It’s great up North!

As a passionate Northerner, I was really delighted to be asked to begin a new series of regular news pages in GTO magazine focusing on this sometimes overlooked, wonderful visitor destination area.

Some of you may know that I am a tourism and marketing consultant based in York, and also the Chair of the Northern branch of the Tourism Society. I get out and about across the region and pick up news items and announcements that I’m sure will be of considerable interest to GTOs, and it’s great that now I’m able to put them in front of you in the magazine.

I’m also going to be helping with the new Northern Group Travel & Tourism Show and, in this issue, I include a number of news items relating to the host area Manchester and the wider region revealing how recent investment as well as that planned for the future, is revitalising the visitor offer. I hope you’ll find something of value on this page and in future issues. Please get in touch if you’ve got something that you think warrants inclusion.

Mancunian Gems

Greater Manchester seems to be bucking trends according to Marketing Manchester, (MM) the region’s destination management organisation. MM says that the trend towards major events in the region is creating demand for longer stays and increased day visitors.

It’s not just sporting events such as Premier Football and the recent Ashes Test Match that is attracting people to the city. It is a range of products, activities and attractions, that is driving the demand, some of which are new tourism attractions.

St Mary’s Church, known as Manchester’s ‘Hidden Gem’, is open with free access every day (and night). A Catholic Church on Mulberry Street between Lincoln Square and John Dalton Street, its simple exterior belies its breath-taking interior.

It includes the nationally acclaimed The Stations of the Cross, 14 paintings depicting the Passion of Christ, painted by the late Royal Academy member Norman Adams, who was seen by many as the leading British religious painter of the 20th century. The church is packed with interesting and beautiful items, most of which date back to long before the installation of Adams’ paintings.

In the current climate of political upheaval and with democracy under such scrutiny this is perhaps a timely moment to visit The People’s History Museum in Spinningfields, Manchester, that tells the story of democracy.

Its Disrupt? Peterloo and Protest exhibition, marking 200 years since the Peterloo Massacre – a defining moment for Britain’s democracy – runs until 23rd February 2020.

The Peterloo Massacre took place at St Peter’s Field on 16th August 1819 when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000 to 80,000 people who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation. The museum holds the largest collection of political material in Britain and it’s open daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm, and on the second Thursday each month until 8.00pm.

The Spirit of Manchester Distillery – a new bar, restaurant and gin experience – has just opened under the Grade-II* listed brick railway arches underneath Manchester Central, a former railway station. Distillery tours and guided tastings are available.

Auckland Castle opens

Your group could be one of the first through the historic doors of 900-year-old Auckland Castle. Part of The Auckland Project visitor destination, it opens on 2nd November this year, following a multi-million-pound conservation project.

Once home to the powerful Prince Bishops of Durham, the Castle’s State Rooms have been returned to their original Georgian Gothic splendour, while the Bishops’ private apartments will be open to the public for the first time.

Auckland Castle has played a key role in the history of the North East and Britain for centuries. This fascinating story will be told through conservation, interpretation and interactive media, with the Castle set to be an intriguing addition to County Durham’s group travel offer.

Eureka on the Mersey

A future-thinking science and discovery centre aimed at bringing to life important educational skills is set to open on the banks of the Mersey in 2022. Eureka! Mersey, a sister attraction to Eureka! Halifax will bring together families, children and young people to explore science, technology and innovation.

The world-class attraction will encourage young people to learn more about themselves and the impact they can have on the world around them. It will also nurture their interest in future careers in science and technology.

Shakespeare’s northern playhouse

Prescot in Knowsley, eight miles east of Liverpool in Merseyside is to be the home of the Shakespeare North Playhouse. This replica Jacobean theatre, outdoor performance garden and exhibition space is being built on the Mill Street car park in the town. Work has started and is due to complete in 2021.

The town has been chosen as the northern home for Shakespeare after academic research into Prescot’s history found that 400 years ago it was the only place outside London to have an indoor playhouse.

Nearby Knowsley Hall is the ancestral home of the Stanley family, the Earls of Derby, and the 5th and 6th Earls gave patronage to a company of actors, one of whom was William Shakespeare.