If you want culture, euphoria and belonging, sh*g these places instead
It’s time to stop talking about the Haçienda for a while. Don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t make the rules. It’s just time. Saturday night’s documentary was a natural end point. Nobody needs to hear Noel Gallagher’s opinion on dance music. Nobody needs to hear Noel’s opinions on anything, we’ve moved on. If you need Gallagher content, may I suggest a deep dive into videos of Liam being sound to people.
Unfortunately Saturday night’s BBC documentary The Haçienda - The Club That Shook Britain was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Aside from important nods to the club’s black and gay influences (why not focus a documentary on each instead?), offered as fleeting tokenism to break up Peter Hook talking about money and Jon Robb’s mohawk, the whole thing offered as much new insight as a Soccer AM sketch.
Cue the Adidads warring on Twitter about who was there and who walked past. Cue the cliché bingo. Cue the tragic pursuit of nostalgia and the surface level repetition of a widely-known story. That’s no shade on anyone appearing on the documentary to recount their time at the club. Managers, staff, bookers, former DJs - fair game. If you spent formative time at an iconic place, you’re allowed to pay your bills off it, surely?
Nostalgia and the easy stories that come with living in the past
“Nostalgia can be a beautiful thing, but you have to let the memories go. It’s dialectical. You have to hold on and let go at the same time.” DJ Luke Una was quoted in a YMC journal piece last week.
“Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything.” Terrence Malick is widely quoted on the internet, with no source.
These are both true. We love nostalgia in this country. It’s sculpted our politics to the point of some quarters yearning for polio and smog. It’s also inevitably led cultural programming into womb-like safety. Documentaries akin to a soothing memory bath of unchallenging familiarity and ‘member berries. Oh look, Joy Division, I ‘member.
But do you know what is also great? Manchester in the present day, 2022 AD. Whilst dancing, pills, stripes, baggy clothes, the word Hallelujah, choccy button eyes, industrial interior design and euphoria were all undoubtedly invented at the Haçienda, what modern-day Manchester is doing with them now is worth celebrating and championing. Documentary worthy even.
The constant yearning for the Haçienda is bittersweet. I see it in my own generation. People missing out on what’s happening now because they’re addicted to the FAC pipe. A vision of everything being better then. The same songs at the same parties. The stripped-down Ladidas version that doesn’t engage with the complexity of the Haçienda’s influences or the joy and excitement of the new.
And yet around us, all this cool stuff is happening. New stories to be told. The same feeling of community, of feeling part of something, of utilising the city’s former industrial architecture, of euphoria, of new music, of love in a room, of art, of independence, of blocking out of a shit political climate for a few hours, of feeling like the city is having a moment and you’re part of it by dancing in a room.
What to shag instead of the Haçienda
Talk about The White Hotel. Talk about it being a stone’s throw away from all of the illicit shops they’re going to bulldoze on Bury New Road. The sort of taxi ride that makes the driver’s hands a bit clammy. It not just being a gig and raving venue but also fertile soil for a new generation of artists like Iceboy Violet, Blackhaine and Rainy Miller. Celebrate it for showing no intention to make money and thriving on experimentation.
Talk about The Warehouse Project. If you’ve got beef with Sacha Lord, fair enough, but save it for when he inevitably runs for office. Different generations have witnessed it in different places, but the magic of experiencing dance music in a massive, cavernous space remains. Say what you want but watching Bicep - ‘Glue’ underneath those cloud strobes is fun.
Talk about Hidden being near a prison and prioritising the soundsystem over the building itself. Putting on a sex positive queer night that gives ten free tickets per event to disabled people, those on low incomes, trans people and people of colour. Build the utopia you wish to see in the world. Talk about Antwerp Mansion putting on art exhibitions where you bring your own tinnies and someone’s getting a tattoo in the corner.
Homobloc. Make a documentary about Homobloc. Use a drone to capture the streams of attendees pouring out of Piccadilly Station moving through the sky blue masses of City fans returning from a 3pm kick-off. People dressed to celebrate, to stand out, being true to themselves and not giving a fuck on their way to a nationally, if not internationally, celebrated queer club night. An explosion of queer love. Art, music, identity, celebration and protest all in one place.
Make a montage of SOUP, The Loft, Eastern Bloc, XLR, The Pink Room at YES and Habitat, and all the incredible club nights that grace them, going off. Show people being creative at Partisan, Islington Mill, The Carlton Club and Blah Café. Chronicle the events, labels and festivals sprouting out of those conversations. Stick Fat Out and Sounds from the Other City in your documentary and show the droves of cool-looking kids walking up and down Chapel Street with musical instruments.
Let the Haçienda go for a bit, there’s more interesting stuff going on in Manchester.
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