One day I stumbled across an interesting article in the Guardian (as you do!). The DJ Dave Haslam was writing about the time he went to Manchester to check out another DJ, who had built up a bit of a local reputation doing Morrissey and Smiths nights. Dave Cotrill has done his disco nights since 1994 in The Star and Garter, just behind the Piccadilly train station.
Reading the article set the imagination running. Sure why not? So I decided to book the flights, arrange the accommodation and just check out Manchester for myself (and mate).
The article that set it all off is here: “A tale of two disc jockeys”
Here follows some of what we got up to
I can’t remember all the bars and clubs we went into since the days and nights of drinking were long and hard. Nor can I remember a lot of what I was drinking either.
I did enjoy the weekend though. Manchester is a rough and ready city, people are mostly friendly, and it’s a town I would like to visit again. All in all it is a decent place. And yes, they do walk around with a “Manchester swagger”
Here is it in video form
The Star and Garter
18-20 Fairfield Street
The Star and Garter is a pub in Manchester, but not any ordinary pub. It is a bit of an institution as it hosts alternative music events. The SnG puts on rock, punk and indie nights, they showcase new and upcoming bands, and more established crews (The Ting Tings, Badly Drawn Boy, Status Quo, UK Subs, and more…, have all played here), and on the first Friday of every month they host a Smiths disco dedicated to all things Morrissey. The nights are such a hit that the venue has become synonymous with the Smiths, attracting Morrissey fans from all over the world. Liverpool got the Beatles and the Cavern Club, Manchester has Moz disco nights at the Star and Garter!
The SnG is situated slap bang in the middle of nowhere really. Behind Piccadilly railway station, down a side street under an iron bridge, and on the very edge of the city border. Pass the pub and you wander into what looks like a less than salubrious part of town. Apparently this is near Manchester’s red light district. God only knows where they do business, perhaps the bushes and side streets? Didn’t see much life around here. In all this wonderful isolation stands tall the Star and Garter, a Grade II listed building here (or here abouts, was moved brick by brick a 100 yards) since 1803. It looks the part, at any moment you expect the building to come crashing down on top of you. Go early, as we did, and you will find that the pub doesn’t do business in the day time, it was closed.
Getting there before the disco gave us a chance to have a few beers, shoot some pool, and have a good chat with some of the Morrissey fans.
The interior looks like your old style traditional British pub, no frills. The carpets were sticky, the chairs and tables were timeworn, the alcohol came in cheap cans, and the atmosphere was all relaxed.
Talking to Craig and Deb, a nice couple who travelled up from somewhere out of town for the Moz night. They have been here a few times, so I guess you could call them regulars. They first came here “because it’s funny, not the biggest fans in the world but, this sounded hilarious”. Before going out with Deb, Craig didn’t really know who Morrissey was, but now he loves the music, and has now pretty much got every album, “Before, I knew who they (the Smiths) were, but could only name about 2 or 3 of their songs, but now can’t I get enough of them!” Deb, on the other hand is a long-time fan. “Basically when I was 11 someone gave me a bunch of tapes, most of them were rubbish, but the Smiths were interesting, there was something there really”, and so that started a love for the quiffed one.
Met Tim, from Leeds but now lives nearby, who certainly looked the part, who has been coming to the Moz nights for ten months or so.
On what we can expect tonight, Tim told us we were in for a good night, “What can you expect from tonight, a lot of Morrissey fans and some news ones as well. It’s absolutely amazing. You kind of spend the whole month listening to Morrissey mostly on your own, then you come tonight and you’re listening with a load of people.”
On why he likes Morrissey, “He just gets its, he just gets life, he just gets it. I have tried and have tried to explain why Morrissey resonates. No one quite hits it like Morrissey, and Johnny Marr as well, is just an amazing guitarist. Life isn’t a bunch of gladiola and he (Moz) takes that and he makes it beautiful, he acknowledges it and he makes it beautiful with his words. I have liked the Smiths for a long, long time, I don’t think you can describe it with words”
On what Morrissey would make of all this hero worship, “I think he secretly likes it” Indeed, I would think he does too!
William, who travelled up from West Yorkshire, about two hours away, told us that he was born in 1994, the year that these Moz Disco nights started, showing that Morrissey also appeals to a younger crowd, and not just to us old softies. William has been coming to these nights for the last year, and loves Moz, “I like the sound of the music, and that’s a very superficial way to read the Smiths. I started thinking about Morrissey like he is some kind of poet, but you know, I love Morrissey with all my heart and soul and honestly he is quite an inspiration to me”
And after a few more pints, we eventually decided to take the stairs and follow the music. The disco had started!
Upstairs is the dance floor, a decent sized room, dark with bright lights.
A small crowd at the start, but by the time things got going into full swing, the floor was packed with happy punters, all dancing and singing along to all the songs. I did dance, I admit that. Not a great mover, but it was one of those nights that no one cared, the atmosphere was fun and friendly, everyone united in their love and appreciation of the Moz.
A good night, and one that I would love to repeat again in the future.
Manchester United Football Club
Sir Matt Busby Way
So since we were staying in the area we decided we might as well toddle off down to Old Trafford and see what all the hype is about. Apparently Man united are meant to be one of the biggest teams in the world.
Nicknamed the “Red Devils”, even though I like to refer to them as Manure united, they have legions of fans from all over the world. From Asia to America they all know of Manchester United, the brand. And we could see this. Outside the ground were busloads of Asian fans, taking photos like crazy.
Looking at it from the outside, Old Trafford certainly looks like a decent stadium. The “Theatre of Dreams”, was opened way back in 1910, and has a capacity just under 76,000. Bombing in the Second World War destroyed much of the stadium; which meant that during the reconstruction Man Utd had to play its “home” games at their rivals Manchester City’s Maine Road ground; Interesting.
A nice statue of Matt Busby stands at the entrance to the ground
Busby won the League in 1952, a first league title for 41 years, and of course won back to back titles in 56 and 57 with a squad of young ones, “The Busby Babes” (average age of 22)
Also there is a clock showing time standing still. The time when Manchester united suffered its greatest tragedy, the Munich air disaster, when 23 people lost their lives (8 players) returning from a European cup tie in Belgrade.
Busby rebuilt the team, and we can see this in the statue of the trilogy, Best, Law and Charlton, the trio that helped Man Utd win its first European Cup in 1968, the first English football club to do so.
Seen the Alex Ferguson Stand, which looked good
Alex Ferguson was some manager, good old red nose. Did the business though, 13 league titles and 2 Euro Cups. Can’t argue with that, even if he was a grumpy bastard. Grew up looking at this team win all around them, and to be fair they always played great football, and played right up to the death of a game. God only knows how many goals they nicked in the last minute/second minute/third minute/forth/fifth/sixth minute of injury time……….
We were thinking of doing the stadium tour, but at £18.00 a pop for the full tour, and £14 quid for a quick walkthrough and gander at the pitch, we decided against it. For fecks sake that’s the price of a ticket for a non-league team, or a team here on the continent. Just so we can say we saw the pitch, or were near the dugout. Feck off!
We did have a good chat with John though. John sells scarfs outside the ground for about 7 quid. He was good fun, and told us about the new hotel, “Hotel Football”, that ex-players Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville own nearby, that had a plastic pitch on the roof. So naturally we had to have a look, and yes, there really is a pitch on the roof. How cool is that!
Salford Lads’ Club
After checking out one famous Manchester institution we decided to head onto another icon of the city, Salford Lads Club. The club is famously associated with a 1986 Smiths image on the “Queen is Dead” album cover, showing the band looking moody hanging around just outside the club. The band also included the club in a few of their music videos. At the time the boys clubs were not too happy about it at all, but over time they eventually saw sense.
With all the fans, the club eventually decided to tap into this demand and in 2004 a special Smiths room was opened showing messages from fans and a lot of memorabilia of the band. There is also a small store room that sells Smiths t-shirts, badges, postcards, and even chocolate!
The actual boys club was established in 1903 as a recreational club to help out local working class boys, and get them off the street and up to no good. Now open to girls as well, the club still continues the fine tradition of helping out local youth through sport, exercise, and various other activities, with people volunteering their help and time to keep the club running along.
The building is listed and remains virtually unchanged since its foundation.
I am not sure how many fans actual venture into the building but it was good that we did as we met Amber , a volunteer at the club, and who does all the designs for the Smiths memorabilia they sell. Amber gave us a brief potted history of the club, showed us around the building, and was very helpful. Amber was so chatty and fun that it put us in a good mood for the rest of the day. Perhaps she could try some of her charm on the moody Morrissey, but then I guess that’s why we like him so much, the thick bastard!
I bought a tee which I found out later is one of the limited editions that is only on sale for one year only. Made me up knowing that! The tee-shirt features the famous picture of the group outside the club, and Stephen Wright the photographer has allowed it to be reproduced from November 2014 to November 2015 only, to help raise vital funds for the club. A generous gesture that is going a long way to helping the club meet its many upcoming charitable commitments in the next year and beyond.
All over Manchester,
Without going into the ins and outs of it all, basically Charlie is one, or at least was one, of the leading internet conspiracy theorists. I say “was” as he had an epiphany on a BBC TV show (“9/11 Conspiracy Road Trip”) and turned his back on the 9/11 “truth movement”.
Once a friend of the mad David Icke and the bad Alex Jones, this u turn caused a shit storm in the movement, and resulted in Charlie getting a lot of online hassle, and been branded a “traitor” to the cause. Whatever the feck that is.
I respect Charlie for this. It takes big balls to hold your hand up and say that you think you might be wrong about something you were once so passionate about.
I have followed Charlie for a long time on YouTube, from the old days of the Love Police, and even seen him in action with the shenanigans he got up to in London (kettling the police was gas craic!). I don’t always agree with what he says, or sometimes how he goes about making his points, nevertheless I do watch his videos, for better or for worse, but always engaging, always entertaining, and sometimes quite bold.
Anyway after all the beers and the chat, Charlie seemed like a decent skin to me, top bloke and good fun (And his two friends). So suck it haters.
Watch the video anyway, and remember I don’t work for the BBC, and had a good few pints, so go easy on the hating, it’s not good for you!
The Lost Dene
We decided to jump into this pub to have a look at the CL final. From the outside and the décor it looks like a Wetherspoons’. Certainly has a similar sort of clientele.
Had a pint of Korev, a Cornish lager that I acquired a taste of over the few days. A good crowd in for the game, with many TVs and chances to watch the game.
Was a nice reasonably priced pint, in good company with everyone enjoying the game.
The kind of bar that is a must if you want to see some football, with a beer and some atmosphere.
The Sawyers Arms
Another drop in bar, and again for football. Wanted to have a look at the Ireland V England game so we saw that they had it on in this pub, so why not.
A nice traditional looking pub, which is apparently a grade 11 listed building, and is said to be Manchester’s oldest pub having first gained its licence way back in 1730!
Had a decent pint of Korev, and a packet of Tyrrell’s English style crisps (that’s considered lunch) which were delicious. And I thought the English didn’t know how to make decent crisps!
Anyway a nice pub, a lot of history on the walls, good service, and friendly staff. Got very comfortable, so we decided to have a few pints here, and why not, the pints were perfect. Not a big crowd in, perhaps due to the early kick off time, and the TV had no sound on which I kind of appreciated. Rather not listen to the inane chat that passes for commentary these days.
Nice place for a good chat in the middle of the day, a good place to while away a few hours.
84 London Road
As we were a bit early for the Smiths night and the Star and Garter wasn’t open we needed to booze up. It looked like the SnG was on the edge of nowhere and nothing to be found beyond so we walked back and came across the Bull’s Head, right across from the train station.
Looked decent so we ventured in. Nice cosy atmosphere. We went straight to the bar, and immediately mingled in with the chat. Met the landlords, Brendan and Paula, who were both good fun, and very friendly. In fact all the staff were chatty and good fun. Of course my mate was instantly attracted to the retro arcade games, and it took a lot of effort to get him off the damn things. Children shouldn’t be allowed into bars!
We were starving for some good food (real food, not pub grub), and decided to leave, but promised Brendan and Paula we would be back the next night. With great regret we didn’t make it back as we ran out of time, but it’s definitely a bar I will check out again if I am ever in the vicinity. Beer was very good, and the company excellent.
Also it’s worth noting that this is another of Manchester’s oldest bars, a bar on this site dating back from the late 1800’s.
6 Slate Wharf
Walking in from Salford, we were a bit tired and thirsty. My mate pointed out this pub out to me as we walked by, I wasn’t so sure, looked a bit too posh for me, but we sat down outside and ordered some beer and a bit of food to boot.
And you know it wasn’t that bad, with the sun making a brief appearance and beside the canal and its locks, it was very enjoyable just shooting the breeze in wonderful surroundings. Inside, the bar has some old style wooden décor, very spacious, and has a lot of cool antique pictures pottered around the place showing all manner of history and old alcohol advertisements.
Location makes this bar. A really great place to be on a pleasant hot day. Nice relaxed crowd too, with no music or TV blaring out, no wonder we stayed for more than the one beer. Very relaxing! Of course since this is North England, time to go and move on was when the dark clouds appeared, with the rain starting the terrace emptied out and that was the end of the Wharf!
Oh before I forget, the rug. The rug inside is amazing! Yeah, the fecking rug!
We went up to the balcony which was pleasant enough, doing some people watching and all. But if truth be told the place was filthy! I am not one generally to complain and maybe it was cause we just came from the immaculate Wharf, but Jesus it was the middle of the day, not nearing 12 after a busy night. When I say filthy, I mean puke in the toilet bowl, empties all over the place, stale and uneaten food on tables. Perhaps we arrived when the cleaning staff were on a break?
The décor is pretty cool, music prints and beer posters and it had a chilled vibe going on. Was quite busy.
I ordered some Shameless Pale Ale. It was very bitter, very hoppy, and quite hard to stomach to be honest, even if it looks magnificent in the pic.
Drank it down quick and decided to move on!
35 Peter Street,
When you walk into a bar first impressions matter. This looked like a fecking darkly lit supermarket, we were very close to just doing a quick turnaround out the door, not that the bar man gave a shite. The atmosphere wasn’t much better, a lot of wankers around the place, and what is with all the high stools.
Anyway stayed and ordered beers, their own brew, which wasn’t too bad at all. Decided to leave the drunken fools, and sat down outside. Good decision, much better company, and at least could have a decent chat(A big hello to Michael and Siobhan).
Regret not having a burger here though, from what I have read subsequently, it’s meant to be top class. Ah never mind, at least the beer was good.
Mr Thomas’s Chop House,
52 Cross Street,
Wanting to have a good talk with Charlie V. we decided to pop into the nearest pub which just so happened to be a Mr Thomas’s Chop House.
A grade 11 listed pub, Mr Thomas’s Chop House first opened way back in 1870. It shows, the interior is all Victorian with tiled walls and a dark wooded bar, and pictures of historical Manchester dotted all over. Old fashioned surroundings and tradition, all adding to the atmosphere of the place.
In the middle of the day the pub was heaving with customers, and after quite a long time we eventually got served and brought our drinks to the outdoor area out at the back.
When the weather turned we decided to have a pint inside. The place is so small that no cats would be swung in this pub. Standing room only, belly in, this is a great advantage as in close quarters you have no choice but to meet and chat with strangers, they are literally in your face! We ended up meeting loads of people, all great fun.
A Mr Liam Donnelly from Warrington who got a bit upset with me when I told him he looked like Jimmy Summerville and not, as he had thought, Jimmy Saville! It took me a while to figure why he was talking about Michael Jackson!
Great craic, place was buzzing, I don’t mind admitting I had a good time at this bar.
Don’t know what was going on with the drinks, but I was drinking Heineken, which again wasn’t probably the best choice what with all the great British beers available (probably, I couldn’t see the bar!), but hell, I didn’t have time to discuss options at the bar. With so many people crammed into such a small narrow bar, it was a case of order something, anything, fast! Had a few beers here.
Cosy and friendly boozer, full of character, the best bar on this short trip hands down, and as we were leaving also had a good chat with the bouncer at the door, full of chat and very friendly. Strongly recommended!
Vina Karaoke Bar
34 Charlotte Street
And as you would know it we ended up in Vina Karaoke bar, a place that has a bit of a “reputation”. Apparently it can get “hairy” at times, and I aint talking about some of the women. I am not surprised what with some of the clientele, the set-up of the place, and the bouncers on heat.
But otherwise it was good fun, enjoyed the music, some of the karaoke efforts were not bad, and beer was cheap enough. As long as you don’t forget to take off your cap, and don’t wear a bollard on your head, everything should be fine!
La Tasca Tapas Bar and Restaurant
La Tasca Manchester is an “authentic” Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurant. They say on their website that if you close your eyes you might just be in Spain. Yeah sure, but this is a place we ended up in twice over the weekend. A good central location, good pints, and a nice chilled place to have a quiet talk and unwind.
Had the tapas here. They don’t sell tapas in the bad lands of Ireland, so never had it before. Was tasty and hit the spot.
Service very friendly, always smiling, chatty, and checked a few times to see if we were ok, which is a nice touch.
Even though the beers (Mahou) looked quite strange, with a head that mushroomed out, in fact they were damn tasty.
I liked this bar/restaurant, had a nice ambiance, all surrounded with a Spanish décor. It’s a shame we didn’t know at the time that they don’t close till 4 am on the weekend, playing Latin style music downstairs long into night. God dammit, that would have been fun!
A very nice relaxing place, with good beer. Recommended.