£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.
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.
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.
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”.
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
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