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.

4 comments:

Flat Out said...

eek - didn't realise it was 24 Lever St too - will have to contact them all -

//TheConsole// said...

It's such a shame...

my good friends at Stardotstar (a creative design/web) company who work at 22 lever st have been told they aren't allowed to enter the building...

which may have smoke and water damage


such a shame

buggerluggs said...

Went in yesterday for 3 minutes and grabbed what i could (and in my state of panic grabbed some magazines and a CD, so if all goes tits up I can have a read and listen to some choons)

Went in again today and some buggers had broke in to our office.

The builders are boarding up the doors and fitting new doors (the same ones who made the hall way look like a fair ground hall of mirrors :P)

It was heartbreaking going in there, not just for us but for everyone else in 24.

It is a kooky little place, ok the toilets stink, the lift won't move if there's two people and a box in there and then there's the strange uns coming out of The Basement...

But all in all it's a little hub of loviness, that sadly due to circumstances have made us all realise how much we love the place.

We're currently trying to find temp offices (we ended up walking around the Northern Quarter all afternoon ringing numbers in windows), but the prices are phenomenal, and I'm sure we're all in the same boat...

When all's sorted I think we should all go out for a pint...

yankunian said...

B, I know... it is a bit surprising how fond we've all become of that stinky place. I think it's the people who work there - in my experience a quality bunch.

Good luck with your office hunt - I can only imagine how disgustingly high the rents in the fully gentrified Northern Quarter are these days - and get in touch with CIDS if you need interim space. May the force be with you....