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Sunday, October 2, 2022

‘You possibly can really feel the historical past in there’: the return of New Century Corridor | Music

“I used to be standing in line late 1966 with lots of people to see the Jimi Hendrix Expertise,” says John Cooper Clarke. “I observed that everybody within the queue besides me was sporting a tie.” The famend punk poet, talking over the cellphone on the way in which to a gig in Kidderminster, hastens so as to add that he nonetheless regarded dapper, sporting a Fred Perry (“You possibly can’t put on a Fred Perry and a tie, you’d appear to be a schnorrer!”) and a striped sports activities coat. “I couldn’t get in,” he says, mimicking the doorman: “No tie!”

The venue was Manchester’s New Century Corridor, a 1,000-capacity house adjoining to New Century Home. Designed by Gordon Tait for the Co-Operative Insurance coverage Society in 1962, it performed host to main acts comparable to Hendrix, the Stones, Tina Turner and the Kinks, earlier than turning into an sudden haven for acid-house events thrown by native producers A Man Known as Gerald and 808 State.

New Century, Manchester.
‘Kitsch sister subsequent door to the mighty CIS skyscraper’ … New Century, Manchester.

It’s now being relaunched as a part of the development of the Noma district, prolonged to 3 flooring and renamed as, merely, New Century. The basement will home Entry Artistic School, providing degree-level {qualifications} in music and gaming, the already-opened floor flooring contains a bar and kitchen with a curated collection of road meals distributors, and above would be the meticulously restored occasions house, able to be formally reopened on 20 September with a efficiency from Clarke.

The house lay vacant for years, solely internet hosting a handful of gigs within the final decade – together with one 15 years in the past that includes Clarke and the Fall – and simply three between 2002 and 2013. “I feel we’d all the time been conscious of the house as a little bit of a hidden gem in Manchester,” says Jon Wickstead, co-founder of native promoter Now Wave, which is in command of programming for New Century. “It was simply so sometimes used. And also you’d go in there and see this wonderful outdated ballroom and be like, why isn’t this getting used on a regular basis?”

As quickly as Wickstead, fellow Now Wave co-founder Wesley Jones and dwell promoter Ruth Hemmingfield (Deaf Institute, Gorilla) discovered concerning the plans to revive the venue, they needed to become involved, impressed by the purpose-built nature of New Century. “We have been so excited once we noticed that room,” Jones notes. “A number of dwell areas are type of crammed into one thing that was one thing completely different – a warehouse, or a theatre – however this was constructed to look at dwell music.”

The unique inside design has been retained: “As a result of it’s listed, you possibly can really feel the historical past whenever you’re in there,” Hemmingfield says. “There’s the sprung dance flooring, the entire ceiling is simply these loopy gentle fittings which were there since 1962.”

It mirrors Clarke’s personal reminiscences of the venue. “It was the kitsch sister subsequent door to the mighty CIS skyscraper,” he says. “Nevertheless it’s type of a minimalist mixture of brushed metal, glass, a little bit of concrete and a few polished granite styling right here and there.”

John Cooper Clarke.
‘I couldn’t get in’ … John Cooper Clarke. {Photograph}: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

“It was typical of the Co-Op. Maintaining it puritanical however in a great way, it’s constructed with good supplies that don’t deteriorate or rust. So it nonetheless seems to be spick and likewise span,” he says, evaluating the unique constructing to the work of Phillip Johnson.

Wickfield agrees: “In the event you see pictures of it from the Nineteen Sixties in comparison with now, it’s precisely the identical, however we’ve modernised it with all of the tools,” he says. “It seems to be actually wow, now, and distinctive. However think about how futuristic that was within the 60s.” To create the specified impact, the crew has been sparing with social media teasers, guaranteeing folks expertise it in individual. “A dancefloor doesn’t bounce on Instagram,” Hemmingfield says.

This mix of outdated and new, dated and up to date is mirrored within the venue’s forthcoming line-up. “Whereas we’re happy to be bringing again an outdated constructing it’s not going to be populated by revisionist gigs,” Jones says. Though it’s a listed constructing insulated by a wealthy historical past, the crew reinforces an apt give attention to the brand new. “That is one thing for the following decade, someplace for brand new acts to play for brand new sorts of tales to be informed.”

It implies that whereas some bookings are anniversary gigs or reveals by native legends – together with Clarke and an album playthrough from the Charlatans – the main target is on making a line-up as eclectic as it’s electrical. Highlights embrace jazz experimentalist Kamaal Williams, storage cumbia band Los Bitchos, and Australian Madchester revivalists Confidence Man, who, in a vote of confidence for New Century, selected so as to add further dates as a consequence of demand relatively than swap to one of many metropolis’s roomier venues. In future, New Century plans to department out into comedy and household occasions, whereas the downstairs Entry Artistic School additionally has free rein to make use of the state-of-the-art soundsystem.

The challenge is made all of the extra important because of the dire state of affairs arts venues are going through throughout the UK, hangover results of the pandemic, rocketing rents and the cost-of-living disaster set to bolt many venue doorways shut for good. “It was actually thrilling to carry one thing again into use as effectively to reinvigorate it … particularly with venues closing all throughout the nation,” Jones says. In upcycling a vacant house into one thing new, it’s additionally a powerful proof-of-concept for future initiatives.

As opening night time looms, the crew speaks of a optimistic vitality surrounding the venue. Has Clarke has ever opened a venue? He quips: “I’ve closed a number of!”

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