I had made contact with Manchester City Council who suggested that we take a look at 23 New Mount Street which was a collection of small workspaces, probably to small for us. However there was an undeveloped third floor which was available.
I got in touch immediately and went to meet John Lancaster at the building. As the lift door opened, I knew that I had found the place in which Sunset Radio would be based…It was perfect.
Negotiations were concluded with almost indecent haste and agreements were reached. The building was uninhabitable at the time and we set ambitious plans for the work to be completed and for us to launch the station.
From that very first meeting, John Lancaster was a rock.
In the early days he made rooms available elsewhere in the building so that we could actually start work. As we moved in we got to know many of the other businesses in the building and it soon became clear that this really was the creative hub of Manchester. Many of the well known Manchester bands had their offices there, designers, record pluggers, t shirt manufacturers and many other trades made this a truly happening building.
Many individuals would come to the third floor as the building work continued to see what all the fuss was about.
John Lancaster was a rock during this time, providing help and support whenever he could.
Eventually, on the 22nd of October 1989, Sunset Radio was launched with a huge private party in our offices at 23 New Mount Street. All night long John Lancaster walked round with a massive smile on his face. He knew what, together, we had achieved.
Times were tough in those early days for Sunset Radio and John always understood when the rent was late or when other bills went unpaid. He always knew he would be paid eventually and did whatever he could to help keep the business going. He always said that having Sunset Radio at New Mount Street helped to give the building a fantastic profile.
When I was sacked as Managing Director and was looking for some office space to plan my return to Sunset Radio John provided it with no cost.
John’s company went on to open Workspace buildings in Stockport and Birmingham and both went on to great success.
On the 5th of March 2008 I received an e-mail from Chris Paul informing me that John had passed away. This was terrible news and I truly felt for John’s family and friends, especially those I knew at 23 New Mount Street.
In the e-mail was this comment:- “John was a significant behind the scenes player in Manchester’s cultural life. He was the founder of 23 New Mount Street just off Rochdale Road and helped 100s of arts businesses with good deals on rents etc over the years.”
It continued, “Tenants down the years have included the Inspiral Carpets, Cow, Notorious and others who printed Tees for James, Mind, Poptel/The Manchester Host, Sunset Radio, music studios including John Pennington (ex Strawberry), training orgs such as DJ School and Radio Regen, Women’s Electronic Village Hall, all sorts of significant businesses for Manchester’s health and happiness. Very very important in his own quiet way to the music and cultural industries in Mcr.”
Fortunately I was able to attend his funeral some days later and was astonished by the fantastic turn-out at the church in Heaton Moor, Stockport.
John Lancaster was loved by everyone who knew him. He helped many of the musicians on the Madchester scene and certainly helped those of us who launched Sunset Radio.
He is terribly missed.
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