“Heritage Hostage” art exhibit held on saving landmark London Road Fire Station from disuse

Article published: Thursday, August 22nd 2013

A campaign to rescue the “iconic” London Road Fire Station from disuse will host an exhibition featuring art, workshops and discussions this August bank holiday weekend on what the building could become if it was restored.

LRFS_Competition_P2The “Heritage Hostage” exhibit organised by Friends of London Road Fire Station will include artwork by Elbow sleeve designer Oliver East and local artist Caroline Johnson along with submissions from the public. The event will run from Thursday 22 to Sunday 25 August at 4 Piccadilly Place.

Exhibits will also feature a copy of the building’s original blueprints, talks by former London Road firefighter and Greater Manchester Fire Service museum curator Bob Bonner, and an “All Age Vision” competition for children and families to create artwork.

The Grade II listed Edwardian baroque station facing Piccadilly Train Station has been largely disused except as storage space since its purchase by Britannia Hotels 27 years ago. Repeated attempts to bring the building back into use have foundered, with an attempted Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) by Manchester City Council thrown out by local government minister Eric Pickles in 2011.

“We want to encourage the council to go for another CPO” said Adam Prince, secretary of Friends of London Road Fire Station. Prince added that the campaign was starting to attract “some interest” from groups such as the Royal Institute of British Architects. “At long last it might mean the end of Britannia and the beginning of something iconic”.

The Friends hope to introduce the All Age Vision competition into schools when the new term starts in September, ahead of a professional competition in the autumn. Public support for the campaign has grown since its launch earlier this year, with a petition to “protect” the station gathering 3,000 signatures.

The station was designated “at risk” by English Heritage in 2001, but negotiations between Britannia and council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein over bringing the building back into public use have repeatedly broken down. The council has accused the hotel chain of focusing its priorities into more profitable ventures, while Britannia boss Alex Langsam has in turn accused the council of wasting public money in a vendetta to grant the building to its favoured property developer Argent.

The council’s prior attempt to gain a CPO was rejected by the government at a cost of £1.5 million on the grounds that Britannia holds planning permission to develop the site into a four star 227 hotel. The chain has since gone back on their development plans, with Britannia financial director Robert Ferrari writing that the development plans were “not sustainable” in a letter to English Heritage.

In a statement Prince said, “The current planning permission for this building expires in September. We are delighted that Manchester’s artistic community is supporting our cause by loaning and donating works.

“There is much passion against the destructive mismanagement and misuse an important icon that could be so many great things for our city if it were released from its heritage hostage status”.

Richard Goulding

More: Council, Manchester, News


  1. Thanks for the great article Richard. A Manchester cause no-one can refute the importance of. Here are our quick links:

    Friends of London Road Fire Station
    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/manchesters-london-road-fire-station-standing-up/ Petition
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/225748777558759/ Facebook Group
    @ManFireStation on Twitter
    http://goo.gl/uT9WC 3 min documentary

    Comment by Friends of London Road Fire Station on August 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

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