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Carol Ainscow: A Tribute

Phil Griffin on a property developer who blew the doors off

Written by . Published on October 1st 2013.

Carol Ainscow: A Tribute

TONY Wilson was only 57 and that was bad enough, she was 55 for god’s sake. They buried Carol Ainscow on Friday under a bright blue sky close to her home in Bolton.

Carol Ainscow had done things differently. She was withdrawn from the property pack of braying men in pinstripes. She was a clubber and an out gay woman

A big Catholic family funeral, full of tears. A lot like Rob Gretton’s back in Wythenshawe in 1999. The maverick music manager of Joy Division and New Order died of a heart attack, age 46. 

Carol was a bar and nightclub owner and property developer, similar in so many ways to these co-deceased. In worlds we thought we knew, she shook things up, blew the doors off, lifted the rafters. Nobody did clubs and bars and apartments like Carol, and that was the Manchester (and Bolton) in her. 

She’d turned a profit on a big house in Bolton by converting it to a rest home. In 1990 with Peter Dalton, her business partner for the next few years, she bought Unity House at 46 Canal Street. This had been a late nineteenth century reading room for working people, a place for association and self-improvement. Carol and Peter bashed through the roof, raised it a floor, blazed through the full height glass front, threw a balcony across it and opened Manto just in time for Christmas.

Dry Bar and the Hacienda were already operating. The city has had generations of clubs and pubs, but none has changed the game quite like Manto. From day one they needed a bigger bar. So Carol moved in on Factory’s mismanagement, bought their HQ from receivers and opened Paradise Factory in 1993. Generation X on New Wakefield Street did it for bars. She took on the Sackville Street Loft apartments when the London developer got cold feet, swinging into a new phase of her game. 

She bought the bit of the Express building in Ancoats that the newspaper didn’t still own and began to develop the bits of Ancoats that Tom Bloxham’s Urban Splash didn’t have an interest in. Her company was Artisan Properties, and it pressed on in Ancoats at a rate even Bloxham couldn’t match. She even developed the mill where Michael Winterbottom had built the Hacienda set for 24 Hour Party People.

Daily Express


Daily Express Building

September 2008 and Lehman Brothers crashed the world’s economy. Gone. End of an era. 

Carol Ainscow had done things differently. She was withdrawn from the property pack of braying men in pinstripes. She was a clubber and an out gay woman who opened up a new place in the world for gay people to be. She and Peter Dalton came together again to restore the Crown & Kettle on Great Ancoats Street. They went on holiday to Ibiza together this summer and when they came back Peter took over the old club for a night to celebrate the Paradise Factory’s twentieth anniversary. Carol wasn’t there. She wasn’t well. 

Gretton, Wilson, Ainscow. 

What they did came out of fierce individuality and self-belief. And what they did for Manchester was nothing less than to re-present a revitalised city to the world. In business I’ve a feeling Carol took the Alex Ferguson line. She didn’t need to be popular, she just needed to win. And to win in style. 

In her eulogy Artisan colleague Lis Phelan read words that Carol had written in appreciation of Tony Wilson for the Manchester Evening News back in August 2007. Hearing her words read over her own coffin was almost unbearable. Except that it was getting towards the end of the church service and the windows were wide open, and it was playtime in St Brendan’s Primary School next door and thin high voices were whooping and screaming in late September sunshine, and life, that perpetual old faker, was most defiantly and joyfully, skeltering on. 

I was standing as close to her as I have ever done, pressed against the side of the hearse to read the card on a floral tribute in the shape of a hockey stick, left by the women of the Manto Hockey Club who Carol turned out for every Saturday, and who had just formed her guard of honour. “You will be sadly missed on the pitch and in the pub” it said, and then it quoted her playing motto: “If you can’t stop them, crop them!” 

And then she pulled away from me, as she might have done from a conversation upstairs in Manto, or on the Canal Street pavement. And I watched her take her leave in the back of a big, black gleaming Rolls Royce.

Thanks to www.racheladamsphotography.com for the picture of Carol.




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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

SmittyOctober 1st 2013.

Lovely tribute, Phil. I didn't know Carol (well I met her a couple of times, but she wouldn't know me from Adam), but without her groundbreaking work in the Village I'm pretty sure that I, and many thousands of others, would not be in Manchester. Her legacy will last for years and years and years, and she'll never be forgotten. Hopefully her friends and loved ones who are grieving now will find future comfort in that.

John HarrisOctober 1st 2013.

Not many of her tenants will mourn her, I'm afraid

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Katharine CrummeyOctober 3rd 2013.

Carol was my friend. Your inappropriately placed snide remark stopped my heart for a second. To use this tribute space as a forum for your gripe was in poor taste. I don't know you but hate you for that.

AnonymousOctober 4th 2013.

I don't know you John Harris but there are channels to go through with your gripes as a tennant & this is not one of them. How insensitive a person are you ? Family & friends are grieving. I find yor comment in bad taste to say the least. Theresa, a friend of Carol's

AnonymousOctober 4th 2013.

I don't find John's comment to be in bad taste.

AnonymousOctober 5th 2013.

As a family member you barely deserve the works I'm writing, but I wanted to ensure that you feel a petty, worthless human being right now. Thankfully I don't know you but I am 100% just from reading this post that Carol has achieved more in her life than you ever will.

Phil BurkeOctober 2nd 2013.

Carol Ainscow played a very instrumental and inspirational part of Manchesters nighttime economy, and several of her businesses have been members and strong supporters of The Network over the years. Our thoughts go out to all her family and close friends at this sudden and sad loss to our industry. Phil Burke Spokeperson Manchester Pub & Club Network

Peter BurlingOctober 2nd 2013.

Great Tribute

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGOctober 2nd 2013.

Agreed :)

Mark GarnerOctober 2nd 2013.

Lovely piece. She was a strong woman.

MichaelOctober 2nd 2013.

A lovely tribute Phil.

Steve5839October 3rd 2013.

Her business practices will also be her legacy!

silkyOctober 3rd 2013.

Will miss her loads, one of my favourite cousins.

Katharine CrummeyOctober 3rd 2013.

Great article. Beyond the world of business, she is missed for just being Carol, a wonderful woman and friend.

Helen RooOctober 4th 2013.

Nice tribute Phil, Carol will be sadly miss by so many...

AnonymousOctober 7th 2013.

PF followed by breakfast club in Mantos - many hours of great gay abandon. Thanks Carol for all you created and did x

John WilkinsOctober 14th 2013.

As a family member, I along with my brothers knew Carol well , yes she was strong minded but she had a soft heart and was loyal to her family and friends, we are all still in a state of shock at her sudden departure.

Roy BaxterDecember 13th 2013.

I had an interview with Carol in the office above , i was scared to death , she just said your in , when you starting , forget giving notice , if they dont pay your notice i will,the craziest 12 months of my working life,what a working class legend,nobody to match her.God bless "auntie " Carol.You gotta be tough at the top , she had a nice side as well.

AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2014.

All the positive and negative sides to Carol's reputation are well documented on this rant-page.........and anyone who was in Carol's path - you have my deepest sympathy's, but I am certain that Manchester would not be the city that it is today had it not been for this woman and the vision and focus she had. It is a better city because of her.

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