Freak is at Hacienda, Manchester (0161-861 7270). Sat 10pm-3am, pounds 10/8
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The Independent Culture
When, earlier this year, the Hacienda celebrated its 11th birthday (11th! In club years, about 102), there were plenty who raised a glass in tribute, while shaking their heads and sighing. Like the Queen Mum, this dear old club - the birthplace of the British house scene - can't go on for ever. Saturday night, especially, unchanged for six years, was running out of steam. But nothing in Manchester has seriously rivalled the Hacienda, and all that clubbers ever really needed to get them back was a reason - an event. Last month they got it, with Freak - a new Saturday night which has restored the Hac to the highest class of clubbing.

Run by Paul Cons, the man behind the Hacienda's legendary gay monthly all-nighters, Freak warns clubbers to "Expect the Unexpected" - pantomime cows, space aliens on stilts, fairground rides and trapeze artists, fashion shows, live acts and many more freaks to come.

Residents Dave Kendrick, Tom Wainright and Bobby Langley play uplifting house to an unpretentious crowd. For many, though, best of all is the pure and unrivalled awe which the Hacienda, filled to capacity with clubbers, can inspire.


Meanwhile, in Liverpool, Cream - already an institution - celebrates its 5th birthday this weekend. The queues are a bit of an institution so book in advance. Fri & Sat 9pm-6am, pounds 22.50 (0891 518 200)