Rochdale Councillor John Blundell is in Cannes... and is probably too hot

And we're off in Cannes, as the most influential players from the global property industry arrive on the French Riviera for four days (12-15 March) of networking, deal-making and glass-clinking. 

John Blundell, Rochdale Councillor and occasional Confidential contributor, is our man in Cannes. He'll be digesting as many events, exhibitions and free egg butties as possible as Manchester once again thrusts itself upon the global stage, does a bit of showing off and asks for some property pocket money.

Take a look at the full Manchester MIPIM programme here.

LAUNCH DAY (12/03/18)

'What are we up to? Who is here? What deals are being struck?'

For me the speeches at launch night sum up why this conference is so important. The key messages were ones that highlighted the strength of Manchester’s economy and why the people in the room should be buying into our future.

Of course, we are in the South of France, so it's easy for imaginations to run wild; what are we up to? Who is here? What deals are being struck? It is true that a lot goes on here, my favourite phrase so far is that 'you can get six month's worth of work done in these four days'. The fact is that MIPIM allows Manchester to speak directly to global property bigs wigs and not just representatives of those firms with an office on Deansgate.

Mipim Cannes Credit Topup Consultants
MIPIM 2018 TopUp Consultants Twitter

What is clear is that here at MIPIM we have a reputation as a global city, indeed, the London and Manchester events are the most eagerly anticipated of the UK events. But this is no surprise given that EY point to Manchester as the greatest attractor of foreign direct investment (FDI) outside of the capital.

One might ask 'why France?'. The answer is simple: the CEOs of major investment funds and the people who can inject jobs and prosperity into our city region don’t coalesce in UK seaside resorts. They are not coming to us, we are going to them and setting out our stall for why they should choose to give us their cash and expertise.

'Luckily the egg butties are good'

STORM STRIKES (12/03/18)

The Manchester Pavilion on La Croisette got washed away by a storm last night. But not to worry, we have a new room with a fantastic view in the VIP Club of the Palais de Festivals.

The sun is now shining and you've never seen a bunch of better dressed people; sun tans, sharp suits and sun glasses. But by gum it's expensive. But then, it's the South of France, what did I expect? Guess I'll be sticking mainly to the free event refreshments - luckily the egg butties are good. 

Egg Butties Mipim
John's sticking to the free egg butties

DAY 1 (13/03/18)


Manchester Science Partnerships has been awarded an £18.5 million loan for the Citylabs 2.0 development on Oxford Road Corridor - find out more here

Citylabs 2 Manchester Mipim
Citylabs 2.0

'Salford is to Manchester what Brooklyn is to New York'


We're talking Salford at 'The Power of Partnerships: Salford's Smart New Neighbourood'. Salford Mayor Paul Dennett has given a barnstorming speech. 

"If you dig deeper into Salford you find a community spirit," he says "...and we have found that the site has a soul." He's referring to a new masterplan for Salford Crescent, which we're told ' to Manchester what Brooklyn is to New York". 

Interesting way of looking at it.

"At the heart of the new masterplan is a cultural quarter," Dennett continues, "its about making the most of the assets we have."

But he closes with a cautionary note: "..if you invest in Salford you should know that our city’s soul is not for sale."

It's been a well attended event - many have pointed this out. It's clear GM as a whole is on the up and Salford is becoming seen as an international city.

Mipim Paul Dennett Salford
Paul Dennett: "Our city's soul is not for sale"

Our future depends on our ability to sell what we offer and attract investment... you don’t do that by sitting at home"


During this session council leader Sir Richard Leese made the case for why Manchester was here at MIPIM (don’t forget, every other city region is here as well) and put the Northern Powerhouse central to the case. The brand is about selling Manchester and the North, putting a new perspective on our future.

I collared him shortly after the event and asked him why he thought it important to be here? 

“The future of Greater Manchester depends on its international ability to sell what we offer, attract investment and attract talent. You don’t do that by sitting at home. 

"MIPIM is the biggest such event in the world and over 100 private firms are with us. We want to support firms in Manchester and, here, they are helping us sell Manchester.

“The Manchester stand is really unusual as we are not just promoting property, we are also promoting quality of life, place and our growing industries.”

Wise words from the local political juggernaut. This isn’t just property we are supporting, we are promoting the Mancunian way of life.

Richard Leese Mipim 2018
Richard Leese at MIPIM 2018

DAY 2 (14/03/18)

I liked Boardman a lot, he's a man that wants and, I think, will get things done


The Olympic gold medalist, who rose to prominence in the 1992 Summer Olympics as an individual pursuit cyclist, was last year appointed as Mayor Andy Burnham’s (and our) 'cycle champion'. 

Despite being from the Wirral, Boardman has strong ties with Greater Manchester, mainly because he works for British Cycling (BC) at the Velodrome at SportCity. Until recently he was a Senior Manager at BC but is now focusing on his new role.  He has been given the nickname ‘The Professor’, due to his meticulous attention to detail, with this reputation contributed towards his appointment (to cyclists the small details count for everything).

He tells me he's been busy working on plans to get Greater Manchester cycling and is fighting his corner for a fair share of funding for cyclists. We met up to discuss cycling in Rochdale, but I managed to sneak in a quick interview after the meet...

Chris Boardman Mipim 2018
Boardman at MIPIM

Why did Andy Burnham appoint you? 

CB: "I’d been an advocate of cycling in Greater Manchester for over a decade and because of my post, and my history, I suppose I appeared more quirky and to suit the role. My name draws attention to the cause. 

"It was me that asked for the walking brief to be added to my role (Boardman has become Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester). For me the two things work together hand in hand, the are natural partners. 

Why come to MIPIM? 

CB: "MIPIM is a gathering of all the people I need conversations with. The fact it happens in Cannes is incidental. I worked for a decade in Manchester as a senior manager at British Cycling and I still work their now. I have such strong ties." 

Why did you take the job?

CB: "I genuinely believe, and can prove, that it is a solution to problems; happiness, congestion, health, pollution, they can all be solved by cycling. But if people are given the choice right now it doesn't seem a realistic choice. I want people to look out their car window and think 'I fancy that'. People need that choice and and we can do that with proper investment in cycling and getting everything right."

I liked Boardman a lot, he's a man that wants and, I think, will get things done.


Well, he's better than the guy who does the dog under Arndale Food Court.

Mipim 2018 Buddha


"I'm interested in cities that succeed"

Greg Clark, professor of urban development, is here in Cannes to act as the moderator for the Manchester events. He a very impressive guy who works as an advisor to some of the world's greatest institutions, such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In between the events he agreed to speak to me about why he comes to MIPIM.

Why Manchester, Greg? 

GC: "I am fan of Manchester but live in London - I suppose I'm interested in cities that succeed. Put Manchester’s achievements in a global context; you have a city that through its own efforts has transformed itself radically and has done so in a short timeframe. 

"Everybody has something Manchester already has: Barcelona, Singapore, Toronto. These are cities that have a history of invention, have been through economic woes and have recovered quickly because of their inventiveness."

Greg Clark Mipim 2018

Who are the the big players here, the people others want to see? 

GC: "Sir Richard Leese is a phenomenal leader; not only because he leads from the front but because he knows how to build a team. Manchester is impactful in Cannes because of the size, scale and range of organisations on the partnership, and because of the clear leadership of the council and Marketing Manchester. The marketing is diverse and coherent. We present a professionalism which is greater because of the component parts rather than the whole."

What about the Greater Manchester region?

GC: "As Rochdale, as Salford, as Trafford, you see yourselves as separate but connected. At home be proud of your borough, but when you are away wear your away kit, the Greater Manchester kit. This helps attract investment, business that wants to locate residents who may want to move. The Greater Manchester brand is a real asset - use it." 

DAY 3 (15/03/18)


Sneaked my way into a fancy drinks party last night. French fashion isn't what it was...

Mipim Fashion


Spinningfields and St John's developers, Allied London, have revealed plans to 'reinvent' two 60s blocks on Quay Street and launch new a 'concept building' - read about it here

Enterprise Campus Large
Allied London revealed new 'concept building' - Enterprise Campus


My sand statue is no more (see above). Next time I'll have myself immortalised in brass... if there's enough brass that is.

Mipim 2018 Sand


"It's not just about being the Fat Controller!"

Eamon Boylan has been around a long time. He has been Deputy CEO of Manchester City Council, Deputy CEO of the Homes and Communities Agency, and the CEO of Stockport Council. He is now the CEO of the GMCA and the guy who directly works with Mayor Mr Burnham. Here's a man clearly likes to have CEO in his title. 

Like me he is a University of Manchester graduate, but unlike me he did a degree in poetry. Even so, I didn’t expect him to be so witty. 

Eamon, what's it like being the most powerful civil servant in the North? 

EB: "Well, we are still shaping really. My role is building relationships with the ten [authorities] and the Mayor to make a real difference. We need to get as much as possible out of the Mayoral role."

Eamonn Boyle Council
Eamonn Boyle: "it's not just about being the Fat Controller!"

Why are you here at MIPIM, presumably you have been here before and from the start? 

EB: "I am here to keep building the Greater Manchester brand and to support individual districts. This has been the Manchester show but it has powers to get investors to all ten districts. The presence here has placed Greater Manchester in a higher profile. There have been investments and ideas profiled here that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. 

"The city region and partners are maximising our offer. For example, we can’t compare ourselves to London, but theirs is like a street stall. Here we have a single setting that is all about Greater Manchester. Everyone is behind Greater Manchester, whereas elsewhere the partner's brands are at the front.  

 "My role is to promote and enable all this... it's not just about being the Fat Controller!" 

(I did ask Eamonn - twice - if he wanted me to write down his comment about who he may, or may not resemble. He was fine with it. Perhaps because I'm on the same diet.)


Because it was the last day and because it was raining, I spent a good few hours looking at the stands from across the world. Seemed to me that the Manchester, London and Paris stands were heavily corporate, especially when compared to Eastern Europe. I hung around here for awhile because Munich had put on Bratwursts and the Czechs had a load of cheese smothered in oil. Somebody had plonked a Dr Who box in the middle of the gangway, where I, like my lunch, looked like a right sausage.

John Blundell Mipim
Me looking a sausage

DAY 4 (16/03/18)


Born in the borough of Rochdale and one of Manchester’s most famous architects, Ian Simpson has shaped our city in modern times unlike anybody else.

He was here with his company Simpson Haugh to keep the ambition and confidence levels high to make sure the world  keeps investing in Manchester, and was more than happy to use his brand to help.  

He was busy but did give me two minutes.   

20180316 Mipim Ian Simpson
Ian Simpson at MIPIM

As somebody heavily involved in the built environment of Manchester what has stood out for you at the announcements at MIPIM? 

A lot is already under construction and a lot is residential. I like Owen Street Towers. I mean people are living here [meaning Manchester] again. We need density and intensification and with that you get demand for everything else.  It’s good people are also starting to live in the immediate periphery.   

Is it easy to develop in Manchester? is easier to build a 64 storey tower block in Manchester than the 27 units up Rakewood in Rochdale.    Ian then did one. Nice guy.  

The Rakewood scheme

20180316 Mipim Wrap Debate
Manchester and London wrap it up


The Manchester wrap up was held together with London. The presenting team were Sir Richard Leese, Cllr Rodwell who leads Barking and Dagenham Council, and Liz Peace CBE, who is plugging the Old Oak Common growth area.  

Cllr Rodwell (London Councils) said that he was envious of the Manchester tent last year. He wasn’t so much this time, because it got washed away….  

Greg asked Sir Richard, about the big developments.  “We have as many cranes as everyone else put together. But look what’s happening at Manchester Airport, Bolton Town Centre, The Northern Gateway in Bury and Rochdale. There’s a mass of activity with thriving city centres. There is increased activity across the City Region.” 

I can confirm that these were the areas people were discussing in between events. Obviously, as I have Rochdale written on my pass, I assumed that’s why people talked about GM. 

There is increased activity across the City Region

In reality, that is what people are interested in; devolution, the opportunities, growth, the city region as a whole, is increasingly taking centre stage.  There was a big discussion about Brexit *yawn*. I voted remain. 

Essentially, Manchester’s stance is that we need a seat at the table, or we won’t have a “real world solutions to a real world problem”.  

In the Q&A session, I asked SRL to name his favourite development, either planned or under construction. He said “that’s easy, I love them all equally”. It got a big laugh.  Viva la Manchester.