Piccadilly Gardens: Manchester’s Black Hole

In May 2016, I moved to Manchester from Liverpool for work. I had originally moved from Saintfield, Co. Down in Northern Ireland to Liverpool, 5 ½ years ago, for university. I feel like I already know what Manchester has to offer, despite having been here for such a short period. One of the things that Manchester provides, which no amount of time spent in Liverpool or Saintfield can, is the downright infuriating experience of setting foot into Piccadilly Gardens.

I’m forced into experiencing Piccadilly Gardens at least 3 times a day. Twice by necessity of travel in and out of work, and once due to my penchant for Tesco meal deals (£3, can’t go wrong). I usually enter the Gardens full of hope and dreams and leave it with blood boiling, muttering furiously to myself. I’ve been trying to pinpoint the main causes of my frustration, and I believe I’ve finally done it. There are 3 main causes:

  1. Pigeons

Set foot into Piccadilly Gardens, and you’re likely to have never seen a larger collection of pigeons in your life, unless you’re from London perhaps. Famously a bird that people tend to ignore, it is impossible to do so in Manchester. Thousands of the things (most of them missing legs, wings or heads) flock to the Gardens to feed upon anything and everything. They strut about like they own the place and are liable to take off in great numbers without warning. Imagine Mary Poppins’ “Feed the Birds” or the famous final attack sequence of Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, and you’re somewhere close. They defecate where they want, when they want, on whoever or whatever they want. Hideous scenes. Watch out for the ones that waddle over to you and take off into your face just for the craic.

  1. People

Say what you like about the pigeons, but at least they do usually move out of your way while you’re walking. This cannot be said for 99% of the people who frequent the Gardens. It should be noted that I’ve done no real research into those numbers. You’ll find hundreds if not thousands of people here at any one time, mostly walking in straight lines, with a staunch refusal to even twist their shoulders so as to avoid hitting you. You’ll feel like some sort of slalom skier as you dodge through the crowd, receiving help from no-one. Inevitably you’ll have to slow your pace as you try and skirt round a pack of teenagers, all wearing longline shirts, with their jeans belted round their shins specifically to hinder movement. There’ll be someone who stops dead for no apparent reason causing you to knock into their back, bringing many tuts and sighs from the guilty party. Watch out for the ones who blow a big plume of smoke from their joint straight into your face.

  1. Zebra Crossings

Say what you like about the guy who just stops randomly in front of you, but at least he stops, unlike the buses that continuously roll through the Piccadilly Gardens “bus station”. The set-up of the bus system here has a bit of a hippodrome feel to it. There are 2 zebra crossings in the Gardens, allowing people, in theory, to cross safely, with no fear of being run over by public transport. The problem with these state-of-the-art safety features is that, on the whole, they don’t work. Instead of coming to the edge and waiting for the next bus to stop and for the driver to offer a friendly wave of “go on”, you are left trying to dodge past bus after bus. It’s as though you’ve been thrown into the most dangerous and unenjoyable game of Frogger.

These 3 things, along with many more, I’m sure, serve to make Piccadilly Gardens, for me, the most annoying, infuriating, and frustrating place in all of Manchester, perhaps even the whole North West of England. I would say “Avoid!”, but there is no avoiding this place. It’s like a black hole that keeps sucking you in. Stupid Tesco.

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