester? Faster connections for the benefit of the south which has priced its inhabitants out of all conceivable price brackets. As far as the city goes, it also represents increases in traffic and population via networks not built to cope with that level of use. Homes bulldozed for the route. More homes built to accommodate those workers who have to live further north because they cannot be where their jobs are. It represents increases in house prices that will push out Manchester people who are used to renting for less than £600 a month so that Londoners who still think £1200 pm is a bargain, can move in. It means buildings like the one I work in will become a thing of the past.

I can’t afford to rent another studio space in Manchester. And I don’t want to. I like what I have here. The competitive pricing of the hidden gem that is my little mill building just outside the city centre has been a closely guarded secret. I don’t suppose they will bulldoze it (who knows – the route is still vague at best) but it isn’t going to be a plus for me or my business. I moved to Manchester because I didn’t want to go south. Because being in a creative hub was as essential as the competative price tag. Because I wanted to be a part of something that was more than just money and profits and fame. Manchester has a different ethos.

I’ve seen the maps for the proposed route – and most essentially from my perspective – the emergence of the tunnel which will burst up in the middle of West Gorton, Ardwick and Burnage and then snake its way towards Fairfield Street and Piccadilly station. A lot of you will be rolling your eyes as you read this. Progress…progress…progress.

Well good for you.

For all things Falcieri Designs check out my website at www.falcieridesigns.co.uk

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