Updated: Saturday, 14th December 2019 @ 6:16pm

'Other cities cherish their crown jewels': Manchester's battle to save iconic London Road Fire Station re-ignited

'Other cities cherish their crown jewels': Manchester's battle to save iconic London Road Fire Station re-ignited

By Emily Wolstencroft

London Road Fire Station is an architectural gem that has stayed empty for the last 27 years, but now a campaign is hosting a benefit gig to bring the aging neo-classical style building back into the spotlight.

Sitting opposite Manchester Piccadilly, the at risk Grade II-listed building has remained undeveloped despite Britannia Hotels buying it back in 1986 – but now the community are fighting back.

Despite the name, Project Liberation is less of a plot of a Hollywood action movie and more a heroic community effort by Friends of London Road Fire Station to produce a ‘party with a purpose’ that will fund more community art projects.

Speaking to MM Adam Prince, leader and curator of Friends of London Road Fire Station, talked about what party-goers can expect from the night later this month.

He said: “Project fundraiser is a concept any community group can use and we will be using again.  

“It's for the love of our city and so the bands who have agreed to play are not only talented and will give a great night, but are passionate about the building like so many Mancunians.  

“It's about celebrating to raise funds as there is not much easy access out there to grants for new groups like ours. 

“Essentially it's a party with a purpose and to enjoy emerging talents who are offering their creativity and passion for music like so many before them.”  

Critically-acclaimed indie band Puppet Rebellion, unique psychedelic band The Fourth Circle and DJ Pasta Paul from Piccadilly records will all perform on the night.

Simon Monaghan, front man of Puppet Rebellion pledged his support to the campaign.

He told MM: “I think it's amazing that a building of such historic status can be left to degrade by Britannia Hotels.

“We need something that will breathe new life into the building, blending the old and the new to create something iconic.

“This night will hopefully raise more awareness and Puppet Rebellion are pleased to show our support to such a worthy cause.”

But if music isn’t your thing the money raised from the gig will be used to fund a series of other events throughout the summer and autumn months to highlight the campaign.

Adam added: “We also need the funds for our community exhibition and want to make this the most inclusive exhibition possible, welcome the city, their artwork, photography and make our events a success.”

But the question remains, how has the building managed to fall into such disrepair after all this time?

Adam Prince believes the blame lies with Britannia Hotels and the Manchester Council themselves.

“It is such a beautiful building, tormenting and unreachable as it deteriorates further.  Every time I am away from Manchester and return to Piccadilly it is gut wrenching for me to see, and sits as a haunting symbol of injustice, ineptitude, unethical business and destructive greed.

“This group has caused countless damage to an iconic building. This is why I believe there needs to be a change in heritage law and this should be a test case where the 'purchase' aspect of the CPO is taken away and the building given back to Manchester.  

“Their motives, mismanagement and continued inaction can only be considered with disdain and suspicion.  

“I am also disappointed that in a case where the council needed to show public interest in the building, the communication was so poor in involving the public who care so much about the building.  

“I believe the council needs to enhance a strategy to involve the talents of its citizens, professionals and communities.”

Project Liberation will aim to solve this problem by officially launching the Friends of London Road Fire Station where gig-goers will be able to join the trust for a special price of £3 giving members the right to vote and steer the direction of the building’s future.

Profits from the gig will also be used to fund an inclusive community exhibition using art, history, talks and workshops about the building, taking place at 4A Piccadilly Place from August 22-25.

Famous Manchester artists Oliver East, who created artwork for Elbow, and Caroline Johnson, who recently exhibited at The Lowry, are among those contributing work.

Oliver said that there was one main driving force behind his decision to back the campaign.

He said: “Good old fashioned civic pride – so my son can tell his kids he used to sketch it from platform 14 like his dad before him.

“We've got enough chrome and glass buildings, Nno one's going to get dewy eyed over 1 St Peter's Square.

“I've been gazing at the station from platform 14 of Piccadilly train station for as long as I can remember and it would be a massive stain on our collective Mancunian souls were it to disappear.

“It's ridiculous it's even come to this, other cities cherish their crown jewels.”

Artwork Landscape Comics will be featured among other artists and either auctioned or copied on the night to raise funds for the cause.

“I'm proud to have been asked to draw it,” he added.

There will also be a ‘vision’ competition for what the building should be and there are hopes for a professional architecture competition later in the autumn.

But what does Adam believe waits for the future of the old station?

“I would love to see the building celebrating Manchester.  

“To have a Manchester music museum as our cities musical history is enviable, modern art exhibitions, history of the building, its courtrooms, cells and history of the Manchester emergency services, a covered courtyard garden among restaurants and cafés including performance.

“So many wonderful things are possible for this large building that should be mixed use and for the public to celebrate, hence our vision competition and drive for an architecture competition.”

To see how you can be involved, and for further information visit http://www.londonroadfire.org/

Image courtesy of moveupandon via YouTube, with thanks.

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