Creation of Moston community centre is artist Louis Beckett's best piece yet
- Moston Arts and Community Centre has recieved two awards
- Be Proud community project of the year 2017 and Pride of Manchester Award 2017
Every artist has a defining piece of art. It is more than just paintings or sculptures and it addresses their legacy.
Take Antonio Gaudi, for instance, the Spanish architect from Reus, Catalonia. Obsessed with all things gothic and aesthetically pleasing, Gaudi was was tasked with designing and overseeing the construction of the La Sagrada Familia, a building that is still in construction to this day, decades after his death in 1910.
When I asked Louis Beckett, a Moston-born and bred artist and - along with his wife Paula - co-founder of the Miners Community Centre, whether the building was his piéce de résistance, I can see why Gaudi was the first name that popped into his mind.
“Yeah, you could say that, it's like Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia. It was his ongoing thing until he died and it's still going on 100 years later. This is an ongoing thing with me and it’ll probably go on long after I’ve died,” he said to me in a broad Mancunian accent.
The Miners Community Arts and Music Centre is a social club set in the middle of a working class estate in north Manchester. It has a small, homely café filled with a mixture of Mancunian memorabilia and pop culture staples ranging from a framed and signed Ryan Giggs shirt, a painting of Ian Brown, a pop art Richard Pryor piece, a Clockwork Orange poster and message boards preaching message of the love of your neighbour, wife and self sufficiency.
It would be easy to dismiss the centre and see it as just another community café, a place working men and women go for their lunch breaks, a place to get a bacon butty and a milky tea with two sugars.
But the café is just the tip of the iceberg and a step through some double doors leads you into something more special. Among the memorabilia in and around the building, there are beautiful paintings ranging from different types of art styles, sculptures, handmade carvings and trinkets mostly created by Louis, as well as historical snapshots of the miners who occupied the land.
This makes you realise it is more than a community centre, café, pub or independent cinema. It is community art, and with that the building comes to life.
Seven years in the making, the Miners has seen a dramatic reconstruction. The project began in 2011, with Louis and community volunteers working day and night to turn the centre into what it is today.
There is still a way to go and it is hard to ignore the rusty buckets placed in a row to catch the raindrops seeping into the building. But for Louis, there is a sense of immense pride in what they have done, and it translates when he talks about the place with enthusiasm.
Louis said: “I walked in and thought, 'this is a massive building'. I only wanted a small studio space, so my dad came in and thought, let's get a café going at the back".
"It was a little quirky café that nobody really knew about it - people used to drive around and go in the back way. Then we started on the community room with the paintings in. We started renting that off and it gave us a bit of revenue. Then we started on the main room, which gave us some revenue too.”
The centre has formed a reputation outside the local community, too, becoming a hotspot for independent film premieres. It has a little 70-seat cinema, built in 12 weeks during 2012 by more than 60 volunteers, and was created as part of a residency project in partnership with artist Sam Meech.
Louis said: “The cinema came through an artist called, Sam Meech. He wanted to do a pop-up cinema, he was doing it all over Germany, but I told him it’s a permanent feature.
“We’ve shown ‘Pride’ before anyone else had it, before Channel 4 or anyone else. One of the blokes who it’s about, Mike Jackson, also comes here now, ‘The Spirit of 45’ director Ken Loach, had a question and answer here and it was packed with 400 people. We really made a night of it.”
Louis does not let the glitz and glamour of the movie world detract him from the real purpose of the centre, however. His socialist values mean all the accolades, effort and notoriety the centre receives is given back to the community.
He said: “We make money on the bar, which helps towards the building, which helps towards the upkeep of the building, which means we can put events on for free, which means local residents can have the rooms for next to nothing. These bands and directors, they have to pay, which helps in the long run.
“They use the building and go, but the people who are here every day or every week, they are the ones that gain the most out of it in the long run.”
Peter, a regular at the centre and café, said: “I’m Moston born and bred and the area was crying out for this place. This is fantastic for the area, this is absolutely brilliant. They’re taking genuine people into account, it’s serving a purpose, it’s helping people that need help. He’s brought the community together.”
Steve, another regular and volunteer who helped with the construction of the Miners, said: “He’s very protective of what he’s got, it took a lot of hard work, and he doesn’t take criticism very lightly. Quite rightly so, he built this place from nothing. It was a derelict building, it had gone to absolute rack and ruin. It should have been demolished but they couldn’t because there’s a shaft underneath it.”
I manage to catch a glimpse of Louis’ fiercely defiant streak for myself when he described to me a moment in time where he had to overcome the odds and prove a naysayer wrong.
He said: “When I first got the place, I asked a local councillor if he could give me any advice on funding. He said, ‘forget it mate, you’ve got no chance on there.’ So I thought to myself, ‘well I’ll show you’. Now the local councillor hires the room off me for his ward meetings.”
When I asked Louis if he ever reminds the councillor of their interaction, he promptly replied: “No, I just know, he knows as well, but he never says anything about it.”
By the time I leave the Miners, it has become a noisy affair filled with the clink of metal and ceramic colliding, and locals chatting about their lives,. The kitchen was empty and Louis was anxious to return.
That did not stop him from making sure my goodbye was as warm as my welcome though. With his honest eyes and sincere tone, he bid me adieu. Such is the charm and wonder of the Miners, however, returning is certainly on the cards.
You can also support The Miners by buying Co-op branded products at, https://membership.coop.co.uk/causes/12926.