Stretford Public Hall
Client - Friends of Stretford Public Hall
Grand Victorian venue safeguarded by local volunteer Friends to support Stretford into the future
Built in 1878, by Manchester’s first multi –millionaire, the philanthropic mill owner John Rylands, as a gift for the local people, Stretford Public Hall initially housed lecture rooms and a library. In its early years, the Hall was a place to celebrate, welcome travelling speakers and hold meetings on community business. The Hall’s role in Stretford civic life was confirmed in 1910 when it was purchased by the Local Authority for the significant sum of £5,000. The ensuring decades saw the space reconceived several times: its basements were used as a bomb shelter in the Second World War, while afterwards the space was home to the Stretford Civic Theatre, a popular speaking and music venue. In this latter guise, the Hal hosted a range of speakers from Enoch Powell to Tony Benn, John Cooper Clarke, and The Fall. Though designated a Grade II-listed structure in 1987, the Hall slowly fell into disrepair until Trafford Council refurbished and converted it to serve as Council offices in the mid-1990s.
In 2013 the Council announced that they were looking to dispose of the building and received expressions of interest from a range of groups, including property developers. On hearing that the Hall might be taken out of public hands a small group of friends decided to campaign to keep the building for the good of the community. Today, that group has become the Friends of Stretford Public Hall, who manage a multi-purpose community and arts venue providing meeting space for a range of community groups. With over 30 tenants, mainly artists and creatives, the Hall hosts weekly low-cost wellbeing classes, art sessions, and musical groups. The community of Stretford, meanwhile, has been revitalised through the provision of local volunteer opportunities and jobs.
During the Covid-19 pandemic the Friends continue to support the community, acting as a mutual aid hub providing food and support to those most in need.
The restoration of Stretford Public Hall shows the value of historic buildings in forging and reinforcing community identity, and also how communities can come together and achieve what may have seemed impossible to transform these heritage properties into vibrant centres once again.
The project has received four AHF grants since 2016, as well as advice on maximising funding options. Two early Project Development Grants enabled building surveys, architectural planning and business case development essential to progressing to capital funding applications. The AHF also purchased Community Shares, and most recently have awarded a further Project Development Grant to enable the transformation of the Hall’s grand ballroom into a venue fit for the twenty-first century. With more than £250,000 in Community Shares directly from the Stretford community, the project has enjoyed strong local support, while over £500,000 in grants was raised from funders including Power to Change, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Trafford Housing Trust, Biffa, Virador, Coops UK and the Co-op Foundation.
About the Friends of Stretford Public Hall
Initially, the Friends were just a group of friends aiming to preserve their community’s space. With little experience in how to campaign, hold public meetings, fundraise, create websites, develop brands, financial projections and marketing plans, and building a business case, the group learnt rapidly in order to survive. By 2015, with the freehold of the building acquired, the Friends turned their attention to new and necessary skills: developing leases and managing tenants, improving plumbing and removing asbestos, managing capital projects and working with architects and suppliers, room hire and event management, and governance and financial procedures.
Today, the Friends of Stretford Public Hall is a community benefit society. It has over 800 members who together decide how the hall is run. At least 500 local people, including 30 regular volunteers, have offered their time and skills to make the building a success. The group is currently tendering for contractors to be able to complete their next phase of redevelopments – the transformation of the Hall’s ballroom – later this year. They are members of the Heritage Trust Network, Locality and Coops UK.
Project Development Grant, £20,000 (2016) (Architectural fees, Specialist reports: Stone survey, . Project Management)
Community Shares, £5,000 (2018) (Capital funding for ballroom renovation)
Project Development Grant, £68,000 (2019) (Architectural fees, M&E input, Structural Engineer, Fire consultant, QS)
These grants were made possible by funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
External funding (related to capital works)
Trafford Housing trust £25,000 (initial safety works) £50,000 (Staff costs)
Coop Community Fund £50,000 (Staff costs)
Community Shares £156,000 (Ballroom renovation)
Co-op Community Share Booster £10,000 (Getting ready for community shares)
Power to Change Community Shares Match funding £100,000 (Capital for Ballroom renovation)
Groundwork Community Economic Development Grant £5000 (Setting up Local Economic Development plan)
Heritage Lottery Start up Grant £10,000 (Specialist reports, Architectural inputs)
Viridor Environmental Trust £97,000 (Capital M&E work)
Veolis Environmental Trust £72,305 ( capital funding – institalation of new kitchens)
Manchester Airport Fund (Curtains) £3000
Power to Change £195,965 (Capital work and revenue funding for professional fees)