Saturday, 2 June 2012

Famous Rock Landmarks No. 1: Salford Lads Club

A trip to Manchester to see the Charlatans and having half an hour to spare, I decided to go and see a rock land mark, so phoning the Missus to get the post code to Salford Lads Club headed into quite a rough area, turned into an estate (with significant metal fences up everywhere) and continued to follow the instructions to come to a stop at a fenced off dead end. 'You have reached your destination' chirped the nice lady from Tom Tom, 'I don't think' so I responded and drove off at pace. 

Stopping for a few minutes to surf the net I found a note to approach from the Coronation side so I tried again, drove past the little estate and then peering to my left saw the iconic front. It was again pretty challenging to get in (unless you ignore the one way sign outside) but after a few trys I parked up outside the entrance and stood where the Smiths had once stood. It is an iconic site, it really looks it. A nice couple took a pic for me and after a couple of minutes later I sped off.

The concept of the boys' club (lads' club being a term used exclusively in Manchester and the surrounding areas) grew up in the 19th century as a way of keeping young boys “off the streets” and encouraging them to become “good and worthy God-fearing citizens” The clubs were usually set up by local philanthropic businessmen, and it was soon realised that, to compete with the outside attractions of freedom from restraint and gambling, they must provide not only for draughts, bagatelle, and billiards but for more exciting pursuits that most boys could not otherwise obtain, such as gymnastics, boxing, fives, swimming and especially, outdoor games.

In Salford and Manchester a number of these clubs grew up in the most deprived areas, the first of which was Hulme lads Club founded in 1850. Salford Lads club was founded in 1903 by two brothers, James and William Groves from the family of brewers that were partners with Arthur William Whitnall in the Groves and Whitnall Brewery on Regent Road in Salford. Built and designed by Manchester architect Henry Lord, who was also responsible for the former Salford Royal Hospital and Salford Museum and Art Gallery, the club was opened on 30 January 1904 by Robert Baden-Powell, three years before he founded the scout movement.

The Club has held an annual camping holiday since 1904. According to club worker and local artist, Leslie Holmes: "Salford Lads Club has a remarkable tradition that predates the first scout camps set up by Lord Baden-Powell. Salford Lads Club first camp was at Llandulas in 1904 when 173 boys took part". The camps have been held at Tan-y-Bwlch, Aberystwyth during Whitsun since 1934. Famous members, who have camped at Aberystwyth include Graham Nash and Eddie Coleman, who, at 21, was the youngest Manchester United footballer to die in the Munich air disaster of 1958.

Membership has fallen to around 100 compared with 2,000 in its heyday. The club building gained Grade II listed building status in August 2003, as its tiled interior is virtually unchanged, with original fittings including a boxing ring, snooker rooms, and a gym with a viewing balcony. 

Music and film heritage
The 1960s pop group The Hollies used to practice at the club before they became famous. Allan Clarke and Graham Nash were both members and their membership cards are still in the club's archives.

The club gained international fame in 1986 when the alternative rock band The Smiths posed in front of the building for the inside cover of their album The Queen Is Dead. The Smiths' music video for the songs "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" and "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" also featured shots of the building's exterior. The committee was said at the time to be furious, and solicitors acting for the club claimed that;

Inclusion of the photograph may generally cause any person reading the [album] or listening to the record to attribute the material to the club, its committee or its members ... we would cite for example the reference in the song Vicar in a Tutu to the singer being engaged in stealing lead from a church roof, or indeed the very title to the album itself and the tenor of the title song."

However, over the last few years the club has begun to embrace this more recent legacy and welcome the fans to the club. The photograph, taken by pop photographer Stephen Wright was accepted into the National Portrait Gallery in 2008. The club is on the corner of St Ignatius Walk and Coronation Street in Salford and is a place of pilgrimage for many Smiths fans. It also featured in the music video for The Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town".

In 2003 a film documentary was made as part of the celebrations for the club's centenary. The film, which was introduced by Peter Hook, bassist for Joy Division and New Order, who lived on the Ordsall estate until he was 19, was made with the help of elderly residents and young members of the club and is a mix of interviews and location shots.

The musician Vinny Peculiar, alias Alan Wilks, has a longstanding association with the club, supporting various club events, performing for visiting Morrissey fans with ex-Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, and rehearsing with his band, which includes ex-members of The Smiths, Oasis and The Fall.
The building has also been used as the location for a number of films and television dramas including Channel 4's Shameless, Granada TV's 2002 remake of The Forsyte Saga, a 2004 music video: Life in a Northern Town Life in a Northern Town,the film version of the Jacqueline Wilson's novel, "Illustrated Mum", the BBC police drama Conviction and, in 2008, the remake of the 1970s BBC series Survivors.
The club can be seen in the opening sequence of BBC Sport's The Football League Show and, on the 19th December 2011, the setting for BBC1's first ever live broadcast of Football Focus.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.