OF MANCHESTER’s many Victorian structures, none have such an assorted history as Castlefield’s Grade II listed Campfield Market Halls.
Imagine a glasshouse of greenery, with flowers spilling out on to the surrounding streets
Designed by the Manchester architectural firm practice of Mangnall and Littlewood (also behind the Britannia Hotel on Portland Street) and opened on Liverpool Road between 1880-1882, the halls have been employed in a number of capacities; from trading floors to exhibition centres, from a WW2 'barrage balloon' factory to an aeronautical museum, from a theatrical venue to a wedding venue to an artisanal market. In 2014 it even spent a few months as a 'turbo-charged food rave cave'… though the locals weren’t keen on that one.
And while Lower Campfield continues on as the Museum of Science and Industry’s Air & Space Hall (anxiously, mind you - read here), Upper Campfield has lain dormant since the last tenant was elbowed out by the council for staging an unlicensed Christmas do in 2014.
Now Manchester City Council seeks a new operator to take up the mantle and bring the sleepy 1,612 square metre Upper Campfield back into ‘active and economic use’. The tender document reads:
‘The temporary use of the Hall for an artisan market has shown there is a demand for a market and cultural facility in this part of the city, but the building could be suitable for a variety of retail, leisure or events uses.’
However, the council make it clear they won’t endorse any late-night events that cause a ‘nuisance’ to nearby occupants, while necessary repairs will need to be ‘self-funded’.
In other words, ‘we’re open to anything, as long as you fix the leaky roof and keep the bloody noise down’.
Still, Upper Campfield represents a fantastic and rare opportunity for the city, an opportunity to do something new, bring an old Dame back to life, animate Castlefield and give Manchester something it is missing (no not a sodding beach, Ian).
To many the obvious choice would be to establish Manchester's own Altrincham Market-style food hall. The old covered market reopened in late-2014 after a European-style food market reboot, featuring long communal tables and a variety of food and booze vendors serving out of vintage market counters, became an instant success and recently scooped the Observer Food Monthly's 'Best Market 2015'. Perfect, move 'em in. Problem being they're already on their way... somewhere else. Alty Market team's imminent takeover of Northern Quarter's Mackie Mayor market hall is currently the worst kept secret in Manchester.
So what should be done with it? We asked a number of interested parties to find out... those breeze blocks aren't popular
Jill Burdett - Property journo and Castlefield resident
"This building is at the end of my street and using it as a proper market is the obvious option because it's the right one.
"I want somewhere I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, I want a butcher and a baker and probably even a candle stick maker. I want somewhere I can call in, eat supper, have a drink on the way home or take something delicious back with me. I want a flower seller spilling onto the street and a stall where someone can fix my shoes or stitch a bag and books to buy or borrow or just sit and read. And I want it open at seven for breakfast and space for music and performance at evenings and weekends catering for all.
I want somewhere I can buy fresh fruit and vegetables, I want a butcher and a baker and probably even a candle stick maker
"Castlefield is a settled community, a suburb in the city, and the city needs to provide more facilities to cater not just for residents but for the hoards of families and tourists who descend on the area each weekend.
"Punch out the breeze blocks between the Victorian pillars and replace with glazing opening onto Liverpool Road to let in the light, clean the roof painted black for when it was used by the Royal Exchange and the space will transform and flourish.
"We are lucky to have such a gem of a building. Let's use it well."
Jonathan Schofield - City guide, author and Confidential's editor-at-large
"The best use would be for a regular weekend second-hand and antiquarian book market with the central area used as a performance space for readings etc. This would add to the cultural attractions of Manchester and reinforce its reputation as a city of literature with its four superb city centre libraries and its successful autumn literature festival. It would also reinforce and underline the fact that books aren't dead. I want a mini-Hay-on-Wye in Castlefield."
Stephen Lake - Castle Forum vice chair
"Unlike most I’m not in favour of a specific food or flea market. Neither have longevity or sustainability. Although there is significant footfall going down Liverpool Road to the museum it doesn’t have the same intention of those people on Market Street.
"Campfield Market needs a specific plan to ensure its long term survival as a business (servicing local residents, businesses and visitors) but conversely, as it’s council owned, provide low rent business space for emerging business ideas.
The Northern Quarter has Sugar Junction, Teacup etc. but where do you go for breakfast or coffee in Castlefield?
"The first thing would be to remove the breeze blocks and hoardings and install shop units along Liverpool Road and possibly Barton and Tonman Streets. These units should then be rented out to Manchester independents. The Northern Quarter has Sugar Junction, Teacup etc. but where do you go for breakfast or coffee in Castlefield? The revenue from these units should then be used to subsidise the internal space for weekly farmer's markets, local artists and performance spaces with a well publicised schedule."
Lucy Tomlinson - Food writer
"Obviously the market will have to make money, and by my guess a crafty market/organic foodie zone is the obvious choice for that. But my suggestion is to make it a dual-purpose space - a commercial concern but also a blooming, verdant indoor garden. Think about it - Manchester is notoriously short on green space (at least in the city centre proper) and the our sometimes less-than-clement weather means the parks we have are not always easy to enjoy on a rainy lunch break.
"The urban garden at the Manchester Art Gallery, with its references to the glorious gardens of the past, would be a good starting point for thinking about how this oasis in the city could work. Imagine a glasshouse of greenery, with flowers spilling out on to the surrounding streets - where better to enjoy the lunch hour sandwich?"
Joan Davies - Local councillor
"I'm keeping an open mind, but can recall some superb events over the years: a weirdly wonderful exhibition of unrealised dreams, and the Royal Exchange Theatre camping out, post-bomb, at Upper Campfield almost twenty years ago. The actors adjusting their accents as they moved from pre-show Dimitri's dining to The Philadelphia Story.
"The building isn't built for sound, but other than that any suitable use which would enhance the building and the neighbourhood would work for me. I know local residents are watching this space keenly, and the Castlefield Forum are excited by the potential. These dreams need practical benefits and a positive cash flow to be achievable"
Manchester does not celebrate its origins or tell the story of its historic development in a coherent way
Carol Middleton - Castlefield Forum chair
"I’d like to see the market hall providing both commercial and cultural activities.
"Removal of the bricked up areas would reveal the original open aspect to create inviting shop fronts to the three street-facing facades. Individual units behind would allow independent traders to create, bake, brew or simply sell their produce and crafts to the rapidly growing local population and visitors - somewhere to get a decent coffee would be most welcome.
"Within the internal space something that’s criminally missing in the city could be established – A Roman Heritage Centre. Manchester does not celebrate its origins or tell the story of its historic development in a coherent way. Many of Manchester’s residents are not aware of their city’s origins and the nature of the first settlement in Castlefield. Here’s a great opportunity to change that.
"Creative design of the internal area could provide occasional performance space and enable the building to enter the lucrative hospitality market, making the Roman Heritage Centre sustainable. Visitors to the Museum of Science & Industry reached almost 700,000 in 2014 and much of that footfall would also be attracted to the Roman Heritage Centre. These visitors would in turn bring custom to the independent traders supplementing trade from local residents."
Nuno da Luz & Sam Richardson - Managers of the adjoining Dimitris restaurant
"The only events that have been positive and beneficial for the area and ourselves is when the site has been used as a theatre or small concert hall. It has raised the profile of the area, the public have responded well and it also brought extra business and revenue. Anything else that has been tried was either noisy, disruptive or not very popular." Nuno
"I would say something cultural or arty from the RNCM or from local theatre companies. The Sunday artisan market worked well, the food hall was ok but abit chaotic. I suggested to the Castlefield Forum that Upper Campfield could also host futsal games alongside other indoor sports such as netball, basketball, badminton. Obviously the council are looking for a regular tenant, but I think it should remain available for people to hire temporarily. Sam
I'd be very surprised if the voracious Allied London boss Mike Ingall doesn't stick his nose into this one
David Blake - Confidential Editor
Easy. Paint Ball. Nice little money-spinner while the grown-ups decide what they're actually going to do... plus it gives the inside of the building an economical lick of paint. Alternatively, I've always been envious of the BOXPARK pop-up shopping village in Shoreditch where three of four dozen carefully selected arts, fashion and lifestyle retailers stack-up side-by-side in shipping containers. Above these units you'll find pop-up cafes, bars and food stalls while in the centre of it all sits a covered events area for performances, markets, BBQs, whatever.
So yes, knock out the walls and install small, contained units, offer cheap and short-term rents to smaller brands, the fledgling designers, florists and watchmakers, encourage the likes of Grindsmith coffee and Northern Quarter's Northern Soul sandwiches to animate the area a bit and yeah why not stick a garden in there, with greengrocer carts, folk singers and children skipping in the daffodils.
However, I'd be very surprised if the voracious Allied London boss Mike Ingall doesn't stick his nose into this one. What with the buildings close proximity to St John's and Spinningfields, the uncertain future of the Lower Campfield and Ingall's cosy relationship with council bosses Sir Leese and Sir Bernstein, I'd say there's few better placed to take this one on. And with their track record, I'm sure few Castlefieldians would resist them taking a punt on the Campfields.
We've had our say, now you have yours below. What would you like to see in Upper Campfield?