Flyer for Attitude at the Academy, 1990 Design: Homocult
Queer Noise Launch Night
People’s History Museum
Thursday, 13 July 2017 18:00 to 20:00
Book your FREE place
Join Manchester Digital Music Archive for the launch of our small but perfectly formed Queer Noise community exhibition at the People’s History Museum. Curator Abigail Ward will be in conversation with Rod Connolly and Zoë McVeigh (LIINES) – the DJ/promoter team behind Bollox Club – one of Manchester’s best-loved alt-queer hangouts.
Abigail will also deliver a lively visual presentation celebrating highlights from the history of queer music and club life in Greater Manchester. Material includes rarely seen photos, flyers, posters and videos from the 1950s to today.
In the foyer DJ Kath McDermott will play classic tracks from legendary queer nights Flesh at the Haçienda (1991-1996) and Homo Electric (1998-2002).
Performance artist Grace Oni Smith will be doing a 10-min projection-based ‘Welcome’ performance in response to the DJ set.
Fairtrade drinks provided by the Co-op.
Queer Noise tells the story of how proudly queer musicians and clubbers in Greater Manchester helped to redefine attitudes towards sexuality across the city and beyond. The exhibition is on display at PHM from July 1st until September 10th and is based on the digital project of the same name.
Seventies secrecy in Salford pubs, joyous Gaychester resistance and cutting-edge, late-nineties, alternative club culture. Manchester’s musical LGBT+ history explored with exhibition and digital archive revamp:
Exciting, rarely-seen footage and photography from the dancefloor of the Hacienda’s famous FLESH club night evoke the unassailable spirit of ‘Gaychester’ in new exhibition
Photography from 1970s Salford and Manchester gay bars and the provocative, alternative dance scene of the millennium tell overlooked stories from the famous music city
Articles from influential fanzine, ‘The Mancunian Gay’ as well as flyers, badges and membership cards are retrieved from personal archives tell a tale of struggle, resilience and celebration.
The history of Manchester as a home for free expression and resistance through music, dance and culture is told through stories, unseen videos, photographs and rare artefacts drawn from the personal archives of the city’s LGBT community for a new exhibition, Queer Noise: The History of LGBT+ Music & Club Culture in Manchester, opening at the People’s History Museum between Thu 1 July – Sun 10 September 2017. As part of Never Going Underground 2017, a major exhibition marking 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, Manchester Digital Music Archive gathers notable artefacts, imagery and music to tell the story of how pubs, gig venues and dance floors gave rise to flourishing, creative and diverse scenes once known as ‘Gaychester’.
The small exhibition, a contribution to the museum’s larger focus on LGBT+ rights, coincides with the archive’s relaunch and drive to attract more music lovers to upload their artefacts, with the archive’s founders expressing concern that the vital LGBT+ and women’s histories are in danger of being lost forever without more collecting and sharing.
Punk provided an expressive sanctuary for LGBT+ communities in post-industrial Manchester as the wake of the Sex Pistols’ appearance in the city in 1976 left bands like Buzzcocks (fronted by openly bi-sexual, Pete Shelley) and clubs like The Ranch, a bar owned by renowned drag artist and entrepreneur, Foo Foo Lammar, to soak up the city’s disenfranchised youth. As well as photographs of the punk era, including contributions from Kevin Cummins, exciting, rarely-seen evidence of the otherwise well-documented dance revolution of the early 90s and the Hacienda’s legendary Flesh night also features in the exhibition. Shot from the Hacienda dancefloor, film featuring a travelling contingent from London club, Kinky Gerlinky, shot by film maker, Dick Jewell and up-close shots by Manchester photographer, Jon Shard, evoke a sense of unbound freedom in a community threatened by the oppression of Greater Manchester Police and ‘God’s Cop’, James Anderton.
In addition to the LGBT+ perspectives on these famous episodes in the city’s music history, it is the lesser known people and places that also find space in the considered selections of archive co-founder and curator, Abigail Ward.
Ahead of the exhibition, Ward says: “‘Queer Noise’ spans some of the most famous moments in the city’s cultural history, and highlights the incredible influence of queer artists, club promoters and fans. But queer club culture in this city didn’t just start with punk and the end at the Haçienda, it existed and thrived in the post-war period and continues to evolve today. The purposely provocative alternative queer scene of the late 90s reflects as many stories of true, expressive freedom as the remarkable footage from the famous ‘Flesh’ night at the Hacienda or images of Salford’s underground taken four decades ago.”
A Salford pub, the name forgotten, was captured by renowned musician, artist and photographer, Linder Sterling in the late 1970s and is the subject of three, unseen photographs loaned for the exhibition, alongside a further three shots of the inside of the notorious Dicken’s Bar on Oldham Street during the same period. As the popularity of Canal Street boomed at the turn of the millennium, DJs, musicians and dancers turned to smaller clubs on the fringes, giving rise to nights like the legendary, Homo Electric, eschewing the ‘glam’ of polished bars and commercial dance music for eclectic playlists in sweaty, run-down cellars. Candid footage of nights in much-loved, pre-Manchester regeneration clubs, like the demolished Legends, provides a window onto an electrifying subculture.
Ward continues: “Manchester Digital Music Archive can trace some of these histories through the contributions of our LGBT+ members, but the exhibition also gives us a chance to reflect on the fact that more LGBT+ music lovers, and women in particular, need to share their memories and artefacts with us or face the prospect of their individual and shared histories going undocumented and unavailable for study by future generations. There are so many photos, posters, videos and other items out there waiting to tell incredible stories.”
Manchester Digital Music Archive was established in 2003 to celebrate Greater Manchester music and its social history and has 2953 active users, uploading artefacts from their personal collections. A relaunch of the site, including updates to allow easier and more instantaneous smart phone uploads, has gone ahead to encourage the 30% female base of users to share more items as well as offering a potential solution to an evident shortfall in the number and range of uploads relating to the region’s current and historic LGBT+ music culture.
Over the last few months I’ve been involved in an exciting project for Drake Music that has focused on introducing members of the hacker/maker/coding community to disabled musicians.
Four teams, each made up of both musicians and makers, have been commissioned to design a prototype for a brand new musical instrument that overcomes a specific barrier experienced by disabled musicians.
Both events will be presented by the wonderful Kris Halpin (Winter of ’82), who will be talking about his own journey as a disabled musician-technologist and demonstrating his amazing MiMu motion-tracking gloves (see video!)
Seeing Kris perform live with the gloves is an unmissable experience. Watching him conjure strings out of thin air and kick start a drum sound with a single gesture is – quite simply – magical.
DMLab North West Challenge – Development Launch
Meet our teams and hear about their ideas.
The exhibition, Manchester Academy Memories, documents the history of concerts and club life at the Students’ Union from 1963 to the present day and has been curated by Abigail Ward (MDMA) and Rod Connolly.
It features 435 digitised artefacts relating to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Slits, Daft Punk, Björk, Nirvana, The Kinks, Adele, Prince and Led Zeppelin. Many of these items, which include tickets, photos, press articles and videos, have been uploaded to the archive by the general public.
An introductory essay by Abigail Ward, written to accompany the digital exhibition, is reproduced below:
Manchester Academy Memories: Concerts & Club Life at the University of Manchester 1963-2016
“When entering for the first time a town like Manchester, a stranger, overwhelmed by the new and interesting spectacle presented to him, scarcely dares look this giant full in the face at once…” From “Ireland, Scotland and England” by J.G.Kohl, 1844.
‘You ask him.’
‘No, you ask him!’
This was how it would start.
For my sister and I, aged thirteen and fifteen respectively, the first hurdle to be cleared after seeing an enticing Manchester Academy gig advertised in Melody Maker was persuading our dad to give us a lift. We lived in Preston and were a bit young for the perils of the last train home. We’d been very focused on music since being toddlers, really, but in 1992 things moved up a gear after we experienced our first big gigs: Michael Jackson at Wembley and James at Alton Towers. By 1993 we were in full throttle, obsessed with live music and constantly hatching schemes to witness our heroes play, more often than not at the Academy or one of its smaller sister venues in Manchester University Students’ Union. All I wanted to do was move to Manchester – the music city. By ‘94 I’d managed to move out of my parents’ house and by ‘95 my sister and I had our own band. Three years later, I achieved my ultimate dream: a council flat in sunny Longsight, a mere skip and a jump from the Academy. I started working in a record shop. Listening, playing, watching, selling. I had landed.
During the nineties, I saw some unforgettable gigs at Academy venues, including Manic Street Preachers, Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey, Tricky and Pulp. (It killed me that I couldn’t get into Bowie in ‘97.) These were potent moments in my young life – euphoric, boozy, full of mystery. I would scrutinise the mix, the drums, guitar pedals, mics, keen to learn how it all worked. Gigs were physically demanding at times (especially at the Academy), and not without the occasional pang of sadness. I can still see Richey Edwards at the Academy in ‘94, rail-thin and scabby, hanging over his microphone stand like James Dean in Giant, not even pretending to play guitar any more.
I saved all of my tickets, many of which feature in this digital exhibition, which has been an absolute joy to curate. Funded by the University of Manchester Students’ Union, the project was conceived as a way of celebrating the 25th anniversary of Academy 1, whilst exploring the cultural legacy of all of the University venues, from 1963 to the present day. And it’s not just about the big names that have passed through the venues, it’s about the social and political histories that are inextricably entwined with the music. These are particularly evident in the cuttings we’ve included from student newspapers The Manchester Independent and the Mancunion. We hope you enjoy these glimpses into student life across the decades.
Whilst I did spend a number of days seeking out material for this project in physical archives, many of the items included have been uploaded by the general public: crowd-sourced heritage in action! Thank you to everyone who has made a contribution.
Ticket: Jeff Buckley, Manchester University, 1995. Courtesy: Abigail Ward
Manchester Academy (now Academy 1) opened in 1990 on Oxford Road, following years of debate about an extension to the main Students’ Union building (erected 1957) a little further down the road. Gigs and club nights had been promoted by the Union since 1963 across a number of places:
The Main Debating Hall (now Academy 2) The Hop and Grape (formerly Solem Bar, now Academy 3) The Cellar (now Club Academy) UMIST (the Tech Union/Undergound/Barnes Wallis Building) Whitworth Hall (no longer used for gigs) The Squat (now demolished)
But it was time for a purpose-built venue with a bigger capacity.
Costing £1.2 million, the Academy originally housed a bank, a bar and a catering facility. It opened with a capacity of 1500, rising to 2000 soon after. It was run on a commercial basis; profits from band nights and club nights were funnelled back into the Students’ Union. Fittingly, the first musicians to grace the stage were Manchester punk icons Buzzcocks on October 7th 1990.
Taken from the Mancunion newspaper, written and edited by University of Manchester students.
Some months before the opening, the Union appointed a full-time Entertainments and Marketing Manager, Sean Morgan, who swiftly entered into a partnership with Manchester-based promoters SJM Concerts (founded by Simon Moran), allowing SJM first option on gig dates for local and visiting artists. Live music was flourishing nationwide; it was boom time for both parties.
In an interview for this project in September 2016, Morgan said, ‘I was ambitious. I was empire-building. I wanted to run the biggest venue complex in the country and put the most gigs on. At one point we put twenty-six bands on in one week.’
‘We worked really hard to see off the competition. Bands and their crews knew that if they came to the Academy, we’d look after them, y’know, take ‘em out on the lash afterwards. They could go to the International 2 [in Longsight] and be stuck out in the middle of nowhere, or they could come to us and get looked after.’
During Sean’s 21-year tenure he was responsible for booking some huge names across all four Academy venues, including Nirvana, Radiohead, Dizzee Rascal, Daft Punk, Patti Smith, Blur, Eminem, The Chemical Brothers and Amy Winehouse. He claims the best gig he ever saw at the Academy was David Bowie in 1997.
‘Bowie was doing a tour of 2000-capacity venues and approached the Academy to play. It was always going to be a “yes”. His sheer showmanship and presence were amazing.’
But Sean’s proudest moments were bringing over his beloved American country stars Townes Van Zandt in 1994 and Scotty Moore (Elvis’s guitarist ) ten years later.
Morgan also oversaw scores of successful club nights, citing rave night Solstice ’91, with resident DJ Dave Booth, as the best atmosphere he ever experienced at the Academy.
In 2011 Sean left the Union and now works for Academy Music Group (no relation). In September 2013, following further refurbishment, the capacity of Academy 1 was increased to 2,600. The venue celebrated its 25th anniversary with a string of significant gigs throughout 2015-16, including Buzzcocks, Garbage and Happy Mondays.
David Bowie ticket book, 1997. Courtesy of Sean Morgan.
But how did it all begin?
The Union’s early forays into concert promotion are documented, albeit sketchily, in student newspaper The Manchester Independent. Jazz bandleader Humphrey Lyttleton kicks things off in 1963. A mere two years later Socials Secretary Chris Wright (future co-founder of Chrysalis Records) is booking the likes of the Spencer Davis Group, The Who and The Yardbirds. A Kinks gig at the Rag Ball in March ‘65, however, ends in ‘confusion and brawls’ as the band is bottled off stage. Gig reviews from this period often hint at an element of chaos! Jimi Hendrix stops by in 1967. We’ve included a rarely seen interview with Jimi at the Union by Jill Nichols culled from the Independent.
An interesting story featured in this exhibition is that of the Corporation Act 1965 – a law that allowed venues to be closed on the spot by police if they suspected staff or punters were up to no good. In ‘65 there were around two hundred beat music clubs in Manchester (hard to imagine). They were mainly booze-free members only clubs where young people would drink coffee and dance all night to beat groups. But by the end of ‘66, following the introduction of the act, there were just three clubs remaining. The act was highly unusual in that it was passed by parliament, but applied only to one UK city: Manchester. The city’s music scene was decimated.
In an exclusive interview for this project (which you can listen to within the exhibition), cultural historian Dr. CP Lee says: ‘Against the background of the Corporation Act, it’s hard to overstate the importance of Manchester University for music fans at this time. It was a lifeline. It was our lifeblood. I virtually lived there, even though I wasn’t a student.’
Moving into the early seventies and one of the most intriguing episodes in the Union’s history begins: The Squat.
The Squat was originally the old College of Music. It was situated on Devas Street, between where Big Hands and the Contact Theatre are now. In October of 1973, after the University threatened to demolish the building in favour of a car park, it was occupied by a group of students who were protesting against three things: the student accommodation crisis, the lack of facilities provided by the University for community activities and the proposed demolition of the music college itself. The Squat was turned into a multi-purpose ‘art lab’, with spaces for theatre projects, gigs, band rehearsal and visual art.
For a time, the occupation was financed by a weekly music night held on a Friday in collaboration with Music Force, the socialist music agency put together by, amongst others, renowned blues guitarist Victor Brox and jazz drummer Bruce Mitchell (Greasy Bear, Albertos, Durutti Column). Music Force was set up in part as a response to the effects of the Corporation Act, which had resulted in a paucity of work for Manchester’s once very busy musicians. The collective provided everything you might require to put a concert on: musicians, PA and equipment hire, flyposting, the full works. The Squat and Music Force both played vital roles in the Manchester punk and post-punk scenes. During its 8-year life the venue played host to New Order, The Fall, The Stranglers, Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias and several Rock Against Racism nights.
1981 was a great year for music, which filtered through to gigs at the Union. Bookings included U2, The Au Pairs, Aswad, The Cramps, Linton Kwesi Johnson and The Beat. Things seem to slow down a little gig-wise in the mid-80s, but the Cellar Disco (now Club Academy) packed the punters in. One exhibition contributor reminisces about doing a disastrous drunken somersault in there to the strains of Caberet Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’!
1989 saw visits from indie royalty The Happy Mondays, My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. Then in October 1990 the Academy opens and ticket sales go through the roof. The Charlatans, Northside and New Model Army do two sell-out nights apiece. The LA’s, Paul Weller and Devo also stop by.
Which brings us back to where we started. It’s 1993 and I’m getting the breath shoved out of my lungs at my first ever Academy show: Smashing Pumpkins and Verve. Dad is making a pint last four hours over the road at Jabez Clegg. My plan to move to the city is a tiny seed in my fourteen-year-old mind.
This digital exhibition is full of great stories from true music fans: in 1968 a young audience member is gifted a harmonica by Captain Beefheart in the Main Debating Hall. In 1992 the drummer from Pavement confuses everyone by handing out carrots to the audience. In 1995 a sixteen-year-old Julian Cope fan gets a full snog with tongues from her hero in the Academy. Around the same time a clubber at Megadog spends the entire night in a toilet cubicle and has the time of her life.
This project is dedicated to those fans – to everyone who has taken the time to share a memory; to Manchester District Music Archive’s team of volunteers; and also to my dad, who took me to the Academy in the first place all those years ago.
Advert for Captain Beefheart taken from The Manchester Independent, 1968. Courtesy of the University of Manchester Students’ Union
• If you would like to contribute an artefact or story, just upload it to Manchester District Music Archive and we will add it to the exhibition.
• Only bands/artists from Greater Manchester are searchable in our database.
• If we are unsure of the exact venue the artefact relates to, or if it relates to several Union venues, we have used the tag Manchester University.
• Dates added to press articles refer to the publication date rather than the gig date.
• Gig ladders are usually dated with the earliest date on the advert.
• Due to time and budget constraints many press articles have been photographed quickly, sometime in poor light, rather than scanned.
• We’ve done our best to credit photographers and journalists clearly. Please give us a shout if we’ve missed something: firstname.lastname@example.org
Archives are closely linked with how we understand history and can be a site for resistance and celebration in challenging how history is defined. Abigail Ward and Sarah Feinstein will speak about how this relates to women’s performance through Manchester District Music Archive. Drawing from selection of artefacts in the user-generated collection, Abigail will showcase women’s agency in the history of music, politics and protest in Greater Manchester. Sarah will discuss how a previous online exhibition curated by Abigail led her to a conversation with ground-breaking feminist artist Linder Sterling.
[DWAN] Digital Women’s Archive North is an educational arts and heritage enterprise unlocking the women’s histories in archives – delivering training & skills development; arts & heritage projects; and research. Follow them on Twitter @dwarchivenorth.
In late 2009 I acquired a small amount of funding to develop ‘Queer Noise’ – an online exhibition for Manchester District Music Archive that aimed to lift the lid on LGBT music-making and club life in Greater Manchester from the sixties to the present day. The exhibition would harness and contextualise scanned ephemera, such as posters, flyers, photos and press articles uploaded to MDMArchive by members of public all over the world, in addition to my own collection of artefacts, which I had been digitising for a number of years.
Launched in 2010, ‘Queer Noise’ now contains over two hundred chronologically ordered images and written recollections, and continues to grow as more and more people share their memories. A selection of these artefacts will form the basis of my short presentation to the LGBT History Festival in February.
In my talk for I will be examining three key points in the city’s LGBT music history: the birth of punk in 1976; the house music explosion of the early 90s: and the alt-gay scene which developed a decade later as a response to the homogeneity of the music on offer on Canal Street (Manchester’s gay village).
In the summer of 1976, punk hit Manchester following the Sex Pistols’ pivotal brace of gigs at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. Misunderstood by many as an aggressive, negative force, the early punk scene in Manchester celebrated difference; fostered a DIY approach to creativity and self-expression; and created a tightly knit music community, which (for the most part) welcomed LGBT young people. Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks, who co-promoted the Pistols’ second gig, was openly bisexual and sang about romantic experiences with both men and women in a very straightforward way. But ‘76 was also the year in which James Anderton began his tenure as Chief Constable, marking the beginning of a sustained period of harassment of Manchester’s LGBT community by police. Punk historian Jon Savage said of this time, ‘Manchester felt under lock-down then: if you were out late at night, you’d get stopped at least twice a week. It wasn’t just gay people, it was anyone who looked and acted different.’
Fast forward to 1990 and we see the launch of Manto on Canal Street – a sophisticated European-style bar that deliberately flouted the prevailing ‘behind closed doors’ culture of gay venues by installing full height plate glass windows. Thanks to DJ Tim Lennox, house music took hold at Central Street’s gay-friendly Number 1 Club, which in turn led to the birth of Flesh at the Haçienda – a wildly successfully Ecstasy-fuelled house and garage night flagrantly billed as ‘Serious Pleasure for Dykes and Queers’. It was during this time that the city was dubbed ‘Gaychester’, the first Mardi Gras happened, Canal Street boomed and Manchester City Council truly cottoned on to the potential of the pink pound.
Flesh lasted until 1996, spawning many copycat club nights and, along with the Number 1 Club and Paradise Factory, was responsible for the making house music the dominant sound of ‘Gaychester’. But by 1998, some of the same DJs, promoters and club goers that had inspired the house boom were growing tired of the commercialisation of both the scene and the music. At this point, LGBT club nights boasting a more eclectic soundtrack spanning funk, soul, disco, hip hop and indie began to emerge. Club Brenda and Homo Electric were at the forefront of this movement. Like the punk scene that had come before, these clubs celebrated difference, with flyers boasting slogans such as ‘Music is life, gym is the coffin, be ugly‘.
As well as flyers, posters, gig tickets and photos, my presentation will include some unseen footage of Manchester’s gay clubs, plus excerpts of oral histories captured exclusively for the festival.
If you would like to add any artefacts or recollections to the Queer Noise online exhibition, please register to become a member of Manchester District Music Archive here and start sharing your history. Alternatively, you can email: email@example.com.
‘Hear my voice in your head and think of me kindly’ is a panel event exploring the art of song lyricism, Manchester-style. Guest lyricists are Jaheda Choudhury-Potter of Ajah UK, Jonathan Higgs from Everything Everything and Guy Garvey of Elbow. It will reveal contrasting processes, backgrounds and styles whilst exploring Greater Manchester lyricism across the decades.
In 2013, following investment from Heritage Lottery Fund, Manchester District Music Archive launched ‘Defining Me: Musical Adventures in Manchester’, a 5-month show at The Lowry co-curated by members of MDMarchive’s online community. The exhibition attracted 32,000 visitors. Speaking at the launch were Abigail Ward (MDMarchive), Ivan Riches (HLF) and Michael Simpson (The Lowry).
There were a number of spin-off events featuring Greater Manchester music luminaries in conversation, including Barry Adamson (Magazine, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds); photographer Kevin Cummins; Manchester punk icons Denise Shaw and Dawn Bradbury; artist and promoter Barney Doodlebug; and Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon.
In 2014 the project ended with a community concert at Band on the Wall featuring rave pioneer Graham Massey in collaboration with The Prospectors, a collective of disabled musicians from Stockport.