The MU was born in Manchester.
It was a Manchester music hall musician, 21-year-old Joe Williams, a clarinetist at the Comedy Theatre, Peter Street, who in 1893 brought together like-minded musicians who were concerned about work conditions and pay. By the end of the year he had launched the Amalgamated Musicians’ Union, signing up anyone who sought to earn a living from music. He went on to achieve a merger of the AMU with the London Orchestral Union of Professional Musicians in 1921, creating the modern MU of which he was the first General Secretary.
‘Joe was now at the peak of his career in the trades union movement, although he had lost his seat as a Trades Council candidate on Manchester City Council after being declared bankrupt’.68
By the late 20th century, Band on the Wall would be recognised by the MU as the biggest employer of their members in the North West, excepting the two symphony Orchestras, The Halle and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the oldest surviving professional symphony orchestra in the UK. The MU Music Promotions Fund also provided financial support at key times in the development of the venue in the 1980s.
For more information, see the MU website: www.musiciansunion.org.
68Musicians’ Union website www.musiciansunion.org.uk/about-us/