The University of Manchester’s Students’ Union building is undergoing a multi-million pound transformation, meaning access to the commercial areas of the Students’ Union will be cut off from May until next September.
Although it will be open and functional in time for Welcome Week 2017, the work will not be complete until next April at the earliest.
The University have provided the Students’ Union with a grant for the refurbishment, complementing the Students’ Union’s own funds. The foundations have already been laid for the extensions at the back of the building, and once built these will add an extra 1,000 square feet to the Union.
We spoke to the Union Director Ben Ward, and the General Secretary Naa Acquah about the end goal of the renovation and the future vision of a new and improved SU building.
“The project is a long time coming,” began Ben. “We did a big survey of students in terms of what they wanted inside the building and so that’s shaped the plans since then.” He also made clear that whilst the ground floor will be closed over the summer, there will never be a time that the whole building will be completely shut down — even when the work continues next year.
“We’re going to have loads of exciting new areas,” added Naa. “Downstairs, the cafe and shop area are being completely expanded to create a really cool food hall.” The ultimate aim is to provide more diverse food options for students and more space for them to enjoy these.
The shop will expand and ‘enterprise pods’ will be opened. Naa told The Mancunion that these will “mini-shop fronts for Students to be able to use who have things to sell or ‘entrepreneurial’ things [to do]. They can take up that space — whether it’s for a week or a month — and use that.”
According to Ben, another feature of the Union will be a Job Shop, which will “promote part time work for the students both inside the Union but also to advertise local businesses.”
The basement will also be renovated, and although Club Academy will remain largely the same, there will be many more meeting rooms created, as well as new toilets. There will be “two big studio spaces,” and as part of the overall plan, the work will “more than double the amount of meeting space in the building.”
On the first floor Fuse TV, Fuse FM and The Mancunion will also have a bigger, better space created, as well as a new photographic darkroom, which is being brought up from the basement to the first floor. There will be a meeting space created for international students, as well as a space called the ‘Liberation Lounge’ and areas for mature students or students living at home.
“A theatre space came top of the list when we did a student consultation of what [people] wanted,” noted Ben, and this will be housed on the third floor.
Naa has also told us that there will be some sort of opportunity to name the new rooms. “It should be quite nice to get people involved somewhat,” she added, noting that the SU already has rooms named after influential people who have been associated with the city or the University of Manchester.
We asked what will happen for the summer’s Pangaea festival, as there have been rumours around campus that it may not go ahead. Thankfully, both Naa and Ben confirmed that the event will go ahead — however, it will be “off-site.”
“It will give us an opportunity to do something really, really cool with it. I’m quite excited for the opportunity. We’ll be back in September in the main building.”
More information can be found about the renovation works and the vision for a better Union on their website.