Moss Side. It’s not known for its glitz or glamour, let’s put it that way.
Once, however, it was home to one of the most famous night clubs in the whole of the North West – The Reno Club. Whatever happened to it? Well, let’s delve a little bit deeper…
Muhammad Ali was said to have once come down to visit after fighting Bradford-born Richard Dunn in 1976, and there are still rumours even Bob Marley came down, and Tony Wilson had his stag do at The Reno. So what made it so special that such famous names made the pilgrimage to Moss Side?
During the heady heights of the 70’s, The Reno was Bethlehem for funk and soul lovers and more importantly, a place where the mixed-race community of Manchester could go to feel free where they otherwise weren’t welcome. The only thing that mattered was what rare record from America was spinning on the decks.
At the time it was notoriously difficult for men of colour to get into many of the city centre nightclubs, and The Reno offered a safe environment where people could forget all their troubles, even just for a few hours, and dance to the hottest (and rarest) songs around.
Originally, The Reno was opened in 1962 by Phil Magbotiwan as a Salvation Army hostel for African sea men. It was later transformed into a club called The Palm Beach, later to become a 24-hour venture; a cool hangout by day and a serious party by night in the basement of the building, with The Nile club upstairs.
The Reno played a significantly important part in the development of Manchester’s reputation as a true musical city, as well as playing a key role in the development of black culture, music and community in the area and its surroundings.
The Reno (and The Nile upstairs) have attained an almost mythical reputation for their music, and someone who was at the centre of it all was Persian, who DJ’ed at The Reno for seven nights a week for almost 16 years, curing a special brand of R&B and Soul which had just never been heard before.
The whole concept of Persian’s music was much more down tempo, carefully selected and with a distinct aim to provide ‘healing’ to many of the patrons of the club. The idea was to keep things fluid, there was no urgency to play the next single which in itself developed its own following and culture around the rest of Manchester, but the centre was always The Reno.
Sadly, by the mid-80’s, many of the most infamous Moss Side antics got the better of punters, and numbers started to dwindle. There was a noticeable shift in the way people looked to experience clubbing, with a creeping increase in the use of recreational drugs and thus a desire for a more up-tempo experience. In the lead up to what would eventually become the acid house movement of the late 80’s, it seems like The Reno was sadly left behind.
Add to this a building that was deemed to be dangerously unsafe by the council, the club was eventually shut down and the basement club completely demolished.
Since then, clubs like the Hacienda were revolutionising the Manchester music scene once again, and many argue that The Reno and The Nile have somewhat been lost to the pages of history and a club that purveyed funk and soul in a way that Craig Charles can only ever dream about seems to have been almost forgotten about.
Luckily for everyone with even a fleeting memory of The Reno, 2017 saw the remains of club excavated with the intention of exhibiting an initial temporary presentation of artifacts at Whitworth Art Gallery, before moving on to a permanent exhibition at Manchester Museum.
‘The Reno at the Whitworth’ is a project created by playwright Linda Brogan (pictured above), with the help of local residents which will take over the Whitworth for a year exhibiting artefacts, videos and workds that have been collated from a whole host of Reno regulars.
Beginning on Friday 15th March, you yourself can be engulfed in her memories and ‘The Reno 12’s’ testimonials, archives of wonderful photography and stories that bring to life this forgotten nirvana of funk and soul music.
The Reno at the Whitworth
Venue: Whitworth Art Gallery
Date: Friday 15th March 2019 – March 2020
Images courtesy of the brilliant site http://thereno.live