The Haçienda is one of the most notorious nightclubs in the long and notorious history of nightclubs. Open from 1982 to 1997, at its peak the former boat showroom in Manchester’s city centre was at the forefront of music and youth culture – and, for many, became the spiritual home of acid house music.
However, along with that success came difficulties, and the club also became synonymous with trouble, both financially and the kind associated with gangs and violence. The story of the club and the record label behind it, Factory Records, was further cemented into history in the 2002 Michael Winterbottom film 24 Hour Party People.
The club’s legacy continues to live on, with a free 24-hour charity livestream event taking place this New Year’s Eve, featuring many of the club’s original DJs.
Here, DJs, staff, punters, bands and designers discuss the history and legacy of the club.
Peter Saville (Factory Records partner/graphic designer): In 1978, all the venues for the punk groups had systematically been closed by the authorities. On behalf of the youth culture of the city and, to some extent, as an ambassador of punk and new wave, Tony Wilson [Factory records partner/TV presenter] took it upon himself to find a venue, which he did, at the Russell Club, to start the Factory nights, which then turned into the label. When [Joy Division singer] Ian Curtis died, there was this unprecedented and unexpectedly enormous influx of money. Tony thought it would be a good idea to give the money back to Manchester.
Martin Moscrop (trumpeter, guitarist, A Certain Ratio): ACR went to New York with Tony to record our album. We spent a lot of time going out to these amazing clubs, like The Ritz, Tier 3 and the Danceteria. New Order did the same when they were out there. We used to talk about the clubs all the time. The more we spoke about it, the more the idea became reality.
Peter Saville: I was invited to look at this former boat showroom. It was a phenomenal but daunting space. It’s important to know, in whatever occupation you have, when something is beyond you. I knew it was not something I was able to do. But I knew a man that could: Ben Kelly.
Ben Kelly (architect/designer of the Haçienda): We did a big tour of this huge, cavernous, empty, dirty, scruffy building, which was amazing. Tony looked at me and said, “Well, do you want the job?” I said, “Of course I want the fucking job.”
Peter Hook (bassist, New Order): Tony and Rob Gretton [New Order manager/Factory partner] started the Haçienda for people like us - punks who had nowhere to go. It wasn't about making money, it was about housing oddballs.
Ben Kelly: They had never commissioned a nightclub, and I'd never designed one before. There was an awful lot of naivety, but I see that as a very positive strength, as there were no strings attached and no preconceptions. I went about the design as a journey. You arrive at the building to a very minimal sign, then, in the entrance, you pass through doors that had 5 and 1 cut out of them [FAC51 was the catalogue number given to the club by the label], with glass set into those two numbers, then to the bar around the dance floor.
The dance floor was one step raised off the floor, which was possibly a trip hazard, so I came up with the idea of roadside bollards. I set cat’s eyes in the floor in line with the bollards, thinking the light would shine on them and it was like a road – a journey. There was a narrative integrated into my design.
Peter Saville: It’s probably his opus work. It’s the only nightclub space that I've ever been in that looked better in daylight. It was spectacularly beautiful in the daylight.
Jon DaSilva (resident DJ): It wasn't your greasy, beer-stained 1970s club, it was a slice of New York in Manchester.
Peter Hook: The initial budget was around £70,000, but it cost £344,000 to build in 1981. That's equivalent to about £3 million now. Joy Division/New Order put in £100,000. Somebody once asked me who I thought was responsible for the ultimate demise of the Haçienda. The answer at the time was Ben Kelly. These days, of course, I realise that none of us were blameless.
Ben Kelly: It caused all sorts of frictions with New Order, with them being like, “Fucking Ben Kelly, he spent all the fucking money.” I think it went up their noses, mostly.
THE OPENING AND EARLY YEARS
Peter Saville: The irony is, when it opened it baffled the young people of Manchester for whom it was created. They didn't know what to make of it. I had an interesting encounter with some young guys who were asking me about it. They were really curious, but intimidated by it. They said, “What does it look like?” So I said, “It looks like a warehouse.” And the response was: “We spend all day in a warehouse.” That was very telling. It made us all realise that there was a sort of middle class intellectual conceit around the idea of the celebration of industrial culture.
Ben Kelly: It was a bit like, is it a bird? Is it a plane? What is it? It was like making a giant painting or a big piece of sculpture. It was like a big art piece.
Hewan Clarke (first resident DJ): I was DJing in this club called Rafters, and A Certain Ratio used to come in. I used to play a lot of jazz and funk stuff. They invited me to go with them on tour and DJ. Tony was driving them – I didn’t know who he was – and we got chatting, and both our favourite DJ was Frankie Crocker. He said, “I'm going to open a club in a couple of years and I want you to DJ.”
Aniff Akinola (DJ/producer): It was impressive that he kept his word and did that. There were no places in the city that played Black music that were open on Friday and Saturday nights. The thought was, ‘Black kids don’t drink beer, so we’re not going to sell pints.’ So we’d be brought in during the week to keep the numbers up and costs down, and then the weekend was pure profit. In Manchester, if you wanted to listen to Black music, you’d go out Monday to Thursday. For the Haçienda to pin itself on a very open and egalitarian music policy was revolutionary. There were a lot of places that we wouldn’t even attempt to get in at the time as Black people.
Leroy Richardson (bar manager/licensee): It was the first time I'd seen people with dreads in a club in Manchester with white doormen. I couldn’t believe it.
Hewan Clarke: Tony believed that Black music was going to become the staple diet of white culture, but it took a bit of time to turn people onto what I was playing. I was struggling to create a happy medium with the audience that had come in off the back of Factory. I’d play Kraftwerk, Heaven 17 and Orange Juice to get them up on the dance floor, and then intersperse it more with my stuff.
Martin Moscrop: We all had honorary memberships, so for a while I used to go every single night. Some midweek nights in the early days we’d be in there and the bouncers would come up to us and say, “I'm sorry, guys, we're gonna have to ask you to leave, because it's too empty and too cold to stay.” They couldn’t have paid people to come some nights.
Ang Matthews (manager/licensee): It was dead. Before house music, there was nobody there midweek. Sometimes there would be five people there. They were losing money hand over fist.
Martin Moscrop: Strippers were quite common in pubs in Manchester around the time, and the Haçienda even tried that out to bring in midweek business. Things were quite bleak in the early-80s, recession-wise. Everyone was fighting for customers, including the Haçienda.
Graeme Park (resident DJ): In the early days, at the band nights, there were a lot of moody men in long overcoats with fringes, drinking beer.
Fiona Allen (box office/reception): It was full of people trying to be mean and moody, and not dancing.
DOING THINGS UNCONVENTIONALLY
Ang Matthews: Rob and Tony were both very adamant about bands not paying to get in. You'd give them free drinks, too. I got a bollocking once because I hadn't given enough free drinks away one week.
Leroy Richardson: There never seemed to be any worry about money.
Peter Hook: Business is a cruel game, and Tony and Rob were not very good at being cruel. They were too nice to everybody. They were much better at idealism and ideas than they were businesses.
Anton Razak (assistant manager): Making money didn't seem that relevant. It wasn't at the forefront of what was important.
Dave Haslam (resident DJ): Walking into the Haçienda, you wouldn’t have thought it was a mainstream commercial operation. I think I would have been more surprised if someone had told me, “They're making a shitload of money in this venue.” It was passionate, endearing amateurism – the same as John Peel on the radio.
Aniff Akinola: It was the de facto art space in the city. There were a lot of creatives feeding into that place. A lot of people won’t agree, but I think the first four years were the most important to the club, rather than when ecstasy came. There was so much going on with the arts and music then. There were art students using it all the time – you’d turn up and it looked like Burning Man.
Dave Haslam: It was in the spirit of the club, and the spirit of the record company, that if there was an interesting, talented individual somewhere within orbit, they would take that person into the family and give them pretty much free rein to live out their own little dream. It was a very enabling experience.
Bez (percussionist, dancer, Happy Mondays): A lot of people thought the Haçienda was a bit of a weirdo club. Other clubs had a dress code, but in there you could do absolutely whatever you wanted, dress exactly how you wanted. If you were smoking weed in there, nobody would give a shit. It was like a utopia for us, we felt at home.
Leroy Richardson: You never denigrated anybody for looking different in there.
Ang Matthews: The weekly directors’ meetings were some of the most bizarre meetings you could ever imagine. There would be an argument with Hooky about where the drug box was, as the door staff used to collect drugs off the customers and he would want the drugs for himself. A crate of beer would have to be brought up. People would bet their shares in the Haçienda based on the outcome of a football match, so some weeks someone would no longer be a director.
Peter Saville: When Whitbread, the brewery, looked over the first year accounts, they pulled Tony into a meeting because they were unable to see how the Haçienda was actually attempting to make a profit. He said, “Well, we’re not really attempting to make a profit,” explaining it was a socio-cultural benevolence to the young people of Manchester. In the end, they told him to go away and please put the fucking bar prices up. The whole venture was altruistic.
Peter Hook: Whenever there was a stock-take, everything was missing and nobody could figure out what happened to the beer. I was sick of asking, “Where have all the lights gone?” The lighting guy was running his own lighting company out of his flat, renting out our bleeding lights. Years later, he came back to the club and spoke to Fiona. She couldn't believe the sheer nerve of the bloke. She called the head doorman and said, “Throw him in the canal.” So he did. Picked him up and chucked him in the canal.
Fiona Allen: I may have said, “Chuck him in the canal.” I didn’t expect anyone to do it.
ACID HOUSE, ECSTASY AND THE SUMMER OF LOVE
Aniff Akinola: Acid house was being played as early as 1984, but just not all the time. The earliest footage of acid house in the UK is from the 8411 Centre, Moss Side Precinct [Manchester] in 1986. It’s a 40-minute acid house set, and those kids are having it large. This was a staple for Black kids before it took off.
Hewan Clarke: They borrowed my records for that set.
Dave Haslam: I saw a gradual shift. The music was an evolution, not a revolution. The revolution was when ecstasy arrived. The dance floor dynamics really changed with that. On New Year's Eve, 1987, I played “Disco Inferno” and it sounded fantastic. Within probably three months the music policies of most nights all shifted to Detroit and Chicago house, because the drug use had changed.
Martin Moscrop: I remember being offered my first E by Bez in there. There were about 20 of us on it. The next week, 40 of us, the following week, 80, and then within a few months the whole club was on it. The music was already happening before the drugs, but E just made it explode.
Graeme Park: Mike Pickering asked me to cover for him when he was on holiday, but said, “You have to come up and check out Friday night first – things have changed, they are completely different.” And oh my god, he was right. Everyone had this mad look in their eyes and they dressed differently. My crowd in Nottingham looked like they’d stepped out of the pages of i-D or The Face, very designer and cool. At the Haçienda, it was dungarees, baggy shirts, the smiley face everywhere, bandanas. Everyone was wild. Mike opened up the DJ box to let me in, and he had that wild look in his eyes too. I was like, ‘What the hell?’ Then about 30 minutes later I got it.
Peter Hook: As Tony Wilson once said, ecstasy made white men dance. It also stopped everybody drinking alcohol, so club owners were profiting from overpriced bottles of water. Rob thought bottled water was the work of the devil, he wouldn’t stock it, insisting we give everybody free water if they ask for it. It was Suzanne in the kitchen that cottoned on and started selling the bottles in direct competition with the bar. Rob knew but didn’t care.
Anton Razak: In 1988, I went away for six weeks and I came back and everything had changed. Everyone is going “aciiid”, there’s yellow smiley faces everywhere. It was really weird. I didn't have a clue how somewhere could transform so much in such a short period of time.
Martin Moscrop: It was like punk all over again. It was a whole new movement, which was a godsend. It was a massive period for me.
Graeme Park: The combination of acid house, ecstasy and the fact that Haçienda was owned by Factory and New Order. All these things aligned and it just went mental.
Jon DaSilva: I left the DJ box one night and I was literally terrified because it was so exhilarating. The change of atmosphere and the way people were just losing it. This was at like 10PM.
Rowetta (singer, Happy Mondays): It did feel like a really hippy, happy time. Walking in to tunes I was singing on was really special. I didn’t realise my voice had been sampled on other tracks, I used to think I was hallucinating.
Fiona Allen: It was a vibrant creative period of time that I’d never seen in that city before. It was the most exciting club in the country.
Ang Matthews: We used to get loads of DJs who wanted a slot dropping off mixtapes. I used to send a lot of them to Strangeways prison, so the inmates had something to listen to.
Peter Hook: I heard some of them – the poor bastards.
Ang Matthews: By 1988, the money was literally pouring in. I’d be emptying the till into cardboard boxes to run up to the safe, just boxes filled with notes.
Anton Razak: On New Year’s Eve a firework ember landed on a box and set a cardboard box of cash alight. It was all part of the fun. I don’t think anyone was losing any sleep over it.
Peter Hook: I still have this memory of [licensee] Paul Mason on his hands and knees, patting all this cash, trying to put it out. That cost us, like, five grand.
Ang Matthews: Brewery Companies were paying us £50 an hour to go and sit in rooms and act as consultants for what was on trend and what was happening. All the nights blurred into one. It was like one massive night out.
Jon SaDilva: We went to DJ in America around this time and went to the Smart Bar in Chicago. People were asking for Manchester music, and we said, “We’re playing Manchester music – it's from Chicago.”
Leroy Richardson: Around this time we had maybe a year or two of just pure brilliance. No trouble.
Fiona Allen: The club was big business, so you had different gangs dotted around, pitching for their share of the drug trade.
Jon DaSilva: One evening, someone got stabbed and they cleared out the club for about 20 minutes, but they didn’t even wash up the dance floor, so people were dancing in blood.
Leroy Richardson: I ran the door for a few months and that's when I got threatened by White Tony, one of the Cheetham Hill gangsters. He threatened to shoot me because I told him he had to pay to get in.
Dave Haslam: The DJ box door was like a stable door, so you could lock both halves or just open the top. One night, a guy knocked on the door, I opened the top half and he had a gun. He wanted my records. It was a split second decision and I managed to bang the door shut. Nights could be surreal or like a circus, but I wasn't expecting or trained to deal with that. They built a spy hole in the door after that so we could see who was at the door.
Martin Moscrop: Someone pulled out a gun one night and we had to go through a cordon of police with riot shields and helmets that led you in a snake out of the venue. That was quite a scary time.
Fiona Allen: It was frightening to see, but I got so numb to seeing people stabbed. I saw the inside of one guy's head because it had been smashed in. Another was bleeding so badly after being stabbed that I had to take the belt off my jeans to try and stop him bleeding to death. I had to phone ambulances for people; in the end, I used to just drive them down to A&E myself. I looked up one night from reception and all the doormen literally bolted – everybody just cleared out from the front of the club. I was left by myself. A guy had a gun. I was behind bulletproof glass and I hit the shutter button, but it felt like it was coming down so slowly – it took forever. I remember leaning back against a brick wall and thinking, ‘I wonder if bullets can come through this wall.’
Peter Hook: The only thing that got me through was copious amounts of vodka and drugs, because I was numb to it. Somebody’s going, “There’s someone downstairs with a gun,” and I’m going, “Oh fucking hell, not again.”
Martin Moscrop: It wasn't only the Haçienda. That vibe was throughout Manchester, wherever you went.
Rowetta: It was a bit like America for a brief while. There was that feeling that you could get shot for saying the wrong thing.
Dave Haslam: I looked out to see the dance floor had cleared one night. The doorman was chasing after a group of lads. I turned the music off and you could just hear glass breaking, and shouting and screaming. The DJ in me was thinking, ‘What do I play after this to get them all back?’ I went with “Inner City Good Life”. After all the fighting had stopped, it was like nothing had happened. This sounds like idealistic DJ talk, but I knew I had the records to turn the mood around. I remember feeling like I had the power of music. Whatever else was happening, 99 percent of the audience were there for all the right reasons.
Fiona Allen: It was shut down because they just couldn't control it. The violence was too big. I didn’t go back after that. I’d had enough.
Ang Matthews: When we temporarily shut the club in 1991, we didn't know when it would reopen again.
Peter Hook: We sowed our own seeds of destruction by putting a gang on the door. It was Tony’s idea – to fight fire with fire.
Leroy Richardson: My brother-in-law had been kicked out of the Army in Northern Ireland for being too angry. He worked for us and said his friends, the Noonans [a gang from Salford], could do the doors and solve the problem. And it did work for a while, but only when the gangs were getting on with each other.
Leroy Richardson: Before the Salford lot were brought in to run the door, they were in discussion with a company that were all ex-SAS. There was a very off the record discussion with them about taking out the gangs, but we’d have rather closed the club than go down that route.
Ang Matthews: The police drove me mad. They were so, so unhelpful. I pleaded with them to pay them, like at football matches, to come and be on the door. They were constantly on my case. One night, we figured we could stay open an hour later due to the clocks going back, but they came in and arrested me. Graham Park announced from the DJ booth I was getting arrested. Everybody stormed the bar, and I think the two police officers had to get outside.
Rowetta: When the door changed to Salford, that's when it got ridiculous – they were just bullies. I saw one of them punch a woman in the face in the queue. It got heavy and it wasn’t fun anymore.
Jon DaSilva: It was a situation where you’re paying for protection from the people you need to be protected from.
Peter Hook: We tried to sell the club many, many times, but nobody would ever buy it because of the accounts. Security costs totalled £365,000 in one year alone.
Leroy Richardson: Going to work started to be a case of, “Think the worst, and if it doesn't happen, then it's a good night.”
Peter Hook: Rob always used to say to us, as New Order, when we were moaning about all the money we'd lost in the club, “You can't buy history like this. You can't buy heritage like this, ask fucking U2.” We were like, “Fuck off, we can’t pay our gas bill.”
Martin Moscrop: People did take advantage of the place. You’d go to people’s houses afterwards for a party, and they would be carrying crates of beer back from the Haçienda.
Leroy Richardson: We had to be careful with what DJs we booked, because really big ones could be more likely to attract trouble. We also had DJs asking for more money because they’d heard there was trouble.
Martin Moscrop: With the post-acid house crowd it sort of went really commercial. I used to call it handbag house.
Leroy Richardson: When they brought the accountants in to sort things out, they said to get rid of staff, and I was one of those people. Rob literally said, “I will pay his wages, he’s not going.” And that wasn’t just me either.
Peter Hook: The club was Rob’s baby. It was his idea. I do think he was a gambling addict. He was always a glass half full type of man, who always thought, ‘We can struggle to the next corner and there will be a multimillionaire around it.’
Ang Matthews: In that last period, everything was on a day-by-day basis, waiting for them to say we’re going to close. I would actually buy beer the night before to sell the next day. Then Hooky came in one day and said, “That’s it.” I was crying, and Hooky said, “Why are you crying?” I said, “Why do you think? It’s over.” I had no job, nothing lined up.
DJ Paulette (Resident DJ at LGBT night Flesh): People get lost in the Madchester, baggy, drugs, gangs, blah, blah, blah, but it was very arty and very edgy. In terms of the gay history, it was something really special. Clubbing for the LGBT community in Manchester until that point was pretty cheesy. It was the real old school gay entertainment, and there wasn't really anything cool for young gays. What Flesh did was make this absolute joy of an experience of great music, fashion and hedonism in a space that was solely reserved for lesbians and gays. It stated on the posters that it was a queer space.
That time was politically tough. It was a very anti-gay environment with the police force in Manchester under James Anderton [the city’s Chief Constable, who once said HIV and Aids patients were "swirling around in a human cesspool of their own making"]. The city council wasn't particularly gay friendly, either. Plus, we'd just come off the back of Section 28. So creating a night at the biggest club in Manchester that put in everybody's face: this is a queer space. It was the biggest fuck you to the local authorities.
It could have been a real hive of homophobic attitudes, because people would know that first Wednesday of every month you've got all the gays in Manchester there, and “let's go and have a go”, but it wasn't. It was brilliant – just a really lovely, non-aggressive environment. It was a massive success, one of the most financially successful nights the club ran. It established that thing in Manchester about the pink pound being powerful, and off the back of Flesh came the development of the Canal Street area.
‘24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE’
Ben Kelly: I got a phone call from the production company asking if I had any information about the design of the Haçienda that might help them rebuild it. Their timing was rubbish, because it had only just been demolished. I explained: yes, of course, but as soon as I suggested a fee be involved for them to use my designs, they disappeared off the face of the earth. I presumed it wasn’t happening any longer. I was really pissed off and angry that they’d done that without my permission, because I own the copyright. Watching the film, I sat there absolutely gobsmacked. They did an amazing job, and they did that incredible job by finding shit on the internet from drawings that had been pirated. I went legal on them. It dragged on and on, and eventually it was settled out of court with the distributors of the film. But yeah, they did a great job. The bastards.
Leroy Richardson: I was on set for the film. and stood near the bar as I normally would have been, and Bernard from New Order came up to me and asked for a drink. I had to explain to him I wasn't working there.
Dave Haslam: The set was basically the Haçienda for one night only. It did kind of turn out like the big final party that we never managed to have.
Graeme Park: This is the stuff of legend. You couldn't make it up. If you watch 24 Hour Party People and you didn't know anything about the Haçienda, Tony or Factory Records, you would think it was a great script – a brilliant work of fiction – when it's actually the most accurate portrayal of the Haçienda I’ve seen.
Rowetta: It felt a bit like you had these walking dead people around you. It was surreal, but a great way to spend one final night there. I was more of a chatter than a dancer, because I didn’t take pills. We’d assemble in what was called “druggy corner”. When it was remade for the film, Bez and his mates went straight to that corner.
Bez: The rebuilding of the club was absolutely incredible. It was uncanny. I still haven't watched the film. I'm waiting until I'm in old age, and one night I'll sit there with my great-grandkids and tell them what we did when we were kids. Tell you what I did watch the other night, though – London Town. Fucking amazing, the story of this young kid and The Clash. That’s my recommendation for everyone, fuck the Haçienda.
THE CLUB’S LEGACY
Dave Haslam: I remember Tony saying that he was OK with it closing. I think he understood that it achieved what it needed to achieve, in the same way as Jimi Hendrix or James Dean dying. Sometimes the legend lives on.
Bez: The best thing that ever happened to the Haçienda was it closing down. Had it carried on to the death, it wouldn’t have the legendary status.
DJ Paulette: I think it's good that it went when it did, because it managed to retain this special atmosphere – that's a very rare thing. Plus, the myth persists because there’s hardly any films or clips on YouTube. You have all these great memories but no footage.
Graeme Park: It bugs me that people talk about Haçienda as if, when it closed in ‘97, that was it. We've done loads of club nights, along with the Haçienda Classical. It’s still a club, it just doesn’t have a building.
Peter Hook: The wonderful thing about the Haçienda Classical is that you're promoting what the Haçienda achieved, instead of its mistakes.
Martin Moscrop: Mancunians are the worst offenders for holding onto things and always talking about the Haçienda. The nostalgia goes a bit far at times. We'll be having the “Haçienda On Ice” next. It was great times, but some people need to move on, really. It's not only the Haçienda, it's all the fucking idiots who like Oasis, or The Smiths fans who defend Morrissey's racism.
Peter Saville: Unquestionably, Ben's work with the Haçienda is the foundation stone of the idea of the regeneration of the city – it is the first project. It’s a rather unfortunate and ironic oversight of the public sector that the Haçienda was allowed to go. Sadly, the city council didn't get it at the beginning, and they didn't get it at the end.
Ben Kelly: There isn't a bloody day that goes by where I don't get somebody bothering me about it. For years, it pissed me off. It was the monkey on my back, because it just wouldn't go away, and people thought that's all I ever did. But I don’t complain anymore. It's amazing. It goes on and on, and it's incredible. The Haçienda never dies – it's embedded into our cultural history.
Ang Matthews: I'm stunned that people are still interested in it. I’m so proud of that time.
Peter Hook: We once worked out that, from the time it opened in 1982 to its closure in 1997, each punter through the door cost us £10. We wasted that much through bad management and sheer stupidity. But if it had been run like a proper business, it wouldn't have changed the world. Rob and Tony were great catalysts – they were idealists, and their idealism was very far-reaching. It was such a wonderful success, and yet an abject failure.
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