What would Manchester be without its music scene? Every night the city is alive with the buzz of venues hosting bands and artists from all over the world. You cannot think about Manchester without thinking about its music.
The city’s proud cultural history draws thousands to Manchester every year. It’s what sways undecided students towards listing Manchester’s universities on their UCAS forms. It’s the inspiration for books, films and art. The bands that blossomed in Manchester’s living rooms, student flats and garages are the city’s bragging rights.
You don’t need me to list the bands and musicians who have made Manchester’s name. But if I was to write a list, you can bet many of them will have played at the city’s iconic Night & Day Cafe.
Since it opened more than30 years ago, Night & Day has stood like a shining beacon on the Northern Quarter’s Oldham Street. While businesses around it have been in flux, shapeshifting from vintage shops to cafés, ramen spots and trendy concept stores, Night & Day has been a constant.
But the future of the iconic venue, which has nurtured grassroots live music for more than three decades, is in doubt following a dispute with Manchester City Council.
Last year the local authority issued the venue with a noise abatement notice following a complaint from neighbours in an adjoining property, which has recently been converted for residential use.
This month owners of Night & Day appear in court over alleged breaches of noise levels. If found in breach, this cornerstone of Manchester music could close.
Owner Jennifer Smithson, daughter of the late founder Jan Oldenburg, has said she now “faces an impossible task”, as complying with the requirements of the abatement notice would effectively ruin Night & Day’s business.
If it happens, the curtains closing on Night & Day would be a shameful day for Manchester, and perhaps the final nail in the Northern Quarter’s gentrification coffin.
It is because of establishments like Night & Day that the Northern Quarter became what it is now. Businesses popped up in Night & Day’s orbit: now there are bars to drink in before the gig starts and late night venues to head to when the show wraps up.
The hype grew, and the developers’ ears pricked up, no doubt with pound signs flashing in their eyes as they snapped up former warehouses and turned them into flats.
As the court date looms, a petition has been shared on social media calling for Manchester City Council to remove the noise abatement notice, and for the council to address what campaigners say is the real issue: that housing with ill-considered planning and construction has been approved and built next to a pre-existing music venue.
There are many questions to be asked of the resident who lodged the complaint in the first place – “Who moves in next to a long established live music venue and has the gall to moan about noise?” being one. And they’re not the first residents to have threatened the livelihood of this venue with similar complaints.
The fact is that this never should have got this far. Instead of spinning a web of local government bureaucracy, Manchester City Council should have taken one look at the complaint and sent a measured response that nobody would have argued with. Something along the lines of “Look, welcome to the neighbourhood, but you should have done your research” would have done the trick.