The owners of an iconic ballroom dating back more than 100 years say its future as a dance hall is assured, despite a planning application to turn part of the building into a house of multiple occupation (HMO).
The Grand Palais, Swinton
Fears were raised on social media that The Grand Palais in Swinton would close its doors when the proposals to convert part of the building to a five-bedroom HMO were posted on the Salford City Council planning portal.
But proprietors Stephen Johnson and his partner Abigail Hannon say ballroom dancing events and classes will be unaffected by plans, with the conversion taking place in the first and second floors of the building, away from the dance area.
Stephen, 68, bought the property in 1986 and has spent nearly 40 years revamping the huge ballroom and preserving its original features, which date back to 1912 when it was first built as the Plaza Picture House.
Salford’s Incredible Heritage
Stephen and Abigail are avid lovers of Salford’s heritage and currently live in the famous artist LS Lowry’s former home not far from the Palais.
In the 1960s it became a venue where bands like Hermans Hermits and others performed on the first floor, which also became the Wishing Well disco in 1970s and 1980s.
More recently, it was the venue where a film about the Northern Soul phenomenon was filmed for the BBC.
Abigail, 46, said: “There is ample room elsewhere in the building for the residential conversion.
“Our dance events and classes are continuing and will not be affected by the residential conversion which is taking place on the upper floors of the building.
“The people who come here to dance love it. We’ve got one couple who are in their 90s and they come dancing here for three hours on a Saturday.
“Our eldest dancer reached the age of 103 and was still dancing at that age, although sadly she’s no longer with us. Most of our dancers look about 20 years younger than they are.”
Abigail continued: “There’s lots of nostalgia around the building, particularly from the 70s and 80s. It’s where many people met their future life partners.
“Steve has been determined to renovate it and keep it going.”
The Grandest Ballroom in Greater Manchester
The weekly roster of events at the Palais – renowned as the ‘grandest ballroom in Greater Manchester’ – kicks on Thursdays with afternoon tea from 12 noon to 3 pm followed by line dancing from 7.30 pm to 9.30 pm.
On Fridays, ballroom champion Alex Plant appears and does private lessons, and on Saturdays from 9 am to 12 noon, there are children’s lessons in ballet, tap, ballroom and Latin dancing as well as musical theatre and singing.
On Saturday evenings from 8 pm to 11 pm, there is a big dance in the main ballroom.
Every six weeks there is a Masquerade Ball, with the next one taking place on October 28.
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