The historic venue, famed for its Smiths heritage, is now licensed for marriages
A Harrogate couple who have seen Morrissey 33 times are officially the first people to book a Smiths wedding now that the legendary Salford Lads Club is licenced to perform marriages. They got engaged there last year.
The club, which started in 1903 for working lads from the docks estate - to keep them off the streets and out of gangs by providing sports, arts, education and camps - shot to international fame when its iconic sign and redbrick frontage was the backdrop for a picture, now in the National Portrait Gallery, by photographer Stephen Wright and used on the inner sleeve of The Smiths' album The Queen Is Dead in 1986 (main image).
At the time of the album photo, The Smiths were at the height of the alternative rock music scene and the club - whose former members include other musical prodigies like The Hollie’ Graham Nash and Allan Clarke - has since attracted fans and visitors from all around the world.
The 13,810 sq ft building is a listed Edwardian red brick construction on the corner of St Ignatius Walk and Salford’s real Coronation Street in Ordsall. Founded by two brothers whose family were partners in the Groves and Whitnall Brewery on Regent Road, and inspired by a late eighteenth century trend for philanthropic boys’ clubs, it was designed by local architect Henry Lord; also responsible for the former Salford Royal Hospital and Salford Museum and Art Gallery.
Inside, the tardis-like venue includes sports courts, a concert hall, a band room, an original billiards room, snooker and games rooms and a boxing gym. The ground floor corridors and entrance have the classic Edwardian red glazed brick seen in many of Manchester’s hospitality venues.
The club’s Smiths room was set up in 2004 by artist Leslie Holmes, in response to the legion of fans who made the pilgrimage to stand on the same spot as The Smiths under the famous sign. Some have called for the building to be a World Heritage Site.
The venue had long been providing recreational activities for people of both sexes and all ages, from exhibitions to sport. Recently it became registered and licensed to hold weddings, civil partnerships, civil services and vow renewals. Organisers can work with local suppliers including caterers, bar providers and venue dressers to create a tailored experience.
Couples can select one of four function rooms that accommodate 20-150 people including The Band Room (20 guests), The Smiths Room (40 guests max) The Senior Games Room (up to 80 guests) and The Concert Hall, for up to 150 guests.
The venue is a wedding photography dream, with many interesting original interior and exterior features, and wedding party guests can recreate the historic Smiths line-up photo outside its iconic entrance.
Weddings at Salford Lads Club are being managed and run by local leisure operator, Salford Community Leisure, a community benefit organisation that hosts weddings at other unique venues in the city including Ordsall Hall and Salford Museum and Art Gallery.
Its weddings & events manager, Sue Bainbridge, said: “We’re delighted to bring this historic venue into our wedding fold. It’s one of the city’s most iconic buildings and unusual wedding venues, steeped in heritage, local social history and music folklore. With the current Covid-19 restrictions in place, the smaller spaces are ideal for up to 15 people.”
Profits from weddings at the club will be split between the official Salford Lads’ and Girls’ Club charity for the ongoing upkeep of the spectacular building, and the services managed by Salford Community Leisure; including leisure centres, community centres, libraries and museums.
Project manager at Salford Lads Club, Leslie Holmes, said: “The club is a remarkable surviving example of working class culture, it’s what attracted Morrisey here, with its famous footballers, boxers, The Hollies, and of course Coronation Street. The building is almost untouched since it was built in 1903 and is the ideal setting for a unique wedding as people will also be supporting the club and helping future generations of young people.”
The first couple to book a Salford Lads Club wedding are Joy Ainsley (45) and Dean Baylin (46) from Harrogate who are huge Morrissey and Smiths fans. Joy said: "We can't believe that we can now officially get married at Salford Lads Club. We're lifelong fans and have seen Morrissey 33 times. My fiancé Dean popped the question outside the club last year and we have visited it numerous times, had tours, and been to the club attending other events. We've taken so many photos inside and outside the club, and we've recreated the album photo pose outside with friends, that it feels like a second home.
“The wedding itself will be very much in a Smiths-vintage style and our bridesmaids will be wearing Doc Martens with their hair done in victory rolls - guests will receive Smiths and Salford Lads Club-themed wedding favours to keep forever.
“We even have a Manchester band playing (The Lottery Winners) who have just been signed by Warner Records by the legendary A&R Seymour Stein, who also signed The Smiths and has dubbed them as the best thing he's heard since! Huge Smiths fans themselves, they’ll play There Is A Light That Never Will Go Out at the ceremony, which is also featured on their current lockdown covers album Sounds of Isolation.”
Fancy holding your own wedding at the club? Packages start from £1250 for room hire, with availability from January 2021. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Or, if you just want to visit without nuptials, the volunteer team provide tours for visitors every Saturday from 11am until 2pm. For more info, see the website; also including an online shop stocking a range of Salford Lads Club merchandise.
Main image: Stephen Wright