Manchester nightclubs of the past


Ian Curtis of Joy Division

In January 1978, Joy Division made their live debut at Pips Disco in Manchester City Centre. The band changed their name from ‘Warsaw’ at the last minute… too late in fact for the promoters to change their name on the poster.

Although many Mancunian nightclubs and venues no longer exist, their legacy is remembered by those who frequented them.

We take a look at some past Mancunian night-life settings that have since been lost to time.

Pips Disco, Fennel Street

Located on Fennel Street just behind the Cathedral, Pips was a popular hang-out spot for the city’s cool kids. Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, Morrissey, Peter Saville and Johnny Marr were just some of those who frequented the venue in the 70s. The basement club, which opened ten years before the Hacienda, was a social hub and a mixing pot of youth sub-cultures. It was also the home of the legendary Roxy Room. Like the Hacienda, Pips was plagued with drug and gang problems. The club closed in 1982.

Rafters, Oxford Street

Opened in St James’ Buildings on Oxford Street in the early seventies, Rafters was situated underneath a club called Fagin’s, and became the best place to see punk bands in the city. Rob Gretton, who went on to manage Joy Division, co-direct Factory Records and own the Hacienda, worked in Rafters, and it featured in the film ‘Control’. Joy Division, Dire Straits, Buzzcocks and the Happy Mondays all performed at the club. 

Jilly’s Rockworld, Oxford Street

Formerly known as Fagin’s, Jilly’s Rockworld hosted the likes of Cliff Richard, Morecambe and Wise and Lulu during its seventies hey-day. The venue shifted musical tastes and became popular with rock and metal fans during the 90s. Rafters later became known as Music Box, before both clubs closed in 2010. 

Twisted Wheel, Brazennose Street

The Twisted Wheel on Brazennose Street, between Deansgate and Albert Square, became the home of the music which would later be known as ‘Northern Soul’. Founded by the Abadi brothers in 1963, the club started life as a rhythm and blues coffee shop. The Twisted Wheel moved to a warehouse on Whitworth Street close to Piccadilly Station in 1965, and DJs were encouraged to play rare up tempo music, which inspired energetic dancing in the club. The Twisted Wheel paved the way for similar clubs, such as the legendary Wigan Casino in the seventies. 

The Hacienda, Whitworth Street West

A landmark in music history and an integral part of Manchester’s heritage, The Hacienda opened its doors in 1982. Founded by Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, the legendary club hosted The Stone Roses, The Smiths, New Order and Madonna to name a few, before becoming the heart of the acid house movement in the 90s. The club became one of the first to play house music, with pioneering DJs including Dave Haslam, Mike Pickering and Graeme Park all hosting club nights. The Hacienda closed in 1997 after being plagued with money, drug and gang problems.

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