A crowded club lit only by deep red lights.
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The Forgotten Women Who Built a 90s Rave Scene

Audrey Golden’s “I Thought I Heard You Speak” is a new telling of Factory Records and the Haçienda’s history – one that puts women at the front.

Manchester’s colours aren’t just blue or red – they’re yellow and black stripes. Factory Records and the Haçienda have been so deified that it’s almost a cliche to moan about it. But with countless books about the era that spawned Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays, why do we need another? 


Because this one tells a different story – of the women who played a vital role in Manchester’s world-famous record label and club, many of whom you’ve probably never heard of.   

I Thought I Heard You Speak is an oral history compiled by New York-based lawyer-turned-journalist Audrey Golden – a Factory Records stan who may not be a Mancunian but has managed to shine new light on the city’s music scene in a way that only someone touching from a distance can. It contains stories from around 80 women including DJs, managers, promoters, journalists, artists, photographers, designers, filmmakers, chefs, sound engineers, musicians, and even the UK’s first female bouncer. 

“I wanted to emphasise that these women's voices have been excluded from, or marginalised within, a lot of the existing Factory narratives,” Golden tells VICE.

Left image shows DJ Paulette in a mesh shirt with earphones around her neck, she's extending both her arms out to the air and her eyes are closed. The right image is a close-up portrait of Tracey Donnelly.

DJ Paulette and Tracey Donnelly.

But how do you find forgotten women? Golden credits Manc legend Tracey Donnelly, the receptionist at Swing Hairdressers in the Haçienda and part of the Haçienda PR machine, with getting the old gang back together. Donnelly connected her with 25 women who each reeled off more names. 

In true “underplaying their own value” tradition, some felt they didn’t have a story to tell. And in true dick-swinging convention, some men demanded to know why she didn’t want to interview them. Others, like Haçienda designer Ben Kelly, were more supportive, connecting Golden with other women and even supplying his late colleague Sandra Douglas’s architectural plans for the Haçienda. 


“I didn't want this to be an exposé on sexism in the world of an indie record label, even though they definitely experienced it to varying degrees,” says Golden. “I'm just so constantly frustrated by those stories identifying a person as ‘so and so's wife or girlfriend’.”

You’d be forgiven, for example, for not realising Annik Honoré was a respected music promoter and journalist in her own right – and co-founder of indie record label Disques de Crépuscule and its sublabel Factory Benelux – because she’s so often dismissed as someone who had an affair with Ian Curtis. Lindsay Reade worked at Factory and managed the Stone Roses but in many accounts, including the film 24 Hour Party People (where her character appears in a sex scene), she’s described as Tony Wilson’s first wife. 

A group of drag queens pose for the camera inside the Hacienda club.

Drag queens at the Flesh party. Photography by Peter Walsh.

The Haçienda could be an absolute shambles, but women often waded in to make sense of things while blokes flounced around having big ideas. Take Haçienda employee Penny Henry who highlighted the need for railings on the stairs, a security system and even, um, a cloakroom. People like Reade, Donnelly and multi-hyphenate Factory mainstay Tina Simmons kept Factory afloat, signing bands, bringing in overseas sales and organising literally everything. From managing the chaotic finances of the fledgling label, to ensuring those records everyone still holds so dear went into production and were shipped out to distributors and fans, it was all hands on deck – and many of those hands were women’s.


Some stories are almost Tarantino-worthy: Henry was once tied up in the office in an armed robbery with a gun to her head. Cath Carroll of the band Miaow and her queer friends were pelted with stones. Factory PR Jayne Houghton says her life was saved by Shaun Ryder when two Dutch sex workers wanted to slit her throat in a nightclub.

And there’s a lot of praise for men, too. Gilbert applauds how many women were employed by Factory at a time when slapstick sexist Benny Hill was still telling mother-in-law jokes on TV. She describes it as a bubble, recalling that after Factory collapsed, her dealings with other potential labels were riddled with appalling sexism.

Four women chat with each other in an office space, the desks are piled high with paper, negative binders, and books.

Staff in the Factory office.

The scene also sizzled with subversive art and fashion. There was radical post-punk performer Linder Sterling’s meat dress – way before Gaga – which was Sterling’s response to being made to feel like a piece of meat. The grotesque frock was made from offcuts of meat and offal, with a belt of chicken claws and a dildo protruding from underneath the, uh, meat flaps. 

City Fun fanzine writer Liz Naylor recalls Haçienda management being furious because there was  offal everywhere and animal blood-soaked tampons (made for Sterling’s earrings) in the men’s toilets. “The response was angry beyond reason,” she says. “It wasn’t just like, ‘The cleaners are gonna have to clean this up’, It was like, ‘You have invaded the men’s toilets!’”


If anything, this book doesn't shit on the legendary Factory myth – it enlivens it, filling in the gaps with true stories that have been sat on for too long. According to Haçienda manager and licensee Ang Matthews, Suzanne Robinson (AKA DJ Suzanne) was “the first woman to ever play a record at The Haçienda”, though others say it was Michelle Mangan. Other prominent DJs include Angel Johnson, Kath McDermott and DJ Paulette. They tell stories of condensation rolling down the mirrors as people danced on tables – and nights where everyone was naked except for trainers. 

One such legendary event was 1990’s Summer of Lesbian Love – a massive event promoted only via photocopied flyers and word of mouth. “There were about 900 lesbians in The Haçienda,” says Mangan, “How the heck did we even find 900 lesbians on the planet, let alone in Manchester?!”

Ang Matthews stands in the middle between two men on each side that are all wearing staff shirts.

Ang Matthews with the Hacienda bar staff. Photograph by Peter Walsh.

The lesbians drank beer rather than getting high and guzzling water, so management wanted to entice them back. The huge club night Flesh (tagline: “serious pleasure for dykes and queers”) was spawned. DJ Paulette says she owes her career to Flesh co-founder Lucy Scher – straight nights didn’t employ female DJs then. 

Then there was Yasmine Lakhaney: The first female bouncer in the UK, a martial arts enthusiast and ex-psych nurse known for calming all manner of trouble. “She could throw a man who was much, much heavier than her,” recalls her sister Soraya. In one retelling, Lakhaney brought an injured woman upstairs who refused to go to hospital, so she and DJ Suzanne picked glass out of her arse with tweezers. 

Yasmine Lakhaney is pictured wearing a suit and a bowtie looking at the camera, behind her are two mens' backs.

Yasmine Lakhaney.

Many women in the book feel the need to set things straight. Tony Wilson was quoted as saying musician Cath Carroll had run off with thousands of pounds of his money – which she says is untrue. Scher has said Flesh wasn’t mentioned much in Peter Hook’s book How Not To Run A Club because it was run too well to fit the chaotic narrative. And what about the complete absence of DJ Paulette from the Flesh chapter in said book? Even though Paulette played there weekly and her name was on every flyer, Hook chose to big up a male DJ who only played there occasionally. “It was like, wow, now we know how histories disappear,” Paulette says now. Haçienda employee Nicky Crewe sums it up: “I was there, but in the written history, the mythologised history, I’m not there.”

Any woman will tell you that the stories they hear in the women’s bogs are the juiciest kind, and we’re lucky these ones didn’t get flushed. I Thought I Heard You Speak brings a new frequency to the songs we thought we knew. It reminds us that game-changing scenes are built on the work of a whole cacophony of creatives, regardless of gender. But this book isn’t just by women for women – it’s for anyone curious enough to read between the lines.

I Thought I Heard You Speak is out now on White Rabbit.

Correction: This story originally said Cath Carroll was in Quando Quango. She was in Miaow. We regret the error. It has also been updated to use DJ Paulette’s artist name by request.