The traditional arrival is marked by a medley of squealing brakes and weary engine complaints from several double decker buses; more often than not combined with intertwined episodes of casual jay walking and horn honking for an ever-evolving, energetic ambiance in a constant state of flux. This is the Road. Then it’s the plethora of restaurants lining it that dominate the attention. Packed in like wonky teeth, blaring their right to compete directly via the medium of glowing neon lights and boisterous waiters, keen to sell their spicy evening delights: the Restaurants. Only once you’ve acclimatised to, or at least acknowledged, those competing yet somehow complementary forces can you take in the intricacies of the scene. Vibrant chicken tikka massalas, cosy, somehow illicit-seeming shisha dens thick with smoke, the shiniest of gold jewellery and jewels rotating in window displays like miniature galaxies – all set to an imposing soundtrack of intermittent reminders from the Road and the Restaurants. This is Rusholme’s ‘curry mile’, the main artery leading directly to the beating heart of Manchester city centre.
I expect a large proportion of the people reading this post will be from Manchester, and as such will be familiar with the curry mile. For those who are not, I have tried to use words to paint a picture and, I hope, encouraged a sprinkle of magic from your imagination to give a feel of the place over a photograph.
Back to our setting. If you can drag your senses away from the feast that is the curry mile, and meander down an unassuming side street by the all-encompassing name of Rusholme Grove, you may just stumble upon another great cultural treasure: Antwerp Mansion. Set back from the road behind an imposing padlocked gate, up a path and through the grounds, Antwerp House, as it was known, has held its own since 1840 when it was built as a private home for wealthy Victorians to reside in. The venue retains much of its decadence – in a rundown, dilapidated, still very much full of character sort of way. The venue had a spell as the home of the Belgian Consul, along with serving its time as a private members club as of 1922. The roaring 20s feels like an apt time for adventures at Antwerp to take a new direction, with investments in recreation when the building was extended to add a ballroom (upstairs) and snooker hall.
Antwerp Mansion describes itself as ‘a home for much of the new musical and artistic talent of Manchester’ and has a playful, experimental, anything goes feel to the space. ‘The green room’ is a private space of the Mansion, kept exactly as it was in the conservative club days: stacked with old books, with walls filled with portraits of politicians, wartime paintings and sporting trophies. It’s here that I chatted with Andy, the owner of Antwerp Mansion about the vibe of the venue and how I felt the space encouraged people to ‘have a go’ at sharing their ideas for performance and experiences with a wider audience. Andy said ‘A lot of people feel that way, it’s because it’s not pretentious here. We encourage people to try things out, and if they don’t work out quite right, no worries – nobody is going to judge you. Maybe it’s because of this sense that more often than not things tend to work out’.
The Hooping Harlots have performed a few times at Antwerp Mansion, both alongside bands and DJs and in the grounds, spinning fire and LED hoops with our pals The Cirque du Manc Mistresses. It also happens to be where I did my first professional face painting gig earlier this year. So what a venue for the first ever event hosted by The Hooping Harlots: an LED hoop party. Eyes were treated to a kaleidoscope of colour when the ballroom dancefloor was awash with swirling LED lights. We had new outfits for the occassion, sporting bespoke Harlequin Harlot spotty and stripey frilly knickers from creative genius, chief hooper Lucy to be a vision in red and white frills. And our guests dressed to impress too: the rainbow lights were turbo charged by their surroundings of glitzed faces, jazzy leggings, colourful hotpants and spangly frock hooping attire.
Making the event even more fun was the one and only Jules of fancy pants face painting fame, whom I will never tire of working with and bigging up: SHOUT OUT TO JULES! We also had hoops and covers for sale from Cathy at iHulahoop and Mama Rouge respectively. It was brilliant to get so much support from the hooping community at Manchester’s first LED hoop party, with Lou from hoop jam, Cathy from iHulahoop and Andrea from the jellyfish rooms all representing with their premium hoop moves. As with every hoop event the troupe have attended, the supportive community feel was totally energising and it was ace to be able to share moves and learn new tricks from fellow hoopers. Us Hooping Harlots treated our guests to a performance of our latest routine, and it was a massive compliment to get such an roaring response from the crowd to supercharge our buzz about the whole evening.
High fives all round to our fabulous hooping community for making this event so much fun and such a success. Things worked out at the Mansion. Even better than we could have imagined. It’s an honour to be involved with a unique place so rich in cultural and creative heritage. Oh, and there will DEFINITELY be more LED hoop parties.
Here are the pics:
And that’s not all. Check out the video that Jess magic-ed up, with scenes from the night and our troupes performance. Loads of colour: incoming…
Antwerp Mansion photos from http://www.antwerpmansion.com
Harlequin Harlot – http://www.facebook.com/TheHarlequinHarlot
Fancy Pants face painting – http://www.facebook.com/fancypantsfacepainting
Mama Rouge hoop covers – http://www.facebook.com/hulahoopcoversbymamarouge