Manchester’s night scene stronger than ever as WHP, Sankeys and Venus attract revellers of all ages

By Gareth Westmorland

Some nights in Manchester you’d think youngsters were partying like celebrities in Miami, as the nightclub and gig scene shows no sign of slowing down.

Top DJ’s and bands are flocking to the North West to play to sell-out crowds and attracting musicians from all over the globe.

Venues such as the Academy, Sankeys and Venus have all played their part in attracting Madchester’s youth and beyond.

In a time where the recession is hitting everyone and there is a record high in youth unemployment, it seems there is no stopping revellers hitting the streets and rocking ‘till the AM.

It all began with The Haçienda, which helped kick-start Manchester’s clubbing reputation, and this month brings the 30th anniversary of the Hacienda’s opening.

Hacienda has announced that it will be hosting three events to celebrate the club’s folklore later this month and on June 2 and 4.

Named X1, X2 and X3, one will take place in the former car park of the club, which of course is now the block of flats, whilst the other events will happen in the city’s Sankeys nightclub.

Legendary 80’s new-wave band New Order were the major financial backers of the club, along with Factory Records and its boss, Tony Wilson.

Its factory-like decor was unique and many clubs wanted the same feel to their club in later years.

Former club manager Leroy Richardson said: “The Hacienda was a blueprint for a lot of superclubs.”

Before its acid house and rave takeover in the early 90’s, the Hacienda was more suited to rock and punk music, with many legendary bands playing on regular occasions.

The likes of Manchester’s own Oasis, Salford’s The Smiths, Blur and an unknown Madonna were just some of the artists who graced the venue, and it’s a shame the club hasn’t resurrected like some of the talent that played there.

Former Hacienda DJ Graham Park said: “The fact that people’s younger brothers and sisters talk about it shows the heritage what the Hacienda left behind.”

Drug and gang culture soon took over parts of the club, and spiralling debt contributed to its great downfall in 1997.

Local club promoter and self-confessed expert Oliver Wilson said the Hacienda was where it all started for a lot of people in the city.

“There were loads of amazing parties, and it was the centre of the ‘rave revolution’ for 15 years,” he said.

“I was actually christened there in 1984 because my dad used to own the club.

“It really was the dawn of the super-club culture.”

Just one year on from Haicenda’s closure, nearby club Sankeys closed its doors for the first time, but in the millennium was revived by businessmen Sacha Lord-Marchionne and David Vincent, with the latter being the current owner in 2012.

The duo transformed the fortunes of the club until 2006, when Vincent announced the club would be closed for good.

But later that summer, David announced a shrewd move to run Sankeys solo – and transformed it into 2010’s best club in the World voted by DJ Mag.

The club’s brand is now known worldwide, with the company expanding to the likes of Ibiza and New York.

Sankeys Manchester have dutch house superstar Laidback Luke arriving on its shores next month, along with the Big Dog himself, DJ Tim Westwood.

Not too shabby, considering the first club originated from the former site of soap manufacturing.

Suddenly, Manchester was back on the map. The likes of Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers brought attention on Sankeys, and life was in the old chestnut yet.

None more so Manchester’s niche Northern Quarter.

Once an old, run-down area in the north of the city centre, it has been regenerated to paradise of cafe’s, retro shops and bohemian outlets for the hip and trendy youth.

It is seen as one of the in-places to be, and a perfect place to go prior to the massive nightclubs.

It is home to the landmark Dry Bar, which was the first ever bar in the UK before any other.

Paired with the Hacienda, it was owned by Factory Records, so it was perfect for any pre-drinks (or ‘prinking’ as many students call it nowadays).

Neighbouring club Bowlers was described as the ‘rave club of the north’ by some, and Wilson told us some of his memories from the club.

“Every weekend there used to be 10-15,000 people flocking here in numbers”, Wilson said.

“It was where I first started raving to drum and bass and hardcore.”

But what is arguably the most unique part of Manchester nightlife? Look no further than The Warehouse Project.

Currently undergoing a major overhaul in preparation for its July 2012 opening, it held its nights in a car park. Suddenly car-parks turned from road rage for some into carnage for students.

Voted by dance music magazine Mixmag as the best club in the UK, the new location will be situated to the west of the city centre in Trafford Park, near Old Trafford.

Wilson described The Warehouse Project as ‘the modern Hacienda’.

“How many clubs do you know that are a car-park?

“They have the biggest and best DJ’s from all over the world coming here, including Deadmau5 and Jamie xx, and over 3,000 people pack in and rave up.”

Nightlife in Manchester shows no sign of slowing down, and who knows what is to come in the future?

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