Salford certainly has no shortage of unique arts venues and creative spaces,  many easily accessible from Manchester city centre by either foot or public transport – and well worth the trip.

A city of many firsts, Salford has long been a space for innovation. Chapel Street, for example, was the first street to be lit by gas lighting, whilst in 1850 what is believed to be the first free public library –the Royal Museum and Public Library – was established here.

Peel Park

Salford also has stronger connections to natures inspiration than people may first think; home to one of Britain’s first municipal parks – Peel Park (pictured above) – which now has a writer-in-residence: Adam Farrer. Considering a significant proportion of the borough itself is based in a meander in the Irwell, the river that is seen to separate it from neighbouring Manchester, it also boasts wondrous wetlands and mysterious meadows.

The name ‘Salford’  actually derives from the Old English term ‘Sealford’, which means ‘a ford by the willow trees’; thought to be referring to the willows which grew alongside The Irwell, and some which still exist today in the Lower Broughton area.

As can be seen, this is a city and borough often weighted with back-stories and deep histories. Examples include Ordsall Hall (pictured below), a now Grade I listed timber-framed house which in its current form has parts dating back to the 14th century, and was first mentioned in records as early as 1177. It can be still  visited today, as can the close-by Guy Fawkes Street, as according to local legend, Ordsall Hall was the place where Guy Fawkes and his accomplice Robert Catesby devised The Gunpowder Plot in their plan to overthrow James I.

Ordsall Hall

Salford is still populated with many industrial buildings which are of course steeped in history also. With textile processing taking place here even before the Industrial Revolution, Salford went onto expand considerably by the 19th century, with the population rising from 12,000 in 1812 to over 70,000 in the space of just 30 years. The area went onto be criss-crossed with canals, re-arranged with roads and crammed with housing: growth in terms of expansion, yet also leading to social strain, poverty and areas of deep inequality. The Battle of Bexley Square illustrated this; when on the 1st October 1931, a National Unemployed Workers Movement demonstration took place in the area and was cruelly handled by the authorities; as reflected in local Walter Greenwood’s novel Love on the Dole.

An enduring influence in Salford indeed, is the ability of creatives and artists to arise in the area, documenting its reality as well as raising vital discussion. The artist L.S. Lowry, for example,  studied at was the Royal Technical College, Salford (overlooking Peel Park), created many paintings of the area, often incorporating the imagery of people in his famous ‘matchstick’ design. This communal, socially-aware kind of art has continued long-term here; with Shelagh Delaney setting her play A Taste of Honey here, Coronation Street  taking inspiration from the location and  artistic movements going on to celebrate a collaborative angle; Sounds From The Other City music festival and Not Quite Light (the photography project of Simon Buckley) being just some examples.

In turn, HAUNT Manchester has been exploring those places and spaces in Salford where that artistic exploration continues to happen, venues where guests can enjoy not just a visit, but an experience. Often less shackled by city-centre pricing and benefiting from more space, it is little wonder that Salford as a borough boasts some of the best locations to lose yourself – in the best possible way:

Working Man Gallery

Working Man Gallery

A  Salford terraced house turned alternative gallery on Liverpool Street (No  473, venue should be called beforehand to check opening times) operated by a diversity of artists who invite international creatives to collaborate. This means Working Man gallery actively operates with the ethos of offering opportunities and developing exhibitions that intrigue and inspire. Exploring contemporary and crucial themes in hands-on ways, the gallery’s first exhibition considered daily life and value of time in a fast-paced society. A number of others have taken place since 2017, including David Stieffenhofer’s ‘Salford Remains’, presenting his impressions of the area around Salford’s Shopping City and its change over time.  The Gallery’s 7th and latest installation ‘memory of loving’ was presented by Manchester-based band Dream English Kid, cementing the experimental and mind-opening approach of the venue.

473 Liverpool Street, M6 5QQ

Paradise Works

Paradise Works

This industrial warehouse by the Irwell has stood out in its transformation into a state-of-the-art creative space, building up a strong and dynamic programme of exhibitions, film screenings and showcases, celebrating both UK-based and international artists. Characterful industrial space meets inventive curation as it has been formed through an artist-led initiative providing a platform for studios and projects, with up to 36 contemporary artists based there at any one time. Not just a venue, but a vibrant community and site of creation, Paradise Works is an ongoing project that highlights how artist-led endeavour can be sustainable and impactful. Those currently working there include Sarah Blaszczok, Gwen Evans, Richard Hughes, Jack Brown and Tasha Whittle.

Photography: John Lynch

E Philip St, Salford M3 7LE

Salford Arts Theatre

An independent, self-funded theatre at the heart of Salford’s community offering a warm welcome and a surprising 112 seater theatre space. Originally built for The Salford Players, it has gone onto be used for multiple purposes, with inhouse professional shows presented thanks to Salford Theatre Company. There is also a Young Performers Company and Libby Hall is the writer-in-residence of the theatre, with her play Things We Tell The Hours After Midnight winning Best Newcomer at the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2018, when she was just 16 years old.  Dramatic and innovative creative work can be seen here, attracting a diverse audience and regularly involving the community, with a number of family-friendly events. It is also one of the much-loved venues for the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival.

Kemsing Walk, Off Tunbridge Sq Off Liverpool St, Salford M5 4BS

fivefour studios


A cutting-edge art studio and events space all inside a converted warehouse on Oldfield Road – close to where a former railway station once was, made redundant in the 1860s. Dark and intriguing on the outside, the interior of fiverfour studios displays an attention to detail and experience: after all renovated and reopened by acclaimed photographer David Oldham. Ascending the levels in this building is a bit of an adventure in itself – as whilst the first two floors offer diverse photography studios retaining industrial charm, the second floor also boasts a  decadent bar, reminiscent of stepping back into 1920s elegance. Certainly a surprising venue, there is also the stunning contrast of the stripped-back minimalism of the Loft Space; providing a bold platform for photography and public events alike. This has included many features of Not Quite Light Weekend 2019; for example the world premiere of John Ludden’s play Once Upon A Time in Salford presented by MancMade Productions.

Photography: Not Quite Light/ Simon Buckley

54 Oldfield Road, Salford M5 4LZ

Caustic Coastal Gallery - 'The Oasis' 

A friendly, free gallery that is open to all, also on Oldfield Road (Unit 2 of the Regent Trading Estate). Making itself at home and impactful in this industrial location, the gallery offers three exhibition spaces, providing a welcome platform for the work of creatives in a stripped-back setting. Caustic Coastal is a local independent arts label (with a base also in Islington Mill) recognised for exciting work that celebrates emerging artists, recognising the importance of accessibility and fun. Studio space is also available, whilst the gallery is open Thursdays and Saturday, 1–5pm.

Unit 2, Regent Road Trading Estate, Salford M5 4DE

The Kings Arms

The Kings Arms

A thriving community arts pub and celebrated events space, The Kings Arms on Bloom Street is crammed with over 200 years of history and plenty of character; including a David Bowie themed snug and quirky courtyard. Home also to The Greater Manchester Fringe, this is a venue offering many opportunities for theatre: with an impressively high-ceilinged upstairs room as well as two further refurbished theatre spaces. Plays and performances regularly take place here, as well as practices. After all, The Kings Arms provides a supportive environment for creatives of all kinds; from budding actors, to musicians, comedians and the range of community groups also hosted in the pub. A bohemian boozer bound to have something to intrigue any audience. (See HAUNT Manchester’s earlier in-depth feature on The Kings Arms here).

Photography: Shay Rowan

11 Bloom St, Salford M3 6AN

Islington Mill

Islington Mill

A massive, ever-evolving arts hub inside a former 19th-century industrial space, Islington Mill is a creative community often at the cutting-edge.  The bustling building can be home to over 100 artists and 50 businesses at any one time, with also a B&B, multiple event spaces, studios and opportunities on-site. It is the home of Sounds From The City Festivals and examples of artists based there include GNOD, Rachel Goodyear and Salford Makers. Not only fostering creative communities, Islington Mill also offers an immersive and inspiring space for visitors – attracting over 15,000 annually – and a key ethos being that everyone who comes is to have an experience. Cross-collaboration is also an important element of work at the mill, with flexibility and experimentation amongst the artists leading to a number of exciting projects. In the past this has included the likes of Fat Out’s ‘The Burrow’: a creative club space inside the mill, various gigs, exhibitions and workshops. (See HAUNT Manchester’s earlier in-depth feature on Islington Mill here).

James St, Salford M5, UK

The Eagle Inn

The Eagle Inn

The Eagle is a characterful pub and live music venue just on the edge of Manchester – a five-minute walk from Deansgate on Collier Street in Salford. Nestled close to an industrial estate which houses the famous Blueprint Studios, The Eagle certainly has a reputation for quality live music, celebrating new and grassroots creativity. It goes without saying that their jukebox is rather impressive too. With multiple gigs and events taking place every week, The Eagle is a hidden gem offering a warm welcome, a range of cask ales and certainly an atmospheric, historic location. The Grade II listed pub itself dates from 1848 after all, with many of its original features intact. See HAUNT Manchester’s full-length feature on The Eagle here, as part of ‘The Weird Magic of Manchester Music Venues’ series.

8-19 Collier Street, Salford, M3 7DW

Hot Bed Press

An innovative open-access print workshop– the largest of its kind in the North West - operating out of the old Victorian building of Salford’s Casket Works on Cow Lane. Screen-printing, letterpress, bookmaking and more is covered; Hot Bed Press operating on Not For Profit principles with everyone from beginner level to experienced. Known for innovative printmaking, here they combine contemporary techniques with time-tested, classic processes; ensuring that traditional skills are celebrated as well as new developments which encourage people to be versatile within the art form. Set up by a small group of students in 1994, Hot Bed Press has occupied various places in Manchester and Salford, over the years intended to be an affordable, accessible place to print. By 2006 it moved into The Casket Works, solidifying its role not only in  celebrating the art form of printing, but also offering  more opportunities for membership, facilities, courses and workshops – with over 240 members to date. With classes including the eye-catching ‘Printed Album Covers’, perhaps it is no wonder.

Casket Works, First Floor/The, Cow La, Salford M5 4NB

The White Hotel

The White Hotel

One of the most secretive venues on the list – you will typically see the straddle of people venturing across the industrial borderland to find the place, before you see it. Close to the shadows of Strangeways Prison, just beyond Manchester city centre, The White Hotel oozes urban intrigue. It takes the form of a bunker-like, former warehouse space with stripped back interiors, giving an ideal area for experimentation and alternative creativity. Unrestrained by city centre curfews, this place has gained a cult popularity for gigs, parties and one-off events, which have included the ‘Hauntology’ evening of immersive performance presented as part of Not Quite Light Weekend 2019 in association with HAUNT Manchester.

Photography: Helen Darby

Dickinson St, Salford M3 7LW

Salford Lads’ Club

Salford Lads' Club

Enigmatic of public halls of the Edwardian era, the 1903-founded Salford Lads’ Club has gained iconic status, especially due its association with The Smiths and the sleeve of their album The Queen is Dead. A listed building since 2003, it was designed and built by the architect Henry Lord, and founded as a club by The Groves family, who were prominent industrialists in the area. Over the years, it has served as a thriving cultural space for the community, and much-loved 1960s musicians The Hollies reportedly used to practice here. Well worth the adventure into the Ordsall area of Salford to find it, Salford Lads’ Club is opening to public visitors most Saturdays (11am-2pm) and even has a ‘The Smiths Room’ dedicated to the band, as well as an archive room for the club.

Photography: Not Quite Light/Simon Buckley

Saint Ignatius Walk, Salford M5 3RX

By Emily Oldfield

Image 1: by Not Quite Light/ Simon Buckley

Image 2: provided by Ordsall Hall for a previous article