Varna Street – Rogue Studios Manchester

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Once there was a school – from May 16th 1898, there was a school.

One of many Manchester School Board schools built in an imposing functional, triple storied style, they often seemed several times too big, for the infants which they contained.

With one thousand five hundred pupils, it was dubbed the largest school in Lancashire.

Nestled in a tight corner formed by the Lanky Cut and the train line below, surrounded by the huddled masses, in their manifold terraced homes.

 

1963

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Once home to cheeky monkey, soon to be Monkee Davy Jones.

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His runaway, overnight fame made his humble Gorton home a mecca for adoring fans.

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The school’s interior was a mix of wide open halls and closeted classrooms.

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Archive photographs from the Manchester Local Image Collection

Eventually the school bell rang for the last time, and a newer brighter home was found for the little learners.

Lights were turned off and the doors of Varna Street were closed.

But not for the last time, a new use was found for this recently listed building.

Having lost their city centre base Rogue Studios were offered the site by the local authority, and in double quick time they have created a home for artists, a community resource and project space, which will continue to prosper for years to come.

Many thanks to Ms. Jenny Steele Rogue artist for my guided tour.

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St Barnabas – Manchester

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There has been a church here since 1837, there is still a church here.

Almost.

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Openshaw in the 60s was still a busy community of terraced homes and their occupants, tumbling cheek by jowl with industry, both heavy and light.

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A tightly wrapped world of corner shops and sun-canopied Silver Cross prams.

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The original imposing, imperious St Barnabas’s was demolished, to be replaced by a sharper space age architecture, embodying a new age of optimism.

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Photographs from the Manchester Image Archive

At the same time the soot-blackened Victorian terraces, are in part replaced by newer brick and block homes, the future seemed bright.

The industry however, once so invincible, both light and heavy, begins to disappear, becomes weightless, invisible.

Slowly the assured social cohesion of that new age comes unstuck.

When the doors of one St Barnabas’s close, likewise eventually another closes.

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