Manchester Unspun: Pop, Property and Power in the Original Modern City by Andy Spinoza - review by Jon Talbot

Jon Talbot

Twenty-Storey Love Song

Manchester Unspun: Pop, Property and Power in the Original Modern City


Manchester University Press 376pp £20

One of the curious aspects of life in England is that despite the small size of the country and the advent of modern media, North and South are still largely ignorant of one another. The dramatic transformation of Manchester in the last thirty years is known by everyone in the North but not so by most in the South. For those unacquainted with the city, a few facts are necessary. Between 1972 and 1984 it lost 207,000 manufacturing jobs. Its population, once around 750,000, had shrunk to almost 400,000 by 1989. The physical fabric of the city, Victorian red brick and slate, was not just dirty and decaying but in many cases abandoned. The population of the city centre in 1982 was about five hundred. Contrast that with today: there are now sixty thousand people living in the centre, many of them housed in fifty-five shiny new buildings over twenty storeys high. The city’s profile is unlike that of any other in Britain. From a nearby Pennine hill, it is an extraordinary sight – the kind of cityscape you would expect to see in North America.

The pace of building is accelerating. There are another twenty-three high-rises under construction and a further thirty-five have planning permission. The city now is a chaotic mixture of refurbished Victoriana and concrete and glass. What should jar seems to work. The inhabitants of the towers are overwhelmingly young, graduates and extremely diverse. It is an exciting city for them and for the casual visitor. Despite national economic woes since 2008, the world’s first industrial city is transforming itself into the world’s first post-industrial city.

Andy Spinoza’s book is an attempt to explain the phenomenon from the perspective of someone who came to the city as a student in 1979 and stayed. After graduating he founded an alternative magazine, then worked for the Manchester Evening News and as a PR consultant. He has

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