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Confidential tours report: the mucky story so far

Radical Manchester, ghosts, tunnels, architecture: you seem to love ‘em

Published on July 6th 2010.


Confidential tours report: the mucky story so far

"I had to have the place blessed by a priest,” said Gerard, the owner of The Angel pub. “There was a young Victorian girl throwing things at me. She was getting violent. A whole shelf came at me on one occasion, cut me bad, I’ve still got the scars.”

As the lead guide on most of the tours, I’m going to be visiting a psychiatrist, see if he or she can make sense of what drives people to want excitement, darkness and wetness. Then I’ll be seeing a doctor to ask if my eyes are getting bigger like Gollum’s, given I’m spending so much time in the dark.

That was one of the spooky curiosities uncovered on a tour of the Northern Quarter’s ghostly tales. Then there was the Shudehill Shouter leaping out and scaring the Confidential readers.

The Angel story got the hairs rising on the back of the neck no matter how sceptical people were – it was so recent and real. The Shouter made readers jump out of their skin or giggle like demented demons. As did the death of Anne Frank, the nurse of the notorious alchemist John Dee. Dee was the Warden of Manchester more than 400 years ago, and in one story he’s said to have raised the devil here.

The tour showed, as they all do that, that everywhere in Manchester the past seems active in the present. We live our lives on the bones of others.

Sometimes literally.

At Angel Meadow in the green space beneath St Michael’s Flags, the new residents of Manchester’s apartment dwelling revolution were enjoying the sun and tucking into barbecues during the ghost tours. They were doing this over cholera pits were thousands still lie interred from the early nineteenth century epidemics. Barbecues. Death pits. “Anyone fancy a rib?”

Still on a less morbid note, the Manchester Confidential tours seem to be going down a storm with readers.

Alison Wilcox said: “I’ve been on ghosts, tunnels, pubs and the April Fool’s tour. They were all really entertaining and great fun. I learnt loads as well.”

Leah Mackay endorsed this: “Loved the ghost tour - very enjoyable (even for someone from Sale who spends her spare time wandering the back streets and alleyways of the Northern Quarter). I'll be attending more of your fascinating tours. Any chance the pub tours will be running again?”

Yeah Leah, we’ll announce some soon.

And if you like all the history and the scene-setting, the placing of Manchester in context so to speak - then you’ll love this Saturday’s Radical Manchester tours, which underline how the city has been so very important in achieving the freedoms we enjoy today. From democratic rights to women’s rights to the rights of vegetables to be eaten, it’s all here.

The tunnels tours have been the bestsellers so far. People are mad for them - even if we keep being asked by people booking on them whether the tunnels will be dark, or even more bizarrely if they’ll be underground. That would be a yes to both. Overground tunnel tours just don't seem to have the same edge.

As the lead guide on most of the Confidential tours, I’m going to be visiting a psychiatrist soon. I want to know if he or she can make sense of what drives people to want excitement, darkness and wetness. Then I’ll be seeing a doctor to ask if my eyes are getting bigger like Gollum’s, given I’m spending so much time in the dark.

The secret tunnels tours have been intriguing for readers too. “Bloody hell,” said one guest happily while standing up to his thighs in cold water, “this tour’s a bit different isn’t it? It’s much wetter.”

“It gets dryer,” I said.

“I really don’t mind,” he replied, “it’s great to be seeing bits of the city I never imagined existed.”

It certainly was. And we’ve got more of these tours coming up soon. Although I’m hoping that these won’t include mannequins masquerading as bodies to spice things up. Not that as British folk we didn’t deal with this in a suitable phlegmatic fashion.

“Is that a body?”

“It’s certainly a leg.”

“It’s got a shoe on.”

“Nice shoe.”

“It looks convincingly body-like.”

“Let’s check. No listen it’s hollow.”

“A mannequin then?”

“S’pose, shall we carry on. I’ll pop back later and make sure it isn’t a corpse. Let the police know if it is.”

“Fair enough, where next then?”

Coming up we’ve got more ghost tours, more tunnel tours, a gay and lesbian tour during Pride week, and we’re going to be adding more pub tours; even maybe a ‘dress-up-like-a-dandy-or-a-flapper-and-visit-cocktail-bars tour’. Who knows. In fact, here's an idea, why don't you suggest some themes.

To book on the current programme cclick here.

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