On the creative floor: McCann Manchester

Neil Lancaster takes us on a tour of the agency's Grade II-listed building and its Thunderbirds-esque annex. Along the way, we are introduced to the swimming pool, the new pub, the agency cat and the ghosts unimpressed by all the building work.


Remember that scene in Thunderbirds when the camera looks out over the rippling blue water of a swimming pool towards a futurist glass-and-steel man-pad? That’s where I work. McCann Manchester.

I can’t believe it’s there either. The sky isn’t quite as blue, but we can paint that in afterwards.

Swing just right of this picture and there’s Bonis Hall: a Georgian Grade II, with a bell tower, oak-panelled rooms and hot- and cold-running ghosts.

In 2003, the modern building sprouted a brand new connecting bridge, which punctured Bonis Hall’s large but attractive backside and made us all a lovely quadrangle. This may have upset the undead, as a series of strange incidents followed. The book is coming out at Christmas.

What this all affords is essentially a great deal of space: lofty old rooms, bright orange soft-furnished areas, balconies, fruiteries, a slate-roofed bothy plus the nucleus of what has to be said is quite a standard-issue, aluminium-floored creative department where we rub along very well with the people of the planning persuasion. Here you get the white leather and the roundtable stuff. But savvy creatives quickly find where they like to do what they do throughout all of the site. There has never been an Upstairs, Downstairs mentality about Bonis Hall being off limits. The downside is some teams have been lost in there for years.

The pool is a natural draw, and not only for various Austin Powers-ish parties. If weekend work looms, your family can at least come along, swim and enjoy the place while you pretend/attempt to work. The sea scouts use it too for canoeing lessons and it has a distinguished history as a Nabs fundraising location.

People, usually from account management, have their own allotments on the front lawns, and juicy Bonis Hall plums are dispensed every September.

There has been an agency cat on site for 40 years, each of them dutifully recorded for posterity in the ledger in reception.

Here are their names: "Cat", "Cat", "Cattie", "Cat", "Cat", "Ramrod" and "Cat".

All buried on site.

Not being bang in the metropolis, we try so much harder to bring a vast amount of cultural reference and inspiration past the cows and into ourselves, which the wonders of digital have made very much more convenient. Much-loved London is just an hour and a bit away. To be completely honest, we are much more there than we are here.

I haven’t had the privilege of visiting an American business campus; I suspect Bonis Hall is a peculiarly British idiosyncratic take on their model. Which brings me to the pub. The agency was fêted as best in the McCann network last year and we received a modest prize. The renovation of our gatehouse into a public house was the only intelligent thing to do with the money.

If you’re passing, do pop in. We serve spirits… as the joke has it.

Neil Lancaster is a creative director at McCann Manchester