Manchester music venue Band on the Wall is to re-open Sept. 25 following a £4 million ($6.4 million) investment.
First opened in 1975 as a jazz venue, Band on the Wall was at the centre of Manchester's punk scene in the late 1970s and was home to early performances from Buzzcocks, the Fall, Joy Division and A Certain Ratio.
Other artists to have played the venue, which has a history of staging live music that stretches back to the 1930s when it was a pub called the George and Dragon, include Mica Paris, Bjork, Simply Red, Art Blakey, Carleen Anderson and the late folk singer John Martyn. Having fallen into a state of disrepair, Band on the Wall closed in 2005.
To mark the venue's long-awaited re-opening, a month-long program of international artists has been scheduled, beginning Sept. 25 with a double bill from U.K. soul singer Mica Paris and jazz pianist Julian Joseph, both honorary patrons of Band on the Wall.
Other acts confirmed for the "Back to Our Place" program, which runs Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, include 2008 Mercury Music Prize nominated The Unthanks (Formerly Rachel Unthank & The Winter Set), post-punk pioneers A Certain Ratio, Mad Professor with the Ariwa Posse and internationally acclaimed Malian ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate.
Band on the Wall is operated by Inner City Music - a registered charity run on a not-for-profit basis.
"There are few venues in the country that really compare with Band on the Wall," Inner City Music chief executive Ian Croal tells Billboard.biz. "I think it can be quite a pivotal venue in terms of national and international tours because there's a shortage of this type of venue. If you think of [U.K.] venues that can present chamber jazz or acoustic folk music or heavy reggae or African dance music or Cuban dance in a proper atmosphere then there really are very few."
Funding for the project came from the Arts Council who approved a grant of £2.5 million ($4 million) and the U.K. Heritage Lottery Fund who granted £720,000 ($1.2 million) to the venue's refurbishment. Manchester City Council also provided £500,000 ($800,000) in addition to assisting with development costs.
The project also benefited from a substantial individual private donation, says Croal. By the end of the first year the business is projecting a turnover of £1m ($1.6 million) leading to a £15,000 ($24,000) surplus, according to Inner City Music.
When Band on the Wall re-opens it will boast state-of-the-art facilities for live performance, education, recording and an audio and audio-visual music archive, according to Inner City Music. An adjacent building has also been transformed into a complimentary 150-capacity social and performance space called the Picturehouse while an on-going education programme has already been launched. Capacity for the main music room is likely to be 400, says Croal.
"We're hoping that people will love it because a lot of love has gone into that building," continues Croal. "I see it really as a living center for music - not just a performance space, but a place where musicians can congregate and people who are interested in music can learn about it. It's not just a concert hall. It's a lot more than that. It's a community arts centre for music."