Yesterday, as artist Bree Hughes was at work producing a mural at the front of the Crown Theatre, loads of local people were stopping to sign the petition to save the Grade 2 listed building on Liverpool Road in Eccles and to share fond memories of the old theatre, cinema and bingo hall.
One woman told campaigners that she used to be an usherette when it was a cinema and nearly fell off the top of the gods on the fourth tier of the 2,500 capacity building, while others just remembered going there as kids...
"I used to come here as a small child with my brother, when it was the Crown picture house" said Barbara Zdanowisz "It's a lovely building and it's been used for lots of different things, it's just a shame that something like this should be knocked down or just left to crumble; it's just going bit by bit.
"It's a nice place but something needs to be done because it's now an eyesore" she added "It needs something like this, something for Eccles, Patricroft and Salford, so people can use it again."
In front of Barbara, the mural was depicting exactly what that something should be, with pictures of bands, concerts and dances being created to make a guerrilla art statement of intent.
"Basically we want to keep the facade as it is, which is the main listed part of the building, and we want to use it as a community auditorium" explained Save The Crown Theatre Eccles campaigner, Jon Grieves "We want it to be a multi-purpose building for use as a theatre, for dance, shows, cinema and bands. We want to make the most of it having a big capacity, and to make use of the gods which are still in there.
"During the day it will have community uses – a drop-in cafe for people with Alzheimer's, a space to host holiday sessions for children, there's lots of rooms down the sides which could be used by all kinds of groups and societies" he adds "Structurally it's solid, it's walls are two and a half feet thick, it's a Victorian build and isn't going anywhere..."
The Lyceum Theatre, as it was called, was opened in 1899 (built 1898), and was re-named the Crown Theatre in 1907, hosting many of the top variety acts of the day, so popular that extra buses had to be laid on from Urmston to cope with getting crowds to the venue. It became a cinema in 1932 and a bingo hall in 1963, finally closing in the 1980s.
From then, it was left to rot until, in 2003, Ty Jeffries - son of mega famous actor, Lionel Jeffries - who was living in Canterbury Gardens in Eccles, fought Salford Council to get the building listed, as speculators began talking of demolition to make way for apartments.
The building was Grade 2 listed in that year, with English Heritage noting that the Crown was "a rare surviving example of a suburban working-class theatre that still retains the original form of its auditorium and front of house".
Indeed, despite years of dereliction, fires and kids messing about in the place, the Crown's interior iron structure is still intact on all four floors and the local community has been trying to look after the space.
There were proposals in Salford City Council's Liverpool Road Corridor 10 Year Strategy (2007-17) for the partial demolition of the Crown, with the facade to be retained within a scheme for 92 apartments – but that planning permission has now expired.
Instead, campaigners believe that there are now plans afoot to totally demolish the building and redevelop the site as an apartment block. An email sent to a Save The Crown Theatre member from local councillor and Assistant Mayor, Lisa Stone, apparently confirms the intentions.
However, current owner, David Monks, is understood to be willing to sell the Crown to campaigners if they can raise enough money and get the backing of the Council for their scheme.
"There's a hunger amongst the Eccles people to do something with the building so we've got what we're calling this little `Branksy', or artwork going on the front, to try and show people that it's got life" said Jon Grieves "It's not hurting anyone and it's brightening it up and hopefully it will get people keen on it again. We don't want to save the building and have a folly, we want a use for it, will prove there's a use for it and will raise the money for it."
The cost will be, what Jon calls, "a good few £million" but he and many others believe it will be well worth it to bring Eccles back to life, with the Crown right on the edge of the town centre.
Indeed, official priorities of the Eccles Community Committee are `Improvement to Eccles Town Centre', the `Growth and sustainability of businesses in Eccles Town Centre' and `To improve the visitor offer within Eccles Town Centre'. So far, little has happened, despite £50,000 from the High Street Innovation Fund.
While the Queens Arms Hotel up the road in Green Lane has been awarded Asset of Community Value status, protecting it from speculators, the Crown Theatre hasn't been afforded such luxury as yet...
"We want to save the building but don't know enough about how to do it" says Jon "We need to find someone who will help us tackle the people and authorities which need tackling. We've just got the ball rolling but we need to find someone with the skills to do things like a feasibility study, fundraising and getting the backing of local celebrities. We're desperate for that..."
What the campaigners are brilliant at, is drawing attention to the plight of yet another listed building in Salford that is in imminent danger, with yesterday's `Branksy' guerrilla art project drawing in many new supporters.
"If we get the building it will go back to its original name, the Eccles Lyceum, the people's theatre" says Jon "But we need to move fast and we want Eccles and Salford people to get behind it and Save The Crown Theatre Eccles!"
* Save The Crown Theatre Eccles campaigners are holding their regular meeting this Wednesday 29th July 6pm at the Nur Malaysia Community Cafe (opp the Mosque) on Liverpool Road – everyone is welcome to attend
There is also a new Just Giving page set up by campaigner Rachel Potts to fund a feasibility study – click here
For further details of the campaign see the Help Save The Crown Theatre Eccles facebook page – click here