Superheroes in Manchester’s Northern Quarter – new Hollywood blockbuster turns to Cottonopolis for its backdrop

WALKING through Manchester’s Northern Quarter right now, you’d be forgiven for thinking the bad old days of Gunchester had reared their ugly head once more.

On Friday, as I strolled along Dale Street on my way into work, there was a huge sign proclaiming that guns and explosions would be heard throughout the day.

“That’s nice. At least they’re giving us a bit of warning. Seems like Manchester’s street gangs have a new-found conscience,” I mused for a second.

Clearly not.

This historic part of city centre Manchester – famed for being the centre of the fabric-trading world back in the day (thus its historic tag Cottonopolis) – has more in common with 1940s Manhattan than the modern, bustling capital of Northern café culture it has recently become.

So while Deansgate and the glassy new buildings of Spinningfields provide the city’s pinstripes, court-attending criminals and office-types uniformed in Next sales stock constant reflections of why and how they exist, Dale Street and the dark, Satanic mills of the Northern Quarter provide an altogether more nostalgic surrounding.

I can see why the Hollywood bigwigs like coming here. Take a look above street level – a little 45 degree look upwards while you’re walking to get a lunchtime buttie should do the trick – and you are transported back to a time when you were no-one without a fedora or flat cap.

Twelve feet above pavement level Manchester is a twin of war-era New York. It is, it seems, also much cheaper and easier to film here than in the Big Apple. That’s why they come.

As a proud Mancunian I really hope they take a little more than their fancy cameras and props home with them when they head back across the water to Tinsletown. Mancunians love this city. It has the grit of New York with an admirable sense of irony and humour on top.

Mancunians are fiercely proud of the Rainy City but they’re not afraid to have a little laugh at their own expense. That sense of balance is sadly missing in many of the hugely pompous sky-scraper lined streets of big cities around the world, New York especially. Our American visitors would do well to remember it is that exact quality that makes Manchester such a special place and not just a discounted stunt double for Manhattan.

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