Now six years into its journey, The Stoller Hall has cemented itself as one of Manchester’s favourite and most diverse homes for live performance, with a programme spanning everything from music and comedy to cinema and exhibitions.
We caught up with Fran Healey, The Stoller Hall’s Commercial Creative Director, to discuss the art of programming, the venue’s commitment to sustainability and the exciting plans the team is already working on for 2024.
What do you think sets Stoller apart from other venues in the city?
From a building perspective, we’re a really intimate space. Whether you’re in our main hall or in our smaller space, the Carole Nash Hall, you can really feel close to the onstage action. Our acoustics are world-class, and every single surface in the auditorium is specially designed to create the best sound possible. Whether you’re here for a classical concert or a comedy show, you’ll get to hear everything.
Are there any kinds of shows that you particularly enjoy hosting at the venue?
We love events that you can get lost in – like the rest of the world is shut out and you’re in a space where nothing but that event is happening, and it’s all happening for you. Music is our number one love, and we’re excited to bring big names to such an intimate space in Manchester, but we also love being a great quality platform for less mainstream artists too.
I know sustainability is a big focus for the venue, could you share a bit about the steps you take to place this at the forefront of your plans?
We’re lucky to be situated very close to public transport with Manchester Victoria railway station and Metrolink just outside, so we make sure that we’re letting audience members know how they can travel to visit us. Inside the venue, we try to source sustainably where possible, for example, much of what you can buy on our bar – from spirits to snacks – is made within a 30-mile radius of The Stoller Hall.
Beyond audiences, we look at every part of our operation and how we can make it more planet-friendly, including the way we manage our building heating and lighting and the suppliers that we work with, from our printers to our box office system. We believe that every small change adds up, and we try to work with partners who take the same view.
How do you ensure the Stoller Hall appeals to an audience beyond ‘typical’ classical audiences? Such as families, younger generations etc?
One of the most important things for us is the welcome that you get when you arrive, but when it comes to encouraging people in through the doors, we try to programme inclusively, and one of the ways we do that is by linking different kinds of programming together. For example, earlier this year at Manchester Guitar Festival we were able to have the flamenco guitarist from our headline act come and play for our early-years sessions in the afternoon, so people of all ages got to experience his work, and that’s something we’ll continue with events in 2024.
Your programming is obviously extremely varied, how do you go about building such an eclectic calendar?
We always try to have a balance across the year with some high-profile artists and major tours, but also some surprises to encourage our audience to experiment and to try something new and different. We’re always thinking hard about what will really work well in our environment (recognising that not everything does!) and we make sure that what we have works for the audience and well as for the performer. Fundamentally, it’s about what will make for a great night (or day) out.
Is there anything you can tell us about the venue that people might not know?
Being attached to Chetham’s School of Music, we’re massively committed to education and learning, and to creating opportunities for young people and young musicians. It also means that while The Stoller Hall is one of the newest venues in the city, we also look after one of the oldest buildings in Manchester – the Baronial Hall, which is you can visit as part of Chetham’s Library tours as well as catching live music there through the year.
We also pride ourselves on being a friendly venue, and our team works really hard to make sure that every event is as fun as possible. I can’t shout about them enough – they’re the best!
What does both the short-term and long-term future hold for Stoller? Do you have any exciting plans coming up that you’d like to give a mention to?
We have so many exciting things already announced for 2024, as well as so many ideas in the pipeline. For example, we’ve recently announced the return of Manchester Song Festival for next March, as well as a brand new festival and open competition centred around harp music in January. We’re really committed to building our family programming, particularly around interactive workshops, so there will be family shows attached to both of those festivals with more to come.
Our Emerging Artist scheme, supporting early-career musicians both on the stage with concerts and off the stage with advice and workshops, has been really meaningful to us and we’re looking forward to opening up applications for a new group of artists soon.
You can see what The Stoller Hall has coming up here.
The Stoller Hall, Hunts Bank, Manchester M3 1DA
- Bradley Lengden
- Published on:
- Thu 26 Oct 2023