Two large conurbations, centred on the cities of Liverpool and Manchester, dominate the south of the region. The north of the region (that is, north Lancashire and Cumbria) is largely rural, but includes a number of towns such as Kendal and Blackpool. Greater Manchester is the third largest conurbation in England, after Greater London and West Midlands respectively. The combined population of Lancashire, Cumbria, Cheshire (which are largely rural) and the two metropolitan counties of Greater Manchester and Merseyside, which are the counties that make up North West England, is 6,853,200 (2006 estimate).
The demise of textile processing in Oldham caused a local economic depression. Today, Oldham is a predominantly residential town, although it is still distinguished architecturally by the surviving cotton mills and other buildings associated with its former industry. The town has a population of 103,544. Oldham is also a centre for further education, and the performing arts
His lyrics in the band Happy Mondays, dismissed by some as drug-induced gibberish, also received critical praise for their wit and musical fusion with the sound of the band. Ryder's struggle with drugs eventually led to the breakup of the Mondays in 1992. The film 24 Hour Party People featured the (semi-fictional) story of Shaun Ryder's youth and the life of Happy Mondays whilst signed with Factory Records in the late eighties and early nineties.