New Century as we know it today is a far cry from the dancehall it opened up as back in 1963. First playing host to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and numerous acid house parties synonymous with the city’s rave scene, it was reinvented in 2022 as a three-storey food hall, music venue and events space complete with a disco ceiling.
In 2023, it will be 60 years since the venue first opened its doors and, to celebrate, the team behind New Century have announced a number of events to commemorate its legacy. The British Culture Archive will move into the space with an exhibition that explores life in Manchester in 1963 vs 2023, and a documentary taking a deep dive into the venue’s legacy is also currently being commissioned. But the birthday celebrations don’t stop there.
The people who’ve stepped foot through the doors of New Century over the past 60 years no doubt have some cracking stories, and the New Century team, alongside the British Culture Archive, are looking to hear from anyone with notable memories from across the years. They’re specifically after any images or memorabilia from the venue to include as part of the expansive exhibition to celebrate the 60 year anniversary.
Paul Wright, founder of British Culture Archive said: “I’m proud to be collaborating with a partner as iconic as New Century for what we expect to be a fascinating new collection of photographs. The British Culture Archive is about celebrating ordinary lives throughout time and this exhibition will allow us to do that with the focus around one of the most exciting eras in modern history. With its rich history and pivotal role in Manchester’s music heritage, New Century is the perfect cornerstone for an exhibition that looks back but also faces forward.”
The exhibition will be unveiled in May as part of a long weekend to coincide with the official anniversary on May 11. The exhibition will be the centrepiece of the celebrations, sitting alongside other events including panel discussions, a street party on Sadler’s Yard and more.
In addition to this, New Century will be staging special events and gigs across the whole of 2023 with the full programme still yet to be revealed. Abby Moore, Managing Director at New Century commented: “We’re so excited to be dedicating such a big part of our 60th anniversary celebrations to delving into the heritage of this beautiful building’s incredible past.
“Working with the British Culture Archive will allow us to do this on a scale never done before and create a completely unique and important piece of work. We want to celebrate the Mancunian spirit that is behind New Century and everything we do. We can’t wait to uncover more about New Century and Manchester itself from the people who were there.”
First opening its doors back in 1963 as the 1,000 capacity New Century Hall, the venue was designed by Gordon Tait for the Co Operative Insurance society. It stood empty for years, only welcoming a small number of gigs during the time it was closed – including one in 2006 from The Fall – before it opened its doors for good once again last year.
The finished venue, bringing to mind the gold-accented, red-hued bars of 1970s New York, features food traders, including; Wild by PLY, Tallow, Banh Vi, Zumuku Sushi, The Spice Yard and Agreste. New Century also benefits from a bar boasting ales from around the world, as well as truly classic cocktails like the French 75, a gin and champagne based drink that dates back to World War 1.
Its re-opening marked a pivotal point in the city’s live music scene as it made its post-COVID recovery. With many venues shutting their doors due to soaring costs and redevelopment – including legendary club South and student bar Fifth – New Century’s reappearance sparked optimism for the future of live music in Manchester. Since reopening, it’s hosted live performances from Confidence Man, Kerri Chandler, Enter Shikari, Kamaal Williams and more, and the venue’s 2023 calendar is just as jam-packed with gigs from global artists.
Anyone looking to take part in the exhibition can email them to get involved.