It’s also the season to be jolly for the Ancoats Dispensary Trust. This diverse and passionate band of brothers and sisters finally succeeded in their bid to save one of the region’s most unique and threatened examples of Victorian architecture. They managed to raise enough money to free up £770,000 of Heritage Lottery funding, an incredible achievement! And we were able to play a small part in that.
Why do they feel so passionate about it? Well the building was, until the 1990s, the main hospital for the Ancoats community and beyond. Its existence saved thousands of lives of friends and family members. That said, you’d still find it difficult to find a bigger bunch of characters than this lot anywhere in the country.
Over four years, they fought hard to save the Grade II listed former hospital. At times their quest looked doomed but whenever they took a blow they came back stronger. Fortunately, it all came to a happy conclusion in 2015 with a Lottery grant being secured after the Trust raised £55,000 – £28,000 of which came from a mystery 11th hour donor.
We spent just a few days and evenings with them at their meetings, events and vigils and we were able to document the passion, determination and humour of the group. Aided by the voice of actor John Henshaw, the film we made was our donation and we’re chuffed that it seems to have contributed to bringing their cause closer to public eye.
It didn’t take long for us to realise that this campaign was being driven by the small but strong group of people who were devoting most of their time and energy to the cause. This dedicated group was enough to metaphorically throw themselves in front of the bulldozers of one the North West’s most powerful property developers.
Pitting themselves against the mighty Urban Splash, who had already earmarked the site for demolition as part of their latest Ancoats development, the stage was set for a rather one-sided battle.
But what the builders hadn’t bargained for was people power. A cause so close to our heart – we often felt a bit like the plucky underdogs in the cut-throat world of film – that we decided to help in the way we know best. We felt a short film that highlighted the passionate characters behind the campaign would be a great way to grab the interest of more people.
This year saw them finally halt the developers’ bulldozers for good and secure the future of the building. Plans are to restore it and open a community wellbeing centre plus studios for artists and start-up businesses.
About the Dispensary
Established in 1828, the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary was built to provide health care to Manchester’s rapidly growing population of workers busy fuelling the industrial revolution. It moved twice before finding its current home in 1874 at 94 Mill Street, Ancoats. The imposing gothic building has been at the centre of Ancoats for 140 years. It was closed as a hospital in 1989 and spent the next 20 years as a neglected shell. It was listed by the Victorian Society as one of the 10 most at risk buildings in England and Wales.