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In the last 30 days the archive has grown by 43 new artefacts, 15 new members, 31 new people and places.


Created 3rd March 2014 by Abigail


Moss Side Stories

Moss Side Stories: The Hidden History of Hulme and Moss Side Club Culture Curated by: Abigail Ward

Thanks to: Dubwise-er, Commonword, Ashley Kennerley, Al Baker, Dorothy Jasper, Franklin Jackson, Hewan Clarke, Irene Wilson-Brown, Kenny Williams, Lee Jasper, Martin De Mello, Michael Pye, Persian, Ursula Ackah, Yvonne McCalla

Welcome to Moss Side Stories – the Hidden History of Moss Side and Hulme Club Culture.

This online exhibition was inspired, in part, by Manchester District Music Archive’s most profilic contributor, ‘Dubwise-er’, who has uploaded almost a thousand artefacts to our website in under two years. A great many of Dubwise-er’s flyers, photos, press articles and absorbing recollections relate to his time as a reggae-obsessed gig-goer in Moss Side and Hulme during the 1980s. We thought it was time to group together these fascinating uploads and let them tell their own tale. Dubwise-er (who wishes to remain anonymous) has also supplied an evocative personal history of the area, shot through with his trademark wry humour and encyclopaedic knowledge, which you can read below. His musical memories include Desmond Dekker at Hulme Hippodrome; Prince Far-I at The Ardri (cancelled due to ‘mental instability’) and Barington Levy at the PSV:

“…with ear- piercing whistles blowing, cans, bottles, anything and everything banging against walls and tables, it was a cacophony of deafening appreciation in a sweat -dripped room, to a man at his unique peak."

Dubwise-er, we salute you!

We have also been supported on this project by Commonword Writers’ Development Agency, who have kindly donated audio interviews with a number of pioneering Moss Side scenesters, including Reno Club DJs Persian and Hewan Clarke; flamboyant Caribbean Club compere Franklin Jackson; Jah Music soundsystem builder Owen Townsend and writer Yvonne McCalla. Many topics are touched upon in these candid oral histories, but recurring themes include: shebeens and blues - why they sprung up as a response to stifling UK drinking culture; the sense of community that was generated by the clubs of Moss Side and Hulme (particularly the Nile and the Reno); and the strained relationship between the black community and the police, which culminated in the July 1981 Moss Side riot. These spoken-word snapshots reveal a culture of defiant partying in the face of hardship and oppression - a thread that runs through Manchester music as a whole. They highlight how clubs can unite communities and shape lives. In his interview DJ Persian states: “In The Reno the music took over everybody. The music took care of everything. This is why people still talk about it today. Their romantic lives were formed from that; their kids were born from that. Everything that happened in their life came from that experience and they still talk about it in those terms today.”

As with our main site, this exhibition is a work in progress put together by volunteers. There are still many gaps, which we hope you will be inspired to fill. If you have any artefacts or recollections that you would like to add, please email them to Dubwise-er’s Story The protracted demolition of the Victorian back-to-back houses during the notorious redevelopment of Moss Side and Hulme in the 1960s and 70s form my earliest memories of the area. Of course as a young ‘un I was blissfully unaware of the implications of this developers’ wet dream, which for many, quickly disintegrated into a nightmare of urban sprawl and social dysfunction. For what seemed an eternity there were never-ending vistas of destruction and derelict wastelands all along the Princess Road corridor and over to where the old Paulden’s once stood. There were newly erupted mountains of rock and rubble springing up across the landscape, alongside smouldering bonfires piled high from timbers ripped from those old homes. Mixed in with all this was the permanent noxious smell of the brewery that permeated the air and caught your breath if the breeze happened your way. On almost every second Saturday, down the narrow streets, alleys and ginnels, the heavy footfalls of the marching hoards would echo out as the zealous crowds gathered religiously to watch their local heroes do battle at the home of the Cool Cats, Maine Road. In the closing days of the 60s, I recall tagging along with elders on a day out to watch hippy-type bands play to that generation up on the big stage in Alexandra Park. I was more interested in feeding the ducks, though - quite right too! But it would be here, a decade or so later, that I would be listening to live bands playing benefits for Rock Against Racism and other worthy causes such as Anti-Nuclear and Anti-Apartheid rallies. It was a time of teenage musical and political awakening. Such gigs were common in the latter days of the 70s and early 80s, and culminated in the rise of the 2 Tone movement, which, with its multiracial and socially aware platform, seemed to capture the essence and spirit of the time. With Misty In Roots alongside The Ruts, Aswad alongside The Au Pairs, we sported our badges and expressed our support for diverse and worthwhile causes, whilst being musically spoiled. There were also the annual Moss Side Carnivals at the same location, with the odd international headliner, and more often than not a heavy police presence to boot. “…so much things to say…” as Robert Nesta Marley hypnotically intoned. And so living in an area that was synonymous with reggae music, and like many of my generation I was drawn to much of what it had to offer, as it seemed to have a purpose and depth beyond the obvious chart fayre. The 70s had predominantly been a time of long-haired, bare-chested, and for the most part clapped-out rock god types, accompanied by histrionic guitar noodlings. This new music seemed to turn the general rulebook inside out and upside down with its bass heavy, spacious sound and latent drive behind every second and fourth beat; and typically on the B-sides, echoes and reverbs galore to fill out the soundscape. You could ‘feel it in the one drop’, if you were lucky, and most did. It had always been the case that pretty much every year there’d be at least one token ska/ reggae hit in the UK charts, from the days of Prince Buster and Andy Capp, up to Susan Cadogan, Junior Murvin, Althea and Donna and beyond. These brief moments of reggaedom and its culture just whetted our appetites to follow down the path to the roots of the music. And so we did, with Moss Side and district being the place to see it, hear it and feel it. Although the area was a hive of musical activity and creativity it was mostly of the spontaneous and short-lived kind, and so much of it went undocumented and unrecorded, especially from the black musical perspective of soundsystems and Blues. Except for the odd blimp on the radar from the likes of Sweet Sensation, (mirrored much later by pop sensations Cleopatra), most of it passed into a faded, untold memory. Much of the vibrancy was lost, though it left an indelible mark on the musical pulse in the heart of the city, and exponentially added to the city’s musical nous. Hopefully the artefacts and articles contained in this online exhibition will tap into that rich seam. Soul, funk and reggae certainly influenced the latent explosion of all things Manc, especially the Madchester and House scenes when, with ‘a rush and a push the land was theirs’. No doubt a plethora of bands and projects that were spawned in and around the Oldham Street area were directly or indirectly influenced by some of reggae music’s approach and sensibilities on their many and varied electronic diversions and excursions. It all certainly helped put the city in pole position across the globe for a couple of dizzying years. I won’t be going there though as it’s a story well and truly told. There are many flyers, posters and playlists in the exhibition, particularly from The Russell (Factory, P.S.V., Caribbean Club) circa mid-80s on, that reflect this cross-pollination very well. You knew when you entered that club and were greeted by a large notice stating ‘No Drugs Allowed’ (albeit posted upside down!), that things may not be quite as they seemed. There was music ranging from U Roy to Gang of Four, from Horace Andy to Public Enemy; all of which was enthusiastically devoured by the same fervent and appreciative crowd. It was a wholly healthy and wonderful mixed bag of goodies to suit all comers and tastes. On a musical tip, the mid-to-late 80s in that club was a particular highlight, with sounds like Tenor Saw’s ‘Ring The Alarm’ (over the classic ‘Stalag 17’ riddim; big chooooon!), Nitro Deluxe and Stacker Humanoid all doin’ the business. The homegrown Ruthless Rap Assassins, A Guy Called Gerald and MC Buzz B were on high rotation, while Finley Quaye, Frannie Ewbanks and spoken word maestro Lemn Sissay, were up and coming. It seemed a particularly productive time to be young, gifted and black in Manchester. All this was livened up by dance troops like Foot Patrol and She Devils mingling with the crowd, and the music was kept bumping along nicely by MCs aplenty, popping up around the dance floor, with only the tell-tale glow of the red LED light to give away that the guy bustin’ moves next to you and the guy chatting on the mic over the bottom end, just happened to be one and the same. It helped whip the vibe along nicely, having a mic chanter move through the wavy, ravy crowd. Of course in earlier times the club had been put on the radar when, on the weekends, it was renamed The Factory for the purposes of promoting up-and-coming New Wave acts. As was often the case, local reggae bands would play alongside them as, for a time at least, there seemed to be some common ground with this sometimes cantankerous and militant new music. Witness local band Harlem Spirit’s staunch 7” classic ‘Dem a Sus’ - a clarion call about the archaic and discriminatory ‘Sus’ laws of the time, enforced in this particular locale by a Chief Constable with a Messiah complex. The lyrics would have rung true ‘for the people of the ghetto….’ across any inner city in the UK at that time. When Steel Pulse made it onto the Electric Circus ‘Short Circuit’ album, it was no surprise at all. As is common knowledge, Mr. Wilson, a news reporter on the local Granada station, was involved in The Factory nights at that club, and probably the one and only time I ever saw a live segment on the telly about the workings of a soundsystem with accompanying ‘toasting’, was when he had Jamaican legend Tapper Zukie doing a guest appearance on his Friday evening ‘What’s On’ slot, circa ’79. It was probably yet another groundbreaking first for the show and went a little way in exposing what was still quite an underground musical culture. It was probably in that venue, more than anywhere that I developed a particular passion and appreciation for soundsystems and reggae music, as it’s where most of the Jamaican bands played. Although it was nominally a social club for bus drivers (many of whom happened to be migrants from the West Indies; P.S.V. = Public Service Vehicles), it really was better suited to being a nightclub, with its lack of any windows or natural light, but well equipped with an ample P.A.. Often on a Sunday evening the mighty Baron Hi Fi (name checked on Y.T’s classic “England Story” roll call of great U.K. soundsystems ) ,would set up shop on the dancefloor and commence to drop the latest pre-releases and their own custom-made dub plates, all the while passing round the mic with ‘musical efficiency and lyrical stability’ - intelligent and conscious lyrics to nice-up any dance. Being in that club on a Sunday was a good way to wind down the weekend and listen out for big ups promoting upcoming events, especially ones live and direct from far Atlantic shores. And so in that venue I got to see, besides the punk stylee stuff, many of the Roots and Dancehall legends from that small but volatile island in the sun. Dennis Brown alongside ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace, quaking those walls to their foundation; Barrington Levy coaxing and teasing the willing masses with calls and response. With ear- piercing whistles blowing, cans, bottles, anything and everything banging against walls and tables, it was a cacophony of deafening appreciation in a sweat -dripped room, to a man at his unique peak. Then there was the young Frankie Paul crooning so sweetly and doing his darndest to woo the ladies, Charlie Chaplin proving what a showman he was, and DJ legend U Brown rocking the house. There were the beautiful classic vocal groups of the Mighty Diamonds, Wailing Souls and Culture, turned out resplendently in their very best dressed and best pressed Ites, gold and green tracksuits, tams an’ ting. After the show, if you were feeling flush, you could always take one of the pirate taxis parked up outside over to Salmon’s and tuck into a couple of much-needed dumplings or patties. It was the era of ghetto blasters, thick bobby socks and best dressed chickens in town; Clive Lloyd in his captaincy at Lancashire Cricket Ground; ‘Empire Road’ and ‘No Problem’ with the lovely Janet Kay on the telly, along with the political and social exposure of black culture on groundbreaking programmes like ‘Ebony’ and ‘Black on Black’, which also brought some exposure to reggae artists of the day. Freddy McGregor ‘mashed down the walls of Jericho…’ in his Puma and Adi Dassler apparel and was on the billing for ‘Jamming For Jobs’ in Albert Square in the summer of ’87. It was a time of righteous militancy and revolution, with a keen eye to fashion. If you’re gonna be fit for the battle and chant down Babylon one more time, why not do it in style? But there was none more natty than the Cool Ruler himself, one Gregory Isaacs; in his ‘beaver felt, expensive belt, knits ganzie and Clarks bootee…’ as Michigan and Smiley would say. If you’ve never seen the film ‘Rockers’ or the British film ‘Babylon’ do yourself a favour and check ‘em out. Both are informative social documents of the time, but are also compulsive viewing. The Aswad track “Warrior Charge” would be a fine example of homegrown roots music at the beginning of the 80s - a horn laden and highly charged instrumental which captured some of the tension in the air that was about to ignite and spread like wildfire throughout the UK, culminating in the riots of ’81, which pretty much changed the whole racial and political landscape of this sceptred isle forever. The scene in ‘Babylon’ where Brinsley Forde gets on the mic over the top of the track while the boys in blue proceed to smash their way into the hall was a powerful analogy for the time. The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’ in that year did similarly, encapsulating the polarity and frustration with a government that was hellbent on proving it couldn’t care less. Meanwhile over at The International, The West Indian Centre, The Osbourne Club, Mayflower, Band on The Wall or The Cavendish, (to name a few), you could witness the fitness of King Yellowman, Half Pint and Ini Kamoze with the Sly and Robbie powerhouse taking their chosen musical path to yet another stratosphere. There were spoken word meisters like Mutabaruka, Benjamin Zephania and Linton Kwesi Johnson alongside his pal John Cooper Clarke. Chalice came from back a yard, Third World performed their trademark classical music interpretation while Don Letts’ soundsystem played with the irrepressible and loveable Slits. There was Dillinger with his ruff ‘n tuff delivery; Jah Shaka in a class of ‘im own’; and the smooth and much-sampled Michael Prophet. I particularly recall when the gravel-voiced Prince Far-I was billed to play the The Ardri in Hulme, circa-1980. Upon arrival, a notice on the door explained ‘Prince Far-I will not be playing tonight due to mental instability’ – a very true story. Instead legendary Jamaican DJ Prince Hammer (who also happened to be a long-time resident of the Rainy City at the 12 Tribes of Israel HQ on Chorlton Rd), took up the reigns and carried the swing into the early hours. Fortunately not long after, Prince Far-I, with Suns of Arqa in tow, mashed up The Band on The Wall dressed in an oversized bright orange Teddy boy jacket: it’s a fact man, it’s a fact. English grown bands such as Steel Pulse, Talisman, Merger, Black Slate and Misty in Roots all visited the Rainy City and were ably supported by Javelo, Sattamasagana, Islanders and other such Manchester acts. At a later date the mighty On-U Sound consortium, which included local artists The Mothmen and Alana Pellay, arrived with their hybrid take on dubwise and t’otherwise, as well as a mash-up of various influences and styles. The Hacienda also tipped its hat in respect to that sound, born out of the progression of R’n’B, mento, ska and rocksteady music, and so many of the popular artists of that time trod the boards at that venue too. There was Paul Blake with his Bloodfire Posse; the man from the Black Ark himself, Lee Perry (unnervingly clutching a bible and small teddy bear while checking himself out in a hand held mirror); and Burning Spear, garbed in his mystical white flowing gowns, in his nyabinghi drumming phase. Tracks by Dr. Alimantado, Pablo Gad, Lone Ranger, Tristan Palma and Militant Barry were always firm crowd pleasers and guaranteed to fill a dancefloor. Local band X-O-Dus, erstwhile support for likes of Joy Division and The Fall, made it onto the Factory Records roster with probably its only 12” reggae release, ’English Black Boys’ b/w ‘See Them a Come’, produced by none other than Dennis ‘Blackbeard’ Bovell. Other luminaries of the genre such as Augustus Pablo, Junior Delgado, Eastwood and Saint (popular with the spiky haired crowd), alongside Toots from the roots; the wonderful Johnny Osbourne, Sugar Minott, John Holt, Horace Andy and Jackie Mittoo from Studio 1, all passed by this way, and with hindsight it was a golden time to be in the ‘hood’ as so many of those artists have now passed on. Many of these shows were willingly and ably supported by various local soundsystems; from the aforementioned Baron Hi Fi at the control tower, to Megatone Massive, who were rivals and Sound Clash spars. As was and still is very much the case, these sound clashes are part of DJ and soundsystem culture, from Japan to Aoteroa, from Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads. These, alongside other such local soundmen as President, Saxon and Sword of Jah Mouth, would defend Manchester’s honour and reputation from all-comers visiting the town from as far afield as London, Nottingham and Leeds, with coach loads of supporters in tow. At times these spars could get a little lively and out of hand, occasionally resulting in ructions. When London’s Saxon Studio visited, it was slightly different as they truly were flying the banner in carrying the UK DJ skills forward with their innovative fast -chat style. This sent the creative flow back to J.A. for a change, as illustrated on the brilliantly executed Philip Levi’s ‘Mi God Mi King’ track, with the sweet vocals of a young Maxi Priest over the same plate. I recall Fast Freddy, the world’s fastest mic chanter, toasting on the kiddies’ show ‘Record Breaker’. (The show’s presenter Roy Castle would pop into The White Horse in Hulme for a swift ‘alf once in a while as they occasionally recorded in the Halle’s home base of The Zion Building right next door, where the orchestra could oft be heard practising their latest bangin’ choons. That same building was also used as a location for the arthouse film ‘Reds’, which would have been shown over at the infamous Aaben Cinema. Anthony Burgess’s book ‘A Clockwork Orange’was partly influenced by the area, as was Barry Adamson’s ‘Moss Side Story’. Meanwhile Nico could often be found sat at the bar over at The Spinner’s across the way, which was kind of a Wild West version of The Rovers Return. Not much of this Caribbean-flavoured music was broadcast, except on Mike Shaft’s Saturday night Piccadilly Radio show; later taken over by Scottsman. There was a particular interview with the eccentric and bizarre sing-jay artist Eek a Mouse, famed for his scatting and madlib style, who performed that particular night as a 6 ft 6” musketeer. You couldn’t help but laugh at, and with him. (Original nuttah!) The occasional pirate station would broadcast from high up in the Moss Side tower blocks but they were usually short-lived. There were the likes of Mr. Peel championing the cause, and Radio Lancashire’s ‘On the Wire’, and later KFM. But they were no Dread Broadcasting Corporation, nor had the funding to follow the template of Mikey Dread’s ‘Dread at The Controls’ format. There were a lot of artists I never did get to see due to the slight inconvenience of being one of the multitudes of under-employed youths in a dysfunctional Tory Britain. However living just doors away from The Russell, on the upper levels of that architect’s dystopian vision, Charles Barry Crescent, I certainly did get to hear much of it. The tin roof of that particular building acted like a giant sub woofer and could barely contain the heavy vibrations pulsing and pushing through the ether, and all of the excitement contained therein. And if it wasn’t the noise emanating from that music hall it could and often was some soundsystem setting up camp for a Blues in either a squatted or sub-let flat, mostly in Chaz Baz, but likely to move round at short notice. They would usually kick off late on a Thursday and carry through into the wee small hour hours, only to fire it all up again on the Friday and Saturday nights and wind down on the Sunday just around the midnight hour. With, or occasionally without, some sort of donation you could go a Blues. On your way in you’d pass the kitchen, which would have such ital delights as salt fish, dumplings and rice on offer, and of course the obligatory Red Stripe beer. The main event usually happened through in the main room, and as pretty much all these flats were identical you’d head on in with only the light from the (one) deck to define the parameters of the space, and that was all that was needed for the selector, operator and accompanying DJs to drop their choice of platters. The place would be rammed and it would be fair to say the essence of I-shence certainly filled the air. The musical discs of the day would echo and reverberate out and around the four Crescents, which contained and yet amplified the bass heavy riddim-driven sets. There were also rehearsal and recording studios set up around those blocks so it was no place for the weak heart or insomniac, but as it went with the territory, you best not mind; and because the area was pretty much a no-go area for the Peelers, for the most part this was the norm. Beenie’s was probably the best known and longest running of the Blues (or shebeens as they were sometimes called, from a Celtic word for a drinking den). I loved the whole soundsystem thing with the rewind, false starts and haul an’ pull-ups of the selectors, and the scatting of the MCs over the top which hyped it all up - a forerunner to much of what became hip hop culture. Being of the younger persuasion I had a particular penchant for the ‘steppers’ beat and would listen up and pay attention, trying to make a mental inventory of the disco mixes and pre-releases I would hear, so when we popped down to Murray’s Muzic City around Brook’s Bar way (which we did, often), I’d be itching for some new sounds . When Mr. Murray moved premises down to Princess Road around 1980, it was about the only shop along that stretch that wasn’t burned or looted during the ’81 riots: some respect there for the man. Reggae hits of that time (selling 2000+ copies would pretty much guarantee the No. 1 spot in the UK reggae charts for that week) ,would include Raymond Napthali and Roy Ranking’s ‘Brixton Riot’, as toasted over the Fatman Hi Fi Sound on a visit up from London, and Lion Youth’s ‘Bristol Incident’, reflecting on the riots that raged and spread all across the land that summer, and gave the police a lame excuse to cancel Black Uhuru’s first Manchester gig. There were other reggae outlets too - a couple in the Moss Side centre and later another along Princess Road. We mostly went Murray’s though as he let us in the back where he had shelves stacked with old 7”s and 12”s with one old deck to help us while away the hours. At the heart of Hulme stood The White Horse pub, (occasionally ‘The White Hor...’ depending on how accurate the local kiddywinks were at throwing stones), and it really was a hot bed and breeding ground of latent Manchester talent. There was a particular musical leaning towards disjunctive, frenetic, scratchy white boy-and-girl agit prop punk funk offerings, but there was a real mix of ages and cultures there too. On a warm Sunday afternoon some of the old Nigerians would come dressed in all their West African finery, alongside folks from the West Indies, and as it had always nominally been an Irish pub there was a goodly gathering of local Irish clans too. Add to all this a smattering of young arty student types, leather- jacket punks, local Perrys and ragamuffins, with some general waifs and strays thrown in, and that was pretty much the recipe for this hostelry. The music policy was reflected in its eclectic jukebox, but often on a summer’s evening I’d crank up my heavy-duty speakers and blast out me choons off the balcony over the way from the pub, and occasionally would get request phone calls from locals who’d be whiling away a pleasant evening on the grass outside that fine establishment. Later on there would usually be a lock-in (or you could go and watch Blue Movies over at The Eagle if you felt so inclined). Once a year in August, that whole amphitheatre was given over to the Hulme Carnival, with Harlem Spirit playing on top of the toilet block on one particular occasion. In the pub of a Sunday one of the old regulars would often drop a selection on his home-made soundsystem for the whine ‘n’ grine oldies, mostly playing sweet lover’s and some calypso, as could be heard on the upper level of The PSV most any given night. It was a good vibe in that inn and at various times a veritable who’s who of the Manchester music collective. For sure that’s another Jackanory Story entirely. Similar things went on at other nearby licensed premises like The Duke, Spinners, Clynes’s and Junction. The Grants Arms had the added bonus of resident cabaret-style band Silver Dollar doing reggaefied versions of such classics as ‘Danny Boy’ (always save your best till last!) and The Royce would host the occasional wrestling bout. At a later date some of the local residents appeared as the protesting mob outside the then-named Caribbean Club in the opening scenes of Alan Bleasdale’s ‘G.B.H.’ While the likes of Hewan Clarke were playing at The Gallery or The Reno (taking the American reggae/ punk band Bad Brains to that venue after one of their chaotic gigs is a particular amusing and abiding memory), over at Legends and The Berlin in town there were similar things going on, with jazz funk dominating the dancefloor. There the ubiquitous Jazz Defectors would strut their stuff to the likes of ‘The Bottle’ or ‘Shack Up’, with a bit of Fela Kuti and Latin flavours aplenty thrown in. For those on a more dance-oriented tip the import specialists Spin Inn on Cross Street could supply you with all the platters that matter in the jazz/funk department. It seems all tastes and sensibilities were covered in what was really quite a small inner city area, so it wasn’t hard to move and mingle between different pubs and clubs; and easy to spot future movers and shakers of the burgeoning Manchester scene doing the same. Out of this mélange came Yargo, a distinctive and unique band who, more than most, captured the zeitgeist of that time, and were, for a short while at least, the pride of Manchester. By the time the Hacienda peaked and The Kitchen atop my particular tower block had become an oversubscribed and overcharged speakeasy for the night club overspill, things were moving along nicely over at The Hippodrome in Hulme, where artists such as the legendary Desmond Dekker, Mad Professor and local band Community Charge could be seen. Just a little later the refurbished NIA Centre set a new standard, with its grand opening night in 1991 being graced by none other than Nina Simone. Around about this time much of Hulme and its diverse mix of locals and misfits, was in the process of being dispersed and demolished; reminiscent of the razing of the old Victorian abodes on that same ground twenty or so years earlier. On the local music front much of the emphasis had shifted down to The Great Western and over to the newly-opened Arch, where I was lucky enough one lazy Sunday evening to catch Ranking Joe, one of my musical heroes, playing to a small crowd, courtesy of the good people from the Blood and Fire label based up on Ducie St. Again in the mid-to-late 90s you could witness some of that rich musical influence and heritage being handed down and reborn anew in the form of jungle/ drum and bass, popular with a younger generation but still carrying much of the edge and vibrancy of the mother culture. It seemed a natural progression and certainly owed something to the aesthetic of reggae, and its dub sensibilities. I was quite taken by the dark and warm, fuzzy bass meself - subsonic frequencies that King Tubby could have only dreamed of. I particularly recall hearing Ronnie Size’s ‘Brown Paper’ in PJ Bell’s on Oldham Street in the late 90s and it certainly resonated with the crowd. As with some of the Dubstep stuff, reggae’s legacy is still ongoing to this day. Of course these musical stylings aren’t everybody’s bowl of noodles. The rhythm and melody of organised sounds is a very personal thing, but as the old adage says, ‘he who feels it knows it’. Up to the time and round to the hour I still take an interest in reggae and its offspring, but like any form of music, it ain’t all good. Like The Velvelettes on their crusade for a ‘Needle in a Haystack’ in days of old, I’m just about doing the same. Occasionally, those needles are still made of gold. The spirituality of the music from the days of Count Ossie, The Congos (who I’ve just had the pleasure of seeing for the first time) and Garnett Silk, still lives on through artists like Sizzla, Anthony B and Luciano; much of which can be heard on the local Peace FM radio station in Moss Side. It seems too that the vibe is still alive in the metropolis with the likes of Tarrus Riley, Beres Hammond and old skool DJ Brigadier Jerry being recent visitors to the municipality. Think that’ll do, but just on a final note; isn’t it about time that one of those blue historic plaque things was put up to mark the spot where The Russell once stood? Too long overdue! Over ‘n’ out. D. Wiser.
Linda Brogan
Nile Club, Reno Club
Photograph, 1969
The Nile and the Reno on the corner of Moss Lane East and Princess Road, circa 1969. The Reno was the black door on the left. Thanks to Commonword for supplying this photo. (Photographer unknown).

Both clubs are discussed in detail in our series of interviews, which can be found below in the 2011 section of the timeline.

The legacy of the Reno Club is currently being celebrated and explored in a fascinating project led by playwright, artist and writer, Linda Brogan. Part of that project is an exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery, running from 15 March 2019 to March 2020.

A piece that originally appeared in i-D magazine in Feb 2019 by Kamila Rymajdo is reproduced below:

“We dipped our fingers in the fountain of youth,” is how Jamaican-Irish playwright Linda Brogan explains the 2017 archaeological excavation of The Reno, Manchester’s original nightclub for mixed-race youth. Opened in the early 1960s, and famously visited by Muhammad Ali, the funk and soul venue enjoyed a heyday in the 1970s, only to close in 1986, and be demolished a year later. Overgrown by grass in the multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Moss Side -- where Manchester’s Irish, West Indian and African communities have traditionally lived -- it was all but forgotten. Until now.

“Once you got in, it was like you were home,” remembers Barrie George, a retired Manchester City Football Club steward, who partook in the club's excavation.

Stigmatised by the 1930 ‘Fletcher Report’ (a controversial paper that described children of mixed heritage as suffering from inherent physical and mental defects) people such as Barrie and Linda found themselves caught between two different communities. “When we’d go to town, white people would say, ‘black this, black that,’ then we’d go out in Moss Side and the Jamaican people would go, ‘you mixed race, two nation, people with no countries,’ so it was like we were battling with two,” explains another Reno regular, Steve Cottier, his words echoing around the vast expanse of Whitworth Art Gallery’s upper floor. We're here because, starting on 15 March, the gallery will be the site of a year long residency, during which Linda, and twelve former Reno regulars, will explore the club’s historical context and attempt to strengthen its legacy.

As the Reno regulars reveal, the club’s music was a way to channel their frustrations. “You’d have a lovey-dovey song and then you’d have Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On,” remembers Philip Collins Snr, another member of the ‘Reno 12’, who are gathering their memories and photographs for the forthcoming exhibition. “When I moved over here in 1961 all the clubs in Moss Side were playing reggae but back in Jamaica I grew up on American music. Thankfully the owner of the club recognised that what I was playing was making the club popular,” explains Persian, the Reno’s former DJ. Indeed, the unusual records selected by Persian and fellow DJs, such as Coolie and Hewan Clarke, soon attracted the likes of Simply Red musician Mick Hucknall and Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, with Clarke later being asked to play at Wilson’s Haçienda night club. But most white people wouldn’t come unless invited: “They weren’t your average white person," Phillip asserts. "They had some association to black or mixed race people."

And so, mixed race youths, who weren’t welcome elsewhere, continued to make up the fabric of the Reno. The friendships that were made began to extend beyond the club too, with Steve keen to tell me that the Reno even birthed a football team, Afroville, that, after the weekly Sunday afternoon game against the city’s other teams, would head back to the Reno for a drink. “We’d be stinking of grass and mud, but we didn’t care," Steve says. "People would ask us, ‘how d’you get on?’ and we’d say, ‘we won!’”

Now mostly in their 60s, though still sprightly, sharply dressed and excited to share their stories, the regulars tell me that the Reno was open day and night, long past its official license, and usually closing at five or six in the morning. Many patrons would be in there every day, playing dominoes in the ‘gambling room’ or smoking weed. Police raids were frequent. “There was a way out the back, but there was just one door, this one passageway and I remember one police raid we all just dropped our spliffs when they put the light on and ran, everybody really laughing,” Linda recalls.

The Reno’s reputation soon spread nationwide. “In the mid-70s when it was at its height, it was the number one soul club in all of Great Britain,” asserts Phillip. However, unlike arguably Manchester’s most famous nightclub -- the predominantly white working class Haçienda -- the Reno hasn’t really been remembered by the history books. Linda felt that this was a travesty and began an 18 month long mission to secure funding for the excavation of the club. Funded by the National Lottery, and completed with the assistance of Salford University’s Centre for Applied Archaeology, the club is finally getting the recognition it deserves, bringing many of Moss Side’s residents together, with the children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of those who attended the Reno coming to help with the dig.

Flared trousers, combs, lipsticks, perfumes, wallets, record bags and even weed were recovered during the excavation, culminating in a party played by four of the still living Reno DJs. For the volunteers who make up the Reno 12, the dig became almost an addiction, as well as catharsis. But they also see the exhibition, which will include a replica of the club as well as artefacts from the archeological dig, as playing an important role in preserving the area’s history. “The people living in Moss Side now, who’ve moved into Moss Side, can look at the archives we’ve got, and think, ‘oh yeah, there’s something substantial down there’,” Barrie says.

While the dig was groundbreaking -- the first excavation of a nightclub in living memory -- the year’s worth of filmed memoirs which preceded it are also a treasure trove for any discerning social historian. In one interview, Whitworth Reno 12 member Myra Trigg talks about being a 17 year-old mother leaving her pram outside the club, speaking volumes about how safe the area was prior to the ‘Gunchester’ drug related violence that befell Moss Side during the 90s. The interviews also proved to be a viral hit: “Without us saying anything, without any marketing, 45,000 people watched our videos,” Linda tells me.

Meeting again, after sometimes decades of not seeing each other, means many of the Reno regulars have plenty to talk about, finding themselves with different perspectives on subjects such as the area’s 1981 riots, which preceded the downturn of the club. For Linda, the project has been an opportunity to take ownership of the complex narratives surrounding black and mixed race identity, often misunderstood or mishandled by those without firsthand experience. But the Reno, she stresses, is predominantly a tale of joy, and one that’s now being told as it should be, by the people who loved it most: “We had an absolutely fabulous time down there -- and I knew if I just held onto that, I knew it would be alright,” she sums up and calls for a break. It might not be weed anymore, but the Reno 12 still like a smoke.

The Reno residency starts on 15 March 2019 and concludes in March 2020. More information can be found on the Whitworth Art Gallery website.
Hulme Crescents
Video, 1978
Uploaded to YouTube by 'Fastforward' Oct 8, 2008.

A en edited documentary on The Crescents from 1978.

A piece on The Crescents taken from Wikipedia:

At the end of World War II, the United Kingdom had a need for quality housing, with a rapidly increasing "baby boomer" population increasingly becoming unhappy with the prewar and wartime "austerity" of their lives, and indeed, their living space.

By the start of the 1960s England had begun to remove many of the 19th century slums and consequently, most of the slum areas of Hulme were demolished. The modernist and brutalist architectural style of the period, as well as practicalities of speed and cost of construction dictated high rise "modular" living in tower blocks and "cities in the sky" consisting of deck-access flats and terraces.

In Hulme, a new and (at the time) innovative design for deck access and tower living was attempted. This consisted of curved rows of low-rise flats with deck access far above the streets, known as the "Crescents" (which were, with unintentional irony, architecturally based on terraced housing in Bath). In this arrangement, motor vehicles remained on ground level with pedestrians on concrete walkways overhead, above the smoke and fumes of the street. People living in these new flats were rehoused from decaying Victorian slums which lacked electricity, running water, bathrooms or indoor toilets, and were mostly overcrowded.

High-density housing was balanced with large green spaces and trees below, and the pedestrian had priority on the ground over cars. The 1960s redevelopment of Hulme split the area's new council housing into a number of sections. Hulme 2 was the area between Jackson Crescent and Royce Road. Hulme 3 was between Princess Road and Boundary Road based along the pedestrianised Epping Walk, Hulme 4 was between Princess Road and Royce Road and Hulme 5 - the "Crescents" themselves were between Royce Road and Rolls Crescent. The names of the "Crescents" harked back to the Georgian era, being named after architects of that time: Robert Adam Crescent, Charles Barry Crescent, William Kent Crescent and John Nash Crescent, together with Hawksmoor Close (a small straight block of similar design attached to Charles Barry Crescent). At the time, the "Crescents" won several design awards, and introduced technologies such as underfloor heating to the masses. They were also popular because they were some of the first council homes in Manchester to have central heating. The development even had some notable first occupants, such as Nico and Alain Delon.

However, what eventually turned out be recognised as poor design, workmanship, and maintenance meant that the crescents introduced their own problems. Design flaws and unreliable 'system build' construction methods, as well as the 1970s oil crisis meant that heating the poorly insulated homes became too expensive for their low income residents, and the crescents soon became notorious for being cold, damp and riddled with cockroaches and other vermin. Crime and drug abuse became significant problems in Hulme, as police did not patrol the long, often dark decks, due to the fact that they were not officially considered streets. The decks made muggings and burglary relatively easy, as any crime could be carried out in almost total privacy, with no hope for quick assistance from police below.

The crescents became troublesome very shortly after their construction—within a decade, they were declared 'unfit for purpose', and several plans were drawn up that suggested various differing types of renovation and renewal for the blocks, including splitting the buildings into smaller, more manageable structures by removing sections. In the 1980s and 1990s many of these vacant deck-access flats were squatted and the area acquired a 'Bohemian' reputation for its many punks, artists and musicians.

During the late 1980s Viraj Mendis, an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka, sought the right of sanctuary in the Church of the Ascension in Hulme. He was an active supporter of Sri Lanka Tamils and claimed danger of death if he was sent back to Sri Lanka. He stayed in the church for two years until the church was raided by police on 18 January 1989.
Buzzcocks, X-O-Dus (Exodus)
Alexandra Park
Poster, 1978
Poster: Northern Carnival Against the Nazis designed by Dave King, 1978.

It was on the train home from the Carnival in London that Geoff Brown (ANL) and Bernie Wilcox, who had already been promoting small RAR gigs across Manchester, decided that together they would organise the Northern Carnival Against the Nazis.

Ten weeks of intense work followed with many volunteers and sympathetic organisations lending a hand. Hundreds of people made special banners, placards and badges, and helped to book coaches from outside Manchester.

There weren't as many of these posters available as hoped because the Anti Nazi League office in London had been firebombed. Moss Side band Exodus (X-O-Dus) were added to the bill after this poster was printed, recommended by reggae DJ and future RAR organiser Debbie Golt.

This item was featured in Manchester Digital Music Archive's 'We Are Dynamite! Northern Carnival Against the Nazis 40th Anniversary' exhibition, held at Niamos (old Nia Centre) in Hulme in September 2018.

Co-organised by Geoff Brown of the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) and Bernie Wilcox of Rock Against Racism (RAR), the Carnival featured incendiary live performances by pop-punk superstars Buzzcocks and Steel Pulse, the UK's leading reggae band of the period. Support came from Moss Side reggae band Exodus (later X-O-Dus) and China Street from Lancaster, who had released a single on EMI called ‘Rock Against Racism’.

You can find out more in our online version of the exhibition here:

Special thanks to our funders Heritage Lottery Fund and Futura.

Thanks also to all our wonderful volunteers.