Manchester

Fight to save Manchester venue where Bee Gees first sang

The Gaumont/Bee Gees Image copyright Google/BBC
Image caption The Bee Gees frst performed as The Rattlesnakes at the Gaumont cinema in Chorlton

Fans of the Bee Gees are in a race against time to save a former cinema building where the band's famous brothers first performed.

The Gaumont cinema in Chorlton, Manchester, was where the young Gibb brothers made their live debut as The Rattlesnakes in 1957.

Now a funeral home, the site has been put up for sale by owners Co-op Funeral Care, and could make way for flats.

But local music fans want to turn the building into a community resource.

Volunteers have launched the Stayin' Alive campaign to raise £250,000 to transform the 99-year-old building into a market-style food hall and performance space.

A spokeswoman for Co-op Funeralcare said it was working with the Chorlton Community Land Trust to ensure "they are fully involved in the sale process".

The trust has been given until Saturday to raise the funds and make a formal bid to the Co-op.

Image copyright Gibb family
Image caption The Gibb brothers performed as The Rattlesnakes before going on to form the Bee Gees in 1958

Chris Peacock, who is leading the campaign, said the group had so far raised more than £185,000 and was optimistic Co-op would accept their offer.

"The Gaumont will be celebrating its centenary next year, so what better time to give the building a bright new future, staying true to its heritage," he said.

"Bee Gees fans still travel to get their photos taken next to the building, even though it's now a funeral home.

"Really it should be as important to Manchester as the Cavern club is to the legacy of the Beatles in Liverpool."

Mr Peacock added the group would seek to restore many of the Gaumont's original features, and incorporate tributes to the Bee Gees.

Image copyright Manchester libraries
Image caption The Gaumont opened as a cinema in 1920 and closed in 1962, before becoming a funeral home

The Gibb brothers - Barry, Robin and Maurice - were born on the Isle of Man but later moved to Keppel Road in Chorlton, where the family lived for seven years.

Sir Barry Gibb later purchased the terraced house, and in 2013 returned to visit his old school, Oswald Road Primary School.

The project to save the Gaumont is being supported by Bee Gees fans around the world as well as the Gibb brothers' cousins, Hazel and Justine Gibb.

The group is also discussing future plans to include a new GP practice on the site, alongside a gym and affordable housing.

A spokeswoman for Co-op Funeralcare said it had been a "hard decision" to move out of the building after more than 50 years.

But she confirmed that the trust would be given the opportunity to bid for the property.

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