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The 10 most influential people in Manchester

PUBLISHED: 14:53 16 March 2015 | UPDATED: 22:08 23 October 2015

Paul Abbott, Maria Balshaw, Howard Bernstein, Tom Bloxham, Frank Cohen, Carol Ann Duffy, -Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Caroline Rush, Ian Simpson, John Whittaker

Paul Abbott, Maria Balshaw, Howard Bernstein, Tom Bloxham, Frank Cohen, Carol Ann Duffy, -Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Caroline Rush, Ian Simpson, John Whittaker


In our view they are the city’s top ten most influential people. Find out why...

Paul AbbottPaul Abbott

Paul Abbott




This year sees the debut of a new C4 TV show No Offence from the pen of Paul Abbott, the writer famed for the wildly entertaining Shameless.

Brought up by his sister on a housing estate after firstly their mother and two years later (when Paul was 11) their father walked out on them and their eight siblings, he went on to become one of the UK’s most exciting writers and lists amongst his credits shows such as Cracker, State of Play and Clocking Off.

No Offence, Like Shameless, it is centred around a group of vividly dysfunctional characters, but this time you might expect them to be rather more disciplined: they’re a team of Manchester cops, tackling “drug labs, arsonists, neo-Nazis and notorious murderers”, according to Channel 4, who will be screening the series in late spring. So not disciplined at all then...

Info: www.channel4.com

Maria BalshawMaria Balshaw


Maria Balshaw


Academic British Arts Council board member and Director of the Whitworth Art Gallery


One of the most powerful figures in the UK arts, Maria Balshaw was appointed to the board of the British Arts Council last year and as Director of the Whitworth Art Gallery has overseen its recent £15m redesign. The Gallery which holds important collections of fine and decorative art is now a third bigger and includes an art garden and cafe.

Balshaw, academic by training has worked as an administrator and Director within the cultural sector for the past 10 years. Alongside her role as Director of Manchester City Galleries and the Whitworth Art Gallery Maria has also taken on the role of Strategic Lead for Culture for Manchester City Council.

Info: www.manchester.ac.uk/whitworth


Howard BernsteinHoward Bernstein

Howard Bernstein


Manchester council’s Chief Executive and power broker


Bernstein’s rise from junior clerk to town hall boss has become legendary. He is credited with the city’s rebirth following the 1996 IRA bomb, brokering Manchester City FC’s investment in east Manchester, championing the Metrolink and bringing the 2002 Commonwealth Games to the city which was rewarded with a knighthood.

Info: www.manchester.gov.uk


Tom BloxhamTom Bloxham

Tom Bloxham


Urban Splash Property Developer


He started running a market stall at Affleck’s Arcade but discovered he made more money sub-letting space than selling posters. Bloxham co-founded Urban Splash with architect Jonathan Falkingham. and initially converted redundant properties, mainly formerly industrial buildings in north west England into city centre residential loft apartments. They have won in excess of 100 awards for design, architecture and urban renewal.

He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and in 1999, he was given an MBE


As well as steering Urban Splash through the many ups and recent downs of business, Tom chairs the Manchester International Festival and is a trustee of The Tate, Manchester United Foundation and is also Chancellor of The University of Manchester. Tom was awarded an MBE for services to architecture and urban regeneration in 1999.

Info: www.urbansplash.co.uk

Frank CohenFrank Cohen


Frank Cohen


One of the world’s top art collectors


Frank Cohen who lives in Alderley Edge was born in 1943 and is the billionaire founder of DIY chain Glyn Webb Home Improvement Stores. Cohen is an entrepreneur, a collector of fine art, and the co-founder of an art museum with free admission for all - the Dairy Art Centre, in London.

Cohen began collecting Modern British art in the 1970s. In the late 1980s he became a patron and supporter of the Young British Artists (YBAs), American and German art of the 1980s and 1990s, contemporary Japanese art (especially the Superflat movement) and more recently contemporary Chinese and Indian art. He is every year listed in ARTnews magazine’s list of “The World’s Top 200 Collectors” and is often referred to as the Medici of the North.

Info: dairyartcentre.org.uk

Carol Ann DuffyCarol Ann Duffy

Carol Ann Duffy


Poet Laureate


Chorlton-based Carol Ann Duffy, is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain’s Poet Laureate in May 2009.

Her collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan (1987), which won a Somerset Maugham Award; Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award; and Rapture (2005), winner of the T. S. Eliot Prize. Her poems address issues such as oppression, gender, and violencei n an accessible language that has made them popular in schools.

Info: www.carolannduffy.co.uk



Professor Dame Nancy RothwellProfessor Dame Nancy Rothwell

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell


Vice Chancellor of Manchester University


Named by Women’s Hour one of the UK’s most powerful women, the British Physiologist is the first ever female Vice Chancellor of Manchester University.

In addition to her academic career she has been involved in running and advising various research and funding bodies She is on the board at pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, president of the Society of Biology and a member of the prime minister’s Council for Science and Technology.

Info: www.manchester.ac.uk



Caroline RushCaroline Rush

Caroline Rush


Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council


Awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, Manchester born Caroline, has been dubbed one of the “real first ladies” of fashion and it is reckoned that London Fashion Week has her to thank for its current status in the fashion world.

Having dropped out of an art course Caroline went into Public Relations and formed her own Manchester-based company Crush Communications before packing it in and heading to London to devote her energies to the British Fashion Council. She ensured London became the first fashion capital to use live streaming and webcasting, a move that is considered a game changer.

Fashion writer Hilary Alexander credited Rush with changing London Fashion Week from being a ‘poor cousin’ compared with Paris, Milan and New York, ‘and showing that Britain is really where it all begins’.

Info: www.britishfashioncouncil.co.uk

Ian SimpsonIan Simpson

Ian Simpson


Manchester based architect and founder of SimpsonHaugh and Partners LLP formerly Ian Simpson Architects


Architect Ian Simpson has arguably changed the look of modern Manchester more than anyone else in recent history.

He played a significant role in the reconstruction of the city following the IRA bombing in 1996 and its subsequent transformation from dirty old town into the smart urban metropolis it is today. Gaze across the 2015 skyline and you’ll see the many notable new buildings that have emerged from his Manchester-based architectural practice.

Beetham Tower, home of the Hilton hotel, No1 Deansgate, Urbis (now the National Museum of Football), Shudehill Interchange, Manchester Central Library and Town Hall extension are all examples of the landmark constructions that have helped re-define the city.

Now newly re-branded SimpsonHaugh and Partners LLP in recognition of the contribution made by co founder Rachel Haugh, the practice goes from strength to strength with projects such as Manchester First Street and Battersea Power station ongoing for 2015.

Info: www.iansimpsonarchitects.com

John WhittakerJohn Whittaker


John Whittaker


Chairman of The Peel Group, a property investment that mainly invests in North West England.


In the 1980s Whittaker fought a battle to take over the Manchester Ship Canal Company and the result was The Trafford Centre which he sold to Capital Shopping centres in January 2011 - a move netting Peel shares worth £636m. He joined its board as deputy chairman and attributes the 30m visitor numbers in part to the flamboyant baroque decoration, including one of the world’s biggest chandeliers. ‘It is the people’s palace...the Dallas effect’, he says. The group is also behind the BBC’s NW HQ, MediaCityUK,

One hugely ambitious project currently underway is Ocean Gateway, a £50 billion housing and retail redevelopment on the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey. Whittaker hopes the Manchester development will become a Chinese business hub.


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