Over the last 21 months, one of the biggest casualties job wise have been the hospitality and entertainment industries, especially those being venues for live music. Way back in August 2017, one woman had a dream, to create a community space for the people of Hyde, which could be used for a whole host of uses. Using a large amount of her own money, she identified a building that would suit her dream and set about creating a team that could make it reality. This was the birth of POP, its creator Jackie Francis, whose team transformed what was the town’s former main Post Office into a community cafe and a safe space for those needing social interaction, through groups providing a variety of activities and advice.

2 years of dedicated work by the team, saw the Post Office Project (POP), going from strength to strength. A stage was constructed, for local bands to practice their craft and play to live audiences. A license to serve alcohol was applied for and granted, making it a fast rising venue to be reckoned with. So much so, members of famous Manchester bands from the 90s, Clint Boon and Tom Hingley played set on the POP stage.

When Covid restrictions threatened all live music venues, POP was chosen by the Music Venue Trust to be given life support, one of only 30 UK venues to be chosen. An appeal to the local community also provided some support, which helped the venue make a new start when restrictions started to lift. A new cafe was one change, with a menu featuring vegan options, called Cafe Verde, run by Belinda Hodson. Live music has also returned, the first band to play featuring Belinda’s husband Andy on guitar, the band is called Urban Myth. Clint Boon also returned to do a DJ set, with Tom Hingley back with his band.

The community groups have also made a welcome return, such as the Monday Club (who like a quiz or a game of bingo) and the Knit and Natter group every Thursday. On occasional Fridays, the Crap Cinema Club show classic films on a huge screen, whilst enjoying popcorn and a chippy supper. The venue also play host to Big Life and Neighbourhood teams, who provide a drop in service for those needing advice on mental health or other issues. Since lockdown POP also recently played host to a major live stream event, which was streamed to a global audience and was viewed thousands of times. Digital Pride Manchester had the backing of Mayor Andy Burnham and other major political figures such as Sacha Lord. The event ran for several hours, with live performances from numerous singers, drag acts and comedians. Jackie has big plans going forward, with her team recently securing £31k of funding from the Arts Council, with a possibility of more to come. She recently went on Air, speaking to DJ and Manc legend Mike Sweeney to discuss the importance of community spaces like POP in tackling loneliness that many suffer. Plans are also taking shape for a full itinerary of entertainment throughout 2022.

On December 18th the San Pedro Collective will be just one of the many exciting acts taking to the POP stage. You can find details of all upcoming events and cafe opening times on the POP Facebook page. This Phoenix has definitely risen. This bird is definitely NOT dead.

Andrew Richardson