In Haunt

Drink, dance and be merry as a very special evening event is popping up INSIDE Withington’s Old NatWest Bank on Friday 6 December (from 5pm onwards), thanks to a collaboration between The Lock Inn and Wilderness Records. These two exciting independents will be bringing a buzz to the historic building on Wilmslow Road – empty for a number of years and not usually open to the public - transforming it into a bustling space packed with the best local beer, food and music.

By Grant Archer

This immersive experience is also part of the wider ‘Withington By Night at Christmas’ celebrations– an evening that will see many local businesses open late (ideal for late-night present shopping), whilst festive fun takes place throughout the village, including a Christmas lights switch-on, live bands, a choir and street food. This event is presented by We Are Withington (also on Twitter here) – and a number of traders and local organisations involved within it, including A Curious Collection and Solomons Bar– as well as Withington Civic Society. And now there is a Lock Inn-Wilderness fusion to boot!

The Lock Inn after all is no stranger to springing up as a pop-up pub in atmospheric locations that aren’t always open to the public (with another innovative venue they have used being the tucked-away Withington Public Hall Institute, a cosy old members club on Burton Road). Read the previous Haunt Manchester article and interview feature on The Lock Inn here. The team behind it – four local friends Neil Woodward, Casey Longden, Mark Brennan and Ed Wellard - have hosted The Lock Inn within the Old NatWest Bank before too: the first time being in 2018, partnering up with Lizzy, co-owner of Withington’s ‘A Curious Collection’, as part of a previous Withington Christmas Lights switch-on event. Therefore, the upcoming December edition marks a ‘lockinniversary’: a whole year since a bright idea from Neil, some help from Lizzy and a number of friends helping out made something great happen. The concept? A pop-up ethos, celebrating Withington’s community and spaces, with local traders and beer.

Now The Lock Inn’s keenness to collaborate sees them pair up for this 2019 special with Wilderness Records - the similarly Withington-based record store. Wilderness, tucked just behind Wilmslow Road on Egerton Crescent, is a thriving space known for its friendly neighbourhood vibes: not just selling records with love, but putting on gigs, serving quality food and drink, and celebrating the community. Therefore partnering up with The Lock Inn seems like a winning combination:

“They bring the music, we bring the beer! It’s great to be collaborating with Lyndon and the Wilderness crew on this. We love Wilderness, and what they are doing. We both want to see good things happening in this little corner of Manchester. We’ve talked about The Lock Inn being about bringing great beer and great people together, so working with Wilderness certainly gives that and great music too.

By Grant Archer

"In Sir Robin, Clocky and Funkademia’s Dave Payne we had brilliant DJs. Music was very much at the heart of things, back in March, so it’s great that Wilderness are taking things a step further with great DJs and great bands too. That main space under that beautiful high ceiling is crying out for a stage.

"Withington has some amazing musical/cultural history, like Factory Records first offices being here in Withington, on Palatine Road. As much as Factory and ‘Madchester’ is an era that we loved, and is rightly celebrated, I think that nostalgia trip could become a bit of a millstone around Manchester’s neck. It's a long time ago now and the city has changed a lot. Equally, I wish I'd got the keys to the bank 20 years ago and thrown a rave in the basement because it's amazing down there!”

Why the Old NatWest Bank? Many people in Manchester may have passed the 1869-designed Grade II listed building before – whether on foot or on the bus – and perhaps taken its elegance for granted, especially as it has not been open as a bank for a very long time.

The Old Bank certainly provides an impressive backdrop when used as a social space – and it is here The Lock Inn also hosted another pop-up in March 2019. This featured The Lock Inn’s format of local brewers and traders, with Burton Road Brewing Co, Blackjack Beers, Shindigger and Pomona Island Brew Co products (just to name a few) for sale, as well food from Withington’s very own Boho Utopia.

The Lock Inn’s Ed Wellard explained:

“It’s an amazing building, from an amazing era for big civic buildings. Money was sloshing around Cottonopolis back then. I remember reading that the architects were Scottish (Mills and Murgatroyd) and they were responsible for loads of significant buildings in Manchester. There's a big one still on Aytoun St that looks just the same. You can tell it is by the same people. Mr. Thomas's Chop House is theirs too, which is beautiful.

“People mostly turned up to the last Lock Inn there because it was a great big fun event or were curious about what it was like inside because they had never been inside or just thought it was cheeky to be drinking in a bank but I’m sure that some wanted to go down memory lane.”

“People reminisced about having their first bank account and paying in book from there, or that it was the bank they used when they were students. My kids' old childminder used to work there.

"It just shows that in the old days, banks were at heart of communities as much as pubs or schools or libraries etc. It’s great to be repurposing the building for a community focussed event. We like the idea of it being very family friendly early on and moving into a party with really good music later."

By Grant Archer

Celebrating local, independent traders matters to The Lock Inn – and the same approach can be expected from the 2019 festive edition. Withington is after all an exciting place to be, as Ed again reflects:

“There's a lot to be said for Withington being such a diverse place. There’s lots of different types of people from different backgrounds and at different times of their lives all muddling together. There's loads of students and post-grads here, which brings a certain energy and creative spirit too. We love it, but still recognise that there’s things that can be improved. I think it is a view shared by many people. You can be see it by how much work goes into We Are Withington and why it has been such a success so far and by how the Withington Walls street art project has been embraced so enthusiastically by people.”

Haunt Manchester itself has enjoyed a number of visits to Withington, considering the hidden histories and creative communities there – previously featuring the atmospheric red brick Withington Baths – an Edwardian pool building bustling with Art Nouveau features. For example, it was the local community which fought to save this building, forming Love Withington Baths, with the space going onto be transformed (including the creation of the co-working space Withington Works) – and the Withington community is also key to the upcoming Withington By Night event.

Withington By Night unfolds on Friday 6 December, from 5pm until late. Come along to the village and enjoy a festive brass band, late-night shopping, street food, DJs and more – and pop into The Lock Inn too, for a Wilderness Records fusion. You can bank on a good time.

By Emily Oldfield 

Photography with thanks to Grant Archer

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