Creating Quarters – Is It Worth It?

December 1, 2015 |

A long time ago a good friend of mine wrote his Masters dissertation on ‘bohemian centres’, looking at the rise of the Manchester Music Scene, Happy Valley and the like. These were scenes that grew out of a genuine collective style and subculture. They became fabricated and exploited when music companies and the like began to monetise them but, at the start they were genuine groundswells of shared enthusiasm and talent – scenes.

As a rule I dislike fabricated scenes – especially those created by local authorities. The Creative Quarter is a mixed bag for me though. My business is based here, but the Creative tag was coined long after we set our roots here. I came to the Lace Market for a number of reasons. It was close to lots of our friends’ businesses – Pure and Nzime were the main ones at the time. Some people who I perceived not to have their fingers on the pulse said that the Lace Market was finished – another good reason to set up here for me. I love the look of most of the original architecture – it makes me happy to go to work in a place that looks a bit like the set of the House of Eliott, inside and out! I also love being near to Hockley – sometime stomping ground of my teenage years.

Whilst I concede that the area is very creative, I wonder if it really needed a name – to state the obvious and add a layer of predictability to a place that was a lot more sophisticated (in a bohemian sense) without it.

I think that I’m not the only one who has raised an eyebrow to the number of very temporary looking art installations that are popping up. A particular favourite of mine are the wall murals. There are few things less appealing than authority sponsored street art and for me, it jars with the architecture of the area, the thing that really makes it beautiful.

On the plus side, the support out there for businesses in the Creative Quarter is great. I expected lots of hot air and no substance from the authorities on this one. The reality is the opposite – they have offered grants, apprentices and help with the fact that we don’t seem to be able to buy a decent ultrafast broadband as the area is pitifully un-serviced in this sense. Hope you’re listening BT Infinity?

But will this just be short-term and will it attract new businesses to the area? Most businesses I speak to (including ourselves) need more parking. There are few parking spaces and the ones available are in semi-derelict and run down plots with stupidly high costs and even higher ‘keying’ and ‘broken glass’ risks. Without better parking options, service businesses like mine (that cannot rely on the beloved trams to get out of the city to client meetings) will eventually, grudgingly have to move out of the area to accommodate our growth.

Parking is such a big deal – when you’re not just employing graduates who still live in the city and don’t need cars, good parking matters to account managers and directors driving in from Leicester or Lincs. This concerns me, as I am not looking forward to potentially having to sacrifice my House of Eliott workspace for some 1990s build with ample parking – that wouldn’t foster our creativity or wellbeing one bit!

We’re bringing brands like Steinway and Red Bull into the city and we are certainly not the only ones to be doing this – take a look at who Pure, Tribe. Brand communication and Nzime are working with these days. It’s time that this area got some serious teeth in terms of infrastructure to match some of the promising businesses in it.

So Creative Quarter, would you be so kind as to look over my wish list for our part of the world? We agencies need fast broadband for VoIP and Skype for all those international clients, pretty parking for staff and clients and perhaps someone could do something about the litter problem? But then maybe the latter is quite bohemian and scene setting?

And perhaps some of the eyesore buildings in the Creative Quarter could be addressed a little – you’ll know the ones I mean as they’re falling to bits and usually not that old. Perhaps these should be the canvas for the art?