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The Good, The Standard, The Ugly: St Ann's Ads

Jonathan Schofield on whether a Grade One listed structure should be masked in advertising

Published on August 28th 2012.

The Good, The Standard, The Ugly: St Ann's Ads

Category: Ugly but understandable - for a a little while at least. But the church will have to re-appear soon.

What are we talking about?

St Ann's Church's incredible vanishing act. Or how to allow a Grade One listed church to be soaked up by a kitchen towel.

Kitchen towels? 

Well, for three centuries St Ann's was in plain sight but recently it's disappeared first behind a mobile phone ad and now behind Juanchester. The latter is a big Nicholas Cage-like Mexican bandito figure of which I know little. He's advertising Plenty kitchen towels. No idea why - maybe all those murderous Mexican gangs of which we hear so much soak up the blood of the victims with Plenty towels. It's not a nice imposition on the old building.

JuankerJuan the soaker

It looks big

It's vast. At least a tennis court in size, maybe bigger. Certainly big enough to cover almost the whole north wall of the two story nave of the church. At the west end you can see the tower, there's a glimpse of apse to the east too, but everything else has all gone green. The north side is the most important side of the church in terms of cityscape facing the square. It's like God's been swallowed by JuanMammon. 

Juanchester jumps on AnnJuanchester jumps on Ann

Give a bit of background on the church

This is from our Best of series on Manchester Buildings  - click here. 'St Ann’s Church is a handsome, Classically inspired building consecrated in 1712 and probably designed by John Barker. The interior is as cool as the exterior is elegant, with galleries squatting on chubby Tuscan columns. There is some fabulously over-wrought 19th century stained glass from artist Frederick Shields - look for the sinister and tiny devilish wolf in the central window. The church was restored by the famous Alfred Waterhouse, the Town Hall architect in 1887-91.The church is built from the local pinkish red sandstone, a material that crumbled badly under the pollution of the early industrial age, hence its rarity in the buildings of the city centre. The tower has recently been splendidly restored. The dedication refers to the saint, of course, but perhaps more so to the lady who provided the money, Lady Ann Bland. Out of the 19 city churches built in the 18th century, St Ann’s is the only survivor. The church tower is the traditional centre of the city. On the left near the tower door is the arrow-like surveyor's mark signifying this.' 

So how come the big ad was allowed?

Part of the church was undergoing a welcome restoration, check our article here. It was going to be shrouded in scaffolding anyway. Given the highly visible site, the Church of England and the City agreed that it would be sensible to allow the scaffolding to be used as a billboard to help boost funds for St Ann's. Permission has now been extended to keep the scaffolding up until the end of September even though the present phase of repairs has been completed. 

So at the end of September it comes down?

Apparently yes. Juanchester will fall. Although when further funds are raised the east end of the church will need looking at, maybe there'll be room for an ad or two there.

But should it have been permitted at all? This is one of Manchester's best public areas, the church one of Manchester's special buildings

Well given the cost of maintaining old buildings - the present refurb has cost £700k - and the fact that there would have been scaffolding masking the building anyway then there was a case for allowing advertising. If you couldn't see the buidling anyway why not utilise the earning potential? Of course a sponsored representation or diagram of what the building behind the scaffolding looks like might have been better. This is a popular solution on the Continent, not that all cities have pursued this route... 

St Mark'sSt Mark'sName a city that hasn't

Faced with utterly crippling bills to stop its heritage falling apart and with government financial support decreasing, Venice has very publically gone down the advertising route. One of the most famous spaces in the world, St Mark's Square, presently sports a vast McArthur Glen shopping centre advert, while round the corner Lacoste dominates part of the Grand Canal. In answering critics Renata Codello, the government's Venetian heritage administrator, said the budget was 25% down. "If the geniuses who criticise us give me the money for the restorations, I'll do away with [them] at once," she said. The mayor of Venice in taking the decision to allow celebrated views to be altered put it firmly but simply: "It's not beautiful, it's not ugly, it's necessary". The Rector of St Ann's, Nigel Ashworth, said something similar to me, "It's not ideal but it's an opportunity to raise funds to ensure the church has another three hundred years."

Venice: McArthur Glen ad in St Mark'sVenice: McArthur Glen ad in St Mark's

But they are ugly, aren't they?

Yep. If you look at aesthetically St Mark's needs to studied as an architectural ensemble, not as a backdrop for a brand. If there were an end in sight for the advertising then Venice might have an excuse for erecting them - although the council must have been at its wit's end to approve the scheme. Of course Manchester doesn't quite have the problems of Venice so you've got to have sympathy for La Serenissima. We're lucky therefore that Juanchester's only got a limited run. But St Ann's is part of a trend in Manchester, Central Library had its car advertisements for example. The precedent has been set.

What do you mean?

You just know that the next major heritage landmark of Manchester to be cleaned and repaired will be swathed in advertising. Let's just hope the choice of advertisement is a little more subtle that the silly Plenty one, the previous Samsung ad, largely white, was much more discrete. Still as pointed out above it's probably the right thing to do if it's only for a limited duration. Money talks and money saves. Like Jesus. Except in this case with bricks and mortar rather than souls.

St Ann's Before JuanSt Ann's before Juan

If you liked this article you'll probably like this one about Dial House.

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousAugust 29th 2012.

Why not allow the toiletesque Church St car park to be covered in giant adverts, they can actually look good in the right places. Covering the High Street side of the Arndale in them would probably be an improvement as well.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGAugust 31st 2012.


AnonymousAugust 29th 2012.

I didn't realise the works had been finished! It's not the first building though. St Peter's Library has ad space at the front, and I seem to remember a car parked on top of it for a while. There's also a giant ad space at the back / on the side of the town hall, which used to light up when you pressed a button on the nearby bollard. New(ish)-buildings-wise, there's a chinese on Portland Street which has a very entertaining all over cover of what the building would look like underneath (bricks, signs and all) but also with a giant billboard on the side, and there are others around town.

To be honest I laughed when I saw the Juanchester. It's crass but it's funny, and felt than sheeted scaffolding. Whilst it's a bit weird that it's still up despite the restoration being complete, I see nothing wrong with it whilst it's covered anyway, especially if the money's going to help the square, and I think a few 'just waiting to be demolished' buildings could benefit from this US-feeling cover up. If you step out of Liverpool Lime Street for example (Liverpool's history at building ugly crap next to stuff wonder never ceases to amaze me) you have a giant 'welcome' canopy that hides the equally giant and concrete car park that would otherwise greet people exiting the station and the museum. The Peter Street square (with the old Dutch Pancake) was crying out for something similar before they knocked it down.

Jonathan SchofieldAugust 29th 2012.

Anon, thanks of course Central Library had the ads over it. Thanks for reminding me. Text changed now

Irish MancAugust 29th 2012.

This article really is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Charlie ButterworthAugust 29th 2012.


AnonymousAugust 29th 2012.

I liked the Red Stripe ad-cum-public art on the town hall/library though the car ad was less visually appealling. The P&G ad is (as stated above) just crass. As they have created the banner specifically, more thought could have gone into creating a thought-provoking image rather than an instantly forgettable one

Mike KellyAugust 29th 2012.

Pure economics the money received for the ad will be set against the works being done on the church. One point however the scaffold on which the ad sits should be removed as soon as the works for which it was erected are complete, the scaffold should only be there to allow "work on the church" not to facilitate the placing of the ad.

SHKAugust 29th 2012.

Good grief that's awful and had I not been made redundant last year I'd be sitting in the office (a few floors up from Starbucks in St Ann's Sq) looking out at that every day. Surely something more sympathetic to the church's facade could have been found! - or is Juan Sheet paying big bucks?

1 Response: Reply To This...
It's the city, duffusAugust 29th 2012.

no, they got it for plenty!

AnonymousAugust 30th 2012.

I agree that this article is scraping the bottom of the barrel.

If you are that concerned about it then maybe you should have been more aware of the massive effort the church, the devoted congregation and Manchester residents who love St Ann's have put into raising funds to repair the church. I guess you, like most have no idea how much of a strain this is on the church. The work that was required cost a lot more than originally anticipated. Those devoted to the church have generously donated to the restoration project, but it just isn't enough.

Without the work the church will get to a point where it is a hazard to the public and will literally fall down. Therefore the church had to seek funds else where, and I am sure was not a decision they took lightly. The money they will get will be massive to them in terms of helping the funding, so while it is an eyesore, it is only temporary and when it comes down, the beauty of the church will be visible again. Without it, the church may not be be there to support the advert.

Maybe if you are so concerned about the church being hidden, then you should go to the St Ann's website, follow the link and make a donation to their restoration project. It would be interesting to know if anyone, like myself, has actually donated towards the project.

So next time maybe try to find the silver lining in the grey cloud you highlighted, and do not judge them when this is a last resort after an amazing fundraising effort!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGAugust 31st 2012.

I think it's a savvy idea to earning some cash and support the idea. Otherwise, it's a wasted canvas. Good luck to the church!

James MasonAugust 31st 2012.

Anon, but that's exactly what the article says. It's necessary and thankfully it's temporary. Did you read it at all? Calm down. I agree though be a little more careful with the type of advert used.

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