In 1830 Manchester’s Castlefield was the site of the world’s first inter-city passenger railway – and in the decades that followed, the area was the central hub for the city’s goods transportation network – concerned to a huge extent with the movement of cotton.
Warehouses sprang up all over Castlefield to support this network, and in 1855 construction began on the Great Northern Warehouse. It was designed to be a three-way warehouse served by canal, road and rail. In 1891 work began on a viaduct which would carry the railway line to both the warehouse and the adjacent Central Station.
Stretching across this part of town is Castlefield Viaduct - a 330-metre steel structure, built in 1892 and finally closed in 1969.
For many years, local people and organisations have worked to find a sustainable future for the Viaduct – and now, through a partnership with the National Trust, the Grade II listed structure is very much coming back to life, and Manchester now has its very own High Line or Mauerpark, created by and for the benefit of local people.
The space created by the National Trust and its partners was initially the subject of a rigorous Environmental Standards Statement, carefully examining elements such as energy efficiency and weather resilience. In the garden, as you’d expect, only peat-free compost is used and all plants have been grown in peat-free environments, supporting the Trust’s mission to protect peatlands. There’s also an ingenious system harvesting rainwater, using water-butts on the deck, which is then used to water the plants.
Increasing biodiversity is another key project aim, with numerous new wildlife habitats created within the sky park. Biodiversity monitoring is ongoing and frequent, to keep track of the project’s impact in the area, and is set to continue as the project progresses.
So, with keywords such as ‘sustainable’, ‘environment’, ‘recyclable’ and ‘biodiversity’ already in common usage in this part of M3, it’s not at all surprising that the National Trust and Castlefield are about to play host to another group of inspirational change-makers – in the shape of Contact Young Company (CYC). Later this week, some of CYC’s (and the North’s) brightest stars will premier ‘Hand Me Down’ the Viaduct’s first-ever theatre event, and a show that explores the worlds of fashion and sustainability.
On 27th July, the stage will be set at Castlefield Viaduct, providing an incredible backdrop for this transformative experience. Audiences are being invited to dress in their oldest and most loved clothing, showcasing the power of personal style and the emotional connection we have to our wardrobes. Each garment tells a story, and Hand Me Down is celebrating these narratives, encouraging a shift away from the throwaway culture and the ‘fast fashion’ that dominates the fashion industry.
As the rehearsal and preparation get into overdrive ahead of the big night, Mag North got to join some of the incredible young creatives involved for a special after-hours moment above Duke Street. We also chatted with the show’s producer Megan Griffith, who’s made a very real decision to change her own buying practices, in part because of her involvement in the Castlefield show.
Obviously you can’t have a fashion show without lots of Cool People – and TJ, Raya and Chi – are about as cool as it gets. The three are an integral part of CYC and the production – and while they clearly look like they belong on a catwalk – they’re also incredibly creative elsewhere across the city and in their lives.
Keisha Thompson is the Artistic Director and CEO of Contact and she explains:
"It’s a joy to join forces with Castlefield Viaduct on Contact Young Company’s latest creative endeavour. Together, we will weave a tapestry of stories, emotions, and experiences, showcasing the immense power of young voices and their ability to challenge, inspire, and ignite change. Hand Me Down promises to be a remarkable exploration of intergenerational connections, resilience, and the enduring legacy we inherit. I can't wait to experience the magic that unfolds on stage and witness the profound impact it will have on our audiences".
This collaboration between CYC and Castlefield Viaduct - produced by Megan - is a milestone in both artistic expression and sustainability advocacy. It is a call to action, reminding all of us that our fashion choices have the power to shape a better future for our planet and communities. Having previously presented shows in unexpected spaces - from museums to skateparks - Contact Young Company are likely to ‘Wow’ again on Thursday evening, as they once more take their work outside of the traditional theatre setting.
Kate Picker, Operations and Experience Manager at Castlefield Viaduct, said:
“We’re excited to be working with Contact Young Company for the Viaduct’s first theatre performance. The themes of sustainability and how young people can ignite change across the generations and encourage action towards protecting nature are important to everyone. We are looking forward to showcasing this talented group and their inspiring message.”
In a world where only 1% of clothing is recycled, CYC and Castlefield Viaduct are determined to foster a sustainable future and inspire the next generation of conscious consumers. Hand Me Down is a step towards creating a dialogue around ethical fashion choices and encouraging individuals to make a positive impact through their wardrobe decisions.
There are 3 shows on Thursday 27 July (5.30pm/7.30pm/9.30pm).
Tickets are priced from £5-£10.
For further information and to secure your tickets for Hand Me Down, please CLICK HERE