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.


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

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

Archive Image

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

Archive Image

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

Archive Image

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

Archive Image

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

Manchester skyline from Heaton Park – Cityscape image

View of Manchester skyline from Heaton Park

This is the view of the skyline of Manchester city centre seen from Heaton Park. I took the photo from the Temple, the hilltop gazebo that stands on the highest spot in the City of Manchester. I took the photo on a visit to Heaton Park for my Manchester Evening News feature. Capture date Monday 19 January, 2015. It was a cold winters day. The temperature was about 1 degree C / 34F

On the far left is the apartment building Skyline Central with its pointed glass section. The building with the curved roof is One Angel Square, headquarters of the Co-operative Group. To its right is the CIS tower, built 1962 and Manchester’s tallest building until the construction of the Beetham Tower (off the picture to the right).  Centre right is City Tower, former Sunley Tower, overlooking Piccadilly GArdens. On the right is the Arndale Tower and on the far right can just be seen the Student Castle.

In the foreground we see the trees of Heaton Park and in the residential just to the south In the lower left we can just see a Metrolink tram speeding down the hill on its way into the city just after emerging from the tunnel under Heaton Park.

This image consists of two overlapping images merged together in Photoshop.  The right hand image was slightly lighter and I used Levels to darken it to match the left hand image.


File name:    ManHeatonHall-F119.jpg
EXIF Summary:    1/320s f/10.0 ISO100 32mm

Equipment Make:    Canon
Image Width:    8618
Image Height:    3379
Exposure Time:    1/320 sec
F-Number:    f/10.0
Exposure Program:    Normal Program
ISO Speed Rating:    100
Lens Aperture:    f/9.9
Exposure Bias:    -1/3 EV
Exposure Mode:    Auto
White Balance:    Auto

Salford Lads Club – A Very Special Place for Smiths fans

The red brick arched doorway and facade of Salford Lads Club has been seen countless times in a set of black and white photographs of the Smiths taken by Stephen Wright in the mid-80s.

Salford Lads Club exterior facade and entrance

Salford Lads Club exterior facade and entrance

Since then thousands of fans have flocked to the location to have their photo taken at the same spot. But what many don’t realise is that you can visit Salford Lads Club. As you enter, the tiles, brickwork and window frames seem to exude an atmosphere of the past. The Smiths room contains memorabilia and the signatures of ‘pilgrims’ who have come here.

To raise money, club has been selling T shirts with that famous photo on the front. There is a room with snooker tables and photos on the walls showing young club members on field trips going back decades. Upstairs the pristine green snooker tables are the orginal ones that have been used for over 100 years. In the boxing rooms I could imagine myself in a scene from the film ‘Rocky’.

But it’s important to remember this is not a museum, it’s a working lads club, and has been for over 100 years. Salford Lads Club is one of the most surprising and special places around. Visit the official website for more information. Just do a search for ‘Salford Lads Club’.

Salford Lads Club snooker table

Salford Lads Club snooker table

Salford Lads Club Smiths Room

Salford Lads Club Smiths Room

Salford Lads Club Billiards Room with camping trip photos

Salford Lads Club Billiards Room with camping trip photos

Salford Lads entrance lobby with photos war plaque and poppies

Salford Lads entrance lobby with photos war plaque and poppies

Salford Lads Club gym with restored roof

Salford Lads Club gym with restored roof

The Albert Dock Liverpool black and white reflections- Archive Photo

The Albert Dock is one of Liverpool’s most popular attractions. It contains the Tate Modern, the Beatles Museum and many shops and bars. It’s amazing how a set of sturdy mid 19th century warehouse buildings has been turned into a state of the art leisure facility.

Liverpool Albert Dock black and white Reflections

Water always provides an attractive and photogenic element to a place and the Albert Dock has plenty of it. This photo also recalls one of my earliest memories of Liverpool: Seeing a ship in the dock at night with its long string of portholes lit up and reflected in the mirror like water.

Please note the @AidanEyewitness blog and FB page also covers Liverpool as well as Manchester and surrounding areas. The @AidanEyewitness feature in the Manchester Evening News only covers Manchester.


File name: LivAlbDockRefl6104.jpg
File size: 1884925 bytes (4256×2848, 1.2bpp, 19x)
EXIF Summary: 1/3s f/4.0 ISO800 35mm (35mm eq:53mm)

Camera-Specific Properties:

Equipment Make: FUJIFILM
Camera Model: FinePix S3Pro
Camera Software: Adobe Photoshop 7.0
Maximum Lens Aperture: f/2.8
Sensing Method: One-Chip Color Area
Focal Length (35mm Equiv): 53 mm

Image-Specific Properties:

Image Created: 2006:02:04 21:22:41
Exposure Time: 1/3 sec
F-Number: f/4.0
Exposure Program: Shutter Priority
ISO Speed Rating: 800
Lens Aperture: f/4.0
Brightness: -3.8 EV
Exposure Bias: 0 EV
Metering Mode: Pattern
Flash: No Flash
Focal Length: 35.00 mm
Image Width: 4256
Image Height: 2848

The Factory – A new arts centre on the site of Granada Studios

A new arts centre is to open on the site of Granada studios. Here’s one of my archive photos of the building as it looked in 2005, two years before the end of the ‘Tony Wilson Era’.

Granada TV building and railway viaduct

Here’s a link to the information about the new arts centre, on the Manchester City Council website.

Here are excerpts from what it says on the page:
“The Factory Manchester will be a unique large scale, ultra-flexible arts space capable of transforming from a 2,200 seat theatre to an immersive artistic environment with a standing capacity of up to 5,000 and will be the permanent home to the Manchester International Festival (MIF).”

Other phrases used in the document give a gist of the new facility: “major catalyst”, “cultural economy” “emerging technologies” “new media”

“In naming this new arts space as ‘The Factory Manchester’, the city is paying tribute to the cultural legacy of Factory (Records) which still resonates strongly as a creative influence worldwide. Factories are of historic importance to Manchester and this will be a venue for creative production, a place where art will be made, a factory for art that respects the city’s past whilst propelling it forward.”

But is naming the new arts centre “The Factory” another example of the misappropriation of Manchester’s heritage, like naming a shopping centre, an arts centre and a hotel “Lowry”?