Seems like there are more and more rumblings coming out of Levenshulme these days as it tries to match local rivals Didsbury and Chorlton for the title of South Manchester’s Number One Hotspot.
The latest venture, Station South, is the restoration of the old railway station, aiming to provide a “Destination cycle cafe, bar, co-working space and garden”.
The team behind the project recently released their Crowdfunder page so I had a chat with Pauline Johnston to see what it’s all about.
You can find more info, including how to pledge, on their page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/station-south
Nanny: What is the project about? What is it you’re trying to achieve?
Pauline: Station South will be a Destination cycle cafe, bar, co-working space and urban garden in the heart of Levenshulme. We want to bring something really different to our colourful neighbourhood and draw people in from the wider cycling community too. We think an independent, active travel hub that serves healthy, wholesome food directly on top of The Fallowfield Loop (an 8 mile off road cycle path) is just what Levenshulme and Manchester needs.
Nanny: Who started it up? What has been the inspiration behind it?
Pauline: The general idea isn’t unique or ours. When you get to know Levenshulme, it’s like an urban village. People moot ideas around all the time for empty old buildings, derelict spaces, secret lakes…I think it’s the nature of the people who move to the area and live there to be quite creative and community minded. We’ve just come around at the right time to make it happen. The building itself, once used as a transport hub and built in 1892, was originally named Levenshulme Station, only changing it’s name to Levenshulme South Station in 1952, before closing in 1958. Long after we started the project, we came across a beautiful café project in Paris called La Recyclerie and the two station buildings share a striking likeness, even down to the old viewing platforms. We’ll defo look to those guys for some of our sustainable practices going forward and nice vibes as well.
Myself (Pauline Johnston) Abigail Pound and Mark Jermyn didn’t really know each other before, I’d only worked with Mark aka Moderate Realism on a community art project – the pink ‘Levenshulme’ Mural at the other Levenshulme station coincidentally. I liked his artwork at The Refuge and got in touch. Abigail Pound, is the volunteer coordinator for Sustrans in the North and we met through a mutual friend and fellow Sustrans volunteer (Jamie Whittaker). She’s been instrumental in helping us get round the table and collaborating with the building owners. I thought we’d make a good trio and we’ve been doing it ever since. We all came together with our shared passion as residents of Levenshulme to make a stand-out venue combining our interests and skills.
Nanny: What has been the biggest challenge been so far?
Pauline: It has to be juggling all of our day jobs and taking time out for relationships to be honest (including one big fat Manchester wedding in between for me!) A project of this scale and ambition is all consuming and we’ve all been tested at times, but it’s good fun and a proper learning curve and it’ll be worth it when we open.
Nanny: What’s the reaction been from locals?
Pauline: Overwhelmingly supportive. The crowdfunder has just launched and it’s going well. People want to see more good stuff happening for Levenshulme and restoring this much loved old building has definitely been top on that list for a lot of local folk. The cycling community in Manchester are also hyped about the prospects of such a large scale independent project, so everyone is rallying round to support us, which is ace.
Nanny: Where is the project at the moment?
Pauline: The cupola which is the old beacon on the rooftop with the weathervane and its being fully restored back to it’s Victorian splendour at the moment, and painted a deep railway green. When that’s done and revealed, we’ll definitely toast to it. The roof is due to be completed by the end of Summer and then we can get cracking on some of the bigger internal jobs to make our bar fit out possible.
Nanny: Are people able to get involved or help out at all?
Pauline: Absolutely! We’re totally grassroots and as such, we’re calling on volunteers for the later stages of our work. People have already started donating their skills and time when we’re ready to call on it, so that’s amazing. We’re making a list of all the craftspeople and builders so people can just get in touch if they want to get involved in the fix up. We’ve got the green space next to the building, so that’s going to need some proper graft in the future.
Nanny: How difficult has it been to fund the project?
Pauline: We’ve had to work hard over the past 18 months to convince the building owners that the building deserved to be fully restored after many years of decline and disrespect by previous tenants. Thankfully the owners ( Railway Paths Ltd) have seen our passion, have faith that we we’re the right people to take it on and be supported in that process. So far 200K has been invested collectively into the restoration by Railway Paths, Railway Heritage Trust and Architectural Trust and we continue to look at avenues of funding and support for both restoration and business. The Crowdfunder is part of the restoration and fit out and if we’re successful, it’s further proof that we have the communities support going forward.
Nanny: When are you hoping to open?
Pauline: The power trio all have different answers for this, ha ha – I say (Pauline) “next Summer ” Mark says ” whenever the building is ready” and Abigail says “as soon as realistically possible” – so Summer 2019 is the ambition, but we need to get our crowdfunder done and dusted to get us in the building sooner.