£3.5 million expansion for much loved grassroots music space

There is no doubt that music is in Manchester’s DNA and its grassroots venues have had a massive part to play in many a music career. Any musician or gig goer that’s spent some time in the city will enthusiastically confirm the importance of legendary Swan Street venue Band On The Wall in that musical landscape.

Band on the Wall has always been bigger than just a venue.

Some good news then for an industry blighted more than many by the pandemic, Band On The Wall has announced it will finally reopen this spring following the completion of its £3.5 million expansion project. The 200-year-old building has been “transformed” with the music venue’s main room now able to hold 500 music lovers and a whole floor dedicated to its innovative learning programme, World of Music. 

A Cgi Imagining Of The New Look Bnd On The Wall Manchester Which Reopens This Spring
A CGI view of the new look Band on the Wall Image: Band on the Wall

Band on the Wall’s international outlook and reputation stems from its longstanding relationship with Manchester’s migrant communities. The building which dates back to 1803 has been a hub for Manchester’s music scene and world-renowned cultural sector ever since. 

If you’ve ever wondered about the venue name, back in the day, the venue was known as The George and the Dragon pub and performers would play on a stage situated halfway up the wall.

Amadou And Mariam Are One Of The Highlights Of Band On The Walls Reopening Programme This Spring In Manchester
Amadou And Mariam will perform at Band On The Wall in March Image: Band on the Wall

Your favourite Band On The Wall

The Fall, Buzzcocks and Joy Division all played early gigs there in the heyday of the late 70s punk era. Massive names like Björk, Nadine Shah and Sun Ra Arkestra have also tread its boards. Band On The Wall closed its doors in 2020 to begin work on the ambitious refurb and was originally chalked up to reopen in 2021 but we all know why it's been delayed.  

The venue has been a registered charity since 1984 and the driving force behind the transformation of the venue is “to create a collaborative hub for young people, the local community and Manchester’s creatives, and to celebrate the cultural diversity of Greater Manchester.” The National Lottery Heritage Fund has supported the expansion project with a £1.4million grant, with added support from Arts Council England, Foyle Foundation, Oglesby Foundation, DCMS, Charities Aid Foundation as well as Carlsberg, Ticketline, Lloyds Bank and Manchester City Council. 

What's new following the massive refurb?

Designed by Manchester-based architects OMI, with accessibility in mind, Band on the Wall’s bar stage and main stage have step-free access and its step-free entrance leads into both the venue’s main performance and bar spaces on the ground floor. There will be food available in the bar which also has a new stage for more intimate 80 capacity performances. The bar area will open during the day as a “community space” for the general public.

Asian Dub Foundation Are One Of The Highlight Acts For Band On The Wall When It Reopens In Manchester This March
Asian Dub Foundation are one of the highlights of the reopening programme Image: Band on the Wall

The venue has been expanded into the three-storey Cocozza Wood building adjoining the back of Band on the Wall. The historic building dating back to the 1860’s has been described as a highly ornamental “tour de force of High Victorian Gothic” and as the earliest surviving local example of commercial chambers. Following its closure, the building has been unoccupied and deteriorating since 1972. Now, the Cocozza and Band on the Wall buildings have been joined together to form the larger ground floor venue space and upper floor learning suite. 

A world of music - education and community 

Band on the Wall continues to nurture Manchester’s creative talent with local and grassroots community projects. The first floor World of Music space will facilitate “a broad programme of heritage, music, learning and research projects”. It plans to deliver “community-based learning engagement that celebrates Manchester’s migrant communities and their musical legacies.” This is an expansion of an existing project that one occupied just two rooms. It features “a state-of-the-art AV suite where budding creatives can record music, interviews, podcasts and film”.

Emma Jean Thackray One Of The Highlights Of Manchester Music Venue Band On The Wall Reopening Programme
Emma Jane Thackray will perform on 3 March at BOTW Image: Band on the Wall

Gavin Sharp, CEO of Band on the Wall, said: “Band on the Wall has always been bigger than just a venue, and over the last two years we’ve been very busy working on our expansion project – including an increased main venue capacity, new café bar, a second smaller performance space, and significantly enhanced and expanded learning facilities to support our exciting and brand-new learning programme, World of Music. We are delighted to open our doors once again this March, and we look forward to welcoming guests back to our newly improved venue.”

Jennifer Cleary, Director, Combined Arts & North, Arts Council England,

said: “Band on the Wall is an iconic music venue with global recognition. It has been a wonderful journey seeing the venue modified and modernised, whilst keeping its historic charm, and we have been pleased to support this redevelopment with National Lottery funding through our capital programme. We look forward to seeing the new possibilities that the re-opening of the venue will continue to bring – both locally and internationally.”

David Renwick, Director, North of England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we are proud to support Band on the Wall and its growth as one of the UK’s leading creative and cultural venues – with an important and diverse heritage that dates back from 1803. We are really excited to see its programming unfold – and especially to see new talents from their learning programme, World of Music.”

Expect a right old knees up to celebrate the reopening of Band on the Wall.

Tickets for forthcoming shows at Band on the Wall are on sale now and include performances from Binker & Moses, Ibibio Sound Machine, Balimaya Project, Emma Jean Thackray, Jazzanova, Bill Laurance and Asian Dub Foundation. See more below.

Band On The Wall, 27 Swan St, Manchester M4 5JZ

Main image: Ibibo Sound Machine

Band On The Wall's reopening season highlights:

Emma-Jean Thackray / Thu 3rd March

Binker & Moses + DJs / Fri 4th March

MF Robots / Fri 11th March

Amadou & Mariam and Blind Boys of Alabama: From Bamako to Birmingham / Tue 15th March

Avi Kaplan / Sun 20th March

Balimaya Project / Tue 22nd March

Bill Laurance Trio / Thu 24th March

Soft Machine / Mon 28th March

Ibibio Sound Machine / Fri 1st April

Mario Biondi / Sun 3rd April

Focus / Tue 5th April

Asian Dub Foundation / Fri 8th April

Roberto Fonseca / Thu 21st April

James Taylor Quartet / Sat 14th May

Read next: Arts, theatre, gigs: Manchester's cultural calendar for 2022

Read again: Massive new festival coming to Salford Quays this September

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