August 14th, 2010 — 9:56pm
One of the reasons why I actually like Manchester (sometimes) is its hyperactive arts and culture sector that seems to be just crazy about organising festivals. There’s the Jazz Festival, Future Everything, the Literature Festival, 24:7 Theatre Festival, the Family Friendly Film Festival, the Didsbury Art Festival, Manchester International Festival, the Comedy Festival, Food and Drink Festival, the WestFest, FuturEverything… this city really is ONE BIG FESTIVAL!
Well, that’s certainly fine by me. I’m happy to stop bitching about the depressing weather, lousy public transport, scary crime rate and social inequality in order to engage in a bit of culture, especially when paired with food.
After days of torrential rain in Manchester, I awoke this Saturday morning to find the sun burning down onto my face, convincing me to finally make a serious attempt at visiting the Didsbury Food Market. Located just around the library, this teeny tiny gathering of stalls may not be big enough to be called a “market”*, yet it managed to keep me busy for quite a while. And by that I mean “stuff my face and succumb to impulse buys”, spending a small fortune on: a cheese & vegetable tart from “Silver Apples”, beautiful macaroons from the “English Rose Bakery”, a home made Battenberg from the lady with the pretty apron, two necklaces from “In All Her Finery”, and a cupcake from “And the dish ran away with the spoon”, who are just about to open a shop in West Didsbury. What a lovely way to start a Saturday morning. A few more regional fruit & veg stalls, and I’m happy to throw all my money at local businesses there every week!
Moving on into the city centre, I enjoyed a little more of the rare sunshine at the Mad Scientists’ Tea Party, a trailblazer event for the Manchester Science Festival (another festival!). Exploding plastic tubs, lava lamps made from oil and vitamin tablets, rainbow coloured cupcakes, giant soap bubbles and an incredibly fascinating camera obscura in a yurt were keeping children and parents entertained.
What I found even more interesting than the activities however was the eclectic mix of people at the Tea Party – families with their Saturday shopping, teenage mums, emo kids not willing to give up their usual spot at Cathedral Gardens, and two tramps who got seriously excited about the explosions and kept sticking vitamin tablets in film containers. Until recently, I would have sniffed at this and left quickly, but I suppose I’ve been in this city long enough now to understand: this is Manchester. It’s just… a bit different. Nothing wrong with it, eh.
* See, I’m from a very rural area. Some of the boys I knew would sometimes drive to school with a tractor. We do proper markets. It takes all day to get from one end to another. There’s dozens of stalls selling organic hand grown happy fruit and vegetables, artisan cheese from happy cows, tons of uhm… happy meat, Turkish and Greek deli stalls, hundreds of different types of bread loaves, rolls, cakes and sweets. No need to explain why I turn into a little fatty every time I visit my family at home.