Can a rock-bar encounter lead to romance? Absolutely.

In an age when you’re more likely to swipe right than speak to someone in a bar, Tori Attwood asks where couples really meet in Manchester city centre. This week we hear from a couple whose rock-bar encounter ended in romance.

Dancing to Girls Aloud beneath the deadening glare of the devil, poised ready to pounce on the rockers below. It sounds like a recipe for disaster – or something out of a comedy sketch.

Think romance, and Satan’s Hollow is probably the last place that springs to mind. Girls Aloud probably don’t come to mind either. But the recipe for disaster turned out to be the formula to love.

“At midnight, [Satan’s Hollow] used to play a load of random songs as a bit of a joke. Girls Aloud came on and I was determined to dance to it, but Mike refused…” explains Gemma. 

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A romantic setting? Revellers at Satan's Hollow Facebook/satanshollowmanchester

He might not have jived along to the pop song, but Mike did buy Gemma a drink. The two had met just moments before, thanks to an introduction from a mutual friend.  

“I was at Satan’s Hollow on a Saturday night with a friend and she mentioned that we meet up with some guys she knew. We all sat in a group in the corner talking and that’s when I met Mike.

“You immediately have more in common with someone when you meet them through friends.”

After a night of talking, Mike made sure Gemma got home safely and they swapped numbers. It later transpired that they were both from the same part of Stockport – Mike even walked past Gemma’s parent’s house every day on his commute to work. 

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Mike and Gemma met at Satan's Hollow

Before the reign of Tinder, courting was a bit less superficial, though still pretty techy.

“It was all on MSN messenger back then. You’d swap numbers or email addresses so you could chat to each other. Myspace was the thing to be on long before Facebook. It was a sort of ‘I’ll text you to see if you’re out’ kind of thing.”

After a string of messages, the couple met for their first official date.

“We went to Varsity on Oxford Road near the Whitworth Art Gallery. I was a student at MMU at the time, so went there quite a lot. The date went smoothly, like we'd known each other a lifetime. I suppose this came from having friends in common and living close to each other.”

“I was going through a bit of an emo phase back then, so I wore a Paramore band t-shirt, denim skirt, footless tights and ballerina shoes.

“I can remember what Mike was wearing as well - a bright yellow ‘animal’ t-shirt – he used to wear that brand all the time.”

“We kept returning to Varsity for a while - kind of a homage to the place where we decided to give us a go.

Other favourite places include the Printworks Cinema, the Garrett & Joshua Brooks.”

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Gemma owns Elsie Vee Vintage in Stockport

So, was it ‘love at first sight’?

“I knew this wasn’t a short-term thing. I knew I’d be safe with him and that he was kind. I did know he was special.”

“Neither of us were particularly looking for someone - we certainly didn't expect to marry the person we met that night! So, it was definitely unexpected.”

After two years of dating, the couple married at Stockport town hall. Gemma and Mike have now been married for nine years and have two children together. After having their second child, Gemma put her embroidery degree and love of vintage to business use by opening Elsie Vee Vintage in Edgeley, Stockport. The boutique specialises in custom-fit original vintage dresses.  

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“Neither of us were particularly looking for someone - we certainly didn't expect to marry the person we met that night!"

Having met initially in person, what do you think about today’s app-ruled dating scene?

“It can be really successful – I’m always speaking to friends and clients that have met through apps. It’s just the way we are nowadays. But it’s no substitute for meeting people in person and talking to each other. You can’t beat that.”

Do you think it’s easy to find love in Manchester?

“Definitely! The people of Manchester are so outgoing and have lots of love to give. We just have to let the barriers down and start talking.”

Did you meet your other half in Manchester? Want to share your story. Contact