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Photography by Matthew Hoing

Leslie Holmes is Project Manager and custodian of the iconic Salford Lads Club (SLC). Leslie is the driving force behind SLC’s restoration and redevelopment into was is now today one of the region’ most visited culuural sites. Artist Leslie has lived in Ordsall for over 30 years recording the changing inner city landscape of Salford and Manchester. He has created projects, with schools and community groups, looking at the past and present. He was lead artist at Ordsall Community Arts from 1996 until 2016. Leslie created projects about the Ordsall Estate for the Arts Council Architecture Week from 2002 to 2007 and developed projects for architecture students from Manchester University. Leslie was also commissioned by the Chapman Gallery in 2010 to work on “Salford in Motion” about the changing views of Salford. 

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Salford Lads Club was established in 1903 as a purpose built club for boys. The club has continued to provide this facility for more than 100 years and is now considered to be the ‘finest example of a pre First World War club surviving and operating today’. The club is now open to girls and boys. SLC was part of the wider movement of lads clubs. The aim was to provide positive alternatives to the teenage street gangs of the time (known as “scuttlers”) with sports, arts , cultural and educational activities. The club was officially opened in 1904 by Robert Baden-Powell.

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Salford Lads Club - History

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Salford Lads Club

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Salford Lads Club's iconic sign

Martin was born in Bolton in 1976. He grew up in Bolton and studied at Turton High School, Bolton College & then Hull University. Martin moved to Chorley after he was injured in the Arena attack. For 18 years he had a successful career in Private Wealth Management. In 2015 he created Synergy Sports Management acting as agents for female footballers.

The club is also known for a famous photo taken by Stephen Wright in 1985, of The Smiths outside the building with the iconic sign in the background. Morrissey was a fan of Salford-born playwright Shelagh Delaney and the image ended up used in the inside album sleeve of The Smith’s third album ‘The Queen is Dead’. The band have cult following, and fans make the pilgrimage from around the world to visit the club and the dedicated Smiths room, an ongoing installation created and curated by Leslie Holmes where they can share their own photo snapped outside.

Q & A with Leslie Holmes

Q: Where and when were you born?

A: I’m from Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire born in 1950

Q: When and why did you move to Manchester/Salford?

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​A: I moved to Salford in1991 after working in art colleges, schools and youth clubs. I’d had exhibitions of my work, but I wanted to spend more time making art, and moving to the city gave me that opportunity.  I started with a small studio unit at New Mount Street and I’m now in my 6th studio space as every building I was in has been redeveloped: it’s a symbol of the city. I got involved in the local community with Ordsall Community Arts and I worked with them for over 20 years creating projects across the city with a huge range of community groups. I came across Salford Lads Club in 2001 when I was looking for a space to work with three school groups, looking at family links with the remaining original buildings of the  “Docks Estate” The Ordsall estate had gone through enormous changes from the late 1960s onwards, with the closure of Salford Docks and the loss of over 7000 terraced houses; Salford Lads Club is one of the few buildings where generations of people still have a link.

Q: Why is Salford Lads Club so important to the city and its community?

A: Looking across the city in 2024 with all the new developments, I’m aware that this has been at the expense of much of the working class identity the city is founded on; not only the loss of industrial buildings, but the streets, pubs, shops and clubs that were the heart of community life. Salford Lads Club and the surrounding streets are an exception to this pattern of change, and the club is still an important centre 120 years after it first opened.

Q: What facilities does do the club now offer to the community?

A: The club continues to provide activities for local young people with over 250 children attending sessions in sports and arts each week, many of these have family links with the club across 3 generations. The building is grade II listed, described as the last remaining pre-WWI working lads club still in use. The building has a concert hall and band room, sports gym, boxing gyms and games room, which are still used every week by young people and local adults. Some of the older volunteers originally came here as young boys, and they not only still work with young people but they also show visitors around the club during two open days each week, telling their own stories about Salford Lads Club.   

Q: Is it important that Salford Lads Clubs continues to be faithful to its working class roots?

A: The club has retained records dating back to the first opening in 1903, along with holding over 22,000 membership cards. In 2015, design company “Why Not Associates” created a 5-metre-long wall displaying all these names, which is now on permanently display in our archive room.

 

Along with its continuing working class story, the club is a growing pilgrimage site for music fans from around the world who want to pose outside the famous sign, photographed for the Smiths album “The Queen is Dead” by Stephen Wright in 1985. In 2004 the club opened a Smiths Room where I have displayed and continue to curate an installation of photographs and messages sent in by fans, in what was an old and unused weightlifting room. The club is now the 3rd most visited music tourism site in the UK.

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Leslie Holmes is Project Manager and custodian of the iconic Salford Lads Club (SLC). Leslie is the driving force behind SLC’s restoration and redevelopment into was is today one of the region’ most visited cultural sites. He was born in Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire in 1950 and moved to Salford in 1991.

 

Artist Leslie has lived in Ordsall for over 30 years recording the changing inner city landscape of Salford and Manchester. He has created many projects, with schools and community groups, looking at the past and present.

 

Salford Lads Club was established in 1903 to provide positive alternatives to the teenage street gangs of the time with sports, arts , cultural and educational activities. The club is now open to girls and boys. The club is also known for the famous 1985 photo of The Smiths outside the building  and featured on the band’s ‘The Queen is Dead’ album. The band have cult following, and fans make the pilgrimage from around the world to visit the club and the dedicated Smiths room.

THE SHOOT: Old Trafford football stadium

Season ticket holder Martin, a fanatical Manchester United Fan considers Old Trafford his second home

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Student reflection: Matthew Hoing

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Meeting Martin for the first time and learning about his incredible journey was wonderful. I was so excited to be photographing him for the Greater Mancunians project.

We started the photoshoot outside the Old Trafford stadium, next to the 'United Trinity' statue, where we had to tackle the intense winter sunlight to get the best image. We placed Martin in the shade of the statue so we could still capture the stadium behind him, we used a reflector to bounce light into the shaded  areas of the shot, this helped us pull out a few great images. We then moved into the stadium grabbing the opportunity to position Martin in-front of the team dug outs next to the pitch. Martin was easy to work with and open to suggestions and poses and was clearly enjoying experience of being pitch side in his beloved Old Trafford. We completed the shoot up in the disabled seating area, where we took the opportunity to photograph Martin against the backdrop of the stadium.

Photographing Martin in such an icon location was a fantastic opportunity for me to test my photography skills and build my confidence and communication skills, which will certainly help me in future projects. Being apart of the Greater Mancunians was just amazing and I would love to be considered for future shoots.

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Katie Jones, Martin & Katie O'Neill

The shoot

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