Zion Arts Centenary

The Zion Arts Centre marks its centenary with an incredible theatrical experience

By Matthew Tyas | Last updated 10 October 2011

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What have Nureyev, Pavarotti and Damien Hirst got in common…?
…they’ve all shared a brew and done work at Hulme’s Zion Arts Centre!

Outside the Zion Arts Centre Manchester imageThis Sunday 9th October the Zion Arts Centre marks its centenary with an incredible immersive theatrical experience which takes over the entire building. The Zion Centre has been at the centre of Hulme life for 100 years – and this spectacular original performance will mark many of its highlights – including a recreation of the time when Rudolf Nureyev.Nureyev image

Nureyev, the internationally acclaimed Russian ballet dancer, rehearsed in the Zion studios in November 1968. Nureyev, at the peak of his fame, was preparing for a special production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, which he  went on to perform at the Manchester Opera House. This Sunday the rehearsal will be recreated by Darren Pritchard, director of dance company ‘Company Fierce’, in the same dimly lit studio, against a backdrop of footage of Rudolf Nureyev himself.

Other highlights include a revisiting of rehearsals  by opera singer Luciano Pavarotti – preparing for a performance with the Halle Orchestra. The Zion’s remarkable history also includes an exhibition of artist Damien’s Hirst’s world famous pickled shark, and The  Zion was  used in Warren Beatty’s film ‘Reds’. Sunday’s performance will express some of the Zion’s exciting past with a group of expert  ‘aerial’ walkers performing the daring feat walking sideways up the pillars, from the basement to the roof.

This  pioneering promenade performance, called ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Society, is named after a group set up in 1911 who arranged social activities in the Centre (see attached photo of original group). The show focuses on four generations of a fictional family living on Stretford Road (where the Zion is located) and how their lives are affected by the defining moments of the last 10 decades in Manchester.

Zion Arts Centre historical image

Audiences will be guided through the building, and the decades, by teenagers from Zion Young Performers. They will journey into a 1940s living room, with the chance for a cup of tea and a chat with some of Hulme’s older residents, into the blacked out theatre where they’ll experience the horrors of the Blitz, down into the basement to a 1970s Punk squat, through to a recording studio where a male voice choir will be practising and out into the park to hear the brass band.

The performance is a culmination of material generated by a series of events and workshops over the last 12 months. It’s the brainchild of innovative director Jonathan McGrath who wowed audiences at the first Manchester International Festival with ‘Come Forth People of the City, Under Cover of the Night.’
Liz O’Neill, CEO of the Zion Arts Centre said: “This performance is a theatrical extravaganza. It’s the result of a year of commitment both by local people and our team of writers and performers and is a truly fitting way to showcase this fantastic building and so much that has happened within its walls.
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate the past and move into the next centenary in the life of Zion Arts Centre. We know audiences will be enthralled by the performance and the building and hope once they’ve experienced a show at the Zion they’ll become regular visitors.”
‘A Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Society’ is directed by Jonathan McGrath from Greenroom, Contact Theatre and MIF 2007 and features Zion’s young writers, songwriters, film-makers and costume-maker and performers from Dundee College.

Tickets cost £5 and £3 for concessions. Promenade performances run from 2.00 – 5.00pm beginning every 15 minutes.

Ring the Box Office on 0161 232 6089 to book your slot or book in on the day.  Early booking strongly advised.


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