A new feature on Albert Square is offering a fascinating glimpse into the work of the skilled craftspeople helping to repair and restore Manchester Town Hall.
The artisan studio – which literally gives a window into some of the work taking place on the Our Town Hall project – will enable the public to watch and listen as specialists carry out painstaking and intricate work while explaining what they are doing and how they forged their own careers in the built environment.
Demonstrations take place every Wednesday from 12.30pm-1.30pm up to and including Wednesday 21 December, resuming in early 2023.
First up to showcase their skills, from now until the Christmas break, are restoration and conservation experts Stone Edge. They will be explaining the story of the stone, from the quarry to its final installation in the building, as they carve ornate new pieces to replace worn and damaged stonework from the town hall.
Stone Edge will be followed in the New Year by craftspeople including Heritage Mosaic, who are restoring the Town Hall’s intricately designed marble piece-patterned floors.
As well as the obvious legacy of safeguarding the Town Hall and improving access to the building and its treasures, one of the Our Town Hall project’s key objectives is to create a legacy of skills, jobs and inspiration, which the Council are working with management contractor Lendlease to achieve. So far 237 new jobs have been created through the project, 75 apprenticeships (level two and three) - 68 of them taken up by Manchester people – and a further 48 higher level apprenticeships. This includes three apprentices taken on by Stone Edge.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said:
“Manchester Town Hall is a remarkable asset for the city which is being safeguarded by the largest heritage project currently underway in the UK.
“While the work has required specialist skills, it has also given us the opportunity to create a legacy by passing on those skills to a new generation – and inspiring others.
“We wanted to open up a window on this work and let people see for themselves the care, attention and expertise which are going into this huge undertaking. I’m sure the artisan studio will offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes insight.”
Richard Denneny, Director of Stone Edge, said:
“The involvement of our heritage operatives in the Our Town Hall project has been a wonderful journey so far. Through the social value initiative, we have had the opportunity to train three apprentices from the local area and provide them with unique knowledge, skills and experience in the built environment and conservation sector.
“Our first apprenticeship will be formally completed before Christmas this year which is a fantastic achievement. There aren’t many apprentices who can say they have served their time on such an important and prestigious building as Manchester Town Hall.
“The artisan studio opens up a window into our work that been underway high up on the Victorian faced and is a great opportunity for people to see first-hand the great work the masons and their apprentices have been undertaking.”
Lucille Wakins-Brazier, Head of Social Impact at Lendlease Europe, said:
“The artisan studio is a great examples of how we can provide important skilling opportunities for the existing and future workforce, helping to improve productivity and ensuring we are passing on traditional heritage skills from one generation to the next. To meet the future needs of the industry, we know we need to provide accessible learning and skilling opportunities and are committed to supporting a diverse range of entry pathways to those seeking a career in the built environment. This is a key element of our social value approach.”
The artisan studio is on Albert Square, opposite Brazennose Street.