Band on the Wall Reopens after Renovation

Band on the Wall Reopens after Renovation


Posted 2022-02-07 by David Keyworthfollow

Fri 04 Mar 2022

Live sounds will reverberate again at a historic Manchester music venue. Band on the Wall is reopening after it was closed in 2020 for a radical renovation and the small matter of a global pandemic.

The Northern Quarter venue will be bouncing again, when, on Friday 4 March, London-based jazz musicians Binker Golding and Moses Boyd get the venue grooving, followed by a free after-party.

A Be Right Back Weekend on 31 July – 1 August 2020 was scheduled, to be headlined by Manchester based DJ & Producer - Mr. Scruff. But a decision was made to cancel this 'closing party', due to COVID-19 spikes in Greater Manchester.

The line-up for the new gigs includes Emma Jean Thackray who has been championed by Jamie Cullum; Robert Wyatt's old band - Soft Machine; Asian Dub Foundation ('a genre unto themselves') and the James Taylor Quartet who employ a Hammond organ to power their 'funky acid jazz' sound.

Full listing here

The most notable aspect of the building works has been an expansion into the Cocozza Wood building. It means the venue now enjoys a larger - 500 person - capacity. A new 'bar stage', has also been added for smaller performances for up to 80 music fans.

The three-storey High Victorian Gothic 'Cocozza Wood', which adjoins the back of Band on the Wall and the Burton Arms Hotel, was previously used by fruit and vegetable dealers, prior to the demolition of Smithfield Market in 1973.

Band on the Wall has grown its offering with an increased focus on grassroots projects. The first floor is now a learning complex, featuring state-of-the-art audio-visual music and video facilities as part of its transformation into its World of Music. There are opportunities for aspiring singers to join the World of Music Choir.

The music venue was originally the George and Dragon which opened in 1803. The pub and hotel benefited from the burgeoning Smithfield Market and its evening clientele of bargain hunters, musicians and entertainers.

Band on the Wall was a nickname from the 1930s, when landlord Ernie Tyson placed a stage high on the far wall of the pub, on which the musicians would play. Those early performers included a regular band of two accordionists, piano, drums, singer and saxophonist.

The venue's website states: "Ernie Tyson ran it with a rod of iron. Jack Branelli remembers that if there was any trouble 'one punch from Ernie and they'd be on the cabbages' – a reference to the vegetable stalls that lined Oak Street."

Ernie would also, at Christmas, throw a party at the pub for dozens of local children and, with his family, prepare gifts them.

The musicians were often market traders themselves, including Lawrence Kelly a fish merchant who showed off his musical scales by playing cornet in the pub's early days.

Pianist Mike Rogers, from Blackpool, was a schoolboy when he played a weekly gig in the early 1950s. He's quoted on the website: 'It was still an ordinary pub called The George and Dragon and many of the customers were not jazz fans, but just regular pub clients. . . Some of the customers were quite rough and I remember several fights. The theory amongst musicians was that the band was on the wall to protect them from trouble'.

By the mid-1970s, the venue was clinging on by its fingertips as textile factories and markets closed down. But the wall was ready to rise from its slumber and hit the high notes again. In 1975 local jazz musician Steve Morris and his business partner Frank Cusick bought the shuttered George & Dragon with the idea of turning it into a jazz club.

They installed a grand piano and a proper stage, in place of the platform.

The punk/new wave world of late 1970s Manchester music meant that the bill included acts like the Buzzcocks, The Fall and Mick Hucknall, who played with his pre-Simply red band - Frantic Elevators.

Funding for the renovation project came from a £1.4 million grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund, combined with contributions from Arts Council England, Carlsberg Brewery, the Charities Aid Foundation, DCMS, Foyle Foundation, Lloyds Bank, Manchester City Council, Oglesby Foundation and Ticketline.

Band on the Walls latest incarnation is testament to the way that Manchester has always counted on live music to celebrate the good times and see it through the bad times.


#music -venues
#music -venues
!date 04/03/2022 -- 04/03/2022
71426 - 2023-01-26 01:53:36


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