Independent Venue Week


It’s one of Manchester’s buzzing hives, laden with a multitude of settings, from brunch to disco to pop-up cinema. Hidden under Oxford Road Station, Gorilla has now been part of our city for just over 5 years, since the scene-starter; Greenroom lost it’s government funding in 2012 due to the Coalition’s cut in financial backing to the Arts Council. Since opening in 1986, the likes of James, Alan Carr and Steve Coogan performed at Greenroom and Gorilla has only continued to pay homage to the previous venue, as a hub for artists, creators and comedians from across the country.

When the doors were swung open back in 2012, the space was an addition to the already wide portfolio of the Mission Mars group, which began it’s humble origins as the Trof Group when The Corner/Trof Fallowfield opened back in 2006 (the plot on which Fallow Cafe now sits.) Mission Mars was founded by Joel Wilkinson and Adelaide Winter and has grown vastly in size since the birth of their project twelve years ago. We spoke to a crucial member of their team, Ade Dovey, Head of Programming for the group who proclaims the founding duo a rarity: “I find there aren’t as many risk takers these days and it’s been a pleasure to be part of the Trof fabric.” The aspirations for Gorilla was to keep up the pace that The Deaf Institute set the ground work for when, back in 2008 it was the second Mission Mars venue to be opened and the ball only kept rolling from there. As aforementioned, the scene set by Greenroom itself was also a key idea behind Gorilla, with the idea to match the same aesthetic as the venue had before. “I think it echoes Greenroom’s cultured line ups. It’s big but small, it’s loud and yet quiet. We might be 6 years young but we’ve only just started! Innovation keeps blooming.”

As far as the brand portfolio goes Ade explains that Gorilla is easily the busiest day-to-day venue they have, with Deaf a popular student haunt just off Oxford Road, Albert Schloss closer to the city-slicker lifestyle of Spinningfields and the Albert Hall, the impressive new large scale venue with increasingly sold-out shows. Gorilla brings with it a kind of ease, as all walks of life pass through the doors of the downtown haunt, with a rough-and-ready interior and an impressive stage space kept away from the mean streets, neatly tucked under the rail tracks. But this by no means that the venue isn’t of a similarly high caliber as the other spaces. Even Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) has played Gorilla’s acoustically sound stage, amongst numerous other talent: “We’ve been fortunate enough to have that unique capacity in the city that allows us to have intimate underground plays from large bands, like Snoop Dogg, Neneh Cherry, Minus The Bear, DIIV and Martha Reeves.”

The future is indeed only ever brighter for Gorilla, with huge plans for yet more virtuoso’s to grace the stage, such as the upcoming Brit Awards intimate evening with Wolf Alice that will take place at the venue, as well as the likes of Baxter Drury and Lily Allen playing in the next few months. But who would Ade ideally in a blissful future, like to see takeover their venue? “I’m dreaming about My Bloody Valentine, Portishead, Tangerine Dream, Mercury Rev, Clark, Battles, Tortoise, Drive Like Jehu, Ratking, Ryley Walker, John Cage. The list goes on and on!” With that swift comment you can feel it, the nature with which Mission Mars build their foundations, with people who love the industry and lose themselves in the frivolity of it all.

From the bartenders, to the bookers, Gorilla has become a busy nest within our city. Read about our favourite Birmingham venue, Sunflower Lounge here!