Manchester can't just live off The Hacienda, Stone Roses and Oasis - it's time to move on

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It’s what we sell this city on - but let’s put nostalgia to one side and think about the future.

As someone born in the early nineties, I missed out on the Madchester era. By the time I was old enough to care, Oasis was still clinging on but the Hacienda was long gone. And despite missing out on this generation-defining cultural moment, it is still somehow ingrained in the very fibre of my being.

I rushed to get Stone Roses tickets when they played the Etihad in 2016. I have been known to unironically refer to my brother as ar’kid and I own more than one bucket hat. I even have a Manchester bee tattoo, for god’s sake. 

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That’s because it’s hard to escape the legacy left behind by Manchester’s golden era of independent music. It’s what we sell this city on. It’s the reason people come here – from Smiths fans taking photos in front of Salford Lads Club to Chanel choosing to host the Metiers d’Art fashion show in the Northern Quarter. Whether we like it or not, nostalgia seems to be Manchester’s most important cultural cache.

The Stone Roses performing live at the ICA in London in July 1989.   (Photo by Joe Dilworth/Avalon/Getty Images)The Stone Roses performing live at the ICA in London in July 1989.   (Photo by Joe Dilworth/Avalon/Getty Images)
The Stone Roses performing live at the ICA in London in July 1989. (Photo by Joe Dilworth/Avalon/Getty Images)

People like to say “we do things differently here” in Manchester – a quote often falsely attributed to Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, when in fact it was uttered by a fictional version of him played by Steve Coogan in 24 Hour Party People. It’s this mythologised version of Manchester that we love to hold on to, it has defined a whole generation. But I can’t help but wonder what will come to define this era in the city’s history – and I really hope it is not just rapid development. 

Manchester is changing at a lightning speed. The skyline is almost unrecognisable to how it was five, 10 years ago. There are more towers by the year, whole neighbourhoods are popping up in formerly undesirable areas, and new institutions like Aviva Studios and Mayfield Depot are taking over the cultural landscape. A lot of time, effort and money is being spent on making Manchester a global city – which is something I think we should embrace – but, as we expand, we need to remember where the heart of this city really lies.

The Madchester era was a period of intense creativity and freedom, inspiring generations of future musicians, artists and ravers. But it came about organically and it came about because of ordinary people, desperate for something new and exciting. It didn’t happen because of a developer. 

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A Guy Called Gerald and Graham Massey from 808 state play live from Victoria Baths in Manchester during Tony Wilson's other side of midnight show. Credit: Universal Images Group via GettyA Guy Called Gerald and Graham Massey from 808 state play live from Victoria Baths in Manchester during Tony Wilson's other side of midnight show. Credit: Universal Images Group via Getty
A Guy Called Gerald and Graham Massey from 808 state play live from Victoria Baths in Manchester during Tony Wilson's other side of midnight show. Credit: Universal Images Group via Getty

At ManchesterWorld, we have been looking at the state of Manchester’s music scene in the wake of the Night & Day noise row and in the run-up to the grand opening Co-op Live arena. One musician told me that it’s harder than ever to put a gig on in Manchester, with more and more small venues struggling or closing down. Without these venues, Madchester would never have happened and now they are in danger. 

We can and will continue to celebrate Manchester’s past cultural achievements and look back on that era proudly, but it’s time to start thinking about our next cultural milestones. This is a city bursting with artists, creativity and opportunity and we need to make sure these creators have the space and the resources to flourish. So support your local venues, go to that gig in a back room of a pub, check out the exhibition – the next Joy Division, Happy Mondays or 808 State are waiting to be discovered.

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