It’s said that variety is the spice of life, and a walk along Manchester’s spiciest street is nothing if not varied.
Rusholme is a district of Manchester just outside the city centre. It is term-time home to a large student population residing in local halls of residence. It’s also a global village of different communities, mainly from south east Asia.
A hundred years ago, Rusholme was leafy and salubrious, and notable amongst its more illustrious residents were the Pankhursts, champions of women’s suffrage. Now, many of the larger Edwardian and Victorian houses have been turned into student flats.
The area is most famous for its curry mile which attracts fans of international cuisine from all over Manchester and beyond. Actually, the curry mile descriptor probably needs to be updated, as there are now more eateries selling Arabic, Persian, Kurdish, Turkish and Afghani food than there are Indian curry establishments.
It’s a bit run down, and daylight hours don’t show Rusholme at its best; it’s after dark that it comes alive and the bright lights illuminate the street scene with delicious oriental aromas enticing spice lovers through the many welcoming doors.
World-food stores sell a vast range of unusual ingredients with lush fruits and vegetables displayed out front.
The start and end of the curry mile are marked by public parks. I started my walk at Platt Fields at the south end where Manchester Museum of Costume is located. I’ve visited the Museum previously but it is currently closed for cataloguing of exhibits and to deal with a moth problem.
Platt Fields is used a lot for community events, including festivals which always involve lots of delicious food. The local communities associated with Rusholme are represented in art on the outbuildings.
Within Platt Fields is the remains of a link to Manchester’s distant past. The Nico ditch is what is left of an ancient earthwork, the purpose of which is not known for certain, though there are some interesting theories. The section of the Nico ditch which skirts Platt Fields is now listed as a protected ancient monument. It isn’t easy to locate, as much of the signage around the park is weather-beaten and unclear. I have tried to highlight the ditch below.
The ditch runs across what was the old border between Manchester and Stockport. It isn’t known when it was constructed; some time during the 600 years or so between the Romans leaving and the Normans arriving, it is thought. Possibly a defensive work to keep out Viking invaders from the Danelaw; possibly, and less dramatically, a simple boundary marker, Nico ditch’s purpose is subject to speculation. There are a lot of ‘maybes’. My favourite Nico folklore narrative tells how it was built in one night by the men of Manchester, each man building a section as tall as himself, to keep out the Norsemen.
Nearby, Platt Fields wildlife feasts on nature’s offerings, concerned only with the present.
Back on Wilmslow Road again, we find Hardy’s Well.
Once a popular watering hole, last orders were finally called in 2016 but the pub has become iconic because of the poem of the same name – a celebration of alliteration – which is composed upon its gable wall.
Hardy’s Well is the creation of Lemn Sissay MBE, Chancellor of the University of Manchester and poet of the 2012 London Olympics amongst his many accolades. Unfortunately, Lemn has neglected the addition of possessive apostrophes.
Lemn Sissay was born in Wigan, about 18 miles from Manchester, and brought up in the care system after his mother, an Ethiopian student, was initially unable to look after him. Lemn has described bitterly in print and in film his early life in care and has recently succeeded in claiming compensation from Wigan Council. As a young adult, Lemn reclaimed his Ethiopian heritage and the name given him at birth. His poetry is internationally renowned but Hardy’s Well is my favourite. Yesterday was National Poetry Day in the UK with the theme being ‘change’. I thought it very apt that Hardy’s Well graces a spot which had seen an incredible amount change over the last century.
The property developers who have bought the building have undertaken to preserve the iconic script but the vandals have already got to work making their own marks.
Negotiating the crowds gathering to share mouth-watering masalas and tantalising tikkas, I savoured the aromas and admired window displays of Bollywood fashions as I continued along the curry mile.
Whitworth Park is at the north end of the curry mile near to the University and the city’s main hospitals. Whitworth Gallery is alongside. It’s one of my favourite galleries: modern, unpretentious and always with a thought-provoking exhibition.
Manchester has become famous for its bees which represent the city’s resilience and industrial heritage. Bee sculptures can be found all over the city and here are two at the Whitworth.
I do love a roll of wallpaper with a bold pattern, and I was not disappointed by the examples included in the exhibition, Bodies of Colour: breaking wallpaper stereotypes.
I wondered who would want a gallows scene on their wall, or even the rather unsettling ‘Sindy’ print from the mid 1970s. The character in the pink outfit and shades would surely keep any child awake at night!
Thread Bearing Witness, an exhibition by Alice Kettle, celebrates the lives and contributions of female refugees who have come to live in the Manchester area. Their traumas and aspirations are expressed through their contributions to the exhibition.
I finished my walk along the curry mile with a look around the Whitworth Art Garden where haute cuisine seemed to be the order of the changing day.