The Printworks building at the top end of the Northern Quarter has housed many a different occupant over the years including a Jewish hospital and the old printing house before becoming the entertainment complex and the UK’s largest cinema it is today.
One of its best kept secrets, however, is what lies on its rooftop.
Fred Booth, the centre director of the Printworks has one of the highest bee keeping qualifications.
The idea to expand the rooftop garden to having bee-hives and producing honey came to him a couple years ago when he felt the need to do something different.
“We had already started the small garden, and so I inquired about the bees, went on the bee-keeping course, and got the bees straight away,” says Fred.
Having started off with two hives, the rooftop now has four and with the exception of two years ago, have always had a harvest and produced honey.
The honey, which is extracted from the hives, is sifted for impurities and then sold.
Fred remarked; “Last year was a bumper harvest. We’ve created over 300 jars of honey. Each of the jars is sold for £10 and all of the proceeds go towards charity, we don’t make anything out of them.”
The money made from the honey goes straight towards two big charities in Manchester, the Booth Centre and Forever Manchester. Fred feels that the ongoing homeless situation is an extreme worry and that it is vital to give back to the community.
The Booth Centre is not only about providing the homeless and rough sleepers with a meal but giving classes so that people don’t lose sight of their skills.
The rooftop garden houses the four beehives, an allotment patch with several different types of vegetables such as strawberries, lettuce, cabbage and rhubarb and one of the only solar-powered hydroponics unit around.
The vegetables and plants on the rooftop are regularly harvested and also given to the local charity, the Booth Centre so they have fresh produce and aren’t living of microwavable meals.
However, it’s not only about the harvest of honey and vegetables and selling it on. The Printworks try to create a 360-degree experience, whereby everything they do, they do for a reason promoting growth in the community.
Fred said: “It’s very rewarding, especially when you see it go to deserving causes and making a difference.”
There are people who volunteer from the organisations who come and work in the garden. This gives them the opportunity to have a garden of their own for a while and to gain some experience in a different area, with the intentions of hopefully getting them back into work.
“We try to show that we are all-encompassing, it’s not just about large numbers of people on the weekend coming for a few drinks, there is other sides to the scheme. And people are impressed by that.”
The rooftop also had chickens for about three years, and again, all the proceeds from the eggs went to the booth center. Plans to reintroduce chickens to the rooftop are underway.
“It’s been a slow and educational process. I opened this place 18 years ago. You come across a lot of stress in everyday life and going up there once a week for a couple of hours is like therapy and is so relaxing,” Fred said.
“It’s a shock to people’s system when they think of a leisure scheme, in the middle of a city, with beehives and a garden on the roof.”