Manchester's Albert Square to become one of Europe's top event spaces
Drawing crowds to events and festivals has become essential for economic survival of UK cities and despite Manchester's booming economy in recent years, the news that Albert Square which sits in front of the historic town hall, is to become an important public space for events is welcome news for the city.
It is part of a once in a lifetime project to safeguard the Grade 1 listed building at a cost of £250 million and represents one of Britain's biggest heritage schemes. Work starts this month and at its peak, as many as 560 people will be working on site. The aim is to protect and improve access to the town hall while protect its treasures for generations to come. The Town Hall will re-open in 2024.
It was built between 1868 - 77 and is regarded as one of the most distinctive landmarks in the city, as one of the finest examples of Neo-Gothic architecture in the UK and one of the most important Grade One listed buildings in England. Alfred Waterhouse won a competition to build it using fourteen million bricks and including a statue of the Roman General Agricola who founded Mamucium in 9AD. The three-faced clock is made of Polish glass, with an inscription 'Teach us to number our days' and is set in a 280 ft tower, with a 10 ft long minute hand. The building has been the backdrop of many a television production and film from Peaky Blinders to Victor Frankenstein.
Thousands of heritage items have been carefully catalogued and removed, including 35 statues collectively weighing 10 tonnes. Some treasures will go on display in a new visitor centre. Surveys numbering some 600 have also been carried out to get under the skin of the building to access the exact condition of the materials.
Some 88 of the 149 works packages have still to be awarded as work progresses with a raft of new apprenticeships. More than 1,400 students have learned about the project and construction industry through site visits and to support STEM subjects (Photograph above - courtesy Manchester City Council).