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A Slice of Italy at The Metropolitan

July 15, 2014

In  my book, you just can’t beat a wood-fired pizza, so I’m delighted that The Metropolitan has installed a pizza kitchen, with wood-burner,  outside The Stable Bar. There’s a really good range of pizzas, with some very interesting toppings, and all named after local West Didsbury roads – a nice touch :)

2014-07-10 20.14.20

As well as the pizzas, there’s a good selection of salads – and what The Met calls “nibbles” and “snacks”, although to be fair, they’re far more substantial that what I’d normally call nibbles. Everything is freshly prepared – and judging by the amount of people not only enjoying the al-fresco pizzas, but from comments over social media, this little bit of Italy in West Didsbury seems to be a hit already.

The Metropolitan Pizza Kitchen is open seven days a week – Monday – Friday from 5.00pm – 10.00pm, Saturday noon – 10.00pm and on Sundays from noon – 9.00pm, depending on weather and subject to availability. The full menu can be viewed here. Gluten free bases are available on request.

The Creswell Pizza

Late Night Retail Opening Launches in West Didsbury

July 10, 2014

Have you ever hopped off the tram at Burton Road, after 6pm, and wished you could pick up a box of chocolates? Do you feel that you’re missing out on our independent retail gems because you work away from West Didsbury when they are open?

Well, we have some news for you…

A group of retailers are going to be spear-heading an experiment to open later on Thursday evenings. If you want it, they’ll do it & hopefully more and more will follow suit. From next Thursday (10th July), so far, the following businesses will be staying open until 9.00pm and on the evening will be offering 10% discount on all purchases made – A Taste of Honey, Cocoa-Cabana, Steranko Clothes, Milly Mog, Reserve Wines & Frog Furniture. We know that lots of other businesses – especially our salons – are open late as par for the course, so we’ll be updating this information so that you are kept up to date and so that no-one is missed out.

Don’t forget as well, if you fancy a bite to eat pre-retail therapy, lots of our bars & restaurants offer early evening deals, so no need to get light-headed when you’re shopping! If you also fancy a hair cut/colour, Macleodbradley, on Lapwing Lane, is open late EVERY Thursday, although please note that last appointment time is always 7.00pm. Evie’s Retreat is also open late, but bookings are needed in advance as they get very busy.

As many of you will probably know, Sarah from Cocoa-Cabana writes a weekly column in The Advertiser (formerly the South Manchester Reporter) and she got in a great plug for the businesses supporting the initiative – and, as they say, all publicity is good publicity!


How Much Do *You* Love Withington Baths?

June 26, 2014

The campaign to not only keep Withington Baths open, but to secure a Community Asset Transfer, is gathering pace. A number of events have already been held and we’re currently gearing up for the Summer Banquet on Sunday 13th July. For just £20.00 per person, Ian Devine aka “The Drunken Butcher” will present a pop up five course  extravaganza, accompanied by local West Didsbury independents, Cocoa-Cabana Chocolatiers, Reserve Wines and The Flower Lounge. The event will be captured for posterity by Jonny Draper and you’ll have the opportunity hear about plans and the visionary 3D models which have been commissioned, giving a glimpse into what could be a very bright future!

But that’s not all. We want the community to be firmly rooted in the future of the baths and as such we’ve just launched “Fiver Fever”. Our aim is to raise £5000 (to be added to the £15,000 already secured from various funding streams), to enable our plans to progress and so we want to establish the “Friends of Withington Baths”. For just £5, you could become an integral part of the future. Interested? Pop over to the website and you can join up there. Huge thanks to those lovely people who are already “friends” :-)

We’re also looking for ten local businesses to become “Business Friends”. And, within a couple of days of launching, we are thrilled that The Metropolitan, JP & Brimelow, Montrose Properties, The Flower Lounge, Didsbury Events & Catering Co, Greens Restaurant & Ascendis Accountants have already pledged their support. Three more and we’ve hit our target!

If you’d like to be kept in the loop with what’s going at Withington Baths, follow on Twitter, like on Facebook or join the mailing list. We promise, you will NOT regret getting involved!



Rain Definitely Didn’t Stop Play…

May 26, 2014

…at the launch of the West Didsbury Makers’ Market on Sunday 25th May. In true Mancunian style, stallholders braved the elements and visitors simply put up their brollies as a fantastic range of arts & crafts and foodie independents rolled into West Didsbury. From freshly baked bread to cheesecakes to meats to jewellery, mosaics, cushions, pizzas, vintage interior pieces – it was all there. We also had music throughout the day, thanks to the guys at Epicurean – and a pop up gig, by Badly Drawn Boy no less :)

The market is now set to run on the last Sunday of the month, so if you missed our launch event, get Sunday 29th June in your diary. We’ll also be running a monthly competition (put live on Didsbury Life the week before the market), to win vouchers to spend at the market – we’ll be announcing over Twitter when these go live, so if you want to be like Sarah Pienaar, our winner from the first competition, make sure you’re following us over on Twitter.

So, with no further ado, here’s what happened on Sunday…

Thanks  Usman Shah who also filmed the event – think he captured what went on, very beautifully…


… and thankyou to Vicky & Lisa, the market organisers, our traders and every single person who came along and supported our fabulous new West Didsbury Market! Next market – Sunday 29th June.

Finally! We’ve got a market back in West Didsbury…

May 22, 2014

…it’s been a long time in the planning and a long time coming, but finally, it looks like we’ve got the market we’ve always wanted in West Didsbury. A market run by a team who understand that for it to be successful, there has to be collaboration & open communication with the independent businesses who trade day in and day out in the area. And, run by a team who understand that a successful market, populated by traders who are creative, unique and passionate, will enhance an already brilliant area and increase footfall. And hopefully, that footfall will return again and support our independent economy. We think this is what we’ve now got…

More information will be posted on Twitter & Facebook over the next few days, but we just wanted to make sure that as many people as possible know about this fantastic new monthly event (the last Sunday of the month), from 10.00am – 4.00pm on the forecourt of Withington Hospital.

We’re assuming that lots of visitors will come from the local area and therefore walk, but if you are coming from a bit further afield, the nearest tram stop is at the other end of Burton Road, just over the bridge – the perfect opportunity to discover our amazing independent retailers, restaurants, cafes & bars, as you walk down to the market. If you are driving, please consider the residents in and around the vicinity of the market site and please don’t park outside people’s houses. There is a huge car park at the hospital and at just £2 for 24 hours, you could leave the car overnight and make a day/evening of it in West Didsbury ;)

We’re currently running a competition over on Didsbury Life to win vouchers to the value of £50 to spend at the market – if you fancy being in with a chance of winning, pop over and enter here. PLEASE NOTE THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW ENDED AND WE HAVE A WINNER – SARAH PIENAAR.



Guest Post – Levenshulme Independent Market

April 17, 2014

You may have heard the buzz about the Levenshulme Market – community led and completely independent- going weekly. Here, one of the directors, Helen Power, explains the thinking behind it all…



At 5am every Saturday, as I weigh up the benefits of ditching either a shower or a cup of coffee (those who know me well will know which usually wins out), in the service of an extra 10 minutes of fitful sleep I am liable to ask myself why I do what I do. Why do I spend my Saturday mornings on a cold car park heaving tables and gazebos into place?

Because I run a market and that is what market people do (except for those market people with pre-erected stalls who are so lucky they don’t even know they’re born); because I get to spend the rest of my day chatting to traders who have created their own unique businesses from scratch and are passionate about their products; because by the end of that day, between us all – me, the traders, the staff who help us with those gazebos, my fellow market directors who steer the course of the business on the steady path – we have created something that has brought people together – customers, friends, families, neighbours.

When I first started working on Levenshulme Market I noticed that at each Market I’d have a goosebumps moment – a stand-out second when I was truly moved by what we’d made – and not long after that I noticed that those moments were all about people – people discovering new products, people laughing, (small) people playing games in a place where games aren’t usually played, people finally meeting their neighbours for the very first time. It was moving then and it’s still moving now – I continue to get goosebumps, week after week. But there is a bigger why.

Why run a market at all? What does a market do for Levenshulme? It’s a more complicated answer than I thought 18 months ago and the process by which the Market came into existence – and why we carry on – owes a lot more to that question than those goosebump moments.

At the end of 2011 Mary Portas published her review on the future of the high street – 28 recommendations that she determined would help high street retailing recover from the triple battering rams of recession, big box out-of-town retail and the internet. While she never said that markets were the key to her vision for recovery, several of the measures she suggested had markets at their heart, acknowledging the role of that street markets play in driving footfall onto high streets. From an implementation perspective, creating new markets on high streets was one of the simplest measures she proposed for local councils to take up – and so they did – including Manchester City Council who piloted a monthly street market in Levenshulme in May 2012. And the market was great. For a while.

Residents threw themselves behind promoting the market and making the most of the opportunity and for the first few months, customers came, traders came…and then…a slow downward spiral. Residents who had been giving large amounts of their free time to promote the market weren’t able to continue, fewer customers came leading to fewer stall holders, leading to fewer customers. While the Council’s Market team did their best to support the market, they too were short on resources and after six months the market was deemed unsustainable and those of us who had been involved in the process of developing the offer were told that it would close in December 2012.

Or not…

That September a group of traders, residents and other interested parties sat around a table at the Inspire Centre in Levenshulme and the Council’s South Manchester Regeneration Team asked us a question – do you think you can make this market work?
The very short answer (reached after a lot of very long meetings with South Manchester Regeneration, Blue Orchid and those of us who were left at the end of that process) was yes. We had a business plan that would allow us to run and promote a monthly market in Levenshulme and make a meagre profit But the question that became more important (don’t tell the bank manager) was not whether we could do it, but rather, whether we should do it. The discussions sparked by this question have come to define us as a business.

So why should we do it?’ Increasing footfall on our local high street was one incentive and the Market certainly raises footfall on the high street in Levenshulme, and now that we are a weekly market that impact has increased. We are, however, keenly aware that the people who come to our market are not necessarily natural shoppers at all of the existing businesses on our high street and that any amount of increase in footfall will only translate to money spent on the high street if those shops are prepared to put in the hard work to attract these customers into their premises.

As directors of the Market, we are happy to work with those businesses that want to use the opportunity provided by the Market to promote their business in Levenshulme and to share customers with us. Several local businesses have taken advantage of this, to excellent effect. What interests us to a greater extent, though, is the role that markets can play in incubating businesses. Most people know that Alan Sugar started his business life trading on a market stalls, but did you know that Marks & Spencer started as a market stall? Or that the founder of B&M Bargains cut his teeth on his parents’ stall? Markets are the lowest risk way for new retailers to learn the skills of the trade, refine their products by getting real time feedback from their customers and to build relationships with more seasoned traders who have learnt their lessons the hard way.

And Levy residents have already started to respond to the opportunity the Market presents – three new businesses have been established as a response to the Market and several of the businesses that have been trading on the Market for a while are now confident enough in their product that they are looking for high street premises…in Levenshulme.

But there is more – and we want to do more. As far as I can tell there is absolutely no research on the tangible impacts that markets have on high streets (nice PhD in there for someone, I’d say) – while Portas and Bill Grimsey (in his 2013 Review on the alternative future of the high street) tout markets as a good thing and our instincts tell us they are right there is very little tangible evidence as to why they are.

Some six months after the Market started trading the Centre for Cities’ September 2013 published their report, Beyond the High Street: Why our city centres really matter. Their insights sum up what I consider to be the guiding principle behind how we operate at Levenshulme Market: they determined that underperforming high streets are the symptom of economic malaise in the areas they serve – or, in other words, bad high streets don’t happen to communities where money is circulating properly. We believe that markets address that problem.

Markets allow local people who are not earning enough to spend locally to create businesses to increase their income so that they can. They allow local market traders to become local businesses to create jobs and give more local shopping opportunities. They allow local shoppers to support their fellow locals and create more jobs.

It’s a virtuous circle and although it’s not perfect it can work and markets – done properly – are at the heart of it. We recognised that early on in our discussions, and so, when the time came to decide how we were going to incorporate ourselves and what we would do with those meagre profits, it was clear that we had to be a social enterprise. This means reinvesting our profits back into the trading community by providing financial awards to locals who were potential new traders on the markets in order to help them create their businesses, or to existing market traders who wanted to make the leap to bricks and mortar premises on our high street.

And it turned out that those profits needn’t be as meagre as first we thought – the story of how we got to this point is a whole other blog post in itself, but the good news is that at the end of 2014 we expect to have netted £15,000 to be allocated to such awards for traders – thus proving that markets really can make a difference to high streets.

Levenshulme High Street is designated as one of three “failing” high streets in Greater Manchester and there are many more like it all over this country – low occupancy, dominated by betting shops and takeaways, providing little in the way of income to residents. While, however, employment figures are low, entrepreneurial spirit is high and business lending is beginning to improve – these are perfect conditions for a boom in startup retail businesses, and yet it’s not happening. There is a massive disparity, and markets address that disparity – and the business model we have developed helps to push forward the process of repopulating our high streets.

So that’s why. That and the goosebumps – they’re pretty cool too.

So, What Are You Giving Up?

March 5, 2014

The next six weeks, whether you’re religious or not, will be about a lot of people giving a lot of things up. Chocolate, alcohol, cigarettes. You name it. Someone will be giving it up. So, here’s an idea. Giving up the big guys and pledging to support the small guys, as much as possible.

In this day & age, it’s probably almost impossible to shop exclusively independently, and from the high street. That’s not what we’re saying, because that just wouldn’t be realistic. But wouldn’t be it be nice, if, instead of popping  to the nearest supermarket for a loaf of bread, we went local – Burton Rd Bakery or A Taste of Honey for example? Instead of buying yours and the kids’ clothes in stores in big out of town retail places, why not make a purchase at Milly Mog or Steranko? Looking for something for the house? Do yourself a favour  and forget the IKEA trip – David Gavin Design, Frog Furniture, Moth & Orchard Design are right on our doorstep. And as for coffees – spoilt for choice! There’s Thyme Out Deli, And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon, Folk, The Metropolitan, just for starters. Doing a bit of gardening or DIY as the weather perks up? Then head to Blaggs or Bud Garden Centre or The Flower Lounge. Sweet tooth? How’s about Cocoa-Cabana? A bit of a pamper? How about Evie’s Retreat or MacleodBradley on Lapwing Lane?

Even if it’s just the once you do it over the next six weeks, bet the independent you choose to spend your money in, appreciates it a whole lot more than one of the big boys. And, if you’re not in the habit already, it may well last a bit longer than six weeks :)


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