A touch of yank film producer Francis Ford Coppola comes to Salford this week, as his Zoetrope Studio in San Francisco - which is financed by an Italian restaurant in the lobby - becomes the model for a new enterprise at the far end of Chapel Street.
Downstairs in the Black Lion, beer, coffee and cakes are on sale, and the profits from those will finance incredible happenings upstairs in the huge space where they are staging live arts events and cinema.
Events at the historic Black Lion are hardly new. Indeed John Cooper Clarke was in the pub pre-opening last week, filming a documentary and talking about how he appeared here at the start of his career. Now the three collaborators on the project hope the pub will ignite a similar Salford vibe
The three Black Lion partners are landlord Barry Phillips and Future Artists founders, Jenny Inchbald and Mark Ashmore. While Barry is well known in the local ale trade, Future Artists is building a reputation for original concepts in the media world.
"The idea was to get a pub because Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope film company is in a restaurant and we thought `That's a brilliant idea, we'll do that'" Jenny explains "And then the Green Room shut and all the cuts came. So we had to do it now."
There's no public money backing the place and the arts space upstairs is being run as a co-operative. It's an old idea but one that has found a new place in the 21st Century.
"It's almost about inspiring people because there's a lot of low confidence about but once you get your confidence up you can do whatever you want" says Mark "Everything we're doing is based on confidence, it's not based on money, there's no big backers or anything. We're hoping that people will see what we're doing here with creative events, see how easy it is to do, and become empowered to take it back to their neighbourhoods and make things happen."
What's happening already at the Black Lion is an event on the 24th called Pitch, Pledge, Party when ten creative organisations will be doing five minute pitches on stage for their films, theatre or artistic shows, with the audience voting for the best one. The winner gets a four night slot at the Black Lion, a £200 bar tab, £2000 worth of marketing support and other goodies.
Everyone who takes part gets a cut of the box office and a tenth of the take is being donated to Salford Arts Theatre to help with its Raise The Roof campaign (see here).
"It's to show that you can crowd fund ten projects in one night and all pull together which is the spirit of what we're trying to do here" says Mark "It's what we're all about, working with the community."
In the future, the upstairs will also be used as a cinema, a stage for theatre and as a space where anything can happen. The adult open mic night, No Turn Unstoned, is planning to put regular events on downstairs too which will feature songs, tall stories, comedy and poetry, while Barry hopes to make the pub into a pre and post-match venue for Salford City Reds fans, with a minibus running to the new stadium in Barton and to away matches.
During the week, the snug at the end of the bar has been set aside for creative people to work and meet…
"For the price of a coffee and maybe a bit of cake if you can afford it, you can sit in here all day and use the super fast 20megabite wifi, have your meetings here and meet like minded creatives" adds Mark "It's a meeting place for people."
Mark points to the table… "We've got a real Media City thing happening here" he says. And he's right. The re-birth of the Black Lion and the surrounding area is the sort of organic growth that should be happening on the Quays but isn't.
Chapel Street, with its historic buildings and character is becoming full of pub and cafe type venues at moment, with the King's Arms and the New Oxford close by, The Crescent putting live nights on, and Islington Mill becoming more open and popular. Far from being in competition, the Black Lion partners see it all as being a bonus.
"We've got good relationship with the Kings because I used to deliver for Bazens brewery there and they've offered help and support" Barry explains "And the New Oxford [previous Black Lion landlords], even though it didn't work here for them, are fully behind us."
But for it all to work, Jenny reckons the coffee sales are the key…
"If you're in Manchester town centre, come here for a coffee" she pleads "It's the same coffee that Deansgate has, it's good coffee and cheaper than Neros and Starbucks. The more coffee we sell, the more we can do here. Coffee is really important for us. And selling loads of beer too!"
"Coffee funds the Salford artists" Mark repeats. And repeats it again so everyone gets the message… "Coffee funds the Salford artists…"
Coppola's dream lives on in the Black Lion pub - `the big one on the corner'…
Black Lion pub, 65 Chapel Street, Salford M3 5BZ
Opens Friday 23rd September 2011
For further details on Future Artists and the projects click here
Black and white photos by Steven Speed