As one door closes, another opens: Manchester says goodbye to the Cornerhouse and hello to Home.
An Ode to The Cornerhouse: Goodbye and thank you.
According to a recent report from Durham University, buildings that are of significant cultural importance to neighbouring residents must have its purpose altered with great care for the emotions of others. For example, plans to turn a parish church into a nightclub must be done so with great care and cooperation with former parishioners. Clearly, this does not apply to Mancunians who have had to grow Rhino hide over the years due to ruthlessly regular closing of iconic venues, from the closing of The Hacienda in the early 90s to the more recent and raw last gig at The Roadhouse. Bricks and Mortar these places may just be, but the place where you go to meet old friends, to see a favourite band, to have an after work drink and a moan with your other half may well become as an important place to you as your childhood home.
I’m sure that I won’t be the only one to feel a little tug at the heartstrings at the prospect of The Cornerhouse selling its last ticket stub. Yes, it will be getting a shiny new home at erm, Home but the distinctive Oxford Road landmark is so deeply intertwined with my own memories of growing up that it’s closing will be a final terrifying acknowledgment of my own adulthood. As a naïve A-Level Art student, the three storey gallery at the top of The Cornerhouse was what I vaguely understood the “art scene” to be. To me, this was a window into the sort of world that I wanted to be part of. All found up a little staircase next to a Sainsbury’s in Manchester. This was my first glimpse of art without oil painted Victorian eyes watching me and my hands sternly, sticky with coach journey capri sun, during art gallery school trips. Later a little bit older, I would find refuge up those stairs after disastrous job interviews, feet stuffed into sensible pinching shoes, wandering a little lost where untied converses had once tread.
The plaques on the back of the cinema seats, marking awkward first dates that blossomed into marriages, are testament to the venues significant impact in people’s lives. My boyfriend and I can trace our changing selves over our own five year relationship through the various films that we have seen at The Cornerhouse. Through the faded bunch of tickets stuffed in my bedroom drawer (I really do need a clear out…) I can map out our arty phase, our overtly political phase, our know-it-all cynical phase. I can trace our after movie conversations through these tickets, becoming a little less earnest over time, a little less idealistic. How my tastes moved from beer to red wine.
I’m looking forward to the opening of Home on the 21
st May. The opening weekend looks set to be completely incredible, with an emphasis on visual storytelling and guest appearances from Danny Boyle and Meera Syal. In the long term, it will be exciting to see what the combined talents of The Library Theatre Company and The Cornerhouse will produce when given a grander scale on which to work. I like its Delft inspired building, a work of art within itself. The Cornerhouse was built within the site of an old furniture shop, testament to Manchester’s traditionally alternative arts scene. Home will be a building purpose built for art and theatre which is a proud tribute to how Manchester’s cultural scene is now helping to promote the arts on a larger scale outside of a London centric context. This is thanks to a great deal of Mancunian talent and passion. Nostalgia has its importance in shaping identity and a sense of continuity. However, it is also important to appreciate change and to understand that it is people and ideas that are important rather than the building that houses them, as graffiti art testifies. However, I did walk past the sleeping shell of The Cornerhouse the other day, windows darkened, bustling bar now stilled forever and I’ll admit That I think I got a bit of dust in my eye….