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. 

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