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HOME Is Where The Art Lies

Jonathan Schofield wonders about the merged Cornerhouse and Library Theatre name

Published on September 26th 2012.

HOME Is Where The Art Lies

SO after months of consultation the 'new production centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film formed by the merger of Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company' will be called Home.

The odd choice of name won't matter of course if Home gets its programming right. If it produces plays that enthrall, fills its galleries with fascinating and exciting art and finds the right movies to put on its screens it will be a winner.


So a safe and cosy environment then, home sweet home, a home from home, a pair of old slippers. Hello mum. Hello dad.

Well no, not that at all.

The opposite in fact.

Let's get back to the press release. 

'The name Home,' says the marketing folk, 'has come out of a detailed and collaborative research and consultation process, which involved more than 150 people including local residents, audience members and key partners from across the city, as well as an online forum where people could contribute their thoughts.

'They were asked about the cultural organisations they admire and enjoy, as well as what they feel the atmosphere and character of the new organisation should be. The results of the research have not only contributed to choosing a name, but are informing everything from programme development to interior design.

'Home was a word which recurred often when people were asked what the new organisation should be – a second home, somewhere you feel at home, the home of great work. It reflects the warmth felt towards Cornerhouse and Library Theatre Company, as well as the aspiration that the new organisation should be accessible and welcoming.'

This is a bit strange.

Mecanoo model showing height of the new arts, film and performance centre over the railways viaduct on Whitworth Street WestModel showing height of the new arts, film and performance centre over the railways viaduct on Whitworth Street West

Confidential was part of this process and can't recall any 'consultants' mentioning the word 'home' and its connotations. Instead the words people were using were 'innovative', 'radical', 'compelling', 'original', 'lively', not words most people would want routinely applied to home-life. 

Dave Moutrey, Director and Chief Executive of Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre Company, explains Home this way.

“Our conversations," he says, "threw up two contrasting aspirations for the future of the organisation – the friendly, warm and playful aspect is contained in the word ‘Home’. Alongside this, many of the people we spoke to wanted the new organisation to be somewhere that challenged them and made them think. This aspect will be further developed in our visual identity, as well as in our programming, which is now starting to take shape.” 

So 'Home' was 50% of the decision then and probably the wrong half for most. 

The big problem is that 'Home' seems meaningless in the context of a cinema, art gallery and theatre complex. Who goes out to go home? 

The title might just as well have been 'Cake' or 'Budgerigar' or 'WhatTheHell?' because some smart argument could have been made to explain it away.

Nouns used in the abstract for public buildings are always fraught with difficulties.

The most notorious example of this is The Public designed by Will Alsop in West Bromwich in the West Midlands. Many people in the area had no idea what this 'art gallery and multi-purpose venue' was for when it was being built and still have no idea. It's taken a change of ownership and vast public subsidies to even begin to make sense of it.

In Liverpool there's FACT. Hands up those outside the arts world who have heard of this cinema and arts venue; now hands up those who've heard of the Walker Art Gallery or the Maritime Museum?

(To be fair at least FACT has some justification as an acronym - Foundation for Art and Creative Technology - though there's still a disconnect between the acronym and the word it creates.)

Closer to Home (ho, ho), the Latin word Urbis never fired the popular imagination whereas in a couple of months half the country seems to have become aware of the National Football Museum, largely because it describes exactly what it does.

The Public, FACT, Urbis all seem, or seemed, forced, unnatural, born from a desperate need to be either clever or involve everybody in a bureaucratic decision making process that backs itself into a cul-de-sac.

We could all pick more obvious alternatives to Home.

My son, all of 12 years, came up with CAT Manchester after seventeen and a half seconds - Cinema, Arts, Theatre. Makes more sense to me.

Or what about Manchester Arts, Performance and Film centre (MAPF)?

Or even the Bernstein and Leese Show? Maybe not.

The good news is that Home will have a better chance of making a name for itself because it will hold the bones of strong institutions in the form of the Cornerhouse and The Library Theatre. It will be able to draw on a loyal audience from the beginning, despite inevitably losing its Oxford Road barflies.

Mecanoo designMecanoo design

Meanwhile the design from Mecanoo looks the very model of a modern major arts complex. It may be a tool to get people to invest in the First Street speculation but it's a handsome one. 

Of course none of this will matter a jot if Home gets its programming right. It will be a winner if it produces plays that enthrall, fills its galleries with fascinating and exciting art and finds the right movies for its screens.

Should that happen - and it should - then nobody will remember the tortuous name-making process. Well except of course, us, when we have to explain to visitors what we mean by saying odd sentences such as, "Shall we go to Home tonight." 

So maybe as with the Olympic mascots it'll all work out in the end. Now what were the names of those mascots again? 

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

Michael WestSeptember 27th 2012.

I'm sure they had an exhibition about 15 years ago called home. It was about those kitch bits tasteful people had in the best room. This is Manchester it doesn't matter what something is renamed depending on what it was called when you were a lad it gets called that and inevitably gets called by a variety of names apart from people who work there or guidebooks. I hope it smells of lavender and the sign says HO:ME like a cheap digital clock.

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.

Perhaps House would be better, it houses various art forms and it would be a nod to the Cornerhouse.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 2nd 2012.

Excellent idea!

Hopeless Obtuse Moniker Explanation (HOME)September 27th 2012.

Anything would be better. I quite like the idea in the article - 'Budgerigar'.

gar200September 27th 2012.

Naff... it has no appeal as you rightly say in your article.. will anyone actually understand what its function is? It should be a fantastic collaboration and building, but Home? really? Its Arts... Theatre, Cinema, Galleries... not a house or a comforting feel, it should provide inspiration, dialogue, innovation, intrigue... none of those fit into "home"...

Judith WatsonSeptember 27th 2012.

Maybe they meant "Hulme"

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Charlie HulmeSeptember 27th 2012.

I like that idea!

GadgeSeptember 30th 2012.

There's no place like Hulme. There's no place like Hulme.

Kevin PeelSeptember 27th 2012.

I'm really excited about the building but I agree with ManCon on the name. To be honest I'll probably be calling it the Cornerhouse and I imagine many others will aswell!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.

But it won't be Cornerhouse will it?! It's a new organisation. Doh!

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.


AnonymousOctober 1st 2012.

Why would you call it the Cornerhouse when it also includes the Library Theatre?

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.

Just like the former nightclub on ducie street.

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.

This might be radical but why not "The Cornerhouse" and Library Theatre. As per Kevin Peel people will still call them by the existing names.
Still at least a bunch of consultants made a fistful of £ out of let's face it is a pretty bland and pointless name.

DavidSeptember 27th 2012.

So what if name Home has no reference to arts and theatre.The Hacienda did not either,in case of dance music,but it was an iconic name for nightclub.A short and easy to remember name is best.I don't know why anyone would regard it as odd either.

DavidSeptember 27th 2012.

My only concern about this is that cost of the building seems likely to grow,because I don't believe the cost they stating to build it is realistic

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 1st 2012.

And are you a QS?

Simon BuckleySeptember 27th 2012.

It's a rubbish name that fails to understand the city or the new building's purpose. With a name like Home they may as well open at the Ancoats retail park and save the bother of a new place. It may well be a great new art centre for Manchester, the current one isn't a great exhibition space, and be a real asset to the city, but this name will hinder rather than help the marketing beyond the city boundaries.

A new name may be necessary to address the change but Home isn't it. House of Fraser tried to re-brand Kendals and we all just ignored them.

Julia BrownSeptember 27th 2012.

So why couldn't they come up with a name that reflects the home from home / cultural challenge dialectic that Dave Moutrey highlights? Lazy (and probably indulgent) work on the part of the agency (and the clients).

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.

Terrible name, and one already used in Manchester for an art installation.

AnonymousSeptember 27th 2012.

Call it what it is: Manchester Arts Centre

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousOctober 1st 2012.


Robert GreenwichSeptember 28th 2012.

Its a silly name and it really needs rethinking. They could name it after the historic area of Chorlton-on-Medlock (eg the Medlock) or Alexandra (the Alex or arts Alex - after Alexandra Park) which it is near or something else geographically or culturally specific (eg Mary Gaskell or Morrissey). 'Home' just sounds like a range of furnishings from NEXT or something. What right have they to populate general nouns in this way? Its not home, anyway, home is where people live and conduct their domestic lives (how many people will be sleeping in the new centre? answer might not reflect well on its merits!) - its an anthropological misnomer.

Matt RigbySeptember 28th 2012.

I think it should have been called Halcyon.

1. calm; peaceful; tranquil: halcyon weather.
2. rich; wealthy; prosperous: halcyon times of peace.
3. happy; joyful; carefree: halcyon days of youth.

But Home will do, for me.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Matt RigbySeptember 28th 2012.

You can even relate it directly.

1. A calm, peaceful, tranquil shelter from our Mancunian downpours.
2. Rich, wealthy, prosperous in terms of culture and cultural learning.
3. A happy, joyful, carefree place to visit.

AnonymousSeptember 28th 2012.

I think whoever decided to let the marketing consultants loose on it for god knows how much money should be asked some serious questions about their future carear plans. A consultation of 150 people where they must have tens of thousdands of annual visitors, hardly tried did they but I bet it helped to justify the fees charged.

keeping the name the cornerhouse would have worked just fine. then you could have had the library theatre @ the cornerhouse to diferentiate those productions.

the whole thing is crazy (unless your a consultant)

Poster BoySeptember 28th 2012.

"Vanity Project", "A Monument to One Man's Ego", "Another Step on the Career Ladder", "One Big F*** Off Mistake"...

"Home" is crass.

Ghostly TomSeptember 28th 2012.

We know what wil happen to the Library Theatre's space in Central Library, it's going to be absorbed into the library. But what is going to happen to Cornerhouse's present base on Oxford Street. It has been an integral part of that part of the city for years and will be missed. It would be a shame if it was to turn into yet another bar or stay closed for years. Anyone heard anything?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Calum McGOctober 1st 2012.

Is it 'in the way' of the Oxford Road bus upgradey thing? I.e. is it doomed?

AnonymousSeptember 28th 2012.

This is what you get from the dead hand and closed minds of highly paid arts wonks. Bet those imaginative folk who set up the original Library and Cornerhouse did so without all that dreary old arts twaddle. And what's the betting this foolish name will be changed within a year.

Calum McGOctober 1st 2012.

Well, as MANCAT is now the Mcr College, perhaps its name could be resurrected: Manchester Centre for Art and Theatre. OH THAT'S LAME. I quite like 'Home'. It's quite a nice word and it sounds friendly. FACT sounds ridiculous.

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