Fighting Fit has been training people in Brazilian ju-jitzu, mixed martial arts and boxing at its Green Quarter archway space since 2008.
But it’s more than just a fitness hub. It’s a social enterprise with a mission to benefit the community – and their archway location plays a vital part in their engagement with people who live locally.
“We’re a not-for-profit organisation and do a lot of work with local charities like the Booth Centre and we pride ourselves on being here for the people who are now a community,” says co-founder Jay Cahill.
“With it being in a residential area in the Green Quarter, we’ve got a lot of apartments near us so a lot of people who live nearby come to the gym. We also work with a lot of businesses, which is important to what we do.”
“To be so close to the city centre and have this much space in such an open plan way is fantastic. You’d struggle to get it in any other type of unit.
“We need that sort of space for the mats and the lifting area. We have quite high ceilings as well which gives us the opportunity to do things like traditional martial arts with weapons and stuff like that.
“The archways provide that open space with no pillars or anything like that while being within walking distance to the train station.
“It’s also quite quirky. When people come in, they always say they don’t expect it to be this big from the outside. It just gives a certain sort of atmosphere to the place.”
In a city like Manchester, which is constantly growing and developing, neighbourhoods like the Green Quarter, the Northern Quarter and Ancoats are essential to the city’s uniqueness and sense of community, says Jay.
“There are so many independent businesses here doing things differently. That’s why people want to live here and be part of what’s going on, because you’ve got bars, you’ve got breweries, you’ve got coffee shops, this gym.
“You don’t want to be just another face in the crowd or feel lost in a huge city. People come here because there’s a social aspect to it as well besides their training.
“We do things like going out together or going to events which is important to the people who live in the city centre.”
Passionate about doing things differently and having recognised that people don’t just want to go out and drink any more, preferring an experience instead, Jay and her brother Martin brought another unique concept to Manchester six months ago.
Base Mcr has three batting cages where you can play baseball and enjoy American drinks and snacks.
Jay says she believes that Manchester is similar to New York in terms of the great variety of things to do, but lacks the hype.
“We’ve come up with the idea because competitive socialising is big at the moment. You’ve got Twenty Twenty Two with ping pong, Roxy Ballroom, and places like Whistle Punks with axe throwing, so we wanted to mix in with that.
“We’re maybe the second batting cage in the whole country. There isn’t anywhere else that does this.”
Mancunians love their idea, with people coming for birthday parties, stag and hen dos and corporate team building events.
“Most people haven’t done it before so everyone’s on a level playing field and it’s all just about having fun.
“It’s not scary, no one’s gonna get hurt with anything because we can change the speed the balls are thrown with, and we have a coach, too.”
The archways made their business idea possible.
“We have been looking for a suitable place for this – with an open space for the cages but also a place where we can put a bar in – for about 12 months before we came across this. It’s quite quirky and a little bit different so people come in and say, ‘oh wow I had no idea this was in there'”.
Having travelled all over the world, Jay says she wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. Manchester’s unique character means independent businesses such as hers are proud to do things differently.
Find out more about some of the small, independent businesses operating from Manchester’s railway arches and why they could be at risk.