Part six of Carolyn Yates's tour around Greater Manchester’s urban environs - this time she heads to 'South Central'
Although it’s rarely referred to as ‘South Central’ (perhaps to avoid negative associations with the namesake area of Los Angeles), south-central Manchester – broadly comprising Hulme, Moss Side and Longsight – is home to some of Manchester’s most diverse communities, the Oxford Road Corridor Innovation District, and a variety of tourist attractions including museums, art galleries and live entertainment venues.
Venture south of the city centre, just outside the ring road, and you’ll find the home of Manchester’s Caribbean culture (which has been celebrated at the Caribbean Carnival of Manchester since the 1970s) plus a plethora of interesting places to visit – including the birthplace of the suffragette movement, a world-famous brewery, the site of the first Rolls-Royce workshop, a Victorian garden village and an Edwardian water palace.
Like Los Angeles, Manchester’s South Central has had its problems, but regeneration efforts over the past few decades have transformed its reputation. There’s a rich profusion of culture and history here, making it well worth venturing outside the city centre to visit.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Korean food before catching a gig
Between the O2 Apollo (Manchester’s second largest entertainment venue, after the Arena), Manchester Academy (four smaller venues on the University of Manchester campus), The Deaf Institute (a music hall which typically hosts rising stars), Contact Theatre (currently guesting at other venues around the city while its premises are being refurbished), and Z-arts (theatre, dance and spoken word performance), you’re sure to find a live event that appeals to your taste.
Depending on which venue you’re heading to, have dinner at Seoul Kimchi (equidistant between the Apollo and Academy) or Azuma (equidistant between The Deaf Institute and Z-arts). Both offer delicious Korean food but the former is a tiny, homely place which specialises in traditional family recipes (including the namesake kimchi) and the latter is a larger operation which offers Korean BBQ and cook-it-yourself hotpots.
There are plenty of watering holes near each venue but if you’ve spent the evening at the Academy, you must get a post-gig drink at Big Hands – it’s a stone’s throw away and something of a local institution.
SATURDAY: Arts and architecture
Have brunch at Anchor Coffee House and a stroll through The Whitworth gallery if you’re artistically inclined, then walk to Longsight via the tree-lined streets of Victoria Park; this fascinating area was once a walled garden village of beautiful 19th century villas, where Manchester’s middle class could escape the city’s factory noise and smoke.
Although the walls and toll gates are long gone, over twenty impressive listed buildings remain – including the Edgar Wood Centre (considered to be one of the most original buildings of its time), Addison Terrace (once home to Sir Charles Hallé, founder of Manchester’s Symphony Orchestra, and temporary home of the artist Ford Madox Brown while he was painting the magnificent murals of Manchester Town Hall) and St Chrysostom's Church (which backs on to Dalton-Ellis Hall, the University of Manchester’s oldest hall of residence).
Stop for a wander (and perhaps a bite to eat) at Longsight Market, which has avoided gentrification to remain a traditional community marketplace; there are rows of stalls selling clothes, household items and world foods under the colourful iron roofs.
Nearby, in a non-descript business park, you can arrange a private lesson at The Circus House where expert instructors can help you ‘perfect your handstand, learn drops on the silks or teach you a new skill from scratch’ (such as acrobalance, trapeze or parkour). Don’t expect a big top, though; you’d never know from the entrance that circus performers were practising inside.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll find that Longsight has almost as many Indian and Pakistani restaurants as the nearby Curry Mile in Rusholme. Competition for the handful of seats at Mazaa can be fierce but you won’t want to miss the chicken or lamb karahi, so get a takeaway if the restaurant is full. For dessert, head to Sanam for a choice of 50 different Indian sweets (try the pistachio and chocolate baklava).
SUNDAY: Historic and literary landmarks
Take a drink from Coffee Cranks Café for a stroll around Alexandra Park, passing the lake and exiting by the upside-down tree outside the former park keeper’s accommodation (Chorlton Lodge). Snack on one of Dougy’s famous Jamaican patties as you look for the Moss Side mural at the corner of Crondall and Greame streets, then walk along Princess Parkway to Hulme past the huge Heineken Brewery; thousands of people pass it every day but few would know that there’ve been breweries on this site since 1875; the UK's first lager (Red Tower) was brewed here in 1927 and the brewery now produces 18 million pints per week.
Have lunch at local favourite Kim by the Sea before visiting the much-loved Hulme Community Garden Centre, where you can enjoy creatively cultivated spaces and learn about permaculture, then walk to Hulme Park to see the public artwork A Hulme People’s History, covering 170 years of ‘the struggles, celebrations and everyday stories of the people of Hulme’ (there’s also a sculpture of a Rolls-Royce radiator grille to mark the site of the company’s first workshop nearby). Enjoy a slice of cake at Grano then walk over the Hulme Arch Bridge for great views of the Beetham Tower on your way to the Oxford Road Corridor, where a choice of cultural attractions awaits.
Children of all ages will love Manchester Museum, where you can meet Stan the T-rex, touch pieces of other planets and see rainforest creatures in the vivarium; adults will also appreciate the architectural beauty of the building. Nearby, The Pankhurst Centre is arguably one of Manchester’s most important museums but lack of funding means it only opens its doors for a few hours each month for visitors to see where Emmeline Pankhurst started the movement that won British women the right to vote in 1928.
Other local attractions with limited opening times include the stunning Victoria Baths - ‘Manchester’s water palace’, which holds open days on the second and fourth Sundays of the month, and Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, which is only open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; the prominent author of Mary Barton, the book that would open the nation’s eyes to the plight of the poor in Manchester at the time, also wrote the biography of her friend Charlotte Brontë. If you’re hungry, round off the afternoon with a casual dinner at Kro Bar.
Getting there: Although these areas are all within walking distance of the outer edge of the city centre, they’re probably best accessed by car or bus for ease of exploring on foot. There are plenty of buses and car parks along the Oxford Road Corridor, which makes it a good place to start/finish.
- Upcoming events at O2 Apollo
- Upcoming events at Manchester Academy
- Upcoming events at The Deaf Institute
- Upcoming events at Contact Theatre
- Upcoming events at Z-arts
- Longsight Market (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays)
- Victoria Baths open days (usually the second Sunday of each month)
- Caribbean Carnival of Manchester (August)