HIPSTERS, beards and the ‘Northern Quarter type’ are joining a list of banned clichéd and overused words at Manchester Confidential (Yes, they bloody are, Ed).
Unfortunately in a review of Antwerp Mansion, the 'need-to-know' venue hidden away in the grungy depths of Fallowfield, these words are proving hard to avoid.
It’s anti-establishment, anti-control, anti-pretention, anti-toilet paper, anti-glass cups and anti-deodorant. All complete with graffiti, face-painting and cans of Red Stripe.
After all Antwerp Mansion is so hipster no one in our offices, apart from me, knew down a side street and shielded by the seizure inducing neon of Wilmslow Road’s Curry Mile, is an 1840s house, alive with dancing.
The place was initially built as part of a gated community for super-rich industrialists, then turned into a private estate for a Belgian Consul – hence the name - before being transformed into ballroom and snooker hall during the 1920s.
Nowadays it looks like a squatters den in a post-apocalyptic Manchester. In reality it's a run down music, arts and event venue that caters for a subculture of artists and musicians despite the website claiming it's 'run by lizards from the lower fourth dimension'
In short, the place is eccentric.
Despite this being my fourth visit, entering Antwerp from the rear is always an unnerving experience.
You have to walk down a dark, dark alley, way up some dark, dark stairs, into a dark, dark house, bypassing a few fake Rastafarians all with dirty blond dreads, some hooded figures and bulky security guards before you enter a surprisingly welcoming club night
People are friendly in Antwerp. In the packed-to-the rafters gig room I was continually greeted by a bunch of cheerful oddities with mutton chops who couldn't help but touch me and tell me how amazing I was. Thanks, I guess. Yet you go along with it because the sugar coated niceness is infectious and who values personal space anyway?
At its centre, a grand wrought iron staircase separates two floors. Upstairs is The Old Rope Gallery or Ballroom space with acoustic perfect arches, downstairs is The Blue Room, a small bar that on this night included a make-shift tepee den where you could get your face painted. Also downstairs is the large Gig Room.
On this particular night, it was an Antwerp Mansion fave: Riot Jazz.
As the name would suggest Riot Jazz is pretty much an oxymoron.
In this instance it involves a casually dressed brass band including a half naked tuba player, lead by an MC and enhanced with a drummer and DJs.
It shouldn’t work but it does. The result is more unruly dancing, collective euphoria and a lot of new found romances in the middle of the floor.
The charm of this place is its unconventional approached to clubbing and its air of unrestrained freedom. It has all the space of a modern club, yet all the reckless abandon of an illegal house party. You can jump on the sofas or as one girl decided, make dust angels in the middle of the cold stone floor.
The drinks are dirt cheap too. There’s not much choice, to be fair. Most partiers opted for a can of Red Stripe, crushing the cans on the floor once finished. The upstairs bar only had a humble choice between your standard rum, vodka, whisky and a few beers.
At £3 for a single shot plus mixer there was little chance of me staying sober and not joining in with all the lovey-dovey touchy feeley-ness.
Antwerp Mansion’s rundown vibe may only be appealing to the likes of me and my friends, a collective of people who like their music unconventional but secretly have enjoyed the odd song from Justin Biebs. It's niche and that's what brings me back.
For me, there was initially an unwillingness to uncloak and reveal what is one of the most unruly and organic event venues in Manchester.
It’s anti-establishment, anti control, anti-pretention, anti- toilet paper, anti glass cups and anti-deodorant. All complete with graffiti, face-painting and many more cans of Red Stripe.
Even so, you can’t ignore that the once beautiful Victorian House is falling to pieces. It's in great need of renovating and could do with a good clean.
The grass-roots owners have a nifty line of reasoning to excuse the dereliction.
"It is not and never was a squat,' it states on the website. 'It costs a bomb to do what we're trying to achieve. The profitable thing would be level it and sell the land...but then that would suck wouldn't it!? If you don't like the fact it’s rough, you can either help us renovate it or bog off to any of the fancy joints across town.'
Antwerp Mansion and the likes of the bars across Deansgate and Spinningfields exist in parallel universes. That's the way it should be with cities of course. Something for everybody. It would be boring if everywhere were the same.
Antwerp is sweaty but fun, in a your-sweat-is-mine kinda way. Go and try it but remember, your shoes will be destroyed.
Still those shoes only lived so you could dance like you’ve never danced before - right?
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Find out more about the events at Antwerp Mansion and just exactly where it is on the website.
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