Councillor Pat Karney officially lays down gauntlet for Gordo

It’s almost that time of the year again. No, not Christmas itself. We’re not pushing that upon you just yet. Instead, it’s time to reveal that after a year’s absence, 2021 will see the return of the Christmas markets.

This November will see a return to something closer to the Manchester Christmas Markets of yesteryear with the event taking place across nine microsites in the city from 12 November until 22 December with special plans for a "winter wonderland" at Piccadilly Gardens.

Your proprietor, Gordo, has attacked our markets for years as everyone in Manchester knows. So I’m throwing down the gauntlet to him

The markets, despite disapproval in some quarters, are the most popular of their kind in the UK and were voted the 13th best market in Europe in 2018, beating the likes of Cologne in Germany and Bern in Switzerland. As well as being the largest in the UK, Manchester’s Christmas market is also the oldest of its kind.

This year’s offering will be slightly different to previous years due to the ongoing construction works taking place in Albert Square but the market will continue to take in sites including King Street, Market Street, Exchange Square and Cathedral Gardens as well as the aforementioned Piccadilly wonderland.

Piccadilly Gardens will be the heart of this year's event with the fountains being covered over for a food and drink hub as well as market stalls.

The Rooftops Of Market Stalls At Manchester Christmas Markets Which Takes In Venues Across The City Including Exchange Square
Expect sausages, mulled wine and plenty of trinkets

Crowd control and safety measures

Safety will be at the centre of this year’s events with Manchester Council’s official Christmas spokesman, Councillor Pat Karney, stating that this year’s event will be inspired by lessons learned so far from the city’s festival and events calendar during the summer

Designated entrances and exits, extensive safety testing and crowd control measures will be brought in to ensure the safety of both visitors and vendors.

"The markets have been oversubscribed by a huge amount this year with traders and we've had to keep numbers in mind when thinking about the safety of the event." He said.

"It's almost good in a way that we don't have Albert Square because what we're organising is a million miles away from that congestion and people on top of each other."

A Massive Santa Made Of Lights At Manchester Christmas Markets In Piccadilly Gardens
This year's market hub will be in Piccadilly Gardens

The changing face of the Christmas Markets

The Christmas Markets have changed dramatically since their inception. Speaking to Prospect in 2019, Dale Maybury, Head of Specialist and City Centre Markets for Manchester City Council highlighted the changing face of the markets, with the focus shifting from European to local traders. 

“We have had a lot of European traders in the past but that’s changed. The focus has shifted to local traders. Roughly, about 75 percent of our vendors are from inside the UK and 80 per cent of those are from within 40 miles of Manchester."

Councillor Pat Karney confirmed, "We’ve been inundated with trader applications this year. There’s been an incredible pent-up demand to come on the markets again. We’ve got a small number coming from Europe. Anja Manke from Germany, she’s been doing the markets for the last 25 years and she’ll be back." 

The market usually comprises around 300 stalls.

A Large Animatronic Reindeer On Top Of One Of The Stalls At Manchester Christmas Markets The Largest Of Its Kind In The Uk
Markets regular Anja Manke will be back with her trademark markets offering

Local vendors over recent years have included Northern Soul, Yard and Coop, Porky Pig and Lancashire’s Lanx. Although the line-up of local and regional traders for this year’s markets remains under wraps, issues surrounding the pandemic and Brexit will likely mean that the markets continue to showcase all things local with a distinctly European Christmas spirit.

Karney lays down the Christmas Markets gauntlet for Gordo

Of course it wouldn't be an authentic Manchester Christmas markets without some humbug from Gordo. Manchester Confidential's publisher has consistently panned the offering at the Christmas markets for years, using video as his preferred weapon in the war against bad value and questionable quality.

This year, Manchester's Christmas spokesman Councillor Pat Karney has challenged Gordo to not find something he likes.

"Your proprietor, Gordo, has attacked our markets for years as everyone in Manchester knows. So I’m throwing down the gauntlet to him," says Pat.

"He says there’s nothing on our markets that he wants to buy or eat or drink so I’m going to take him on a personal tour of the markets and if he can’t find anything, and I’m sure he’ll be unable to resist some of the delicious food, but if it's the case he’s not bought anything, I will run up and down Lloyd Street, where you all work, in my boxer shorts."

"That’s risky for me because your proprietor has an unhealthy obsession with my legs and is always taking pictures of me in Café Nero. So we’re going to find something on the markets for him to eat and drink, no doubt about it.”

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What to expect at this year’s Christmas Markets:

As well as the usual mix of booze, food stalls and craft sellers, this year for the first time, the markets will be given the live entertainment treatment with a stage showcasing live music and DJs. The Piccadilly Winter Gardens will also be open until Monday 3 January 2022 with the wider Christmas markets closing on 22 December.

Other changes this year include covered marquee seating for a comfortable experience whatever the weather has in store and a fully accessible toilet to ensure this year’s event is a more inclusive experience. Here’s what to expect from the six festival areas.

St Ann’s Square

It wouldn’t be Christmas without fried chicken and salt and pepper chips and thankfully Northern Quarter favourites Yard and Coop will be stepping in to provide all things fried. New craft sellers will join Christmas Market regulars The Lakeland Burger Company and there’ll be an opportunity for free selfie prints thanks to Birdie the campervan. Birdie will be cleaned between visits to ensure a safer environment for everyone. Hand-pulled pizza will be on the loose too.

Exchange Square

Rejoice, Porky Pig’s Yorkshire Pudding wraps is back for 2021, alongside Tikka kebab kitchen selling curries and shawarma, gourmet pizza and local produce sellers. Mill Exchange Bar - the one with the big chimney - will also be back.

New Cathedral Street

The craftiest street in town come Christmas with local vegan skincare, jewellery, produce and even high-end shoemakers. Bar No3 will be serving smoking cocktails and a variety of gins whilst The Witch House returns for classic steins and currywurst.

King Street

Ooh la la, King Street is getting a French upgrade, don’t tell Gordo. Stalls with French-inspired wares, gallic food, beers and wines will be joined by a gin bar with over 100 varieties to choose from. If France isn’t your festive bag there’ll also be an Italian deli.

Market Street

It wouldn’t be a proper Market Street without makers and traders, so expect regional purveyors of craft and a mug or a bauble or two. Plenty for last minute Christmas gifting. Smaller than previous years due to safety precautions but we doubt you’ll struggle for choice.

Cathedral Gardens

The home of fun this Christmas. Skate Manchester’s ice rink will provide a great chance to channel your inner Torvill and Dean and if that’s not your thing you can always sit and watch with plenty of food and drink on offer. The space will also be home to live entertainment weekly, Thursday to Sunday, including kids shows.

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