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Brian Rosa

This chapter explores the way that railway arches have traditionally been perceived and represented as commonplace elements of the British urban built environment, and how the post-industrial transformation of Manchester can be read through the gradual changes of use occurring within these spaces. The arches, long associated with working-class industrial labour, criminality, and spatial marginality, have gradually been transformed from light industrial commercial units to spaces of leisure and consumption, such as cafe-bars and microbreweries. Since the 1980s, and especially since the sale of the publicly owned railway property estate, the arches have been central to property-led development and commercial gentrification in Manchester and beyond.

in Manchester
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Becky Alexis-Martin

From toxic wallpaper and beer, to poisonous sweets and the ‘cake of death’, Manchester has a rich cultural history pertaining to arsenic. This chapter explores this history across the city from banal to fantastical instances of poisoning. We now know that in 1857 each sumptuous sample of Manchester’s Heywood, Higginbottom, Smith & Co wallpaper contained arsenic. This beautiful dye also snuck into the food chain, with several children poisoned in Manchester by eating sweets coloured with copper arsenite during the 1840s. This banal yet lethal element imprinted itself on Manchester, not just through the famed penny dreadful poisonings of disgruntled partners, but also through the lackadaisical attitudes of the city’s manufacturers. Arsenic is no longer a commonplace product in Manchester. Rather than toxic beer, research at the University of Manchester now investigates the complexities of arsenic contamination through rice-based diets, in the city and worldwide.

in Manchester
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Steve Hanson

Cockroft and Rutherford: the atom-splitters. The popular story that the atom was split in Manchester is not quite true – but it is true that much research leading to its possibility was made here. ‘Rutherford’s room’ in Manchester University was investigated as it was found that radioactivity stemming from it was having harmful effects. The chapter explores the mythical power of the word ‘atom’ in terms of Manchester’s inarguable contributions to a new scientific Enlightenment, but does so dialectically, using the word ‘atomised’ to refer to the ways in which the new science, once instrumentalised, turned people and communities into particles.

in Manchester
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Sarah Butler

A mix of direct quotes, imaginative inhabitations and factual content, this piece explores the everyday realities for people living in unsupported temporary accommodation in Manchester. This population of the hidden homeless suffer from poor conditions, insecure tenancies, and associated mental and physical health problems.

in Manchester
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Matthew Steele

Although public bathing in Britain has a lengthy history, successive Acts of Parliament during the nineteenth century saw the activity become more widespread, with the emphasis in industrialised urban centres, such as Manchester, on public hygiene rather than leisure. However, with improved sanitary conditions at home and the advent of modern domestic appliances, the twentieth century saw a return to public bathing for pure leisure. In the post-1945 period, numerous dedicated swimming pools were opened by municipal authorities across Manchester in places such as Oldham and Radcliffe. Now facing closure and demolition, this chapter offers a lament on the loss of municipal swimming baths and the familiar leisure experience they once offered.

in Manchester
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Paul Dobraszczyk

Since the industrial period, bees have been an important symbol of Manchester, present in its civic and mercantile iconography. Yet, as this chapter shows, that symbolism shifted in the wake of the terrorist attack on Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017. Since then, bees have become highly visible symbols of solidarity in the face of terror, a way in which citizens of the city have asserted their unity. This chapter uses various images of bees as a way of exploring their enduring popularity as symbols of the city.

in Manchester
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James Thorp

Brick takes the reader through the chequered history of a former brickworks in east Manchester. After a brief period of production, the site has become a derelict wasteland attracting antisocial and criminal behaviour, including a notorious local murderer. In spite of this, nature has reclaimed the place as its own, and it is argued that this return to nature is a fitting end state, rather than further exploitation by property developers.

in Manchester
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Peter Kalu

Public transport, threat and conviviality in twenty-first century nocturnal Manchester. Night workers and leisure industry consumers converge in post-midnight public spaces. Costs and externalities in public transport microeconomic price mechanisms. Navigating public space during times of high delinquency and intoxication: the role of the citizen and the security apparatus of the state. Interpersonal negotiation at municipal transport nodes; night-time religious offerings and profanities witnessed at late-night bus stops. A participant-observer’s insight. Civic society and contrasting understandings of personal space and private–public boundaries of intimacy-showing in racialised societies after midnight in urban public spaces.

in Manchester
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Morag Rose

The canal network is central to Manchester’s history and identity. A walk along the towpath offers chance to encounter wildlife and trace the industrial heritage of the city. However, the waterways occupy an ambivalent position in the city’s subconscious and are the site of conflict, contradictions, myths and legends. This chapter offers a glimpse beneath the surface, including a visit to the lost gardens of Pomona, the contested queer space of the Undercroft and a brief guide to the legendary canal monsters of Manchester’s canals.

in Manchester
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Peter Kalu

Social class, the left-behind, migration and the history of underclass occupations as exemplified by the demographics, including ethnicity, of car wash attendants. Mobilities, the cocooning effect of the car cockpit and the discombobulation of temporarily evacuated drivers bringing their car for valeting at car wash enterprises. Employment structures and practices of car washes and the economics of the geographical distribution of car wash enterprises within urban landscapes. Semaphore, sign and cross-languaging in bottom-rung car wash businesses. Aspiration, rags-to-riches myths and film fantasies connecting British car wash work with the American Dream. The interrelated economic histories of car wash employment and taxi driving.

in Manchester