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How you can help the historic venue where the Beatles were and Nina Simone performed live

Tucked away in Hulme, is the Niamos Centre, which hides a fascinating history.
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The Niamos Centre

Nestled in the vibrant neighbourhood of Hulme, The Niamos Centre celebrates the area’s rich cultural history and community spirit.

This historic venue has seen numerous transformations since its opening in 1902.

Designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding industrial landscape, it has an unassuming facade. This was to make it a welcoming space for the predominately working-class community of its time.

Although the insides are anything but ordinary.

Filled with beautiful Art Nouveau and Edwardian features (including gorgeous seashell light fixtures, rich velvet seats, incredible stucco renderings, and a beautifully vibrant roof), you have to check out the inside of this glorious theatre.

Although maybe it has seen its best years, it’s still full of potential.

We caught up with one of Dave Whiting, Director of the Niamos Centre, to discuss what the place was all about and how they could restore its former glory.

The Niamos Centre

Dave Whiting, Director of the Niamos Centre

Dave Whiting, one of the directors at the Niamos Centre, describes it as a space that: “not only hosts a variety of classes and cultural events but also stands as a pillar of support for the local community.”

Dave explains that the venue features a wide array of programs, from music and comedy gigs to yoga and dance classes.

Most recently, the Centre was bustling with energy as the BBC filmed a segment with Mr. Tumble, or “Mr Tumble’s replacement”.

The day before, it hosted the Green Island Festival in collaboration with the local Garden Centre, which was packed the rafters.

So it’s an important venue for the area.

They’ve also hosted white-collar boxing, stand-up comedy, you name it – it all happens at The Niamos Centre.

Despite its success in attracting events, the Niamos Centre faces significant financial challenges.

It’s an old and very beautiful building, with an ailing roof, and many other issues as you’d expect with a building built in 1902.

But its beauty, and importance to the Hulme community cannot be denied.

It’s a vital artery of culture that should be supported.

Socio-economic shifts in Hulme

A beautiful interior

Dave discussed the socio-economic shifts in Hume, noting that while the area has experienced some degree of gentrification, Niamos remains committed to serving ‘marginalised and impoverished people.’

He said: “The history of this place is something we’re striving to maintain.

“Built in 1902, the building was designed to blend in with the surrounding factories, creating a welcoming environment for the working-class community.”

The intention was to ensure that the local, often poor, residents felt comfortable and that the building didn’t stand out.

Dan continued: “Hulme has historically been an area with a high level of poverty, traditionally known for its slums. Over time, we’ve seen some improvements as gentrification has started to take hold.

“As Hulme continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure that the remaining members of the community, particularly those who are marginalised and impoverished, continue to benefit from The Niamos Centre

“We want to build on the changes to support and uplift these individuals.

“Touring shows would end their tours here, offering performances at reduced rates for those who couldn’t afford higher-priced tickets elsewhere. Back then, they managed to accommodate around 1,200 people by cramming them side by side in wooden seats.

“While we can’t replicate those exact conditions due to modern insurance and safety regulations, our goal remains to keep the venue accessible for community use.

“We aim to empower the community, provide jobs, and offer various classes and entertainment options. Currently, we are working tirelessly to secure the necessary funds to achieve this vision.”

Who has played at the Niamos Centre?

The theatre boasts a rich history, having hosted legends like Nina Simone, Laurel and Hardy, and The first radio broadcast of the Beatles.

During the 1990s, it became a hotspot for reggae artists, amplifying its cultural significance.

However, Dan said that the cost of living crisis, and constant financial strain are taking their toll.

For instance, the Centre pays a hefty £4,000 per month to a private landlord, alongside astronomical electric bills.

Maintaining a historic building comes with significant financial challenges. “We’re understaffed and overcharged… our landlord is charging us four grand a month. It’s outrageous really, ” added Dave.

High electricity costs have also been a burden, but efforts are being made to reduce expenses with more efficient lighting.

“We’ve done something about it. These shells are all LED now.”

Despite these hurdles, the Niamos Centre continues to push forward, aiming to eventually provide jobs and more support for community programs.

How You Can Help

The Niamos Centre thrives on community support.

Donations and volunteer efforts are crucial to maintaining and expanding its programs.

By supporting the Niamos Centre, whether through donations or active participation, you contribute to a legacy of creativity, community, and cultural richness.

You can donate to the Niamos Centre by clicking here

You can find out all of the awesome events taking place at The Niamos Centre by checking out their listings here

Want to find out more about the Niamos Centre? Read history below

The History of the Niamos Centre

The NIA Centre run by Niamos is a historic theatre in the heart of Hulme.

Built at the turn of the century and opened in 1902 – It’s one of the oldest theatres in Manchester!

And one of the last two standing W.H. Broadhead theatres still in use.

Broadhead championed accessibility in the arts and designed the building to resemble a factory from the outside with the aim of helping working class audiences feel at home.

From Hippodrome to Junction Picture Theatre

In its early years, the Niamos Centre (Then Hulme Hippodrome) quickly became the centre of the community.

However, by 1929, the building was converted into a cinema and renamed the Junction Picture Theatre, reflecting the changing entertainment preferences of the era.

This transition marked the first of many significant evolutions for the venue.

The Playhouse Era

In 1950, the building returned to its theatrical roots and was renamed The Playhouse.

The first performance in the newly converted theatre was “The Happiest Days of Your Life,” a farce that had recently been adapted into a film, debuting on January 22, 1951.

This period ushered in a new wave of theatrical productions, drawing audiences back to live performances.

The BBC Years

The Playhouse’s prominence continued to grow when the BBC purchased the theatre in 1956.

It became a bustling production venue for radio and television shows.

The first broadcast from the BBC’s new acquisition was a televised revue entitled Call It A Day.

Over the next three decades, the theatre hosted numerous iconic productions, including The Beatles’ radio debut on March 7, 1962.

The Fab Four performed memorable covers of Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream?), Memphis, Tennessee, and Please Mister Postman in front of a live studio audience.

The last BBC production at the theatre took place on August 25, 1986, closing a significant chapter in its storied history.

The Niamos Centre

The last BBC production in the theatre took place on 25 August 1986.

With funding provided by Manchester City Council and other groups, the building was subsequently bought and converted into an arts centre, The Nia Centre, now NIAMOS we know today.

Did we miss something? Let us know: [email protected]

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