Free workshops in a Grade II listed building and a cafe built by the public…Old Bank Residency does things differently
NOMA may not fit the typical definition of a hidden gem, but still it lurks there, behind the hulking neon colossus that is the Printworks; many not knowing what it is, or why it's even there.
Yet NOMA (coined from the words North Manchester) has great historical importance. It’s where England’s first balloonist James Sadler made an ascent in 1785, accompanied by a cat (he landed in Radcliffe); where Arkwright launched his revolutionary mill; and where Tina Turner and Jimi Hendrix played in New Century Hall during the sixties.
It’s also where the Co-operative was launched, leaving an architectural legacy spanning more than 150 years: from its original Edwardian Baroque HQ on Hanover Street to the current headquarters at 1 Angel Square, a futuristic glass structure complete with ‘earth tubes’ out front.
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1 Angel Square is now used to house Co-op employees who populated the surrounding buildings, many of which are being refurbished as part of a 20-acre masterplan comprising ‘new homes, offices, hotels, retail and leisure space’. Delivered by the Co-op and Hermes Investment Management, it’s already attracted the likes of Amazon, who are moving into Hanover building this year. And Federation, also completed, has become a microcosm of enterprise thanks to its focus on innovative new start-ups like Invisible Cities.
But this ‘last jigsaw piece in Manchester’s regeneration’ remains relatively undiscovered. And the challenge of animating an area that still has several empty buildings (some under development) isn’t an easy one. The NOMA team’s solution? Creativity.
Enter the Old Bank Residency, ‘a twelve-month occupation of a disused bank, allowing space for creative practices to experiment, collaborate and grow.’ Funded by NOMA, the scheme is run by design consultancy Standard Practice - formerly known as Oh OK Ltd - and is effectively a blend of their previous projects: PLANT (a neighbourhood design studio that offered event space and free workshops) and The Pilcrow Pub on Sadler’s Yard, where they also help run a vibrant calendar.
Like PLANT, Old Bank Residency will see Standard Practice work alongside other craftspeople to offer a range of free workshops spanning pottery to sewing and zines. The space will also feature exhibitions (upcoming is a Salford University showcase inspired by NOMA) and community groups can host their own events across three bookable rooms; making for a calendar that includes everything from breakfast clubs to graphic novel groups and choirs.
The Pilcrow Pub idea will be making a reappearance, meanwhile, in One Dish Room; a new cafe ‘built’ with the help of the public through a series of free workshops. From spoon engraving to knife sharpening, building wooden seats to making stain proof uniforms using turmeric, the first batch has been announced; with a second to follow shortly. Once completed, the cafe - as the name suggests - will serve just one dish, a vegan dhal, with a focus on communal dining.
NOMA’s Nicky Moore said: “The Old Bank Residency is an exciting new element of our community offering that will continue to build on NOMA’s unique sense of cultural identity in addition to The Pilcrow and the Old Bank Residency’s previous iteration, PLANT. It’s a living, breathing project that’s helping us to connect people through design, fabrication, art and social gatherings in fantastic architectural surrounds.”
Talking of fantastic architectural surrounds, Moore isn’t wrong. Originally the Co-op’s main bank before becoming company offices, Old Bank was built by the Co-op's chief architect W.A. Johnson in 1928 and is a Grade II listed Classical landmark. Currently occupied on the ground floor only - by Standard Practice and a handful of other creative organisations - the building is earmarked for redevelopment early next year, when the Old Bank Residency will no doubt find yet another iteration elsewhere in NOMA.
Until then, it’s not often you come across free workshops in a stunning Grade II-listed former bank - or the chance to build a cafe for that matter. Check out what’s on at www.oldbanknoma.com: open weekdays from 10am-6pm at Hanover Street, M60 0AB