The Big Front Room: A year in pictures at one of Manchester's best-loved music venues

All images courtesy of Harry Potts

It was originally a cinema, built in the 1930s in a beautiful art deco style. It later became a concert venue and was where many of us saw our first gig. Today, the much-loved Manchester Apollo has seen so many iconic names perform on its stage that local photographer Harry Potts wanted to spend a year capturing the passion, excitement and affection for the historic building.

Called The Big Front Room, the series explores the relationship between the theatre, the fans and the visiting artists during its 80th-anniversary year from 2018. It formed part of Harry's postgraduate MA in photography and has since been published as a photobook.

But this isn't the first time Harry has photographed the venue. As a teenager in the late 1970s and early '80s, he shot many of the biggest names in rock at the Apollo: The Ramones, AC/DC, The Jam, Iron Maiden, The Who, and Thin Lizzy. It seemed inevitable that he would combine his two greatest passions, rock music and photography and with a "must-see gig" in town nearly every week.

Back in the day, there were 'No Photography' restrictions, equipment would be seized, or at worse, offenders would be prosecuted. Harry had the solution... dismantle the camera, hide it down the front and back of your trousers, pray you'd survive the pat-down and re-assemble once safely inside. In 1982, now studying photography at Manchester Polytechnic, he decided to shoot bands legitimately from the front of the stage – this meant applying for photo-passes from the record companies, claiming he was working for music magazines that didn't even exist; surprisingly it got him what he wanted.

Forty years later, Harry returned to the Apollo to document the iconic theatre which so inspired him at the start of his photographic career. Today, he is a photography lecturer at The Manchester College and a former MEN Media press photographer with a Master of Arts in photography and a passion for visual storytelling. Discover more on his website.

© Harry Potts

© Harry Potts

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© Harry Potts