I have to say, that I rather like Manchester. I’ve been here before but not for nearly 20 years, which seems like a strange thing to be able to type. I was already blessing it for the presence of a Left Luggage department, something which is sorely lacking these days. I was able to decant my laptop and glasses into a cloth bag brought for just that purpose, and drop my giant rucksack off for a few hours to play with the other luggage in daycare whilst I went to explore.
I’d done some googling, and asked the lovely Worker Bees writing collective (Write Like a Girl grads from Manchester, who I met at GrrrlCon last year, check them out!) for their recommendations. My rumbling stomach had decided, however, that I should certainly stop for lunch first, and who am I to argue? I found a lovely cafe called ‘Moose Coffee’ which had a sign outside wishing me a Merry Christmoose, so obviously I had to go in. The food was excellent and plentiful, more than preparing me for my day of walking and note taking.
I’d decided that the best place for me to visit in terms of my character was the People’s History Museum, and so, stopping only briefly at the now ubiquitous Christmas Market to buy a present for my writing Grrrls, I made my way unencumbered by luggage towards the riverside museum. And I have to say, I was not disappointed.
The slogan of the museum is ‘Join the Radicals’, which was immediately appealing, and entry is free, although I did leave a donation, because I fear for the future of such wonderful institutions, and a donation box with ‘Support Ideas Worth Fighting For’ was always going to get at least a few quid out of me. The two main floors of the museum take you through a history of the working people of Britain, from struggles from the vote, to the labour movement, trade unions, communism and, to my utter delight, feminist and queer history (special favourite: a badge that said ‘How dare you assume I’m heterosexual!”).
I passed a couple of hours taking notes and a few pictures, enjoying the emptiness of a museum on a Wednesday in term time, even taking a minute or two to create a stained glass window from magnetic pieces of coloured perspex; well, what’s a lighting designer to do?
If you’re in the area, I would urge you to make a visit to the museum, it is excellently curated and very accessible, both in the sense that there is a lot for children and that it has ramps and lifts throughout, as well as a section on the history of disabled persons rights. There is also, again much to my delight, a section where they explain the conservation of textiles in the museum collection, which, conservation and lighting in museums being my master’s dissertation topic pleased me no end.
I spent the rest of my afternoon failing to find bookshops, which was somewhat disappointing. I’d been recommended Aspidistra Books by the Worker Bees, as well as Chapter One books. I trekked over in the direction of Aspidistra first, having read their twitter bio and discovered that they specialised in LGBT books, and abhorred celeb biographies (yes, I know I’m being snobby, but I don’t care). At least I thought I was heading in their direction. It turned out that the address on their Facebook page was incorrect and they were, in fact, on the other side of Manchester, closer to where I had just been.
Instead, I aimed myself towards Chapter One, which is a fairly new bookshop and seemed rather lovely from their twitter page. Unfortunately, they were closed due to unforeseen circumstances. I consoled myself by saying that it would be less to carry, and that, in any case, I’ll be back in Manchester in June for GrrrlCon (look that up too, if you’re a woman writer!).
So I spent my last hour in Manchester sitting on a wooden bench waiting for my train to Leeds. After managing to get on the wrong one, and being reminded that it was in fact going somewhere else and that the Leeds train was in front of this one, I hurried into my assigned seat and settled for the third train of the day.