Cheery Cheap Weekend

Doing more with less challenge: Part 2

(Two ticks for the Day Zero Project)

Last week I was sent on a mission to see how far I could stretch £50 in Manchester. As predicted the answer is very far.

I had a non-stop day of activities planned for Saturday, which I estimated would cost about £45. When it came to it I barely dented the budget.

I enjoyed a full day out in Manchester for only £1.60.

OK, so I changed my plans slightly: I substituted eating out with eating at home and decided to drink coffee instead of cocktails but after a busy day that’s honestly all I wanted. Plus now I have £48.40 to stretch over February too.

Here’s how I got on…

The Manchester MuseumManchester Museum

The first place on my visit list was the Manchester Museum, the city’s very own natural history museum. Knowing it was all the way across the city centre, (walkable sure but I had a lot to fit in,) I hopped onto the free Metroshuttle (Green bus, number 2) to Chester Street and walked the remaining half mile along Oxford Road in the pouring rain.

Until recently it had been a shockingly long time since I’d been inside the Manchester Museum, 10 years at least. To be honest I felt a bit intimidated by it.

Set in the historical University buildings I half-expected it to be pretentious and inhospitable and I recalled wandering around totally alone looking through unmarked drawer after unmarked drawer. I remembered the Egyptian Mummies, a firm favourite, but as for the rest I remembered it being monotonous and gloomy. I expected it to be the same today.

I was so very wrong.

Family Friendly: Vibrant and Fun

I had read that the Manchester Museum is ‘family friendly’ but I was sceptical until I saw it for myself. I arrived to find a bright airy reception, bustling with young families and cheery commotion. For a few moments I actually thought I’d arrived just as a special children’s event was dispersing, but no, the museum remained that vibrant all morning and probably all day. There were children having fun and learning in every crevice of every room. It was delightful to see.

Manchester Museum for KidsI leisurely strolled though each exhibition, staring in awe at the animals and surreptitiously doing the challenges set out for children. I watched a girl draw the taxidermy animals and kicked myself for not having the foresight to bring a sketch pad myself.

Large Tusked ElephantEvents For All Ages

The museum has focussed heavily on children’s events in the past few years so now they are turning their attention to the adult programme. As I was planning my weekend I noted down activities I was interested in and found one that fitted in with my schedule:

Crafternoon Tea

I had hoped to take part in Crafternoon Tea, a social art and craft workshop where participants enjoy a cuppa whilst trying their hand at something new. I had earmarked £5 for the workshop but discovered I had gone to the wrong venue.

Crafternoon Tea is part of the Whitworth Art Gallery events programme, not the Manchester Museum’s. Ooops!, The Whitworth Art Gallery, which is also part of the University of Manchester, is a further 5 minutes up the road. Had I made enquiries earlier I could have dashed over there but by the time I asked I was already too late.

Fortunately the staff members I spoke with were very friendly and helpful so rather than laughing at my foolish mistake they encouraged me to try out the new adult events programme at the Manchester Museum instead.

Book Crossing

Before leaving to visit the next venue I sat opposite a dinosaur and registered a book with the Book Crossing website. People probably wondered why on earth I was juggling sticky labels, a mobile phone, a thriller and a still-sopping-wet umbrella.

Book Crossing means to leave a book in a public place so that another may pick it up, read it and do likewise.

When you register a book online you are given a unique ID number which you copy onto the bookplate (sticky label) inside the cover, along with the instruction to check out the website. You can then leave a note online for whoever finds the book and follows the bookplate instructions. Each new person who enters the unique ID onto the website is able to leave a message. Therefore, as the book is passed from reader to reader you are able to track its journey.

I discreetly left the book on the chair and made a swift exit. A week has passed and no-one has left a reply yet. I hope the book made its way into someone’s rucksack rather than into the ‘lost and found’ box. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes you don’t. To learn more visit the website here.

Font Cocktail Bar

After leaving the museum I headed back down Oxford Road towards the Cornerhouse Art Gallery. On reaching the Thirsty Scholar I impulsively took a detour down the side street to Font Bar.

Being in the heart of Studentville Font prides itself on providing cocktails from as little as £2 each. Baring in mind a cocktail in the Northern Quarter, or virtually anywhere else in Manchester city centre might cost upwards of £6.50 (excluding happy hour offers) it was almost too tempting to resist.

I wandered in, wandered around and wandered out again. It seemed a good idea when I was heading towards it but I decided I should probably visit a few other venues before blowing the budget on cheap and cheerful booze.

Cornerhouse Art Gallery

The Cornerhouse ManchesterWhen I studied in Manchester I used to visit the The Cornerhouse Art Gallery during my lunch breaks. As I have neglected it since gaining full time employment I added the venue to my Day Zero List.

Although there are 3 floors only one exhibition space was open. Lost is Found is a group show of work from nine artists, all under 20 years of age, based in the North of England. The exhibited works were said to “find beauty in the redundant and discarded, explore past lives and find new stories in transformations and fleeting identities”.

I cannot adequately describe the exhibition so instead you should read this review and visit it for yourself!

Manchester Town Hall

I didn’t plan to visit the town hall but as I was passing it would have been rude not to!Manchester Town Hall is a Victorian Gothic masterpiece, designed by Alfred Waterhouse who also designed the Natural History Museum in London.

Often people don’t realise that behind those hefty doors is a relaxed and reasonably priced café where you can admire the décor over a variety of snacks or go all out on a three-tier afternoon tea.

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On weekdays you are allowed to explore the building by yourself (email me for a self-tour guide) or for a small fee you can book a guided tour of the clock tower. I couldn’t resist taking lots of photos.

As tempted as I was to sit in the town hall café I had promised myself I would visit Nexus Art Café as recommended by Manchester’s Artistic Son.

Nexus Art Cafe Statement of IntentNexus Art Café

I had heard there was a night café somewhere in the city centre but despite passing it almost daily it didn’t click that Nexus was that place.

Nexus Art Café is a community based charity, which hosts various creative events and remains open until 6 am at weekends to provide a safe venue for people making their way home after a night out. They’ll even phone for a taxi if you need one and feed you bacon butties whilst you wait.

Set in a basement on Dale Street, Nexus has a distinctive student vibe, similar to that in Common but without the alcohol. I took advantage of the free wifi by registering another book to the bookcrossing website, whilst sipping a coffee (£1.60) and curling up in a wicker chair.

Nexus Needs Our HelpSupport Nexus!

I regret that it’s taken me so long to visit this little gem, especially now I know it is struggling to stay afloat! One Night Café session costs £200 in overheads and they desperately need more support to keep on going. Click on the image left for more information or to make a donation contact support@Nexusartcafe.com

Feeling refreshed I left the bookcrossing book on the coffee table and handed our cups in at the counter. I had one last place to visit before going to home to raid the fridge.

Manchester Craft and Design Centre

As I made my way to Paramount Books on Shudehill I made a final detour through the Manchester Craft and Design Centre.

Set in the Victorian market building the Craft and Design Centre is the place to go to buy something handmade, unusual and bespoke. The two floors of contemporary studios sell paintings, jewellery, ceramics, interior accessories, furniture, bags, baby wear and more, or you can simply drop in to visit the café.

Whenever I visit I always linger the longest over Linzi Ramsden Ceramics. I find her designs simply stunning and struggle to find a favourite to purchase. If I could I would buy her designs in threes.

Paramount BooksParamount Book Exchange

After I allowed myself to be dragged from Linzi’s window I finished the day in Paramount Book Exchange near Shudehill station.

The moment I entered my ears were blasted with piano music. I mooched between stuffed shelves and crammed boxes looking vaguely at the titles but mainly marvelling at the jam-packed chaos. A few books caught my eye but I was repeatedly distracted by the random dolls and other paraphernalia squished between the spines.

I was tempted by a box of Sandman Dustcovers by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean until a fusty smell overwhelmed me. I thought the stench was coming from the girl next to me but in hindsight I realise it was probably the sofa.

In addition to old books Paramount Book Exchange sells vintage comic books, (and vintage porn!), LPs, CDs, DVDs, rare books and first editions. If you have the time to scrutinise the shelves and can live with the smell you’re sure to find a hidden treasure or two!

So that was last weekend. How are you stretching your post Christmas budget?

All comments are welcome 🙂

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10 thoughts on “Cheery Cheap Weekend

    • I love hearing from fellow bookcrossers! I’ve tried getting others to join but most give up quickly if they don’t get any hits. What is your bookcrossing name? I’m CrazyCrayfish (lol)

      P.S. Thank you for the compliment 😀

        • I forgot to mention – I’ve had an email from World Book Night: I’ve been selected as a book giver for 2012! (http://www.worldbooknight.org/)

          If you haven’t heard of WBN it’s Bookcrossing but on a huge scale. On 23rd April 2012, thousands of books will be handed out in the UK, Ireland, Germany and USA, with the aim of reaching and inspiring people who have never discovered the value of reading.

          I will be handing out 24 copies of Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes From A Small Island’ at a South Manchester hospital. 🙂 I’m so pleased to have been selected.

  1. Whoo, thanks for the mention.
    You gave away so many books, did you start the day with a carrier bag?
    Are they your pics?!? did you have a tripod in the Town Hall? How did you get such crisp pictures its so dark in there?? Great post. Could do a cheap month at this rate!!

    • Lol. I did have a big bag with me just so I could register and release books on the go. I know I should have registered them before I left but I decided I wanted 10 minutes extra sleep instead. :-).

      Yes they are my photos in the town hall. Not I didn’t have a tripod. Pure luck. – I didn’t take a fancy camera with me. I just snapped them on my phone without a flash. I’m glad someone else likes them too. Do you like the floor shots? What can I say – I liked the patterns!

  2. Well, quite frankly I think you are rather cheeky, I’ve been in Paramount Books many times and the workers are awfully obliging and helpful. I went in the shop when they had dolls dotted around the shop, in my opinion I thought it to be rather charming. And by no means were there nic-nacs squished between novels.

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