Outside of the city centre, past the Universities, down the Curry Mile and on the verge of the student mecca known as Fallowfield, Antwerp Mansion provides a unique, rough-around-the-edges setting for some of the wildest legal parties in Manchester. It also has a unique and rare community ethos, finding itself in the process of being renovated from a deathtrap into a functioning haven for art, music, theatre, photography and more. Underground Manchester promoters such as Hit N’ Run and Rum & Bass have made the venue something of a second home, bringing in abrasive audio systems to push nights dedicated to DnB, bass, breaks and pushing soundsystem culture in a way not necessarily always represented in the city centre’s clubs. In the day and on quieter evenings, you might well find craft fairs, comedy nights or experimental theatre. Sure, the environment, split over two or three rooms is pretty sparse and were it not for the throbbing bass, possibly even a bit spooky. But as they proudly state on their website, ‘if you don't like the fact it’s rough, you can either help us renovate it or bog off to any of the fancy joints across town.’ Fair enough. If you do feel like chipping in, you’ll find some reasonably priced booze, friendly security and an always reasonable door fee.
Band on the Wall represents a real musical success story for the city of Manchester. Funded by both the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Arts Council, the £4 million venue opened in 2009 after years in disarray; like many previously abandoned tenancies in the city, it has a rich history intertwined with the textile industry, but has always been a fertile ground for live music.
Having recently received a well-deserved £1 million grant from the Arts Council, Islington Mill has nonetheless been ticking along nicely for the past decade or so. A unique hybrid of gallery, club and studio spaces outside of the city centre (technically in Salford, it’s a 20 minute or so walk from Deansgate), it’s also the beating heart of Salford’s future-facing Sounds From The Other City festival.
For aficionados of live jazz, this cosy Northern Quarter club has been at the heart of the Manchester music scene for years. Now, with up to six gig nights a week, the venue offers the best in jazz as well as folk, gypsy, electro, salsa, swing, world and ska music, too.
Opened in 1991, Night and Day was a fish and chip shop that slowly morphed into a popular and pioneering live music venue in what was then one of the rougher parts of town. And although its pull isn’t quite as great as it once was, there’s still a steady stream of alternative bands and live acts filling the bill almost every night of the week, with a respectable focus on local talent.
Manchester seems to be full of Grade II listed buildings, and The Ritz is one of the best. True, it doesn't look like much from the outside but once you're inside you can easily imagine it in its dance hall former glory. Its famous sprung wooden floor and viewing balcony have survived the many changes the building has endured over the years.
Dressed and lit in sultry shades of red, Ruby Lounge is split into a gig and lounge area, with an ornate, speakeasy-style bar in between the two. It’s an inviting atmosphere that belies the venue’s somewhat blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entrance, sitting between a bakery and a betting shop and beneath a dentist.
With a total capacity close to 1,000, Sound Control is a strangely undervalued and occasionally underutilised Manchester night spot. Conveniently, albeit not particularly obviously located just off Oxford Road, the club is split into three different levels that will occasionally join together into a sort of megaclub.
Soup Kitchen strikes a unique balance between enduringly pleasant canteen in the day and anything-goes club by night, not to mention a favourite venue of travelling bands. It has one of the most jam-packed schedules of any venue in Manchester, and its passionate management are always making changes to improve the experience.