My Manchester in 52 words

Our balcony overlooks the Northern Quarter; a heritage site, the original Victorian centre. Red brick buildings and rooftops interspersed with flourishing trees give way to high-rises beyond. I glimpse the Pennines and wind farms in the distance. I smile. Sometimes we watch fireworks or glowing paper lanterns. It’s peaceful here: Quiet.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012


NQLovesYouEdgeStreetChris Smith and Liz Peel from Finding Manchester are embarking on the mammoth challenge of visiting 52 Manchesters in 52 weeks in 5 continents. It’s a fantastic project inspiring people to reach out and connect with other communities around the world, as well as encouraging people to share their own experiences closer to home.

Chris interviewed me at the Manchester Museum earlier this year, so Manchester Meanders could be ‘placed into the Manchester Box’. This ‘Box’ will travel with them around the world help them explain what it is like to live right here, right now, in Manchester UK.

Contact Chris Smith

Follow Finding Manchester on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m already in the box but there is an opportunity for you to get inside the box too: by entering the 52 word challenge.

The challenge is simple…In 52 words, what does your Manchester mean to you?

You’ve read my first attempt at the challenge and you can read a few more of my ideas below.

But first, here are the rules:


The competition is open to everyone. Thirteen entries will be selected from each of the four age groups, so there will be 52 winners in total.

Entries can be short factual stories, poems, parables, songs or anything else as long as they are exactly 52 words in length. (For simplicity, hyphenated words count as two words).

The winners will claim their place in history by having their reflections entered into the Manchester City Archive Repository for perpetuity. How often does an opportunity like that come along?

Will you write something? Go on, try it. How hard can 52 words be?…

Here are three more of my quick attempts:

When I joined the Duck Race I imagined real ducks, not yellow plastic rubber duckies. I should have guessed. How could they herd thousands of birds along the River Irwell? They’d fly away, surely? Spectators line the banks of Spinningfields, laughing, watching them bob. We cheer for wind to float them along.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Manchester’s first Duck Race was held on a scorching hot spring day. There was barely a breeze so we cheered for 40 minutes getting sunburned whilst they barley moved 10 meters. At one point they even moved backwards.

Manchester Duck Race

Photo: Thanks to MEN Media

The Duck Race is a fun but bizarre family-friendly day out with decent Manchester based prizes. Sponsoring a Duck costs from just £1 per duck (more for businesses) and the money raised goes to a children’s charity. This year they DID herd real ducks! (Technically, they were geese). Did you sponsor a ducky?

Whose idea was Pub Golf? A cocktail here, a pint there: I don’t normally mix my drinks. I’d rather sit and chat if I’m honest. It’s a good way to see new bars I suppose. Drink up: next venue. An eight-hole ‘course’ and I’m seven over par. The costumes are overkill.

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Pub Golf is on my Day Zero list but I’ve been putting it off. I’m fully resigned to the idea of coming last: Who wants to get so drunk they can’t stand up anyway? It’s the [optional] dressing up, having a giggle with friends and visiting new bars that counts. I will play it, one day. Probably.

Festival season again: So much to see and do! Parades, Markets, Street theatre, Concerts: I want to do them all! I plan the weekend meticulously. It’s the only way, I think. There’s never enough time. I’ll probably get side tracked as the crowds swallow me up. I rarely stick to the plan.   

SammyDee, 23 Feb 2012

Manchester Galleon at the Manchester Day Parade

Manchester Day Parade

Regular readers will know my my plans change frequently. (Fantastic Frantic Festival Season, the £50 weekend challenge and my attempt to follow the Art Crawl are a few examples). It’s good to have a plan but you don’t have to stick to it. Plans get you out of the house and into scenarios where you can be spontaneous. Does that make sense?

So, in 52 words, what does your Manchester mean to you?

All comments are welcome 🙂

(Enter the competition here)


Finding Manchester

Previously I’ve written about my desire to go on a scavenger hunt in and around Manchester. My ideas were miniscule compared with Chris Smith and Liz Peel’s ambitions:

You see, whilst my hunt was limited to our very own Manchester UK, Chris and Liz’s ‘scavenger hunt’ is to visit 52 Manchesters in 52 weeks in 5 continents, sharing knowledge, memorabilia and experiences and building bridges between our cities:

  • 52 Manchesters
  • 52 weeks
  • 5 continents

You have to admit, my hunt is trivial by comparison.


Chris emailed to tell me about ‘Finding Manchester’. He wrote “It’s a crazy research project (in a good way!) to create a permanent archive of 52 Manchesters for generations to come, celebrating each of them as they are at this moment in history.

“We’re going to be interviewing people connected with the Manchesters, photographing the places and collecting memorabilia. We’ll also be taking with us ‘boxes of Manchester UK’ to the other Manchesters.

“The boxes will include things that are ‘Manchester’ through and through, such as interviews with people from here (well known and not so well known), images of the city and people today, emblems, technology etc.)

“Before we go we want to pull together a selection of interviews with people who are passionate about Manchester!”

I read and re-read the email. The project sounded fantastic. I could see the potential and it gripped my imagination from the start. When at the end I read “How about an interview sometime?”, well, you can imagine my reaction.

Finding Manchester in the Amazon

*A few years ago Chris and Liz discovered a forgotten Manchester in the Amazon. This new challenge stems from their earlier adventures. (Photo: Thanks to Chris Smith)


I asked Chris how the interview would take place. I hoped it would be nice and informal, over a few drinks in a pub perhaps, with him taking notes as I answered. I even thought we might do the interview via email. I thought he could send the questions and I could compose a reply at leisure. No such luck. 


If you’ve been reading Manchester Meanders for a while you’ll remember my radio interview and the sheer terror I experienced leading up to it. That was live (LIVE!) but at least they could only hear my voice.

Regarding the Finding Manchester interviews, Chris wrote “we like to do them face-to-face so that we can record the audio in WAV (the adopted technology format for the British Library to ensure that the recordings can be listened to in many years to come and doesn’t become redundant). We also like to video the interviews where we can too. People like to put a face to the voice.”

(Video? They want to video it?! Eek!)

Chris and Liz: Finding Manchester

*Finding Manchester: Lost in Bolivia. For more information see below and visit the Manchester Museum website. (Photo: Thanks to Chris Smith)


After several emails back and forth we finally set an interview date. We arranged to meet at the Manchester Museum one afternoon after work. The plan sounded simple enough but on the day I missed every sensible connection; I missed busses, got stuck on trains; I ended up running across Manchester city centre rather than risk any further mishaps, which wasn’t easy as I was breaking in new hiking boots at the time.Two and a half hours after setting off I arrived for my interview glowing with sweat and panting for air. It wasn’t really the best look for Manchester UK.

As we were running out of time we launched straight into the interview. Still gasping for air, without checking a mirror for streaming mascara and without combing my hair, I answered personal questions off the cuff without thinking. To be honest, I hadn’t realised we were recording.

The plan, according to Chris, was to “capture what it is I love about Manchester and give people an impression of the person I am – as a person who lives in Manchester today.

He said: “Think of it as telling someone about your life in Manchester who has no idea what the place is like or who it is that lives there.”

I’m not sure how well I achieved that. If it was a job interview I wouldn’t have got it.

I don’t know how long the interview lasted. The staff at Manchester Museum were waiting to lock up but they patiently (and generously) let us record for half an hour past closing time, after which we slipped into the museum’s café for a brew until they threw us out too.

I answered questions about relationships, how long I’ve lived in Manchester, why I moved into the city centre, how I met my partner, how long we’ve been together, what I studied at University, how my career has changed over the years, where I want it to go from here… None of that actually made it into the final cut. The final cut from the interview is all about this blog, making it appear like a shameless advertisement for Manchester Meanders! That wasn’t my aim! Hopefully I’m just being paranoid.

Contact Chris Smith

Follow Finding Manchester on Facebook and Twitter.

I might be able to show you the interview on Vimeo sometime in the future but until then check out the Finding Manchester website. Show them your support! It’s a fantastic project and suggestions and donations are welcome.

Chris and Liz hope to leave Manchester UK to visit 52 Manchesters in 52 weeks in 5 continents shortly after the Manchester Day Parade. (Sunday 10th June at 2pm). 

* For more information on their previous adventure (through the Amazon, in search of the small South American village called Manchester) visit The Manchester Museum Website.

Extract from the Manchester Museum archive: “Chris Smith and Liz Peel came across the village of Manchester on a 1950s Russian air map of Bolivia. Intrigued by this, they set out on a canoe along the Rio Manuripi River in the Bolivian Amazon in South America to find it. Liz and Chris spent four months on the river, negotiating tropical storms, eating piranha fish and aided only by basic equipment, before reaching the small village. Home to less than thirty families living in huts around a football pitch, the village was founded in the late 1800s when Anthony Webster-James, a young Mancunian engineer, moved there to set up a rubber smelting plant in the height of South America’s rubber boom.”

All comments are welcome.