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The Haçienda - The Club that Shook Britain (BBC Documentary)

REVIEW by Victor Stranges

A newly released BBC documentary has emerged on the story of the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester. It covers its early years when Factory Records and members of New Order became co-investors in the club leading to Manchester acid house and rave scene ubiquity the in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The piece features interviews with Peter Hook and Stephen Morris (New Order), Shaun Ryder (Happy Mondays), Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Peter Saville (Factory Records' designer) and John Robb (The Membranes).

Many would argue that this topic has been done to death but it is still an interesting look at the era that doesn't require you to pick up a book to find out about it. For the casual observer, there are some interesting moments and footage throughout.

Inside the Haçienda nightclub, Manchester. Date unknown

The new documentary ties in with the 40th anniversary of the club first opening in Manchester during 1982. For anyone who raved inside the vast former shipping warehouse, the BBC film uses for the first time a virtual reality recreation of the iconic club interior, famously designed by Ben Kelly. And if they take enough drugs, viewers will get to feel as if they are walking through the club once again with its legendary black and yellow stripes, bollards around the dancefloor and through the huge warehouse clubbing space.

A pre-Oasis Noel Gallagher was a clubber at The Haçienda

There are countless testimonies from musicians and minor celebrities who were clubbers back in the day. Noel Gallagher is in fine form and admits he had "never danced before going to the Haçienda."

While its reputation rests on its place in the "rave" culture of the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Haçienda was also a venue for live music. Between its opening on 21 May 1982 and its final, ignominious closure on 28 June 1997, FAC 51 (which was the club's Factory Records "catalogue number") saw hundreds of artists perform on its stage, battling with the former yacht showroom's dodgy acoustics.

An eclectic array of bands and artists performed there starting with Sheffield's Cabaret Voltaire , who played the day after opening night, 22 May 1982. The club's first year played host to shows by chart favourites Echo & The Bunnymen, Eurythmics and Culture Club. Interestingly, Grandmaster Flash also played in the first year, giving light to a new genre called "hip hop."

Peter Hook and Shaun Ryder in the Haçienda, Manchester 1989

To put it in perspective, close musical confidante recently summed up the whole scene succinctly. "It was just punk mixed with drugs haha. Plus a hatred of London. That’s what the whole scene was born from. It all goes back to the (first) Pistols gig. That started everything. Nothing would exist without it."

Here is a short list of artists who played at the club. Some of the names might surprise you.

  • New Order

  • Primal Scream

  • Happy Mondays

  • The Stone Roses

  • The Smiths

  • Inspiral Carpets

  • Oasis

  • Madonna

  • Blur

  • Elastica

  • Supergrass

  • Sleeper

  • Placebo

  • The Prodigy

  • The Shamen

  • Jamiroquai

  • The Fall

  • The Charlatans

  • Pet Shop Boys

  • Spiritualized


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