It’s Win up North
This week’s news that Manchester is the best place to live in Britain will have left Londoners going “What’s a ‘Manchester’?”
But those of us in the North will be completely unfazed.
The global survey ranked 140 major cities according to factors like ‘culture and environment’, ‘crime and terrorism’ and ‘stability’.
Although not topping the poll, Manchester came a respectable 42nd, beating New York, Rome and – most importantly for the purposes of this blog at least – it also beat London by 11 places. Even more importantly than that, this was mainly in the culture and environment category.
This made me happy. Not because I dislike London particularly, but it’s nice to knock Londonitis on the head once in a while.
Even though I don’t live in Manchester, I DO live in the North (Yorkshire, to be more precise) and the number of times I feel compelled to fulfil my quotient of culture consumption by jumping on a train to London are few and far between. Manchester is much more like my idea of a good time – all the fun of London, in a city a fraction of the size, and, according to the survey, “a proven record of a vibrant individual culture”. Perhaps because it’s possible to feel like an individual in a place like Manchester, rather than the tiny speck it’s easy to become in London.
Still, my London-based friends have, since we met, made many hilarious jibes about whether we’ve got electricity up here yet, and what it’s like trying to survive the winter in a house made of twigs and spit. And I’ve never been entirely sure that they were joking.
There are many reasons we’re forced to be arsed about London. Firstly, because it’s the capital city or something.ÃÂ Secondly, because if you’ve ever been involved in anything to do with business or arts and culture then it’s ingrained that you’ve to look to London as a benchmark of how well you’re doing.
In a band? You’re going to have to do a gig in London at some point, otherwise nobody important is going to see you.
Some sort of creative type are you? Well if London doesn’t know you exist then you may as well still be giving your work to your mum to stick on the fridge.
Obviously this has its grounding in logic – sort of. Whether we like it or not, London is the home of the media powerhouses that arguably run the country. It’s certainly the financial centre of the country, and we all need money to get somewhere after all.
Well, yes, but times are a-changing.
For a start, there’s the BBC’s mass shift to Salford’s new Media City – a move that will hopefully make their coverage more representative.ÃÂ And self-publishing via the web has never been easier, more democratic or more influential, leaving traditional media on the back foot. Wikileaks pisses all over The Daily Mail.
Then there’s a lesser need for artists, and bands particularly, to hassle a fat man in a suit for a whole load of capital before they can present their work to the world. DIY technology, combined with access to a potential audience of millions through social networking, online distribution with no middleman involved – we’re starting to wonder how those fat men are going to be able to pay for their suits soon. And nobody’s going to want to go to London to see fat men naked.
Manchester has Europe’s largest music industry event – In The City – as well as a history of paving the way in music, art and TV. It has a wealth of little bars, boutiques and venues, all contributing to a busy, friendly city that has everything anyone could want. And that’s without even considering going down South.
I also find London a stressful place to be. Everyone is in a hurry, and it’s so huge, that I get a constant nagging feeling that I need to be doing something. Manchester seems much more laid back and friendly, as well as cheaper, greener and more liberating.
My best friend is a Londoner, much to my despair. Trying to get her out of London can be a hell of a task. It’s not that she doesn’t want to leave particularly – she even went to Italy for a whole year – but if she tries to go to The North then she gets a nosebleed and has to come back straight away.
I love going to London to see my friends, yes. For the occasional gig that isn’t happening anywhere else, yes. I even quite like the tube, and the fact that people rarely hassle you on the street because they’re far too busy. But because I feel like I’m missing out on any art, nightlight, music or anything else at all? Nah.