And so to the Manchester Hotel I mentioned earlier.
In 1983 I was a contestant on a TV programme in the UK called The Krypton Factor. We can draw a veil over my performance at this stage, but one of the memorable elements of the whole experience was that the contestants and their families were treated very well throughout the recording, which because it involved an outdoor element as well as studio time, took place over a number of weeks.
When it was my turn to face Gordon Burns in the studio, my wife and I were offered accommodation in town after the show. They spoke in reverential terms about The Midland Hotel which at the time was the best the city had to offer.
As our luggage had been taken and check in arranged on our behalf I didn’t see notice much about the place on arrival; it was dark and I was still benefitting from the endless supply of wine with the post-recording dinner they had arranged. My impressions of the interior, recalled after all this time, were of faded grandeur, and this is all that remains for even on leaving I didn’t look over my shoulder to consider the exterior. Schoolboy error!
Nowadays the place is clearly pulling its weight as a four star hotel. I suspect the interior has been heavily refurbished since those days, but the exterior is spectacular; if you take time to consider it.
At first glance it’s big, brown and blocky. Not such an auspicious start, but then you start to see the detail of a style described as Edwardian Baroque.
Most intriguing to me is a series of four panels on a corner towards the rear of the hotel. Here the four arts of painting, sculpture, architecture and literature are depicted, in each case with an international master paired with an English equivalent.
The pairings begin promisingly enough with Homer and Shakespeare, but then become more debatable. Was Wren as innovative as Palladio or merely a copyist? John Everett Millais was the foremost of the Pre-Raphaelites and having died shortly before the Midland constructed may have been a topical choice. Would you choose him to put up against Titian? And if not then who? Strangest of all is the sculpture panel. John Flaxman is known for his classically influenced work that adorned Josiah Wedgwood’s pottery but also funeral monuments. A strange choice then to put up against Michelangelo.
Another question formed in my mind about hotel. Why, when it is firmly sited in the North West of England is it called The Midland? That one is easier to answer. It was built by the Midland Railway, whose engines terminated at the Manchester Central Station just behind the hotel, and at the other end of the line stood another hotel that has featured here recently. The line runs to St Pancras.
Perhaps if I’d know all of this back in 1983 my Krypton Factor experience may have been different!