Snowy landscape on Saddleworth Moor east of Manchester

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Snowy landscape on Saddleworth Moor east of Manchester
Snowy Pennine landscape seen over a broken gate next to the A62 in the district of Saddleworth (Yorkshire / Oldham MBC) around 13 miles east of Manchester.

We are looking from the A635 Holmforth Road towards the south west into Cheshire. In March 2005 there was was a quick transition from snow to spring.

I later found out that this location is not far from the place where the Moors murder victims were buried.

Title: Snowy landscape on Saddleworth Moor east of Manchester

Filename: OldSadSnowClds5301.jpg

Image No: 10107

Technical: Fuji Finepix S3

First uploaded: 2005-03-21

Interview with Alex McCAnn @AltrinchamHQ

The @AidanEyewitness Interview

Alex McCann @AltrinchamHQ at Altrincham Interchange Stamford New Road

I got to know Alex McCann when I was one of the official photographers at Manchester’s In The City music convention and festival. He produced an amazing music magazine and interviewed lots of bands. And then a few years later I looked on LinkedIn and discovered he has built a huge number of connections and has been highly successful in social media. To find out more, I met up with him in his home town Altrincham, a town where I used to live and work.


Altrincham Interchange and clock tower 2002 with red Audi TT

Why did you name your business Altrincham HQ?
Altrincham is at the very heart of what I do. I have a massive love for my hometown.

At the time I set up Altrincham HQ, I was running an events company in Manchester and I witnessed early on what was happening in the Northern Quarter. Working in music you tend to pick up on social media trends early on as bands are often early adopters of platforms.

There was this massive gap between what was happening when I was working in the Northern Quarter and what I saw in my home town.

When I first started tweeting back in 2009, the idea of local news being spread so fast was at odds with what you read in the local newspaper – the local papers at the time would be 4 to 6 weeks behind what you were discussing in the pub or on the high street. So I decided to tweet on a daily basis about what was happening in Altrincham from Sept 2009.

Within a year we had a fiercely loyal local community and the community is at the heart of any great business.

The name Altrincham HQ – well @altrincham wasn’t available on twitter when I signed up – so adding HQ seemed the obvious option as the focus was on talking about Altrincham.

What’s special about Altrincham for you personally?
Altrincham is my home town and I think there’s always a natural love for your hometown.

Being a non-driver, it’s never been about escaping the town and heading “out of town” – it’s always been about exploring what is on offer locally and soaking up as much as possible in the local surroundings.

When I was involved in music in the city centre, Altrincham to me was this quiet (but lively enough) escape at home where I could have a catch up with friends and just relax.

As I get older I tend to enjoy a night out with friends at the many restaurants of Altrincham. There’s a real strong mix of established restaurants and always new restaurants in the town and I’ve dined out at the vast majority of them (in fact I think there are only two restaurants I’ve not eaten at in Altrincham and that’s only due to their lack of vegetarian options).

Like many towns, Altrincham has struggled in recent years, but the town is very much on the up again and that’s in no small part due to the positivity of the people of Altrincham.

One of Altrincham’s strongest assets is the amount of people who love the community, want to help out and want to shout louder about the positives of Altrincham rather than the negatives. Looking at other towns I don’t see that same sense of community that Altrincham has!

Tell me about Designer Magazine
Designer Magazine was my baby from leaving college in 1999 till the very very start of 2014.

For those that only know of myself through Altrincham HQ, my background was in journalism and and events and although I worked for various publications internationally, over the years Designer Magazine was the name I was associated with here in Manchester.

I interviewed every major band from 1999-2006/7 including Take That’s Mark Owen, Run DMC, The Rolling Stones (Bill Wyman), Elbow, Muse, My Chemical Romance, Scissor Sisters and many many more.

In The City music convention and festival 2004
In The City music festival poster September 2004

It spawned an events company years later, through which I put on gigs by Bombay Bicycle Club, Athlete, The Ting Tings (Dear Eskimo), The Heartbreaks, The 1975 (when they were called Drive Like I Do) and members of The Stone Roses, The Wombats, The Kooks and many more.

One of the things we did was launch the All Ages Gigs in South Manchester which were attended by 400 teenagers every month in Sale and occasionally Altrincham and the impact of those gigs were massive. So many of the talented bands that were just starting out then are now in their early to mid twenties and getting national acclaim.

I’m no longer involved in music now, but it’s strange how people pop up from the past every so often. One of the last few gigs I did was the first ever Manchester gig for singer-songwriter Tom Mann. It was a co-promotion with local promoter Abi Richardson in Altrincham. And then a year later he ended up on X Factor as part of the boy band Stereokicks.

Why did you move into what you are doing now?
It was one of those ideas that was at the back of my mind for a long long time.

Since I left college and university I’d been involved in promotion or marketing of some description. Even on the events I’d get huge PR coverage including the front page of the Manchester Evening News through to Radio 1 / XFM and national broadsheets

I just really like helping people and whilst I was doing music a friend of mine suggested why don’t you help small businesses as well as bands

So I structured Social Media training that was aimed at small businesses in order for them to get more out of Social Media. At the time the majority of small businesses were not marketing via Social Media and were still very traditional in their marketing.

Since then it’s flipped so that the majority of new businesses use social media, but the majority don’t use it effectively

What I love about Social Media is how often it changes and you need to change and adapt all the time. What worked 12 months ago rarely works in the present day.

What do you do and how can you help people and businesses?
What I do in its essence is help businesses market themselves, so that they capture the eyes of their target audience on the right platform.

Small business marketing has changed massively over the past 10 years and Social Media has changed the way people communicate on a daily basis. So what I do is focus on how to strategically market a business where their customers’ eyes are. Stats show that a person picks up their mobile phone 150 times a day and depending on who your customers are, they may be looking at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram or reading long form content such as 1000 word blogs.

So I either train businesses on the mechanics, the marketing message and the measurement of social media over a half day’s training session or on an on-going basis.

I also offer an outsourced social media management service which is where we fully manage the social media for a business that doesn’t have the time to do so.

I work with one business who get 30% of their total business from social media, and the rest of their business is from the word of mouth that comes from the social media activity. Another business wins around 80 new customers a month from Twitter. And another business has launched a successful business which is growing over 3 years later without spending a penny on traditional advertising.

Every session is totally different so one day it might be literally a new start up working from home and at the opposite end of the scale i’ve worked with Manchester Arndale, the NHS and Manchester University

Manchester University
Manchester University John Owens Building

It’s enormously satisfying walking through your home town knowing that you’ve helped hundreds of local businesses market more effectively and win business in a really competitive world

But the biggest shock for me is how far the word has spread from my hard work in Altrincham. I’ve worked with a Canadian business as well as businesses all over the UK – just this past month alone I’ve worked with businesses from Wales, Wakefield, Liverpool, Shropshire and all over the northwest.

If you want more info please look at www.altrinchamhq.co.uk. There are over 200 blog posts with free marketing advice on there!

Many thanks to Alex McCann, @AltrinchamHQ and we will continue to communicate regularly via Twitter and other social media!

Snowy scenes in Manchester – Eyewitness mini-feature

Mini-feature that appeared in the Manchester Evening News

Grove of trees with snow, Birchfields Park Manchester

This Eyewitness article appeared in the Manchester Evening News on Christmas Eve 2014, Thursday 24th December. I speculated as to whether there would be a white Christmas in Manchester. It was highly unlikely and it didn’t happen. But just over a month later, on Wednesday 28th January, snow fell in Manchester – horizontally! There were strong winds, hail showers and freezing temperatures all day.

Eyewitness feature on snow Manchester Evening News 24 Dec 2014

Will there be a white Christmas in Manchester? Or maybe later in the holiday period? Manchester is almost on the same latitude as Irkutsk, Russia, but doesn’t get its midwinter Siberian temperatures of around minus 17C (1.4F).

Ladybarn Park Manchester during snowy weather

In Manchester the average for December and January is around 5C (41F). Winter 1947 was one of the coldest in living memory. I researched that year for my Eyewitness 1947 feature. Manchester and the rest of the UK endured snowdrifts from mid-January. There were bus, tram and lorry crashes, with coal and food shortages.

I remember the freezing winter of 1963, especially sitting on my dad’s knee in front of a coal fire and waking up with icicles on the inside of the window. There was plenty of snow in 1981 and 1995 but I was away. For 2001 and 2004 I have photos to prove it!

In 2009/10 temperatures fell far below freezing. I recorded minus 14C (7F) on the car thermometer on Christmas night. 2010/2011 was freezing too.

Whenever snow falls, I love to go out and capture local scenes transformed. But if as looks likely, the snow will be staying away this holiday season, the best we can do is look through the snowy photo archive and here are a few of mine.

Heaton Hall after snowfall 2004

 

Manchester Central Library and St Peters Square with snow

Marie Louse Gardens West Didsbury Manchester with snow

Birchfields Park Manchester with snow and blue sky

Grove of trees with snow, Birchfiields Park Manchester

Dusk image of Altrincham Interchange and Stagecoach 370 bus

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Dusk image of Altrincham Interchange and Stagecoach 370 bus

At Altrincham Interchange, a new bus station building was completed in December 2014. It features a larger, brighter concourse with seating and departure information

The bus station is just a few steps from Altrincham railway station used by Metrolink trams and trains operating between Manchester and Chester. The railway station first opened in 1881, replacing the older Altrincham and Bowdon stations. The clock tower is Grade II listed.

The new building is impressive and a big improvement on the old one, which was first opened in the 70s. I used it many times in the past. After taking the photo I got on the 370 to return to Stockport. This photo was taken for use in a future article on transport in Greater Manchester.

This is a composite panorama consisting of four overlapping images merged together by hand in Photoshop. I love to make panoramic photos like this and I always prefer to do the ‘stitching’ – I prefer to call it merging – by hand. I waited until 5pm so I could get a nice dusk image, with a balance between the artificial lighting and the dusk sky.

Title: Dusk image of Altrincham Interchange and Stagecoach 370 bus

Filename: Mcr-Alt-Interchange-F127.jpg

Technical: Canon DSLR

Capture Date: 2015-01-27

First uploaded: 2015-01-28

Exposure Time: 1/30 sec
F-Number: f/3.5
Exposure Program: Shutter Priority
ISO Speed Rating: 320

The beauty of Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens remembered

Manchester Piccadilly Gardens 1999

So the concrete wall in Piccadilly Gardens is to be remodelled. It can’t be removed as it’s built like a nuclear bunker.

I remember the sunken gardens with their concentric rectangular layout, and the Coronation fountain at the centre. It was a cheerful place where shoppers and workers strolled along pathways or sat on benches, enjoying the colour and scent of roses and tulips growing in well tended flowerbeds.

ManPiccGdnsPortlandSt99

Celebrated on post cards, painted by LS Lowry, used as a backdrop in family photos, including my own, it was a public park as big as one of the London squares, overlooked by classic facades on three sides and the futuristic Piccadilly Plaza on the fourth.

Piccadilly Gardens 1998

It was a place where greenery co-existed happily with buses. And then trams were brought back, a big step forward, yes, but the lines encroached on the gardens. They were neglected by the council and allowed to become run down. Because they were run down, the council said ‘environmental improvements’ were needed and they gave us what we see today.

Many people are saying an apology is needed. I just wish the old gardens could be brought back, or at least a 21st century reinterpretation of them. There are archive images of Piccadilly Gardens on images.manchester.gov.uk.

Berlin Wall PIccadilly Gardens

Layout of post 1999 gardens showing building site

East Lancashire Railway five photographs

A selection of just five photographs from my visit to the East Lancashire Railway. I prefer to take relatively few photos and select just a handful. As I was working on the images, it seemed natural to crop them to 16:9 aspect ratio.

East Lancs Railway train at Heywood

Train at Heywood pulled by locomotive Great Marquess, built 1938, prepares for departure to Rawtenstall via Bury Bolton Street station.

I like the effect of compressing the side of the train by the use of the zoom lens. In order to make it fill the 16:9 aspect ratio, I ‘stretched’ the carriages to the right in Photoshop.

East Lancs Railway Great Marquess

An engineer checks the locomotive prior to departure.

I love the railway photos of the 1930s and 40s, and I am always looking out for the silhouette of the uniform and cap against steam. It seemed right to use black and white for this image and the previous one.

East Lancs Railway Bolton St Carriages

1950s train carriages at Bury Bolton Street station. These carriages date from the 1950s and are painted in the older style livery.

Here again, the 270mm zoom lens compresses the view, emphasising the unevenness of the carriages and turning them almost into an abstract pattern.

East Lancs Railway DMU at Bolton St
A DMU (Diesl Multiple Unit) was in operation on the line today as an alternative to the steam-hauled train. It is about to return to the depot. I rode many times in trains like this. The design is far superior to the railcars that were introduced int he 1970s and are still in use today..

At dusk, the light becomes more interesting and more suggestive of past times. I like the way the signals are silhouetted against the sky in the distance. I used Photoshop to create a graduated sky.

East Lancs Railway 61994 Bolton St
And so the loco is taken back to the shed after another day’s operation. This is the view from the top of the platform, with the old BR style station sign on the right and the loco on the left with the number 61994 Great Marquess.

Riding on old trains is a wonderful experience, though I’m not an expert in them! I am producing a feature on the East Lancashire Railway to appear in the Manchester Evening News in early February 2015.

The Great Orme North Wales coast with yellow sky

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The Great Orme, North Wales coast
The Great Orme extends northwards into the Irish sea from the North Wales coastline. Though a peninsula – almost an island – it has a similar outline to actual islands further along the coast, such as Puffin Island. The town of Llandudno is located on the Great Orme peninsula (Welsh: Pen y Gogarth)

A fantastic sight. I could stay there all evening just watching the changing light. The photograph still doesn’t do justice to the original scene. The tour around the Great Orme Peninsua by car or bus is spectacular.

Title: The Great Orme, North Wales coast

Filename: NwCmGtOrmeA802.jpg

Image No: 9860

Technical: Canon 550D

Capture Date: 2010-08-02

First uploaded: 2010-08-03

View from CIS Building of town hall and south Manchester

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View from CIS Building to town hall & south Manchester
View from the top of the CIS Building towards the town hall and south Manchester

This photo was taken during the Civic Society discussion on tall buildings, held 6 April 2005. Many thanks to the CIS for their hospitality and access to the stunning views over the city. In 2011 I taught English at the top of the CIS tower and this was the view from my classroom. It was for a course sponsored by the Co-operative College. The rooftops in the mid-distance are in Old Trafford. The office building on the right is the one on Seymour Grove.

Title: View from CIS Building to town hall & south Manchester

Filename: ManTwnHallCisVw5406.jpg

Image No: 4863

Technical: Fuji Finepix S3

Capture Date: 2005-04-06

First uploaded: 2005-04-07

Meta Description:

Keywords: Subcategory: Cityscapes, City of Manchester, views of Manchester city centre, photos Manchester skyline, Manchester cityscapes, Manchester Town Hall, Greater Manchester, Lancashire

Manchester Beetham/Hilton tower between two railway viaducts

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Beetham Tower seen between 2 railway viaducts
The Beetham Tower is seen here between two railway viaducts.

The one on the left carries trains from Oxford Rd towards Salford Crescent and Bolton. Of the three viaducts on the right, the closest is disused, the middle one carries Metrolink trams, and the one on the other side carries trains from Oxford Rd towards Urmston and Liverpool.

The Hilton Tower is itself part of railway history as it is built on the site of one of the railway arches leading from the former Great Northern Goods Warehouse on Deansgate.

Title: Beetham Tower seen between 2 railway viaducts

Filename: ManTwrCasfd6923.jpg

Image No: 6497

Technical: Fuji Finepix S3

Capture Date: 2006-09-23

First uploaded: 2006-09-26

Renovated Halle St Peters Ancoats 2010

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Renovated St Peters Church Ancoats
St Peter’s Church Ancoats is seen here from the south east side. Capture date is 26 June 2010. The viewpoint is from the corner of Hood St and Murray St. Since I took this photograph, the building became the rehearsal studios for the Halle Orchestra and was renamed Halle St Peters. It has many connections with the Italian community of Ancoats in past times.

St Peter’s Church is one of the most attractive buildings in Ancoats, with many historical associations. The new use as a rehearsal studio is excellent. I attended the Ancoats Dispensary event in 2014 and was very impressed with how the interior has been renovated.

I spent time on this image to fix improve two aspects: 1) I removed the lens distortion and straightened the converging verticals. 2) I darkened the sky so it has more impact and contrast. The angle of light, coming from the left, wasn’t ideal, but overall the image works.

Title: Renovated St Peters Church Ancoats

Filename: ManAncStPetersA626.jpg

Image No: 9863

Technical: Canon 550D digital camera

Capture Date: 2010-06-26

First uploaded: 2010-08-16