The 2019 Manchester Brainery

So, what is the Brainery?


The Brainery is a 5-day get-together for school leavers to undergraduates. Twenty-eight great Brainees aged between 16-18, took part in the recent Manchester Brainery. They learnt from our carefully selected mentors (heroes of the property industry). Our aim was to guide the Brainees who don’t yet quite know what they want to do within property or general.  There is a place in property for everyone!

Every Brainee was provided with a comprehensive workbook which they completed throughout the week.  The purpose of this was to see what the Brainees would do with a piece of land or space if it was their development. Their project over the week was to plan the regeneration of Salford Crescent station and area.


Below is a diary of the week from programme leader Judi Greenwood (@_judigreenwood).

Day 1


Our morning started in the School for the Built Environment, at Salford University where Mark Shelbourn (@mshelbourn73), Head of Department, gave an overview of BIM modelling that the Brainees would take part in on Day 4, I’ll talk more about this project throughout the week.


We then visited Bruntwood’s union building, where Adele Weaver (@adeleweaver1) spoke about careers and opportunities for young students. Teddy Keeley spoke about his role as a development surveyor at Bruntwood, giving our Brainees food for thought.  Lee Traynor gave us a very interesting talk about the development of the building we were in. How they bought it, refurbished it and now fully lease out this ÂŁ20 million scheme.


Caroline Simpson, Corporate Director at Place Stockport Council, talked all about her varied role in the regeneration of Stockport. What a very inspirational lady!

Day 2


Day 2 was hosted by one of the Brainery’s partners, Lambert Smith Hampton, at their offices in Spinningfields. This was another great opportunity for the students to experience a working environment.


Nick Mullins (@NMulLSH), Executive Director, gave us a snapshot of his role in the company along with an insight into his involvement in many regeneration schemes over the past 20 years. Nick introduced us to Katie McManus (@katie_mcmanus97)who is currently a placement student at LSH. At 21 she is already an industry disruptor, having won the Women in Property student award, and she is passionate about helping other young people into careers in regeneration.


Next we heard from Chithra Marsh (@ArchMarsh), who is a longstanding mentor for the Brainery. She is an inspirational role model and energetic in her drive to help young people get involved in the industry. She is just finishing her term as the Chair of the NW Women in Property, no doubt freeing up time to do more mentoring!


Following a presentation on the regeneration of Spinningfields, Nick and his team took us on a walking tour of the area and on to Middlewood Locks. Our host Paul Kelly of Scarborough International told us how his company had taken a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create this jewel in the crown. He explained how they plan to develop this brownfield site into a true regeneration project, thus creating a whole new neighbourhood in the city centre. They plan to house local businesses in their retail units and avoid the duplication of other developments by attacking large branded retailers and eateries. His conviction that people make the place resonated with us as did his belief in Manchester as a massive global brand.

Day 3


We had an amazing Day 3 with Brainery partner DLA Piper. Cherry Swift did an awesome job of challenging the Brainees in a negotiation exercise where each team took on the role of developer, local council and landowner. This sparked a very interesting debate while each team tried to reach an agreement to allow the development of the proposed site.


The afternoon was kicked off by Anita Singh who is a project manager at Turner and Townsend. She talked about her career journey so far, managing multi-million pound projects from Premiership football stadiums to schools. She was passionate about the opportunities her work has brought her so far and the countries she has visited, yet during her school years the future did not look so great. Her message? No matter where you start you need to aim high, work hard and stand out from the crowd. Well said Anita!


There was a lot of talk this week about what the future might hold for the Brainees, with at least half of the group hoping to gain apprenticeships. This is something we can help with and intend to link them with the industry contacts who have opportunities available. Please get in touch if you would like to get involved in this. Clare Johnson at Harper Harrison talked about how the Brainees can get the best from what they have learnt this week, how to follow up the contacts they have made and how to make a good impression – as we know, its something you only get to do once.


The end to the day positively blew the minds of the Brainees. An office visit to We Work and then a tour around the absolutely fabulous space that is Social Chain. Nobody wanted to leave and I actually overheard one Brainee saying they wanted to live there! If I’m honest, I thought that too.

Day 4


We spent the day at Salford University’s School of the Built Environment, kindly hosted by Mark Shelbourn. I was blown away by the transformation of our Brainees this week. They have really grown and their enthusiasm for potential careers in regeneration is palpable. Not only that, they have grown in confidence too, happily shaking hands, asking for business cards and discussing options with Salford Council’s Chief Executive Jim Taylor. I have to say I was very proud. I have learnt a lot today myself courtesy of Alison Watson MBE and her fab team including Jo Hall (@). Their DEC ( course is outstanding and an amazing opportunity for our Brainees to sample BIM & Digital Technology. Today the Brainees modelled their plans for Salford Crescent, giving them an overview of Revit and FormIt. Mind-blowing stuff and will definitely impress their employers of the future.


Dan Welsh, Salford Council’s Development Manager, gave an insight into the vision for Salford Crescent. It will be interesting to follow the progression of this development over the coming months, something our next cohort of Brainees will be able to do when we return in November. Please get in touch if you would like to be a part of this or see our website


So, all that is left now is for the Brainees to pitch their plans tomorrow to our very own Tim Heatley. We will also have our partners with us, Nick Mullins from LSH, Rob Arnison from DLA Piper and Steve Modric from Homes England. And to top it off, Manchester’s mayor will be popping along to present the Brainees with their certificates. No pressure guys!

Day 5


The grand finale, what a week! We had our partner’s with us today, they couldn’t believe how much ground we have covered in only 5 days and to be honest neither could I. Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) was definitely impressed with the quality of the work produced this week and no, he didn’t have to say that, it really was exceptional. Quite a few of the future propstars stood out for me this week, you know the ones who are going to go far. But the one for me has to be Lizzie, all week she has shied away from talking and very much kept in the background. We girls have been disappointingly underrepresented in this week’s Brainery which shows just how much work there is yet to do, so to see her go from a nervous wreck this morning to then making a solo summary pitch to Andy Burnham made the rest of us glow with pride. We were absolutely rooting for her and I hope that it has given her a sense of self-belief and that she will use this experience to continue to grow. Girl power all the way!




We are now busy putting all the photos and videos together and will post these soon. Major thanks to all our amazing mentors, ambassadors and hosts who are always more than willing to give up their valuable time to inspire our Brainees, I’m always amazed at the willingness to get involved. 

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