Manchester’s iconic Afflecks arcade celebrates 40 years of trading - here are shop owners’ favourite memories

As Afflecks arcade celebrates turning 40, we went along to speak to some of the shopkeepers to hear some of their highlights over the years - from serving Lady Gaga to surviving and thriving.
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Manchester’s iconic shopping arcade Afflecks is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Since it opened in 1982, its independent traders have served everyone from Lady Gaga to the Spice Girls.

Dozens of independent stalls, small shops and boutiques operate in the one building, all with their own story of how they came to be there.

For some shopkeepers, the anniversary is a reminder of where it all began, including owner of American Graffiti, Vanessa Cawley, who has been trading there since it first opened.

She said: “I started off with just a little earring stall and a tiny bit of vintage and it’s just sort of progressed through the years.”

She added: “My biggest highlight was meeting Lady Gaga, she bought a dress off me with Lady Starlight and it went viral.”

However, Vanessa isn’t the only one who has been trading in Afflecks for some time.

Sean Berry started off working with a friend in 1986. In 1993 Sean took over the business and renamed it Panic Posters.

He said: “It’s just a great cultural place.

“There’s been times in the past when there’s been a lot of rumour and tittle tattle about Afflecks being turned into apartments or it being closed down - I’ve never felt any real threat that is going to happen.”

The iconic shopping arcade has changed over the years, with numerous shops that have been and gone.

Ian Welham is the director of Make Up Or Break Up.

What started out as a glitter stall turned into Manchester’s biggest Gay Pride shop.

He said: “It’s cool being here because I’ve grown so much and this is the coolest I’ve seen the building.

“I’ve only lived in Manchester for 15 years so I’ve not been here the whole 40 but it’s really thriving in here at the moment which is so good after a pandemic.”