Mancunia Arts Centre

Who are they?

­The Mancunia Arts Centre focusses on creating a multipurpose arts hub to benefit the Manchester music community, create a positive social impact in their local community by creating employment, providing tools to encourage people to experience the Arts while, simultaneously, learning and developing new skills. Through the creation of a unique arts hub that is easily accessible, they also work to support under privileged and minority communities to engage in the arts.

What do they do and why?

­The Mancunia Arts Centre provides quality services from initial rehearsal services through to event staging, equipment hire and filming location/equipment.

They use income from these profitable services to provide free or subsidised space to support the local community, to meet their aims of helping people who might normally struggle to access the arts.

Their business operates within an industrial building named Khalsa House in Cheetham Hill, which has floor space of 1,500 square feet. This houses two rehearsal rooms, a production studio, a main concert room with a standing capacity of one hundred people, a diner, small kitchen and toilets.

The profitable services that run from the Mancunia Arts Hub allow them to reinvest in community-led projects, workshops, employment and tuitions. These services include rehearsal space for hire in timed slot, venue hire, games, snacks & drinks, merchandising, events ticketing and consultancy work, with potential to grow into other areas.

“The recent closures to hundreds of rehearsal rooms highlight the urgent need for such a space where local talent can economically utilise and ultimately flourish. A continued growth in the arts in Manchester over the last few decades has seen our city currently at its highest level of active musicians, while the facilities to rehearse, develop and to showcase those skills are at an all-time low.” - Anton Pell, Director

In summary, the aim of Mancunia Arts Centre, through the combination of experience, skillset, dedication and passion of its’ management and staff to The Arts is to create a long-term sustainable model, safe from the setbacks and adverse trends that close these buildings to the detriment of the community. The team plan to continue to develop their offer over the coming years.

What funding did they receive?

Anton Pell, Director at Mancunia Arts Hub, first became aware of GMCVO and the Access to Growth fund at the tail end of 2020. He had been formulating an idea of a community arts hub for music for some time, himself having, a long history of working as a grass roots music promoter and small venue manager.

His experience in the industry and contacts led him to believe this would be a valuable, much used and needed service for the grass roots music community of Manchester.

“The Access to Growth investment fund and GMCVO, to my delight, saw real potential in my plans and ideas, themselves working tirelessly to help me accumulate the correct projections, assumptions and forecasts to add to my business plan to get the funding approved just in time for the March 2022 deadline. There were conditions to meet before the funding could be released, including to find a suitable property offering a long-term lease, alongside the registration and acceptance of our CIC.”
“Once securing a property on a five year lease in Cheetham Hill, close to the Manchester Arena, I was able to sketch some ideas of layout and design and put the acquisitions in place to make this all come together. We received £20,000 in total (from Access to Growth), 80% as a loan and the remainder as a grant”

What impact has the funding had?

The lease for the building was signed on 2nd April 2022, with the full funding released the following week. They used the funding to secure a company vehicle so they could transport equipment all over the region as quickly as possible.

They used personal contacts to source practical equipment, for example, the main house public address system was purchased from Rochdale Football Club, who also donated all sorts of other practical equipment since a close colleague worked as the stadium announcer for 20 years there. They sourced some labour from neighbours and associates in various trades, Anton being a builder previously; they built the stage and the stud walls to create three separate rooms from the one big space.

At the same time, Anton was travelling the region buying everything from guitar amps, to drum kits, microphones, leads, computers, speakers, amps, bass amps, kitchen equipment, and everything they needed to get the business operational as soon as possible.

Within a week, they had acquired all the equipment and done all the construction work, and hosted the first band rehearsals on the 23rd April, where local band The Cotton Tree booked in for a 4-hour slot. For their opening day, they hosted pool tournaments, an open stage, laid on food and invited the local community to visit the space.

An article on popular website 'I love MCR' brought the Hub the attention of BBC Radio Manchester who visited twice for an interview, as did other stations such as Alty FM, Salford City, Tameside Radio, Wythenshawe FM amongst others.

Hacienda Classical rehearsals
Hacienda Classical rehearsals

They quickly acquired permanent weekly bands to rehearse and help bring in early revenue. One of which being the well-known Hacienda classical choir, who now regularly use our space, most recently ahead of their Huge Royal Albert Hall Show in May.

Throughout month one of May 2022, they had over 15 bands regularly use the space and equipment to create music and rehearse. They also filmed an episode of Mancunia TV in a packed studio that witnessed live poetry, music, interviews and art from the Manchester community.

They have begun to create drum and guitar programmes which are subsidised for youth groups and under privileged children. They have been working closely with organisations like Buzz and other community groups to see how else they could be an asset to the local community.

During this time they also took on an intern from the University who is studying sound tech; he revels in being involved and has been a great help utilising his own skills and gaining part time employment from them on a casual basis.

The future will see the Hub host a range of events from 'an evening with' to Theatre performances, open stages and live music showcases. They are now filling their calendar for the months ahead to ensure sustainability and the ability to subsidise their social enterprise services.

"We couldn't be more proud of how it has come together and more excited as to what the future holds and the areas of growth they can move into in line with our grass roots music community ethos.”

The team have been very impressed with the reaction of patrons visiting for the first time. There are ode's to Manchester musical past scattered around the venue such as vintage gig posters, as well as local art donated by artists from the region. They have also received kit donations to help provide young people with essential kit to learn and practise on in the future, from electric drum kits to electric guitars.

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