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Manchester Academy Memories

Manchester Academy Memories

Manchester District Music Archive is proud to launch a new digital exhibition created in partnership with the University of Manchester Students' Union.

The exhibition, Manchester Academy Memories, documents the history of concerts and club life at the Students' Union from 1963 to the present day and has been curated by Abigail Ward (MDMA) and DJ Rod Connolly.

It features 435 digitised artefacts relating to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, The Slits, Daft Punk, Björk, Nirvana, The Kinks, Adele, Prince and Led Zeppelin. Many of these items, which include tickets, photos, press articles and videos, have been uploaded to our archive by the general public.

But it's not just about the huge names that have passed through the University venues. This projects explores the social and political histories that are inextricably linked to the music. These are particularly evident in the cuttings that are included from student newspapers The Manchester Independent and the Mancunion from 1963 onwards. 

Fascinating stories include that of The Squat - a groundbreaking 'art lab'-cum-music venue held in the building of the University's former music college on Devas Street, in which The Fall, Warsaw (Joy Division) and Rock Against Racism staged early gigs. The Squat, as the name implies, was born out of a student occupation in the early seventies. 

The exhibition also attempts to highlight the more recent cultural legacy of the Manchester Academy venues, which are run as an independent social enterprise to generate funds for the Students' Union. Fittingly, the first gig at Academy 1 in 1990 was by Manchester punk icons Buzzcocks.

The project captures many great stories from true music fans: in 1968 a young audience member is gifted a harmonica by Captain Beefheart in the Main Debating Hall. In 1994 Jeff Buckley signs a copy of his Grace LP with an eerily prescient message. In 1995 a sixteen-year-old Julian Cope fan gets a full snog with tongues from her hero in the Academy!

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some of our favourite stories from the exhibition through social media. Get involved!

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This project would not have been possible without our team of volunteers: Sarah Feinstein, Jane Donaldson, Joe Watson, Emma Gibbs and Dave Rofe.

Special thanks to: Ashley Kennerley, Ben Ward, James Peters, Sean Morgan, Eira Guest, Lou Elliott, CP Lee, Emma Gibbs, Rae Donaldson, Melanie Mudkiss, Steve Manford and all of our contributors.