Manchester’s Best Independent Music Venues: The Deaf Institute

The Deaf Institute has sat at its site on Grosvenor Street for almost 144 years, so, of course it's got a story to tell!

Originally built 1878, The Deaf Institute has been a familiar face of Manchester’s iconic music scene for a while now.

The stunning building, with its intricate Gothic architecture could easily be mistaken for a church, and its lavish almost manor house-like interior adds to the mystery surrounding the untouched venue. 

I’ve had many a night in The Deaf Institute, sinking pints and watching bands in the main room with its Shakespearean ancient theatre aesthetic and blood red draped curtains.

The venue’s club nights are iconic, too, hosting everything from 80s themed dance-a-thon ‘Girls on Film’ to their most recent night ‘Whip-Round’, an exploration of the post-punk and new-wave genres where you can expect to hear everything from Devo to Fontaines DC and The Stone Roses. BUT, The Deaf Institute hasn’t always been a place to boogie…

The intriguing name itself links to its previous usage – formerly named Manchester’s Adult Deaf and Dumb Institute, as is inscribed in the stonework above the entrance. We also want to mention that ‘deaf and dumb’ is no longer an acceptable phrase, and where it is used in this piece, it’s referring to its historical context. 

The building was designed by John Lowe who channelled the Gothic style of the time, with the structure boasting a bold sandstone façade, a slate roof and archways throughout, including the windows and wide main door. 

Even though the building dates back to 1878, The Deaf Institute was founded several decades earlier in 1824. Its original aim was to support and educate local children who suffered from hearing loss and other disabilities. The children were taught to read and write using an early form of sign language, allowing them to develop essential communication skills and engage with the wider world. 

In 1850, the Adult Deaf and Dumb Institute was formed on John Dalton Street, but, by 1870 it was decided that the adult community deserved their very own purpose built place, which is what we now know as The Deaf Institute on Grosvenor Street.

It had a gymnasium, coffee room, a classroom, reading and lecture rooms, as well as a chapel. It’s ace to think how juxtaposed this bit of history is with the venue now holding gorgeously queer club nights such as Bollox!

In 1907 a fire broke out at the venue, which was caused by faulty wiring. This meant the place was pretty much gutted from head to toe. Around 30 members who were in the building at the time managed to escape unharmed, but, unfortunately, the building was severely damaged. 

After this, the venue lay pretty much empty until the 1940s when the Blitz destroyed All Saints Church, which wasn’t far from The Deaf Institute, and its chapel was used to hold the church services meant for All Saints.

In 1987, the venue had a short stint as a wine bar and bistro and then later in 1999 it became an electronic arts centre. It wasn’t actually until the early years of the millennium that the bar began its life as the alternative, accepting cultural arts hub that it is now. 

So, that’s a quick rundown of The Deaf Institute’s legacy up until the mid 20th century. The venue’s musical history is just as rich, too, as it has welcomed some incredible artists over the years.

The XX, Warpaint, Johnny Marr, Metronomy and Jarvis Cocker have all played the venue, chasing after a bit of action underneath the mirrorball that hangs over the heads of onlookers like a huge disco-doused planet. The venue also has a basement bar, which is the perfect place for private parties and weekend mischievousness! 

Like many hospitality businesses, The Deaf Institute faced a huge challenge last year during COVID-19 as their operator at the time, Mission Mars struggled to deal with the effects of lockdown and the venue went into administration. But, its knight in shining armour came in the form of Tokyo Industries, which operates dozens of venues in the north of England, and agreed a deal to get them back to normal.

The Deaf Institute also, very recently, took on spectacular street-food chefs, This Charming Naan.

The fully vegan venture has made the venue its full-time home, serving an exquisite menu of dishes that all have a very familiar theme. For example, you’ll find the ‘Girlfriend in a Korma’ dish, ‘Madras is Murder’ and ‘Burgerism Begins at Home’. VERY punny. 

Chef’s Tom and Max began the business back in March 2020, just before the world went mad. Originally set up in Hatch, the duo had a full summer of festivals and pop-ups planned, but COVID had other thoughts.

But, they didn’t give up on the business and through perseverance and patience, they’re absolutely chuffed with their residency at The Deaf Institute and are open Wednesday – Sunday 4pm – 10pm. They’re a fusion of everything that is great about culturally diverse Northern Britain that lives for music and has a wicked sense of humour. Oh, and the food is absolutely INCREDIBLE, too.

I know you’re absolutely dying to get yourself down to The Deaf Institute now, and who can blame you?! The bar and music venue is a total treat for the eyes, ears and taste buds, holding weekly events and amazing independent street food, as well as a plethora of gigs for you to fill your plans with.

Here’s a quick round up of some we think you should make room for in your diary this year!

Whip-Round
Thursday 20th January
The Deaf Institute’s brand spanking new club night starts this Thursday! There’s plenty to be excited about, too, as it’s now about to position itself as one of Manchester’s best alternative club nights, exploring post-punk and new-wave genres in its main room. You can expect everything from Fontaines DC, to Shame, Wolf Alice and The Libertines at the club, and the event has been carefully curated by the staff at the venue!

 

The Mary Wallopers
Sunday 23rd January 
Traditional Irish folk music played by a bunch of moustached hipsters. That’s probably the best way to describe The Mary Wallopers. These stout drinking lads from Dundalk embody everything excellent about Irish culture; catchy singalong, knee-smacking tunes, a thirst for a good pint of Guinness, and loads of laughs with their extremely obscure lyrics.

 

Hippo Campus 
Wednesday 2nd February
Dreamy indie-pop five piece, Hippo Campus will bring their melodic music to The Deaf Institute this February. For fans of Cub Sport and Alt-J, Hippo Campus began their career back in 2013 with the intention of starting the band to ‘make their friends dance’. They’ve successfully done just that, taking the rest of the world with them, too! 

 

Dana Gavanski
Thursday 3rd March 
Canadian singer / songwriter, Dana Gavanski makes effortlessly cool music that strolls through themes of heartbreak, self love and reflection. Her sweet, soulful lyrics perfectly match her acoustically soothing music and she’s definitely one to check out for any fans of Cate Le Bon.

 

Mr Bruce
Wednesday 6th April
If you’re after a big boogie under the Deaf Institute disco ball, then you might want to book yourself tickets to see Mr Bruce this April. With an expression of his love for UK dance music, he’s now delivering fresh approaches to electro, house, garage and dancehall. Formally one half of The Correspondents, an electro swing, genre bending duo based in London, Mr Bruce is set to bring the party to Deaf Institute this Spring!

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You can find tickets to all the above events by following the link below.

Listings & Tickets

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The Deaf Institute, 135 Grosvenor St, Manchester M1 7HE
www.thedeafinstitute.co.uk

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