Our history

The concept for Z-arts started in 1997 when a group of young people visited the Palace of Youth Creativity in St Petersburg.

Three years and four million pounds later the doors opened on an arts centre that has been dedicated to providing creative participatory activities for young people ever since.

Originally built in 1911 as a Congregational Church and Institute, Z-arts occupies one of the oldest buildings in Hulme and has had a fascinating history, including housing for the Boys Brigade, refuge in the Blitz, rehearsal space for Pavarotti, exhibition space for Damien Hirst and much more.

Zion attracted congregations of a thousand people at both morning and evening Sunday services. The Institute was also used to the full by the people of Hulme for activities ranging from billiards, table tennis, drama and music classes, cinema screenings and literary lunches to Sunday School lessons, trade union meetings and even racing pigeon sales!

Christmas Day Breakfasts were laid on each year for the children in the area, and in the war years the building served as an air raid shelter. After the Second World War bombings, Hulme was victim to mass clearance and the majority of the community was rehoused in other areas. This profoundly affected the life of the Zion and by the 1960s the congregations had shrunk to just twenty.

The Church authorities were forced to rent out the building to other organisations. The Halle Orchestra and Choir arrived in 1964, followed by Northern Ballet Theatre in 1969. Both organisations remained until 1980s.

In 2011 the Zion 100 programme celebrated the centenary with a different event for each decade every month, winning the inaugural Manchester Community History Award for our engagement with the community.

A booklet about the history of the building and its place in Hulme, written by Terry Wyke and Sharon Forrest is available to purchase via the website in the near future.

In April 2012 Zion Arts Centre officially rebranded as Z-arts as it redefined it’s mission to help inspire and provide creative opportunities for children and families across Manchester and the Northwest.

You can view a video for the theatrical promenade performance of ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Society’ which celebrated the Zion’s 100th birthday here.


Zion 100 – Pleasent Sunday Afternoon Society