Tom Bloxham

‘Grigor fuelled Manchester’s ambition’, says Bloxham

Jimmy GrigorA memorial service will be held at midday on Friday in Manchester Cathedral for the former chairman of Central Manchester Development Corporation, Jimmy Grigor.

Past colleagues, associates and indeed anyone interested in the city's regeneration are invited by Grigor's family to the service.

Under Grigor's leadership, CMDC delivered the Bridgewater Hall concert venue, began the £100m GMEX development, invested in cleaning up city centre canals and kick-started Canal Street's regeneration.

Tom Bloxham, chairman of Urban Splash, is attending a conference in Holland today and will not be at the service but sent his own personal tribute ahead. Bloxham said: "James very literally changed the face of Manchester; saving Castlefield from the bulldozers; building the Bridgewater Hall; creating Manchester's vibrant Canal Street (despite a somewhat homophobic government at the time), creating thousands of jobs in the city centre and helping establish the ambition that Manchester now has as being one of the world's great cities that we are all so proud of.

"But I want to tell you all today about the influence James had on me. I was a naive young man in my late 20s, who had some big ideas, but little experience, track record or credibility, in 1990 I bought a near derelict building called Ducie House in a very run down part of Manchester at the back of Piccadilly railway station. The building was due to be demolished and turned into a car park. CMDC who obviously had a very brave (or fool hardy) chairman refused the demolition (and I subsequently found out on very thin or no legal grounds) forcing the developers to put the building into auction, rather than demolish. I bought it prior to it going into auction with a vision of creating a home for Manchester's growing creative industries.

"It would have been so easy for the established CMDC to dismiss me as a crackpot, no hoper, idealist, inexperienced, without covenant or simply as too risky a partner, but having made a point of meeting up with the chairman, James Grigor and persuading him that I had a vision and the drive to achieve it, he believed my story (and no doubt put, I presume, some pressure on his more sceptical officers) CMDC supported my plan for the development of Ducie House.

"We hired the then young Ian Simpson to renovate the building; we filled it with loads of small businesses, including bands like 808 State and Simply Red, as well as film producers, fashion designers, artists, recording studios and graphic designers.

"Ducie House has gone on to help literally thousands of businesses establish themselves in Manchester and I went onto establish Urban Splash.

"Much of this is due to the faith and trust Dr James Grigor OBE put into a young and no doubt somewhat brash Tom Bloxham and I will always remember and be grateful to this great man for the start he gave me.

"I am sorry I can't be with you today."

Grigor was born and raised in Lanarkshire, Scotland, and became involved with Manchester's regeneration in the mid-1980s when he ran the Trafford Park operation of Ciba Geigy, a multinational chemical group, now part of Novartis.

He was also chairman of the Royal Northern College of Music, chairman of the Manchester Science Park and chairman of the Museum of Science and Industry. He advised Greater Manchester Police, the Manchester 2000 Olympic Bid and the Princes Trust for the North West.

As reported on Place, Grigor died in the summer aged 81. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease five years ago.

Your Comments

I had the privilege of knowing Dr James Grigor for the past four years. I was contacted by his daughter to help out with the day to day care of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However with Jimmy this was never needed, as being the strong man he was no one ever had to care for him, they just loved him. he was an inspiration to everyone who came into contact with him. I used to sit and tell him all my problems and he always gave me the answers i wanted to hear. Just days before Jimmy passed away,he wanted to dance with everyone, this just proved the enthusiasm he had to life and those he much loved. I met Jimmy with the view to look after him, but it turned out he looked after me, and he will always be a massive part in my life.

By gill farrimond

I met Jimmy in the early 1990’s when I first came to Manchester to work with CMDC on the Great Northern Initiative. He was simply one of the most charming and positive people I have ever met. He was one of the people that convinced me that I should invest some of my life in Manchester and for that I shall always be grateful. We once compared notes on being non-Mancunians who had been adopted by Manchester and I know that, like me, he had a great love for his adoptive city. Very sorry I couldn’t be there today.

By Martin Stockley

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