Once a town known primarily for bedsheets, Manchester is now vying with the world capitals as a centre for creativity, as Julian Day discovers.


Forget the Deep South of the USA. In the 19th century your first stop for cotton was Manchester, England. Known widely as “Cottonopolis”, the rainy city was once the world’s centre for cotton manufacturing, which makes sense when you think of the Australian word for bed linen. It seemed only right then that on my latest visit I should be staying in a former cotton mill, perched high on a hill overlooking the town. 

I am in Manchester with fellow composer Luke Jaaniste to kickstart our project Super Critical Mass in the UK. For years we have been pooling large numbers of musicians to play identical instruments in unlikely public places, a sort of cross between an ambient installation
and a flash mob. Our northern partners are...