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MADchester and the future of the night-time economy

Posted 04/07/2018

by Lucy Furber

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Mancs can now proudly gloat that Manchester is *officially* the wildest night out in the world, according to a Movehub study.

This comes as Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has announced that legendary music mogul Sacha Lord is to be the city region’s first night time economy adviser. As a ‘night czar’ he has been tasked with reviewing and developing the sector across all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester.

Burnham’s appointment of such a character shows that we do things differently here. Lord’s story began with run-ins with the authorities after leaving Manchester Grammar with an F and two U’s, yet he’s since become the co-founder of the iconic Warehouse Project and Parklife Festival.

If Lord can transfer this success into his new role, Greater Manchester will be primed to benefit from what is reportedly the UK’s fifth biggest industry – already employing 8% of the workforce.

So, what can we expect? Bringing back the MADchester days would be foolish. The tide is turning and Lord needs to acknowledge this. The demise of Sankeys nightclub is a prime example. After a turbulent financial history, Sankeys, located in the Beehive Mill, closed its doors on New Year’s Day 2017. Perhaps a nightclub in a Grade II* Listed building wasn’t the finest idea? Yet, it is part of the Beehive’s history and will be rightly celebrated by Urban Splash, who have since began refurbishing it to create offices for small enterprises.

What this shows is twofold. Firstly, the boom of residential development in this area means that for the night time economy to flourish, venues must be supported in sustainable locations which do not conflict with residential amenity, and where monitoring drug and alcohol consumption can easily take place. The implications for wider infrastructure, such as sufficient public transport and emergency services should be part of the equation, ensuring that Greater Manchester’s resources are able to support the development of a diverse and enhanced night-time economy.

Secondly, Lord should be asking who is moving to areas like Ancoats? As the number of families and retirees wanting to settle in the city rises, the evening economy needs to become more inclusive. Theatres, live music venues and bars all need to accommodate this changing scene by ensuring a broader offer of cultural events is available; making the most of the ‘shoulder’ period between 5pm and 8pm, (not just by happy hours) and improving the safety of Manchester’s streets to ensure that all feel safe and welcome.

Manchester needs to find a balance that retains the fun of a night out.  We don’t want to follow in Westminster’s footsteps where the evening economy is increasingly sanitised due to the disproportionate influence of well-heeled residents groups.

But there is more to the evening economy than a wild night out, and Lord will succeed by recognising that.

Iceni Projects were appointed as the Planning and Heritage advisers on the redevelopment of the Beehive Mill.