The Haçienda was one of the best known nightclubs in Manchester during the Madchester years of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was located on the corner of Whitworth Street West and Albion Street, close to Castlefield, in the centre of the city.
Designed by Ben Kelly, the Haçienda opened in 1982 and survived until 1997, despite having almost constant financial troubles. Financed by Factory Records and the band New Order, most nights it opened money was lost. The band once claimed that they would have been better off if they’d given ten pounds to everyone who ever came to the Hacienda, sent them home, and not bothered with the club at all.
Making full use of the warehouse layout - the industrial girders, iron pillars, and high ceiling - Ben Kelly set about designing the Hacienda, a very different place to most clubs in Britain with their sticky carpets and potted plants. The ‘Architectural Review’ called Ben Kelly’s Hacienda a “pioneering interior”.
In 1986, it became one of the first clubs outside the US to start playing house music, with DJs Mike Pickering (of Quando Quango and M People) and Little Martin (later with Graeme Park) hosting the Nude night on Fridays. This night quickly became legendary, and helped to turn around the reputation and fortunes of the Haçienda, which went from making a consistent loss to being full every night of the week by early 1987.
Ecstasy use changed clubs forever; a night at the Hacienda went from being a great night out, to an intense, life changing experience. The new sounds of house and techno seemed to survive the club’s poor acoustics; cluttered music sounded a mess bouncing off the walls of the club, but thudding beats, piano lines, and minimalist bleeps rocked the room. The music sounded even better on drugs.
Although peaking in popularity during the rise of the rave era, most of the money ended up circulating to drug dealers and the Haçienda itself saw very little of the nightly expenditure. The collaboration of drugs and music had its downsides. In July 1989 Claire Leighton took an E given to her by her boyfriend, collapsed in the club and died thirty-six hours later. By the middle of 1990 there were problems on the door of all the best clubs in Manchester; the scene was being wrecked by drug dealers.
During 1990, the management fended off attempts by the police to have the club shut down, but in January 1991 they closed the club voluntarily. The violence was increasing and the disastrous publicity was scaring away customers. By the time the Hacienda had closed in the mid 90s, the term "superclub" had been coined for its well marketed and managed sucessors such as Cream, Ministry of Sound and Gatecrasher.
So popular was the club that it was disassembled and its scrap items sold, piece by piece, to museums and club devotees.
The music of the Hacienda lives on in many forms, check out this Old Skool Mix CD that is packed with Hacienda favourites.