Spuriously, lots of literature would have you believe that London was the epicentre of the UK’s acid house explosion of the late 80s. But in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whilst London was quick to adopt the ecstasy-fuelled wave of euphoria that swept the nation, it was a follower not a leader. More accurately, it was the north west - Manchester and Merseyside - that first led the way with E-culture and the earliest influx of house and techno records to the UK from the States. At the heart of it all, was warehouse estate alongside the Rochdale canal. Consisting of a former boat riveter’s yard, here would be the site of the Haçienda. Although it opened in 1982, it lacked identity and struggled to find its feet, often operating as a live music venue and comedy store aside from being exclusively a nightclub. But as 1988 ushered in the first Summer Of Love, it would take on cult status. The term Madchester was coined. The venue’s influence - and notoriety - was born.
The Haçienda was owned by the band New Order. New Order was formed from the embers of Joy Division, following the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis. Comprising of Bernard Summers, Peter Hook and Steve Morris, the synth-pop group used the nightclub primarily as their playground. It was less a business venture, more an extra-curricular pursuit. Fair to say, that the Haçienda would bleed money rarely reporting a profit. Arguably, it was propped up by the success of the band’s record sales and touring activity. The FAC51 prefix is derived from the fact that it was allocated a catalogue number by the also New Order-owned record label, Factory Records - just like the music.
Friday nights would host Nude - the residency from Graeme Park and M People’s Mike Pickering. Other noteworthy events were Jon DaSilva’s Balearic-themed Hot and Dave Haslam’s Freak, which would be the final official party to take place at the venue on 28th June 1997. All continue to fly the flag, playing for Haçienda-branded nights in the present day. Other international artists to grace the hallowed venue would include The Smiths and Madonna’s first-ever UK performance. Naturally, New Order would perform there on numerous occasions. Other electronic music DJs that form the clubs alumni, include Greg Wilson and a fresh-faced Laurent Garnier. Quite a roll call! The Haçienda is widely-regarded as being instrumental in the rise of the superstar DJ.
Despite its financial woes, remarkably the Haçienda would last for a 15-year run. It’s legacy would come to an end after attracting the attention of the authorities for a number of anti-social reasons. Drug culture and violent crime being the main contributing factors. The Haçienda always operated within the peripherals of legality - and was infiltrated by gangs. It wasn’t only drug dealers that operated openly within the venue, but the security team that ran the doors. It was often lawless, with the lines between security and thugs considerably blurred. Following drug-related fatalities and further near-death incidents, the death knell was tolled. The site was sold to property developers and converted into premium flats in 2000. The gentrification of Madchester was complete.
It’s estimated that the Haçienda lost upwards of £18 million, though such were the poor records of the business, that the true figure could be considerably more.
Today, the Haçienda lives on as a touring event. Designer Ben Kelly’s iconic yellow-on-black warning paint remains as distinct today, inspiring countless imitations. Manchester - and all of the UK’s rave scene - took the Haçienda to its heart. It will never be forgotten.
On Saturday 12th October, The Haçienda Returns. Taking over Mayfield Depot for a one-night exclusive, former residents are joined by Soul II Soul, David Morales, Lil’ Louie Vega, Marshall Jefferson and K-Klass. The Peter Hook-led Haçienda Classical Orchestra will also be performing. This is one not to be missed in the Manchester heartland.
First release tickets are on sale now.