Terminal Jive

Creative projects by Abigail Ward

Tag: LGBT music

Queer Noise exhibition extended to November 2017

We are delighted to announce that our Queer Noise exhibition at the People’s History Museum has been extended to 5th November 2017 by popular demand,

The show has garnered great press support. Check out the links below:

6 Music interview (1hr and 40 mins into this broadcast)

The Guardian 

Another Man

The Mirror

I love MCR

Manchester Evening News

It’s Nice That

Queer Noise launch event

Flyer for Attitude at the Academy, 1990 Design: Homocult

Queer Noise Launch Night

People’s History Museum
Left Bank
Manchester
M3 3ER
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.

FUNDED BY HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND

Queer Noise: The History of LGBT+ Music & Club Culture in Manchester

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.

The First National LGBT History Festival – Queer Noise presentation, 2015

Photo: Pete Shelley by Kevin Cummins
Photo: Pete Shelley by Kevin Cummins

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: info@mdmarchive.co.uk.

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