Out In The Street: What Co-Op Live Intends To Do For The Next Generation Of Artists

Co op Live Atrium

From the outset of the £365 million ($460 million) project that is Co-op Live, Oak View Group insisted it wanted to give back to Manchester. Aside from the pledge to donate £1 million per year to a charity fund created by naming rights partner Co-op, the company also made sure the next generation of professionals got a chance to try out different career paths by awarding around 100 apprenticeships during the construction of Co-op Live. Now that the building is about to open, the team also wants to make sure the next generation of performing artists get a chance to further their careers. There’s multiple additional spaces where artists could perform inside Co-op Live and outside the main auditorium. One of them is a result of the way the atrium has been designed. It is called The Street, and has space for 2,500 people. Just like the entire building, the atrium was equipped with enhanced audio systems by audio consultants Vanguardia.

Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, a big music fan himself, chooses one up-and-coming Manchester act each month, and gives them some exposure by introducing them as the mayor’s Artist of the Month. At the Co-op Live topping out ceremony last summer, he said some of those artists would be playing “on those stages dotted around the place on a big night. Sometimes I think we’re a bit guilty of trading on past glories in Manchester, and I talked about it too much probably, but we’re all sometimes looking too much toward the past. We’ve got to look to the future, and I love the fact that this place will bring on the Manchester music of the future, and all of those young performers will get their place in here as well.”

Populous senior principal and director, EMEA, Declan Sharkey, who is the lead architect on the project, said Co-op Live features 41 bespoke bars, restaurants, and lounges, all of which “are really tapping into the very rich music heritage of Manchester with nods back to the Hacienda and the like. Spaces like the Bentley Record Room, or the Decibel Club, they’re essentially nightclubs within the venue. At the front of the building, we’ve got the atrium, a triple-height space, which operates completely independently as a venue within the venue. Music has very much been the driver behind everything that we’ve been able to do.”

Co-op Live’s director of strategic programming Katie Musham explains that The Street is “a 2,500-capacity club/gig space that we will be programming outside of the main auditorium. Whenever we’ve got dark days, build days, any empty days, we will be doing gigs and club nights in there. We’ve been very focused on the main arena diary, but there’s a real joined-up thinking about what else the venue, and the entire Etihad Campus, can do. We’ve got five rooms, small lounges that can host fringe events and corporate bookings. One of our rooms is sponsored by Bentley, it is just absolutely stunning, with lots of marble and leather, but there’s other spaces, as well, that will host events in their own right.”

The Street is a bit reminiscent of London’s Printworks, for those familiar with it. Musham notes that “some agents and promoters are quite excited about it.” She adds that the space “will see events posted from July and August, just so we can get over the opening season [first]. And then we will start to program that space, as well.”

According to Sharkey, The Street isn’t just “a phenomenal nightclub next to the [auditorium],” on non-event days, “but it also creates a great experience on event days, when the space is ultimately the concourse for the event floor. By opening up the slabs above to create this incredible triple-height space, we’ve created a visual connection between spectators, regardless of what level you’re on.”

Stephen Collins, president, global venue development & special projects at OVG, said, “Experientially, I don’t think we’ve had another building that has such distinct characteristics, features, personalities, as you go up through the building. You enter at street level, in that big, voluminous space we call The Street, that feels like you’re walking into an EDM[-style venue]. As you work your way up the building into zones, the various premium spaces, all the way up at the top, where we’ve got hang outs that look down onto the bowl – the design team did a great job, there’s something for everybody.”