The Bentley House Estate, Hulme, celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2007. ‘The Redbricks’, as they are known locally, have survived the demolition of the surrounding area twice: first in the 1960s and then again in the 1990s.
The small housing estate consists of six blocks of flats, three stories high. Each flat has 2-3 bedrooms and shared access. In all, there are 248 homes. The residents have a website at www.redbricks.org.
The Hulme Redbricks were in the news around 1999 when residents installed a local intranet, shared across the estate, which provided affordable, fast internet access before this was the norm. They did this without external help or planning permission and received recognition and praise for their achievement from commentators all over the world.
The purpose-built pub on Royce Road, across Clarendon Street from the Bentley House Estate, is so similar in style (almost Art Deco) that I assume it was built at the same time.
In 1992, The Grants Arms, as it was then called, was put on the market by the brewery which owned it because a series of landlords had failed to make the business work.
Local resident, Franklin bought the pub and worked hard to turn the business around. He didn’t have prior experience as a publican but he had DJ’d for many years around Manchester and he set about altering the pub’s reputation through the astute use of music.
One Tree Island 19/09/2009
Franklin encouraged musicians to perform at weekly jam sessions. He developed the pub as a venue for performers and DJs to use regularly, altering the interior to accomodate this. He also organised monthly African and West Indian themed nights which involved DJs, musicians, dancers and specially prepared food to reflect the theme of the night.
‘Theme countries’ were chosen by anniversary date of independence and celebrated through the music played and the food served that evening.
Franklin also held regular family fun days outside the pub. He even bought his own bouncy castle to use at these events.
All this hard work gradually paid off: in 1999, The Grants Arms won the Brewers & Licensed Retailers’ Association award for Community Pub of the Year, at the same time that the Bentley House Estate local intranet was being developed just across the road.
At this point Franklin decided to change the pub’s name from The Grants Arms to A’Fe’We, which means ‘For Us’ in British Creole. He had been unable to discover who ‘Grant’ was, and consequently the name seemed meaningless. The name change seemed a good way to emphasize that the pub belonged to the community.
The area immediately around the pub was being redeveloped at this time. The 1940s’ planners were sensible enough to build the pub a street’s width away from the community it was intended to serve, but in the 1990s, planning permission was granted to build new houses right up alongside and all around the pub. This created an obvious problem for a venue which specialised in hosting live music.
In spite of the difficulties, A’Fe’We continued to host music events through the 2000s, including nights run by One Tree Island (who have a Facebook page) and Big People’s Old School.
One Tree Island 24/10/2009
Complaints from local residents about noise levels led to the imposition of licensing restrictions by Manchester City Council during 2007. If only the council had done its job properly in the first place and allowed an area around the pub to remain free from housing. Sadly the pub eventually stopped trading in 2010.
The A’Fe’We pub is currently being altered so that it can be used as a nursery for local children. However the plot will most likely be sold on eventually for redevelopment.
Big People’s Old School now runs at The Rampant Lion on Anson Road, Victoria Park.
GRANATA has used this post as part of a site all about Manchester’s pubs: pubs-of-manchester.blogspot.com.