The heart of Manchester’s rave awakening, which shot the city to international dance music prominence from the late-1980s onwards, didn’t only beat on the dancefloor of The Haçienda, but pulsed in unexpected corners of the entire Greater Manchester region.
The seldom told, perhaps foggy memories of nights at Hulme’s squat-club-after party venue, The Kitchen, Middleton’s Hippodrome and the bracing atmosphere of Oldham Road’s Thunderdome are all being gathered for future generations by Manchester Digital Music Archive (MDMArchive) and Manchester Metropolitan University, in the innovative, digital Lapsed Clubber Project, inviting everyone who was there – and can remember parts of it – to leave their memories with just a tap of their computer keyboard.
Leading names of the era, including Graham Massey of 808 State and renowned DJs, all of whom brought Manchester dance floors to life throughout the city’s baggy golden age, Jay Wearden, Kath McDermott and Suddi Raval, have already left their spoken memories on the specially-commissioned, easy-to-use online map of well-known and obscure clubs – most of which are now gone, forgotten and demolished as the city has been transformed.
Memory leavers, reformed ravers and curious by-passers can simply click on a venue, or add one of their own, and listen to stories or record a memory of their own that relates to the years 1985 to 1995, directly and anonymously onto the page.
A continuing project initiated by Manchester Metropolitan University academic, Dr Beate Peter, The Lapsed Clubber has previously been incarnated as a photographic exhibition.
Now, with the relative lack of testimonies coming from the dancefloor to accompany the numerous books, articles and films drafted about Acid House, Rave and Madchester by professional ‘cultural commentators’, the focus turns to the real, verbal recollections of those present.
Away from the famed and filmed story of Factory and the Haçienda, fascinating, funny and evocative memories of smaller, but no less influential, clubs and club nights show just how diverse, vibrant and life-affirming the scene became. For those who were too young to party at the time, just some of the venues obscured by history, revived by the Lapsed Clubber Project, include:
The Thunderdome on Oldham Road
On the way out of the city centre, The Thunderdome was home to a more edgy crowd than other clubs, with known links to the city’s gangs and football firms, yet the spirit of the era largely kept trouble between rivals at bay. It was here that DJs including Jay Weardon and 808 State cut their teeth. The building was demolished in 2010 and the site at 255 Oldham Rd appears to remain vacant. The baggy fashions of the day had, reportedly, got out of hand at this particular club.
Graham Massey: “We took Trevor Horn down [to the Thunderdome] on a Saturday night. There was not one, but two, police helicopters rotating around the Thunderdome. [Trevor] seemed really fascinated by the fact that everyone seemed to have made their own clothes and had these bowl haircuts. It looked like everyone had run up their clothes on their mother’s sewing machine. It was a definite fashion thing at Thunderdome…that baggy thing had gone a little bit too far! The flares had gone a little bit too wide! And he was absolutely horrified by the place, being someone who comes from… Notting Hill!”
A renowned venue for gigs throughout the 80s and 90s, not least thrilling shows by Stone Roses, the International 2 on Oxford Rd was located in the heart of Manchester’s University area at Plymouth Grove. The venue was demolished to make way for apartments.
Graham Massey: “One of the first house music gigs I went to see was at the International 2… the Chicago House Review. I’m not quite sure what we we’re expecting, but it was all done to a backing track. They were just miming to their tunes and doing one-armed press ups in this sort of…suspicious knitwear that was all shot through with silver. It looked like it was from Stolen From Ivor. It was just a severely disappointing, non-glamorous show! And I decided I didn’t really like house music at that point! Then Acid House happened and I thought: I’m into this!”
The celebrated history of the second Twisted Wheel club, the now demolished home of gigs by Jimi Hendrix and home to Northern Soul all-nighters, overlooks the basement club’s short-lived period as The State during the early 90s, in the middle of the city’s rave revolution.
Anonymous: “We all came out [of The State], wide awake as usual and there used to be car park on the corner of Aytoun Street and I remember someone opened their car doors and turned the music up and everyone was dancing on top of the cars in the car park. I remember being stood on the bonnet of a yellow Ford Cortina, dancing away. And other people, late at night, walking by us, staring, stopping to look, people driving by, taxis driving by, but I guess at that time it was pretty normal in its own way…”
Amidst the modernist crescents of Hulme, largely off-limits and beyond the interests of Greater Manchester Police, grew a lively social scene and therein lay The Kitchen. An organically promoted place for parties, DJ sets and a post-club opportunity to keep dancing, The Kitchen (and other Hulme squats) reportedly hosted now internationally famous DJs, all in the knocked-through, two-flat, top floor venue.
Paul Pryce (submitted to MDMArchive): “The Kitchen was the club that really launched the Manchester late night scene, it took place in two flats knocked into one, on the top floor of the block behind the old Russell club. The Kitchen was the real reason to go out, not the Haçienda (that was the warm up), open from 2am until the drugs wore off with resident DJs the JAM MCs”
Where music fans now enjoy a meal before a gig at the Manchester Arena, the tightly-packed Konspiracy club once made its home. Beneath the old Corn Exchange, now populated exclusively by restaurants, Konspiracy hosted DJ sets by Sasha and early gigs by 808 State, amongst numerous others on sweaty, supercharged nights of acid house tunes and dancing.
Giacomo Puppo, a visitor from Italy in 1990 (submitted to MDMArchive) said: “Ten years after the death of Ian Curtis, together with my friend, I came in Manchester. At night searching for the Haçienda, for us a new wave monument, we found Konspiracy. WHAT A SHOCK! It was like another place, like Mars. Me and my friend the only white boy in the club, dressed with jeans and white Superga trainers, while the black boys and girls were dressed with large pants, unseen in Italy. The music, the smell of weed smoke, the people dancing. An unforgettable night.”
The Lapsed Clubber Project is a Heritage Lottery Funded Project based at Manchester Metropolitan University and run by Dr Beate Peter in partnership with Manchester Digital Music Archive.