Now, that title probably sounds unnecessarily confrontational, but bear with me. This week my social media platforms have been awash with news that Manchester’s Night and Day Cafe is – once again – being threatened with closure due to noise complaints from a neighbour. It’s happened before, and it’ll probably happen again.
The difference between this and the last time the venue faced this threat, is the ubiquity of social media. At the time of writing, the change.org petition to save the Night and Day has received over 57,000 signatures in support of the campaign, and by no means just people from Manchester (meeting a friend here in Cardiff last night I got as far as “have you heard about the Night and D…” before receiving the response of “Yep, already signed it” – this from a man who has never lived in Manchester). The venue’s Twitter account (@nightanddaycafe) is now packed full of retweets of shock and support from residents, music fans, musicians, journalists… all wanting to spread the message. It may be a bit of a bandwagon, but it’s one that plenty have been willing to jump on.
Social media aside, though, it comes down to the old issue of the fine line between regeneration and gentrification. The Night and Day, whilst seen by many as past its peak (it’s certainly suffered from the number of more recently opened venues that have had the money to be able to install better facilities – working air conditioning for example), was one of the first businesses to popularise Manchester’s Northern Quarter. To bring people into this previously neglected area of the city centre. The result, however, is that alongside the now vast array of bars, shops, venues and creative hubs that have subsequently set up in the area, there are the highly marketed apartments that go along with this. As a previous resident of the area (two streets away from the Night and Day’s Oldham Street home, between 2009 and 2011), it was easy to see how quickly rental prices were sky rocketing, even in the years of stagnation following the recession. It was the place to be, and whilst it did not suffer from issues of displacement often tied to regeneration due to there not being a previous population in place in the area (Alasdair Rae reports that the city centre alone experienced a population increase of almost 400% – from 5,957 to 23,295, between the 2001 and 2011 census), it certainly attracts people on the basis of reputation alone. Seemingly, people who feel that in moving to one of the busiest streets in one of the country’s biggest cities they should not have to deal with such troublesome issues as noise.
Referring to the previous attempt to close the venue for the same reason, Elbow frontman and proud supporter of Mancunian culture told me “Things like venues being under threat of closure because of noise complaints. That was like, you know, that kind of thing’s like hang on, a lot of the students round the world come to this place because of its music, and you sometimes get this very ‘clear the decks’, you know, and babies and bathwater.” This resonated with me; I was one of those students. In 2004 I’d booked tickets for at least two gigs at the Night and Day before I’d even arrived in the city to start my degree. But I can’t help but fear that in the pursuit of ever-greater levels of investment in the city, Manchester City Council may neglect these things; neglect the very types of people who helped the Northern Quarter get to the place it is today.
An additional chapter…
Just as I prepared to hit the ‘publish’ button, Twitter threw this up. A timely note-to-self to be wary of online campaigns, lest some of the facts are missed. It seems the venue had been less than cooperative when offered the opportunity to discuss the noise issues raised by this one resident. Local councillors, on clarifying this, have stressed that closure of the venue would be a last resort, and that they are pleased that the venue are now willing to speak to both the resident and the council to reach a resolution. Still, it’s hardly surprising that, following similar attacks in the past, the Night and Day and its supporters mount the defence with haste.