Hilton House, birth place of The Penthouse has been sold to oversees investors. Something dies with this sale and it isn’t The Penthouse, it is the old school. The Northern Quarter to many is a place to visit, get a coffee, spot a piece of graffiti and so on- to Terry and his family and to the un likely cross section of Hilton House tenants it was a community and a home within our own city centre. Just like artists, other people want to be connected to where they live and work. Development companies are spending a lot of money saying they can make this happen- selling back to people what they do naturally anyway if they are given the freedom and space. 

The Penthouse has been freedom and space in the middle of it all- the young call PPI call centre workers, the alcoholic odd job men, the Jehova’s witnesses, the old school accountants, the communists, the ‘doctor’ from Libya who found space for his business in Hilton House and an ally in Terry, the drag queens, the artists, the musicians, the knocked off goods salesmen. Walking down the spiral staircase Terry has time for everybody he passes, he prays for his tenants when they are suffering from life’s cruelties. Terry is what will be missed most of all. We won’t focus on the sale of some crumbling concrete that will make the money Terry and his family are too old school to tap. We will focus on what Terry made that place for whoever needed it to get by. And we will make freedom and time and space for those who need it as far as we can in new ways when supporting artists and making platforms. 

We’ve all got our missions, beliefs, statements, aims. The young lads from the call centres who smoke out the front used to annoy us but we became good neighbours. They always offered to help us out- they couldn’t believe how much graft we used to do in there- shifting, loading, building etc. “Your hardcore yous like”. I even forgive them for drawing penises on anything we ever tried to do around the building. In a funny way I think we gained their respect when we lit a rainbow of smoke bombs on the roof and we drew all over our car for Manchester Pride “Dyke Power” and spun off. 

 A lot of these young people have no opportunities- they are from parts of Manchester that doesn’t see any of the benefits of cultural investment. They don’t have a creative space, a community centre, a library, a place where they might find the thing they can do or love. The ones who are leading these call centres are trying to make something and even though they are annoying in many ways we hope they find the cracks in the system that gives them the money they see every other fucker benefiting from. 


Terry is for the underdog- whoever they might be. We had many many conversations about power and crooked systems- about religion, spirituality, sexuality. He gave us an English version of the Quran and we introduced him to Queer Art. We wrote QUEER REVOLT across the windows for a show as part of our IMPOSE||LIFT project curating The Curfew Tower (Northern Ireland). It is very visible from the surrounding area between NQ and Great Ancoats Street. He never said anything but when we asked he said he was “getting shit for it” but it’s our space and we should do with it what we need to. On talking to Terry about the EDL marches in Manchester that resulted in violence we told him about the Queer Resistance to the EDL racism and violence and he very much appreciated it. 

It all happened out on the entrance to Hilton House and Terry had a quip for everybody. His Dad Mr Shafi- came round with his business hat on and little notebook to make sure business was taken care of. A shake of the hand and a nod, always happy as long as business was being done. They wanted the building to live and it did- first home to their thriving school uniform business that turned Hilton House into “the centre of the world” as Terry called it and then to a long line of ventures. 

Looking around Hilton House many fallen pieces of it’s glamorous past can be found- elaborately patterned tiles, golden trim, brass handles, the empty ornamental fish pond. It’s time has passed. But it has been important- an incubator for our own way. Fiercly independent and a safe space for a thousand odd balls- we cried everyday of our last show there- Queer Art Show 5. People said it felt like family. This can’t be bought and sold. 

Queer Art Show 5 (below)

We would like to say thank you to every person who made the last 5 years so special, interesting and important. You have brought yourselves, your ideas, your works, sounds, vibes and you have been yourself. Our space hasn’t been for everybody- we purposefully did not institutionalize ourselves and were often ‘rough around the edges’- this leaves uncertainties, gaps, leaps and imagination and you joined it all up with us. 

We are not going to take this opportunity to say all of the great things we have done like some sort of PR stunt to big ourselves up ‘moving forward’. Being an artist led organisation involves business- no doubt- but it involves many other things if we let it- love, sincerity, connection, hope. We entered this venture together- a pair of dykes in love with a passion for the unknown, our art practices and the practices of our peers. We have learned a lot about what this means. 

Thank you to Terry, Mr Shafi, his family and to all of the artists we have worked with over this time. 

You know who you are. 

Long live The Penthouse <3