Transfer, Refsnart

John Gibbons kindly came into MCDC to talk to Dena the exhibitions officer and dropped off these photos of the stand he shared with his mother up until the retail fish market closed and they relocated elsewhere. I am still catching up with his tales of the fish market as it was but one of the most striking ideas included the language of the market traders where they spoke backwards to one another to disguise their discussions.. You can read more about the Gibbon’s stall in this post.

A scan of Ellen Gibbon’s sales ledger from 1935

John Gibbons

Visitor Comments






Collecting History finishes next week so if you have a story to contribute you have one more week to get it in! Thank you to all the people who have talked to me and left their stories on the blog and in the exhibition space. The exhibition ends Saturday 30th June at 5.30 and we have audio interviews to listen to, pictures of the Northern Quarter past and present, and fascinating snippets left behind by tenants, customers, local residents and visitors. This blog will continue to exist and the history collected informs the next exhibition at Manchester Craft & Design Centre. Crafting History runs from 14th July – 10th November 2012, read all about it here.

Fibre – Studio 17

Submitted by Jessica Livsey of Fibre,

9 Years on!

Can’t believe how time has flown by. After graduating in 2002, thefollowing summer we set up fibre. Originally there were 4 of us, then3 and now just 2 sharing the studio under two seperate businesses.Jessica Owen with Northern Scapes and myself Jessica Livsey carryingon with the original name of ‘fibre’. It was a rush to get up and running after moving in in the june of2003. We were given two weeks deadline to be open for business. Afterknocking down the wall dividing our two studios, so it was one bigspace, we quickly got things started.
I’ve just found some old images of the day we opened! Ha we look soyoung and our shop looks so bare!
Happy memories of starting up at the Craft Centre in 2003

The Sun Girl

Submitted to the MCDC office by Carol Mowl,

We had a Malibu-sponsored Christmas party. Fancy dress – I dressed as a parrot. My daughter Hannah got ink on her from screen printing T-shrts and at that point I wondered if I should be bringing her to work!

Anne from RA Designer Jewellery dropped by with this cut out from the Manchester Evening News last week and the back story to this shot made it all the better. Apparently the press had been invited to the sponsored Christmas party but had never shown up. The next day Anne was in her studio and the photographer appeared so she had to recreate the party, in her underwear rather than a bikini.

A Creative Buzz

Submited by Ann Toplis to the blog

My studio, Ann Toplis Designs, was upstairs tucked away in the corner from 1993 to 1997, where I made furniture and gifts from solid wood. Day to day, I have lovely memories of breakfasts with my fellow studio holders, and the creative buzz that prevailed in the very slowly up and coming Northern Quarter area. The best part was the advice that was always on offer from the other more experienced businesses. And of course being one of the newer businesses, we learnt from each other. It was a great time of my life and having moved to Holland, where there in nothing similar, I really miss it.

Submitted by Helen rushworth to the blog

I moved in to Studio 3 (opposite the cafe) in October 1989 not long after finishing my MA in Ceramics at Staffordshire Poly. I shared the studio for the first few years with Alan Grieg who made lovely brightly painted pots and plates, and on Saturdays we spent many a tortured afternoon listening to Man City getting thrashed on the radio – how times have changed! I remained at the Craft Centre right up till 2002 when I left to create babies instead. I have loads of great memories – bizarre fancy dress parties, visits from our one time patron Tony Wilson, an unknown Doves playing a gig on the stage outside my door, Nigel’s delicious ciabattas and soups, lots of bickering over being ‘co-operative’, but mainly I remember it as being a fantastic place to work and share creative ideas with a bunch of like-minded folk. Long may it live.

Cats & Dogs

Courtesy of Eddie Cartwright

Of course a fish market had to have cats and I imagine they were the best fed cats in the whole of Manchester up until the relocation. I’m not sure how the Jimmy Kelly’s menu might have competed with left over fish and mice but it’s good to know someone looked out for the market’s retired pest controllers.

Anne’s dog’s in RA Jewellery Design

I spoke to long standing tenants Lee Page Hanson and Colette Hazelwood last week about  a time when dogs were a regular feature of the Craft Centre with many tenants bringing theirs in with them to work. Apparently they were quite a pull with the general public and customers would come in to visit the dogs. Hygiene and health and safety put a kibosh on this practice but there’s certainly a preoccupation with makers here to respond to animals, particularly birds. Butterflies too, but no fish spotted as yet.

More on that theme later, but here’s Eve Bennett’s Dead Bird commission which you can spot in the first stairwell at MCDC.

Birthday Gifts

Submitted by Jenny Beswick, via email
For my 50th Birthday in 2004, I wanted a silver bracelet from my husband as my gift. I wanted something I couldn’t get in any High Street jeweller and having been to MCDC a number of times with my daughter, I couldn’t think of anywhere better.
Ivor and I visited RA and found the perfect bracelet, also some ear rings to complement the bracelet. A few years later I was heartbroken to find that I had lost the bracelet. I searched the house from top to bottom and no luck, Ivor, however called at Tesco where we had been shopping earlier in the day to see if it had been handed in. Amazingly, it had, so next time I called in at MCDC, I took the bracelet with me and had a safety chain put on it in RA. It hasn’t happened since!
My very best wishes to everyone at MCDC, such a wonderful place to visit and shop.
Congratulations on the 30th Anniversary and continued success to all concerned.

Sgraffito Tags


What do you think of when you think of Manchester Craft & Design Centre?

Some of the stories behind these ceramic tags include someone’s experience of humus in the MCDC cafe celebrated here with a ‘chick-pea’ (it was one of the first few places in Manchester to serve such an exotic delicacy), the fishing boats that brought the fish to land before their journey to Smithfield Fish Market, the building, the designs bought by people and the special purchases, an engagement ring being amongst them.


MCDC in Manchester

Submitted by Ann Toplis to the blog

My most memorable day while working at the MCDC was in 1996 when all of a sudden there were helicopters droning overhead ordering evacuation of the city centre. We had no idea if we should stay or leave. And then soon after, the bomb went off and the whole building shook to its core. We were so lucky that only a couple of windows cracked. It was quite a task to get home that day to the south side of the city. The city centre was a eery place for the next few months.

Submitted by Lisa to the blog

My first memory of the Craft and Design centre was when I used to visit with my dad in the early 90′s I must have been only 7 or 8 and living in Warrington, so a trip to Manchester was exciting! We would visit the Corn Exchange and Afflecks Palace, see the goth kids in what was then a very leafy, lush picadilly gardens and visit the Craft and Design Centre. I remember drinking hot spiced apple juice from the MCDC cafe and loving the feeling of the place. We visited Manchester regularly until I was old enough to visit alone. And now 20years later I live here and still love to visit the Craft and Design centre – though unfortunately the Corn Exchange’s new manifestation as The Triangle leaves a lot to be desired! It inspired me years ago to be creative and to follow my creative dreams – I’ve always made things and now am working on making it into a business, thanks to those early years of seeing creativity and alternative ways of living around me.