The history of Manchester, #1. Man versus frog.

Michael Trainor

We love new Manchester history project The Complete History of Drinking in the Northern Quarter. So we’re publishing its best contributions every month. 

#1. First in the series: artist Michael Trainor sits down and talks to the king of stand-up.

There is something distinctly Victorian about Dave Perkin, owner of The Frog and Bucket comedy club. It sits on the far end of Oldham Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, or ‘LA’ as Dave prefers to call it – a jokey counter-aspirational acronym for ‘Lower Ancoats’, where much of Manchester’s industrial revolution activity once took place. He is everything you want from a comedy club owner – affable, big cigar (non-exploding variety), gold jewellery, and it is equally possible to imagine him in a previous century as the owner of one of those former smoking mills or as an impresario representing peculiar music hall variety acts.

The Frog is a success story which, like all good Northern Quarter Stories, has humble beginnings. In the 80’s Dave ran The King’s pub further along Oldham Street – it was a popular, working class kind of place where even at mid-morning one might see a man wearing a spiked dog collar with his pit bull straining on a chain as he murdered Danny Boy to a packed and already merry bar (I did). It was possibly the first pub to be legally required to have triple glazing fitted. With Perkin’s next venture, The Little Frog, he hit on the simple winning formula of beer and laughs – so good he now has nine venues stretching from Wigan to Blackpool.

“Manchester is a good place for comedy,” says Perkin, punctuating with his cigar, and indeed it is. The Northern Quarter club gets around 80,000 visitors a year, which is enough to fill Manchester United’s stadium and still have a bit of a queue. He proudly points out an award where, to his own amazement, the Frog beat the same in a public vote for the best place to bring a foreign visitor.

The Frog has some illustrious alumni who started their careers there: Johhny Vegas, John Bishop and Peter Kay are a few. The character ‘Den Perry’ in Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights is loosely based on Dave Perkin, although Perkin is quick to point out that he has never had a fire in one of his clubs, deliberate or otherwise. He does, however, have many tales of gigs past, including the one where comedian Smug Roberts lead the entire audience out of the Frog to Bowker Vale Working Men’s club on the tram for a game of bingo.

Any stand-up comedy goer will tell you that comedy can be a bit patchy – it is, by definition, an experimental craft. Importantly, then, the Frog is a kind of comedy incubator, a place where genius can develop. Sounds like a good solution for austerity Britain.

Hear Dave Perkin’s Audioboo interview, or read other tales from The Complete History of Drinking in the Northern Quarter. Better yet, submit your own story. To find out more about this project, read our interview with co-founder Lesa Dryburgh.

Images (top to bottom): Dave Perkin and ‘Den Perry’ (actor Ted Robbins); King of Comedy – Dave Perkin copyright Michael Trainor; the three directors (left to right, Michael Trainor, Lesa Dryburgh, Mark Babych), courtesy Chris Gleave.

 

 

 

Culture Guides

Cinema

January brings a focus on women-centric cinema, classic revivals and international hits.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh: making the Glasgow Style at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool

Exhibitions

On the brink of the new year, here’s a couple of the major exhibitions and smaller gems we’re looking forward to in 2019.

A World Inside A Book courtesy Suzi Corker

Families

January ain’t dull. Create with light, become forensic archeologists, sculpt with mud, step inside books and find a giant piglet with a coat made from dosh.

Literature

January, February, March, April, even May… we’ve plenty for you to look forward to live literature wise as 2019 unfolds – from performance poetry and soundscapes to readings from magazines, memoirs and award-winning short stories.

Music

Ranging from electronica to indie, this month’s music guide features some of the most singular voices in contemporary music.

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Theatre

Five-star musicals, acclaimed site-specific performances and two-week-long eclectic arts festivals? There’s nothing dry about January.

Tours and Activities

Explore the other side of Manchester’s performing arts, as this month, we highlight some of the best tours of the city’s theatres, venues and concert halls.

Things to do right now

Powered by culturehosts
Cheese Making at Food Sorcery
Activity 19–20 January 2019, from £100

Cheese Making at Food Sorcery

Mandy Barker: Hong Kong Soup at CFCCA Manchester
Exhibitions 12 October 2018–20 January 2019, FREE

Mandy Barker: Hong Kong Soup at CFCCA

Charwei Tsai: Bulaubulau at CFCCA
Exhibitions 12 October 2018–20 January 2019, FREE

Charwei Tsai: Bulaubulau at CFCCA

ReFrame at Manchester Art Gallery
Exhibitions 20 October 2018–20 January 2019, FREE

ReFrame at Manchester Art Gallery

Cinema 7 December 2018–20 January 2019, from £5

Slapstick Film Season at HOME

HOME at Christmas
Festivals 13 December 2017–20 January 2019,

HOME at Christmas

PUSH Festival 2019 at HOME
Festivals 11–26 January 2019,

PUSH Festival 2019 at HOME

LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAY at Site Gallery
Exhibitions 29 September 2018–27 January 2019, FREE

LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAY at Site Gallery

Craft Beer Tour Around Manchester
Food and Drink 1 November 2018–1 February 2019, from £30

Craft Beer Tour Around Manchester

Exhibitions 12 January–1 February 2019, FREE

Motion Sickness at STOCK Gallery

The Producers - A Mel Brooks Musical at the Royal Exchange
Music 30 November 2018–2 February 2019, from £10.00

The Producers – A Mel Brooks Musical at the Royal Exchange