In Haunt

Combining a historic pub setting with a thriving music venue has long been the offering of the Northern Quarter’s atmospheric Gullivers and The Castle Hotel, as well as The Eagle Inn on Collier Street in Salford. Now all three are currently closed to the public (at the time of writing, June 2020) due to the Covid-19 pandemic measures, and having shut their doors back in March, this has meant a significant loss of revenue for all three sites. In turn, a Crowdfunder has launched to support them: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/castleeaglegullivers, part of the wider #saveourvenues initiative from the Music Venue Trust. A £10,000 target has been set, with any funds raised over that limit going to the wider Music Venue Trust GMV Crisis Fund. Haunt Manchester has also written about other venues featured in the campaign in an earlier article here

Pictured below - Kalandra at The Eagle, photograph by Shay Rowan. 

Kalandra By Shay Rowan

According to the Music Venue Trust, threat of imminent closure looms for over 400 grassroots music venues in the UK – a situation exacerbated by the current lack of trade. Yet these are typically places where creative culture is fostered and flourishes, where communities connect and people from all walks of life come together, with The Eagle Inn, The Castle Hotel and Gullivers all a key part of that.

Take The Eagle Inn for example, (previously featured in Haunt Manchester here), a characterful Grade II listed building in Salford dating from 1848 and just a five-minute walk from Manchester’s Deansgate; a pub well known for its jukebox, historic feel and innovative music venue. Why innovative? The surprisingly tall conjoined music area was formerly an empty terraced house next door, converted by the co-owners of the pub Esther Maylor, Rupert Hill and Jonny Booth and opened in 2013. It is this space, complete with its stunning raised balcony and even the outline of a fireplace still embedded at a height in the atmospheric stone walls, that has seen a range of gigs and events unfold. From supporting local line-ups to touring artists as well as spoken word sessions such as the former night ‘Evidently’, artistic communities of all kinds have long been keen to play at the iconic Eagle Inn. It is also situated close to Blueprint Studios, a creative hub used by the likes of Brix & The Extricated, The Slow Readers Club and Elbow (to name a few), with the latter even launching their own ale (Charge at The Eagle) at the pub a few years ago. 

Pictured below - Aidan Cross (of the band Weimar) at The Eagle, photograph by Neil Winward. 

Aidan Cross By Neil Winward

The Eagle’s Esther Maylor reflected on the current circumstances:

“Obviously The Eagle is a small venue which will be hard to implement physical distancing in. 2 metres distancing is a nightmare in that regard... capacity would be lowered to around 15-20. We want to keep everyone safe and for people to feel confident coming out to the pub but obviously this is a particularly difficult task in a pub so small. In turn, we especially need the council to help us by granting us official use of Collier Street which we’ve been using for the last few years in a less formal way, without this, our capacity will be too low for us to function as a business.

“The live music industry is on its knees and with large scale gigs being postponed until at least summer 2021, it seems that small grassroots venues like us and the other excellent venues in Manchester will be even more needed in the coming year.

“It recently was Mental Health Awareness Week and after months of isolation we know many of our customers have been struggling with their mental health- and we feel that music and talking and fun, DONE SAFELY, is a good remedy or starting point!”

Pictured below - DIE HEXEN at The Castle Hotel, photograph by Shay Rowan.

DIE HEXEN By Shay Rowan

Manchester’s Northern Quarter, meanwhile, is the location of the similarly much-loved Gullivers and The Castle Hotel. Both are venues usually bustling with drinkers and gig-goers alike, located just across the road from each other on Oldham Street. The Castle Hotel with its notable dark-tiled frontage, has a history spanning back to 1776, undergoing plenty of name changes over time, with previous titles including The Crown and Anchor and even The Clock Face! It became The Castle Hotel in the nineteenth century and its tucked-away music and performance area first opened in 2010. It this is an intimate, evocative space that has not just welcomed gigs of all kinds, but also spoken word evenings - including being the former home of poetry night Bad Language which then moved to Gullivers - comedy, the launch event for MASSmcr (Music and Sonic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University), screenings, talks and more. It is known for its regular celebration of local artists, various audiences and independent promoters and labels such as Red Balloon Music, Scruff of the Neck, and AnalogueTrash.

According to Chris Thomas of Red Balloon Music:

“I have been running music nights at The Castle Hotel, Gullivers and The Eagle Inn for almost 10 years now – these remain my favourite venues in Manchester. The set-up at these venues is fantastic, and all of the staff are very knowledgeable and helpful in making events run smoothly and successfully.

“These particular venues are all highly successful and well regarded additions to the great Manchester music scene that both artists and promoters love to use. They are extremely helpful to us all – both promoters and gig-goers alike – and provide local and national musicians with a platform to showcase their work… and long may this continue!”

Pictured below - Richard Lomax (Granfalloon) during a Red Balloon Music event at The Castle, photograph by Paul Samuel.

Richard Lomax By Paul Samuel

“In addition, myself (for Red Balloon Music) and Yousef Sheikh (for Manchestertaper) are releasing our archive of live material (featuring many performers who have graced these stages), for a live fundraiser album entitled ‘Lockdown Live!’ to support this cause.  All money raised will be donated to The Castle Hotel, Gullivers, and The Eagle Inn, as well as Night People and The Rose & Monkey Hotel – all venues close to our hearts. The first volume will be released this Friday (5th June) via Bandcamp, and we will be releasing another volume every Friday thereafter for forthcoming weeks, with a minimum donation of £5 for each download.”

Pictured below - Megan Dixon Hood at Gullivers, photograph by Shay Rowan. 

Megan Dixon Hood By Shay Rowan

Across the road at 109 Oldham Street is Gullivers, a pub dating from 1865; originally called The Albert Hotel and then The Grenadier, finally becoming Gullivers when J.W. Lees bought the pub in the 1970s. A key feature that The Eagle Inn, The Castle Hotel, and Gullivers in particular have in common is that there is so much more than initially meets the eye… these pubs lead to a plethora of rooms and innovative spaces. Gullivers not only has its usually-thriving bar, but a downstairs lounge as well as its iconic upstairs ballroom; a gig venue with a raised stage and atmospheric wooden flooring. Similarly showcasing artists of all kinds as well as poetry, comedy, theatre, festivals and more – all three venues usually boast packed calendars of live content, whether audiences are in the mood for intimate acoustic music or a thunderous gig. At Gullivers, the innovative spoken word series Poetry Pop Jukebox has taken place in the lounge, bands have burst onto the upstairs stage, even a one-man James Bond act (by Brian Gorman) has performed his marvels there!

Another keen gig-goer and musical artist who is a usually frequent visitor at all three venues is Aidan Cross (pictured earlier in the article), of the band Weimar. He reflected: 

"The Eagle, Gullivers and The Castle are iconic venues that embody the creative spirit of Manchester. Each has a warm, welcoming atmosphere, friendly staff and a diverse clientele, and best of all excellent performance spaces. I have discovered so many amazing underground music acts in all three venues as well as made long-lasting friendships there. I can walk into any of these pubs at any time and feel right at home. I have also performed in all three and Weimar held our launch gig for our debut single at The Eagle. It is easily one of the best venues I've ever played in, there is something magical about performing on that stage, with the almost surreal, chapel-like feel of the performance space, the intense lighting and the ability to connect with gig-goers on both the main floor and the balcony above. Manchester's creative soul lives in these three venues and to lose them would deprive the city of a huge part of its cultural heart. It is vitally important for the city's creative movements that we save these venues and keep them open."

Pictured below - Dana Gavanski at Gullivers, photography by Shay Rowan. 

Dana Gavanski By Shay Rowan.

For these places to never open their doors again would not just be a loss of venues, but a devastating loss of crucial culture, community and history, felt and loved by so many.

Support The Crowdfunder here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/castleeaglegullivers

By Emily Oldfield 

Photo credits in the image captions 

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