Conference city guide: Manchester
◆ The Warehouse Project – This is a three-month marathon season of underground parties that luckily begins in September for all those conference attendees too cool for the warm wine and finger food saturating the secure zone. The Project hosts main players in dance and electronica as well as lesser-known, alternative acts. It is based at an apparently secret underground location. Tickets sell fast, so book now or you’ll be stuck discussing Tory infrastructure policy for your whole trip.
◆ The Lowry arts and entertainment centre – This cultural hub is now iconic, an avant-garde steel jungle perched on the waterside of Salford Quays. It features a large collection of the eponymous northern painter of industry as well as a whole separate variety of artistic projects, spanning painting, sculpture, photography and theatre. So if you are a Tory conference delegate who nevertheless feels Michael Gove is sucking the arts out of education, visit the Lowry for a welcome respite.
◆ People’s History Museum – The purpose of Manchester’s only national museum is to take visitors through two centuries of the progress of British democracy. So if David Cameron and friends don’t enlighten you about the state of modern democracy, why not sneak away and have an amble through this diverse collection of propaganda posters, artefacts, paintings and much more, telling of the city’s historic part in Britain’s politics – including socialism, the fight for universal suffrage and how it housed Marx and Engels when they began the Communist Manifesto. Just save your blazer and red trousers for a different occasion.
Places to eat and drink
◆ Taps Bar – This slick and dimly-lit bar is the perfect place to impress contacts and friends at conference. Based very near the conference centre, it boasts the novelty of each table having its own taps, so that you can pour your own beer or fruitier beverages without having to struggle to the bar. Edgy though it may seem, unfortunately this set-up is conducive to conference cross-eyes, ie. ill-advised drunkenness.
◆ Damson’s – Located at the Orange Building, Media City, Salford, this reasonably priced restaurant (the set two-course menu costs £15.95) serves up modern twists on traditional British cuisine, for example ham hock with creamed lentils and truffle, or horseradish mash teamed with pot-au-feu. Very Cameroon. Just watch out for prowling Media City journos.
◆ Hunters BBQ – Paid a fortune for your conference pass? Hit a little too hard by George Osborne’s austerity drive (entirely laudable and viable though it is)? Try this low-key late night café and takeaway place in the Northern Quarter. Although its shabby interior and mismatched china give it a very basic feel, you can munch on some wonderful curries – venison or game, including quail and pheasant. Game curry and rice is £6: surely the only way to eat game at conference without a ‘We’re all in this together’ headline floating over your head the following morning…
Read the books
◆ The Curry Mile, Mancunian-Pakistani novelist Zahid Hussain’s first novel. It is set on the ‘Curry Mile’ in Manchester’s Rusholme area – so-called because of the number of South Asian and Middle Eastern eateries. This book covers the story of a Pakistani family in the restaurant trade.
◆ Mary Barton, the debut novel by North and South author Elizabeth Gaskell, published in 1848. The story charts poverty in Victorian Manchester, and the trials faced by its lower classes. Its subtitle is ‘A Tale of Manchester Life’.