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Feature

The iconic nightclubs that Mancunians would most like to see reopen

A real blast from the past…

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@Manchesterpast / Twitter & Original Legends Nightclub Manchester / Facebook

Here in Manchester, we love a good night out and our city has certainly delivered on the party front over the years.

But sadly, all good things must come to an end; a massive number of Manchester’s trademark night clubs and evening venues have been forced to permanently closed their doors over the years, whether it be down to financial issues, a change of music scene across the city or, as is the case with many 80s establishments, the overwhelming presence of drugs and gangs.

Yet despite their closures, many of these venues remain firmly in the hearts of Mancunians to this very day. So, when we asked you lot which nightclubs you’d like to see return, we were quite rightly inundated with replies (over ten thousand of them, to be precise). 

Here’re the most popular answers…

Original Legends Nightclub Manchester / Facebook

Legend

Legend – or Legends, as it was known by many seasoned nightclubbers – is credited today as being the birth of the jazz-funk scene in the North of England.

DJ Greg Wilson performed at the club for two years from 1981 to 1983, and recalled how the crowd ‘weren’t really interested in the microphone patter, which was the DJ norm back then in the UK.’ He wrote: “For them it was all about the music, so with this in mind I made what would turn out to be a pivotal decision.”Wilson also described the environment as ‘out of this world’, reminiscing how the club had a space-age metallic decor with lasers bouncing off all the surfaces.

As the funk-jazz and electronic scene died off, however, Legend was forced to close it’s doors and today stands as the student hotspot Fifth Avenue.

Robert Wade / Flickr

Discotheque Royale

The historic Theatre Royal used to play host to a whole array of club nights, and the Discotheque Royale was certainly one of the most memorable.

In a later transformation it became the M-Two nightclub, with the owners describing the event as ‘Manchester’s biggest and most well known late night venue featuring live music as well as big name DJ sessions’.

Their fond description continued: “The perfect location for a top night out for both students and clubbers alike, M-Two boasts an impressive sound system delivering anything from electro to drum‘n’bass to indie. With its two-tier dance floor and chill out area, M-Two draws an energetic and fun crowd who are out for a good time.”

Jay Wearden

The Thunderdome

Located at 255 Oldham Road, the Thunderdome was home to Manchester’s somewhat edgier crowd back in the 1980s and 1990s, the height of the Madchester scene. While the Haçienda was famously difficult to get into and operated a strict dress code, the ‘Dome would welcome people from all walks of life, regardless of their image and their dress sense.

Initially, the Thunderdome remained peaceful despite it’s drug dealer-heavy clientele, though football hooligans and gang members gradually made the majority of its crowds, leading to a spike in violence, police raids and a notorious reputation that has stuck to this very day.

The exact closing date of the Thunderdome remains uncertain, but the building was demolished in 2010 and today, the site remains unoccupied.

Gene Hunt / Flickr

Piccadilly 21s

Piccadilly 21s was the 90s party paradise every city needed. Located in the heart of Piccadilly Gardens, the club had a reputation for being very loud, very messy and very sticky.

The venue also offered notoriously cheap drinks and there were famously chandeliers in the toilets. And who said 90s Manchester had no class? Unfortunately, 21s gained a somewhat sinister reputation as gang members and other unsavoury figures became a solid part of it’s clientele, something that eventually lead to its permanent closure in 2004.

These days, it lives its life as a Premier Inn and a Nando’s. If that doesn’t depress you, I don’t know what will.

Mike Bird

The Twisted Wheel

Made famous as one of the birthplaces of Northern Soul, Twisted Wheel opened its doors in 1963 and would showcase rare and imported US soul records for Mancunians to dance their hearts out to.

The legendary Saturday all-nighters were also famous for having soul artists perform, including Ike and Tina Turner, Jimmy Riffin and Edwin Starr.

Sadly, the club was forced to permanently close in 1971 because of a bylaw which prevented premises from staying open more than two hours into the following day. The premises were sold and then demolished in 2013, but an epic final event took place on December 30th 2012, with over a thousand soul fans descending on the club for one last party.

Jilly’s Rockworld 

Jillys Rock World / Facebook

Known among regulars as ‘The Goth Room’, Jilly’s Rockworld was arguably the most popular rock and metal nightclub in the whole city.

For over twenty years, Jilly’s Rockworld gained a reputation for its sweaty oasis welcoming goths, rockers, skaters and punks for weekly nights of chaos and mascara-wearing, fishnet-ridden mayhem. One of the most well-known nights at Jilly’s was the infamous All Nighter, taking place every Friday until the unthinkable hour of 7am. It was this event that spurred the club to famously start selling Pot Noodles for revellers to snack on in the wee hours. 

Sadly, Jilly’s wasn’t to be and it closed permanently in 2010, with owner John Bagnall blaming the indoor smoking ban and competition from new music venues.

Hacienda Apartments

Haçienda

An obvious one, but it needs to be said that the Haçienda is perhaps the most famous and iconic nightclub to exist in not only Manchester, but the whole of world.

Founded by Tony Wilson in 1982, the Haçienda went on to define the whole Madchester era and really put the city on the map. It is also credited to bringing Acid House and rave culture to life, as well as spearheading the careers of music icons like Madonna, the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. Oh, and it was known to be a bloody fantastic night out, too.

Sadly, the club closed in 1997 and was demolished eighteen months later. In its place now is a block of flats and an estate agents called the Hacienda… Again, too depressing for words.

@Manchesterpast / Twitter

Bier Keller Piccadilly

Opening in 1967, the Bier Keller was a six-nights-a-week venue that attracted all the big names of the era, such as 60s and 70s powerhouses Marti Wilde, Billy Fury, the Bay City Rollers and The Grumbleweeds.

However, after thirty-five years of celebrity parties and good times, the famous venue was forced to close for good in 2013. Long-serving Bier Keller disc jockey Alan King blamed the club’s failure on the 1996 IRA bomb.

He said: “The downturn really started in 1996 after the Manchester bomb. Until then the place was amazingly busy. Sometimes we would have 1,200 in there, which was far too many really. If you didn’t book six weeks in advance then you wouldn’t get a seat. It was like that for eight or nine years before the bomb, it was so busy.”

Feature

Artist creates incredible micro sculpture of Tyson Fury on top of a nail

Dr. Willard Wigan used a nylon cable tie, gold with a broken tip of diamond and his own eyelash as a paintbrush to create the sculpture

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@gypsyking101 / Instagram & Paul Ward Photography

A talented micro artist has created a minuscule sculpture of Tyson Fury in a ‘smallest biggest tribute’ to the boxer following his historic heavyweight championship victory over the weekend.

Dr. Willard Wigan MBE, sixty-four, has produced an impressive catalogue of miniature sculptures throughout his life – we’re talking fourteen camels fitting inside the eye of a needle, kind of miniature –  and considers himself to be ‘officially the greatest micro artist of all time’.

Willard prides himself on making the ‘most wondrous’ microscopic art in history and holds down an impressive fan base which includes Her Majesty the Queen, who invited him to Buckingham Palace after he sculpted her her very own miniature crown. 

But where did this unusual passion for miniature sculpting come from? 

Fundação Dionísio Pinheiro e Alice Cardoso Pinheiro / Facebook


Paul Ward Photography

Willard, who was diagnosed with autism later in life, was excluded from his classes as a result of his learning differences and, after constant humiliation from both his teachers and his peers, closed himself off, fully immersing himself in the world of sculpting.

His first sculpting masterpiece came after an experience with an ants nest in his back garden; using just his dad’s razor blade, a five-year-old Willard sculpted, built and constructed a whole miniature village – complete with tables, chairs and a fully-functioning playground – for ants using only twigs.

Recalling the moment his talent was discovered, Willard told Proper Manchester: “When my mum saw what I’d created, she brought it all into the house and said to me ‘If you make them smaller, your name is going to get bigger.’

“From there, my journey to create the smallest sculptures in the world began and I became possessed with it. My mum kept telling me I was the best, and that encouragement made me truly believe it.”

Paul Ward Photography


Paul Ward Photography

And fast forwarding nearly six decades, Willard has dedicated his entire life to the art of micro sculpting, creating an array of sculptures such as a tiny Mona Lisa and a minuscule London Bridge, some of which have sold for up to £200K.

And most recently, the artist decided to use his talent to pay tribute to a very new victory; Tyson Fury’s Heavyweight Championship victory last weekend. 

A huge boxing fan himself, Willard has long regarded the Wythenshawe-born Tyson to not only be the greatest boxer of all time, but a mental health advocate, an inspiration and a philosopher in his own right. He said: “He’s an example at what can be achieved when you’re going through a dark tunnel. He inspires people to believe in themselves. He’s not just a boxer, he’s a philosopher as well.”

He also sees similarities between himself and the boxer, noting that he and Tyson are both the best at what they do, and both have inspiring stories to tell.

Paul Ward Photography

Using a nylon cable tie, gold with a broken tip of diamond and his own eyelash as a paintbrush, Willard worked on the sculpture – which features a set of green boxing gloves and black shorts emblazoned with ‘Gypsy King’ – for four weeks in his Birmingham workshop.

He eventually titled the piece ‘Hard as Nails’, noting that not only is Tyson hard as nails, but he has ‘nailed mental health, he nailed Deontay Wilder, and he’s also nailing the World Heavyweight Championship, and he will keep that nailed down’.

‘Hard as Nails’ is now on display at the Birmingham Contemporary Art Gallery, though you can view more of Willard’s pieces over on his website.

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Feature

HEROES OF MANCHESTER: Meet the firefighter who ran Manchester Marathon in full kit to raise money for Alzheimer’s UK

A video of Andy crossing the finish line seven hours after the marathon began went viral over the weekend

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Andy Ball / Facebook & JustGiving

A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service firefighter managed to raise thousands of pounds for Alzheimer’s UK after running a marathon in his full fire fighting kit.

The annual Manchester Marathon took place over the weekend and, as is the case every year, thousands of people used the 26.2 mile run as an opportunity to raise money for a charity close to their hearts.

But one ambitious marathon-runner decided to take the challenge to the next level; Andy Ball, a fire fighter for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), and his friend and colleague Ryan Jones ran the marathon in full fire kit – complete with a breathing apparatus cylinder – all in order to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK and Dementia UK.

The organisation is the UK’s leading dementia research charity and funds world-class pioneering scientists to find preventions, treatments and a cure for both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Andy Ball / Facebook

Andy, a dad of two from St. Helens, has run two marathons in fire kit in the past, both to raise money for charity and other good causes. But this year, his motivation was a little closer to the heart; his grandad Derek suffers from dementia and having experienced first-hand the impact the disease can have upon both the individual and their families, Andy wanted to make a difference.

He told Proper Manchester: “I’ve had a lot of personal experience with dementia in my own family – my Grandad Derek suffers from the disease, so I’ve seen first-hand not only the awful effects it has upon the sufferer, but the impact it has on loved ones and relatives, too.”

Andy explained that his decision wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, however; preparation for the marathon was gruelling, with him training for months in advance. After he cut down on beer – arguably the most difficult task of them all – he started going on regular runs with his dogs, adding more weight to his clothing each time to prepare his body for the weight and the heat of his fire kit.

Andy explained: “The oxygen tank is approximately 15kg, and the rest of the kit comes in at around 10kg, so we had a good 30kg of extra weight.”

And in the rare Mancunian sunshine experienced over the weekend, this extra weight proved to be quite the challenge, with Andy recalling how difficult the marathon became as a result of the layers and weight.

He said: “It took us over seven hours to complete the marathon. But the intention for me was to get over that finish line on that same day… It was the hardest marathon I’ve run so far. It was very hard, very challenging. It didn’t help that the sun was out, either.”

Andy also challenged himself to complete the last mile of the marathon using the oxygen from his oxygen tank, known as being ‘on air’ in firefighter speak, something that only made the task all the more gruelling.

However, he noted that the atmosphere throughout the run was ‘brilliant’, saying that the people of Manchester were the ones to get him through. He said: “The atmosphere throughout the whole marathon was brilliant – the people of Manchester were just amazing and that’s what got me through to the very end.”

And, speaking of the moment he was greeted by his wife and children at the finish line – a moment captured on video and viewed by thousands of people across the country – Andy said: “If there had been no one at the finish line, there’d be nothing for me to carry on for. That was everything to me, having my wife and kids waiting for me there. It was just fantastic.”

And perhaps in even more miraculous news, Andy isn’t in any pain from his marathon today and is instead spending his day off ‘having a couple of beers with the dogs’ – I’d say that’s well deserved. 

Across two different GoFundMe pages, Andy and Ryan set a goal of £6,000 – but they have completely smashed that today with a combined sum of £10,372 at the time of writing.

To donate to their cause, visit the Dementia UK GoFundMe and the Alzheimer’s Research UK GoFundMe.

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Feature

FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: Hitler’s ‘obsession’ with the Midland Hotel and his mysterious plan for our city

Did Hitler really love the Midland?

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Rumour has it that Hitler was so enamoured with the beauty of Manchester’s Midland Hotel he sent out orders to avoid damaging the building during World War II.

In fact, claims suggest Hitler planned to set up a base of operations in the city, right in the Midland – the Luftwaffe was ordered to avoid bombing the building in the Blitz because of this.

This legend has been quoted in many pieces of literature about the hotel since, but is there any truth to it?

Credit: Mike Serigrapher / Flickr

To understand where the Midland Hotel comes into the story, we’ve got to take a little trip into Hitler’s plan for Britain in 1940, Operation Sea Lion.

As Hitler had successfully defeated most of Western Europe, his thoughts turned to conquering Britain. Operation Sea Lion was created, with which he essentially hoped to press the British Government into a peace agreement.

He planned to use the force of odds against them, as well as sea and air superiority over the Channel.

Credit: Charles Cundall / Wikipedia

Obviously, neither of these things happened. But what is important about the plan was the sheer efficiency and detail in its creation.

What is missed out in the detail though, is the invasion of the North of the country, as the plan only described how to occupy the South leaving the North in a limbo situation.

Now we’ve got that bit of high school history out of the way, let’s get back to The Midland Hotel.

Credit: Michael Holdsworth / Flickr

The story follows that once the South had been invaded, German forces would rapidly push North across land, air and sea.

They wanted Manchester as a key administrative centre, the Town Hall would be commandeered and The Midland would become a key location for high-ranking Nazi elite – including the Fuhrer himself.

Or so the story goes…

Credit: Imperial War Museums

When you delve into the finer details it becomes apparent the truth behind the rumours are a lot murkier.

Manchester did come pretty high up on the list of places to bomb in the Blitz. This was most probably due to high munitions and war-effort industries around Salford and Trafford.

The Luftwaffe bombings smashed most of Manchester’s famous buildings including the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester Cathedral, Piccadilly Gardens and Free Trade Hall.

What just so happened to be missed out from this list of landmarks is the Town Hall, Central Library and the Midland. This part is probably where the story comes from.

Credit: Julius / Wikimedia

In fact, an anonymous American Intelligence Officer claimed to have uncovered papers indicating Hitler wished to set up his headquarters in the Midland and thus ordered Luftwaffe to avoid the area at all costs.

But how possible was it back then to accurately avoid very specific areas within a bombing process?

To refute the claim even more, those alleged papers have never been seen by anyone but that ‘anonymous tip’.

Credit: United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division

These kinds of myths don’t stop there, Hitler was apparently after the Blackpool tower and very specifically Rochdale Town Hall. 

With hindsight we can see that none of this happened. After the Battle of Britain, Hitler turned his attention to the Russians with Operation Barbarossa – and the rest, as they say, is history. 

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