The building has been reborn as community theatre co-operative NIAMOS
Over the years it has hosted legendary performances by some of the world’s biggest stars, including The Beatles and Nina Simone.
But until last year, Hulme’s historic Playhouse Theatre was feared to be at risk of being lost forever.
Now the Warwick Street venue is being brought back to life by community theatre co-operative NIAMOS, and will be opened back up to audiences this week for its first play in 25 years.
Janey Riley, venue manager and community producer, said: “Because we’re a co-operative there’s a lot of different visions coming together but the main thing is that we are a community theatre and then we embrace everything around that.”
The theatre was built in 1902 and was originally known as the Hippodrome before swapping names with the theatre next door and becoming the Grand Junction Theatre in 1905.
The building later became a cinema, the Junction Picture Theatre, in 1929, before reverting to theatre use as The Playhouse in 1951.
It was then bought by the BBC and used as a TV and radio recording studio in 1956.
It was here that The Beatles recorded their radio debut on March 7, 1962, performing covers of Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream?), Memphis, Tennessee, and Please Mister Postman in front of a live studio audience.
The venue also became known as the Palace of Laughter, hosting shows featuring comedians including Kenn Dodd and Les Dawson.
The BBC moved out in 1985 and the building reopened in 1991 as the Nia Centre, a hub for Afro-Caribbean arts and culture.
Nina Simone sang at its opening event, and the venue went on to host performances from acts including Gil Scott-Heron, De La Soul, Hugh Masakela and Ziggy Marley until its closure in 1997.
It was also at the forefront of black theatre, welcoming productions from the likes of Talawa Theatre Company, the Black Theatre Co-operative, the Blue Mountain Theatre, the African Peoples Theatre, the African Players, the Open Door Theatre and the Umoja Theatre.
“It was the biggest black arts project in Europe at that time,” said Janey.
“The word Nia is from Swahili and means ‘for the purpose of the community’.
“It got more and more popular through the 90s and the artists got bigger and bigger.”
Since then, they’ve set about repairing and restoring the building, which is now home to a performance space in the historic auditorium, a studio rehearsal space, music studios, a kitchen and micro-bakery.