The death of Manchester city centre culture: Does the Night and Day noise abatement signal the end of Manchester, music city?
Earlier in the week, the owners of the Night and Day café in Manchester took to the internet to voice their dismay at being served a Statutory Nuisance Abatement Notice by Manchester City Council at the behest of a recently arrived local resident. At time of writing, some 60 000 signatures have already been added to an online petition directed at Manchester City Council to remove the black cloud that hangs over the future of Night and Day. Statutory Nuisance Abatement Notices are no idle threats, and this particular threat extends not just to the venue itself but to Manchester on the whole. That the city’s nightlife is crucial to Manchester is obvious, but a certain kind of nightlife is equally crucial – the nightlife that surely serves a wider public god than an endless slew of cattle market discos and landfill chain pubs. This kind of nightlife is under a very real threat, and there are many more examples than just Night and Day.
The departure of the BBC from its former Oxford Road site was felt more by the Lass O’Gowrie pub than most other local businesses. The drop in passing trade from the BBC building saw the pub’s turnover fall by forty per cent for the pub, a significant drop for any city centre business which led to a two year dispute between landlord Gareth Kavanagh and the pub’s brewery Greene King. The Lass O’Gowrie – the Great British Pub Award ‘Pub of the Year’ winner in 2012 – was a pub unlike any other in its eclectic cultural contribution to the city. Hosting everything from Doctor Who festivals to Northern Soul events, the Lass O’Gowrie was committed to live music, comedy, drama, vintage video games and was at the heart of the burgeoning Greater Manchester Fringe Festival. Alas, the wilful ignorance of a miserly Greene King deemed the Lass’ profit margins insufficiently high and ousted Kavanagh in favour of a temporary closure and the introduction of a Greene King approved landlord for the scheduled re-opening this year. Few pubs – and certainly seldom ever Greene King ones – had the character and the contribution of the Lass O’Gowrie, and now it’s gone.
Despite the indifference of Manchester City Council, the Grade II listed building the Star and Garter lurks on Fairfield Street behind Piccadilly Station where it has proudly thrived since 1877. The pub, club and venue is, however, under threat from Network Rail’s ‘Northern Hub’ proposals. The proposed development would mean two new platforms at Piccadilly station, and the Star and Garter have been warned that despite their Grade II listed status they development would encroach onto their premises. The lack of investment in the area around Piccadilly Station has already damaged the Star and Garter, and though there are still queues outside the pub on the first Friday of the month for its two decade running Morrissey and Smiths Disco, the Star and Garter remains under perpetual threat of demolishment or being simply forgotten about.
Why are the Lass O’Gowrie and the Star and Garter important? There are countless pubs that serve real ale in Manchester city centre, and if there’s one thing Manchester isn’t short of it’s indie discos. The Lass O’Gowrie, the Star and Garter and now Night and Day are important because they offer something that is not only genuinely alternative but genuinely popular and worth fighting for. The defiant eclecticism that these establishments represent says something wider about the past, present and future of Manchester, and a symbol of kinship by which people across the country navigate.
The music of its citizens has long been one of Manchester’s most important exports, and is one of many reasons why every year teenagers across the country exile en masse to Manchester and Salford for their university education. Music needs the space in which to develop and the backing to be allowed to be vibrant and ambitious; what can any city hope to achieve culturally if its creative souls spend all their energy having to campaign merely for the right to survive? When I moved to Manchester, the cultural life the city is famed for was paramount in my decision. In my early teens, gigs in Manchester were lifelines and something to be cherished; to go to a place where, unlike my native Blackburn, the pubs and the clubs hadn’t been shut down as a result of council indifference and the understandable fatigue that comes from having to continuously fight for establishments to stay open. Night and Day is a profitable business that has and continues to contribute immensely to what precisely what prevents Manchester from the all encompassing sludge of big business homogony. Removing the Statutory Nuisance Abatement Notice should be just the start for Manchester City Council of backing its venues, pubs and clubs.
You can sign the petition to save Night and Day here.