Legendary venue, Band on the Wall, drums up £3.2 million to build on its musical heritage

Manchester’s most famous live music venue, Band on the Wall, has been awarded £3.2 million in combined awards by Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of a £4 million project to transform the venue into a 21st Century centre for music. Joy Division, Art Blakey, Simply Red, Carleen Anderson and The Buzzcocks are just some of the artists to have played at Band on the Wall over the years. These grants will provide a platform for the development of local talent with state-of-the-art technology. New developments will annexe an adjacent building and provide new facilities for performances, education, recording and an audio and audio-visual music archive.

Ian Croal, Chief Executive of Inner City Music, the registered charity that runs Band on the Wall, says: “We are delighted with the Arts Council”s and the Heritage Lottery Fund”s support of our project to reopen a much-enhanced Band on the Wall. Together with the generous support of Manchester City Council these grants will enable us to provide Manchester and the UK with an international stage for the best music from around the world and a platform for the finest local talent. We will also develop the venue as a resource for music education and professional development.

“The funding will also help us to restore the two buildings now involved in the project and to develop a new music archive facility. The grants recognise the important role the venue has played in the musical life of Manchester over several decades, in addition to contributing to its growing future role.”

Peter Hewitt, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said: “Band on the Wall is an excellent example of Manchester’s unique musical heritage. “We hope our funding will enable the venue to the build on its reputation and become a centre for excellence that will foster the musical talent of tomorrow.”

Peter Fellows, Heritage Lottery Fund Casework Manager for the North West, comments: “It”s great to be able to give Band On The Wall its beat back. Our grant is the first step in reviving Manchester”s famous venue and breathing new life into two of the city”s historic landmarks.”

Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, said: “Band on the Wall is one of Manchester”s great cultural venues and has played a part in the careers of many of the city”s bands and musicians. We are delighted with the award and will continue to play a leading role in the development of the centre for new music, part of the wider regeneration of the Northern Quarter.”

The Arts Council approved a grant of £2.5 million towards the project and Heritage Lottery Fund granted £720,000. The City Council already approved a grant of £500,000, in addition to assisting with development costs. The project also benefits from a substantial individual private donation. Key features of the new centre will include: Improvements to the existing main space, including installation of the latest sound system as well as specialised restoration of original 19th Century features and extensions to the existing balcony. The purchase of the freeholds of the existing Band On The Wall and the adjacent building, to be named The Picturehouse, which will be transformed into a multi-use new space for music and the moving image, performances, online music archive and information hub. The creation of an archive and development project about the music, the musicians and the venue.

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will support the development and establishment of the archive over a five-year period. A new recording studio and in-house video equipment enabling emerging talent, visiting artists and members of Manchester’s music communities to make digital recordings ‘live’ from the venue – for ‘demos’, commercial release, radio and TV broadcasts, web content and internet downloads. Improved facilities for disabled people. Education programmes and facilities for people of all ages.


The Band on the Wall building stands in the Smithfield Conservation area. In 1865 a local brewery operated it as its flagship pub called the George and Dragon. It became a music venue in 1937 when landlord Ernie Tyson installed a shelf high up on the wall leading to the pub being nicknamed ‘Band on the Wall’. In the mid 1970s, it became established as one of the country’s top jazz venues and by the late 1970s it was also part of the punk revolution and the Manchester new wave of bands. From the early 1980s it effectively introduced world music to the city and still retains an international reputation for showcasing the best music from around the globe.

The venue has also been a pioneering centre for Manchester’s emerging club culture. A roll-call of names to have performed there includes Art Blakey, Mica Paris, Richie Havens, Courtney Pine and early incarnations of Joy Division, Simply Red, The Fall and The Buzzcocks and Bjork. The venue closed in early 2005 because of the deteriorating condition of the premises and to enable Inner City Music to concentrate on fund-raising and planning for the ‘reborn’ Band on the Wall. The adjacent building in Swan Street which is being annexed for the project is Grade II listed and was built in the 1860s, probably by the original owners of “Band on the Wall”. In the early part of the last century it was used as a picturehouse, thought to be the first in Manchester. It has been unoccupied for more than 10 years. The current programme is to carry out the construction and fit-out works on the buildings from January 2008, reopening later that year, or in early 2009.

Band on the Wall joins a host of Manchester”s other landmarks that have been given a new lease of life with HLF support, including Gorton Monastery – Manchester”s Taj Mahal – John Rylands Library and many of Ancoats” buildings. Other Greater Manchester based projects that have benefited from Arts Council England support include The Lowry, Royal Exchange Theatre, Contact Theatre, Chinese Arts Centre and Castlefield Gallery.