Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Ashes to ashes UPDATED
The Northern Quarter was in chaos yesterday, after a building on the corner of Dale Street and Lever Street caught fire in the wee small hours of the morning, when nobody was paying attention. By dawn, it was a towering inferno. The absolute worst thing is that there were some folks who may have been sleeping rough in the building, people whose whereabouts are presently unknown.
The fire spread to two nearby buildings which between them house many of the small creative industries in Manchester, 20 Dale Street and 24 Lever Street. I've been working in 24 Lever for years, and if there's any Manchester building I feel a sense of ownership about, this one - with its knackered elevator, East German loos, odd smells and odder people hanging about - is it.
Yeah, it's scruffy, but this building's ridiculously low rents and location smack bang in the middle of the Northern Quarter have made it a petrie dish for creativity in Manchester, an unofficial incubator space for small artsy businesses and organisations with no money - many of them the very folks who do so much to make Manc such a great city to live in. It's unclear at this point how much damage the offices have sustained, but, at the very least, water damage from the sprinklers seems a foregone conclusion. Computer equipment will certainly have been lost. And the thing about these small creative industries is that they almost never have insurance.
I'm thankful everyone made it out of the building alive, especially my dear friend who was pulling an all-nighter on the third floor working on a grant application, and realised something was up when she heard the flames crackling! But I am very worried about how these small organisations are going to cope if they have to replace all of their equipment - people like Comma Press, The Manchester Literature Festival, The Phone-Book, Manchester Music, Ultraviolet, Futuresonic, The Noise Festival, The Manchester Food and Drink Festival, Astill and Associates, Redeye, The Northern Film Network, Electriks, Literature Northwest, the list goes on.
(Image courtesy of the BBC.)
UPDATE: This had benefit concert written all over it, I thought, and I just read on Mancubist that Ear to The Ground have risen to the occasion, organising a benefit gig for affected traders May 28 in Stevenson Square. CIDS are apparently offering office/computer space for officeless workers, too. Anyone who needs workspace, or has workspace in their HQ to offer the displaced should email info at cids.co.uk. Awww.