Sunday, 24 September 2017

Hulme Hippodrome (Permission visit)

 Hulme Hippodrome, originally known as the Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall, designed by J.J. Alley opened on 7 October 1901 and was originally used as a play house, seating 3,000. In 1905 its name changed to the Hulme Hippodrome and it became a music hall. During the 20th century it was renamed the Second Manchester Repertory Theatre (1942) and was refurbished in 1950. In the 1970s it was converted into a Bingo Hall/Casino, later becoming a nightclub until 1988. Laurel and Hardy, Nina Simone, the Beatles and George Formby were among the artists who performed here. 

The building was bought by Gilbert Deya Ministries in 1999, and services were held in part of the ground floor. The church spent £200,000 on the building and in 2013 leased it a charity, Youth Village. 

 According the Manchester Evening News, "The building is currently owned by the Gilbert Deya Ministries - a controversial group affiliated to ‘miracle’ preacher Gilbert Deya. But the squatters have not heard anything from members of the church group, which bought the building back in 1999 and held church services in the foyer for years. Deya, a man who reportedly claimed he could help infertile couples have ‘miracle babies’, visited Hulme last year for ‘Seven days of unusual miracles’. In July he was extradited to his native Kenya to face accusations he stole children as proof of miracles. He denies the charges."

In 2017 a group of squatters, linked to the artist collective Loose Space broke into the building, and began work on cleaning up the place, with the intention of turning the building into a community centre, where locals can make music, create art and share skills. 

 One of the squatters told the Manchester Evening News in an interview that, “We have always known about this place and it was on the squatting list,” he says. “A couple of members broke into the building about four months ago and we’ve all been living here but we’ve only just got to the stage when we can invite people in. “It was a complete tip with chairs everywhere, dead birds and lots of pigeon crap. We wanted to be able to sit in those chairs and read a good book. We’ve hoovered the chairs and cleaned up. Anyone who stays needs to muck in and clean up.”

Eager to visit a place with such history, Judderman and I presented ourselves outside the theatre door at 9:30am on a Saturday morning. This was quite a schoolboy error, as it turns out that the squatters make music into the early hours and then sleep in late! It took several hours of returning to the theatre, and finding other stuff to photograph and a coffee shop visit of two before we hit lucky with the "head honcho" squatter happy to invite us in. He explained that their living quarters were "no go" areas and we were more than happy to respect this. So, after a quick look around the main auditorium, we braved the stone steps to the basement, home to the old battery cells of a disused electricity generator. 

The rooms in the basement were very dark. Luckily, Judderman was well-prepared with a super-duper portable light thingie!

 We found the old-fashioned original urinals, in a pitch-black room.

   Then it was back up the stone steps to the ground level.

 This was one of the Bingo machines - now very dusty and completely useless. 

 There was an abundance of folding chairs (left over from the religious group) which the squatters had "artfully" made into chair sculptures. 

Next, up the stairs to the first floor level. 

I found a bar area, decorated in gold and mirrors but absolutely pitch black (hence the reflections of my torch in the mirrors!)

The balcony/seating area. Most of the red velvet seats were in reasonably good nick.

At this point, we could hear one of the female squatters singing along to "Dark Side of the Moon" rather beautifully. 

The next floor was "off limits" to us, so we went back down to ground level. 

                          Apparently, the organ was left behind by Deya Ministries. 

We were led back into the foyer by the guy who let us in. He was friendly and keen to make clear that the building would hopefully become of benefit to the community, with the proposed cafe and arts/music space. There was a drum kit and several musical instruments around. I wish them every success, as they are cleaning the place up and trying to save it. 
It must have been beautiful in its hey-day and definitely needs preserving. 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Victoria Baths (permission visit, April 2017)

Well, better late than never! I visited Victoria Baths in Manchester in April 2017, having wanted to visit for some time. 

First the history: (taken from the Victoria Baths website)
In 1897 the Baths and Wash-houses Committee of Manchester Corporation considered the possibility of providing a bath house to serve the population of Longsight, St. Luke's and Rusholme. The site, on Hathersage Road was duly bought in 1899. Building started in 1903 and the baths were opened in 1906 when it was described as "the most splendid municipal bathing institution in the country" and "a water palace of which every citizen of Manchester can be proud." This was due to the fact that only the highest quality materials had been used and skilled workers produced beautiful stained glass windows and mosaic floors as well as the fact that the building provided extensive facilities for swimming, bathing and leisure. The baths were in use for the public of Manchester for 87 years, finally closing in 1993. This was not a popular decision and the campaign to try to stop the closure became the Friends of Victoria Baths with the aim of fully restoring the building. The building became one of those featured in the BBC Restoration series in 2003. Now the building is partially restored with plans to complete the restoration and have at least one pool and the Turkish baths in use for the public in the near future. 

We visited on a Wednesday afternoon when there is a paid tour of the building by an informative guide. I only wish I could remember half of what he told us!

 These are the impressive gates and turnstiles at the main door (which is not used as the main door now)

 Examples of the best quality tiles and stained glass as described in the introduction above are on display all around the building.

The main Gala pool (there were three pools - the male 1st class Gala pool, the females pool and the males 2nd class pool - the latter was turned into a sports hall in the 1980s)

The changing cubicles at the side of the main pool, with red and white striped curtains.

                                                        The view from one of these cubicles.

                                           Each cubicle is numbered.

                                            The females pool from upstairs looking down. One of the most successful former swimmers of the Victoria Baths was Sunny Lowry, who was the first British woman to swim the English Channel in 1933. 

As well as the swimming pools there were private baths and a laundry along with a Turkish bath and later a Sauna was added. The main swimming pool was floored over in the winter months to hold dances. In 1952 the Victoria Baths installed the first public Aeratone (jacuzzi) in the country.

Weddings are sometimes held in the baths - hence the bunting and chairs. 

This Grade II listed building is on English Heritage's Heritage at Risk Register and the friends of Victoria Baths are doing a splendid job of trying to raise the rest of the money required to fully restore this beautiful, historic building. Visiting one of the tours or the other events put on during the year helps them towards fulfilling this ambition.Since I visited, the main pool was opened for a public swim (as a one-off) for the first time since its closure. There are plans to repeat this.