BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 6 November, 2000, 10:28 GMT
Harking back to the Haçienda

As Manchester's once famous Haçienda nightclub faces demolition next week, BBC News Online's Bella Hurrell looks back to the club's heyday.

Way back in the 1980s, Manchester was the place to be. We knew it was, because hardly anyone else had worked it out.

In a world which seemed to be full of drably dressed young men sporting Dr Marten's and gelled hair, Manchester was the capital of cool. And it was the Haçienda which made it.

Something had happened. Ecstasy had arrived

People even moved to the city just so they could be near it. Young and impressionable they might have been, but there was no surer sign of the levels of commitment the nightclub inspired.

The Haçienda was co-owned by the band New Order and Factory Records' boss Tony Wilson. By 1987 it had been open five years and had reportedly also lost a five figure sum: its owners were not natural businessmen.

Morrissey epitomized Manchester cool
By that stage it had already been host to such notables as Boy George, Thompson Twins, Tears for Fears and of course, The Smiths.

But in the years to come it would be the epicentre of "Madchester" and the altar where people came to worship the Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and The Stone Roses.

At the same time house music emerged, the cult of the DJ was born and clubbing was never the same again.

Fac51: The future of clubbing

Julian Clary was heckled at the Haçienda
On fliers it went by the lyrical name Fac51, the serial number the club was allocated by owners Factory Records.

Located on the windswept Whitworth St, opposite derelict railway arches, it had a romantic tinge of urban desolation even before you got inside.

A converted warehouse, it was austerely industrial - all gloom and steel girders. Cats' eyes and bollards were located around the dance floor and the downstairs bar went by the impressive name of The Gay Traitor.

Before 1988's summer of love, the architectural severity was mirrored by the stoney-faced clientèle, sternly bobbing up and down on Temperance Club night, discussing obscure indie bands.

I must admit that through some quirk of nature I never developed the NME gene, and as a result rarely knew or cared about the bands people were discussing so seriously.

However, whenever caught in such earnest company I quickly developed the narrowed eyes and considered nod of someone contemplating a truly weighty matter. It always seemed to work.

Bizarre breaks

Take That were Haçienda hits
Midweek, the club was often fairly empty and sometimes desperate measures were undertaken to pull in the punters.

Wednesday's Zumbar was billed as a "bizarre cabaret" and if you cared to turn up and pay £1 you were treated to some awful variety acts along with a free half of lager.

Transvestites miming to Judy Garland classics always seemed to be a regular stand-by, but it was at Zumbar that a young Julian Clary accompanied by Fanny The Wonder Dog first braved a 50-strong Manchester crowd. Fanny was a big hit.

Another week a group of boys dressed in leather shorts doing dance routines were one of main attractions.

Take That, they said.

What a funny name for a group and why don't they get rid of the tubby one, we said.

The summer of love

After a year abroad, I returned in late 1989 to a transformed Haçienda. The scowls had been replaced by glassy grins. Everyone was wearing hooded tops or happy face T-shirts. Something had happened.

Ecstasy had arrived.

Madchester's Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays
Inside the club it seemed that the whole world loved their neighbour and it was also no longer considered rude to sweat buckets over them.

In fact it was obligatory to hug the person next to you and regularly ask them if they were "all right".

In the years that followed, the club became unbelievably popular. Tickets for the monthly Flesh - a gay club night where straight people were tolerated with good humour - regularly used to sell out.

The fall from grace

Flesh helped to spark the boom in the city's Canal St and the gay village mushroomed. But these years were troubled times for the Haçienda.

Gangland Manchester wanted a slice of the apparently lucrative nightclub and its patrons' disposable income.

In 1989 clubber Clare Leighton died in the club after taking Ecstasy.

In 1991 the club closed for a while and reopened with better security which involved airport-style metal detectors and random searches.

But by the mid-1990s the magic had gone and it seemed the muse had moved on. The club, which was by then trading on its former glory, ceased trading altogether in June 1997.

Fac51 may face the wreckers' ball but it seems like a good way to go. Far better perhaps than the living-death option of becoming a heritage centre on a Manchester tourist trail.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories