Plywood box takes centre stage at auction of Hacienda heirlooms

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The Independent Culture

A big, unsightly black box that was knocked up out of plywood 18 years ago and became the centrepiece of the most fêted nightclub on the planet is to be the subject of an intense international bidding war.

A big, unsightly black box that was knocked up out of plywood 18 years ago and became the centrepiece of the most fêted nightclub on the planet is to be the subject of an intense international bidding war.

The box - described by one of the less enlightened of those auctioning it as "like a garden shed only bigger" - was the disc jockey's booth at the Hacienda, the nightclub that played host to the unknown Madonna and the Gallagher brothers and the place to which the world's clubbers beat a path in the 1980s.

The club, a former textile warehouse, has been empty since June 1997 and is being demolished to make way for apartments. Interior bricks listed at £5 and dance floor tiles from £10 are among the more affordable lots to be auctioned tomorrow, but the booth is coveted desperately.

Advance bids have been tabled from New York, Tokyo, Sydney and Seattle. Prospective buyers include the high-earning cult club DJs Graeme Park and Sasha.

Each will need to wrest it away from Liverpool's Cream nightclub, which is also expected to bid hard, though the prospect of the booth going to the rival city this week precipitated a "Stop the Scousers" fund-raising campaign by a Mancunian DJ, Bobby Langley, who hosted the club's last New Year's Eve event three years ago.

The club's lavatory door, cash register, steel toilet taps, telephone box and speaker supports will all be sold as it is torn apart, leaving only its distinctive convex façade intact.

Those who visited the club when it opened in May 1982 will be surprised to hear there is anything to auction at all. Its stark, functional, industrial design - a cavernous space supported on steel girders - was unlike anything seen before and a deliberate subversion of the nightclub establishment.

It was the creation of Anthony H Wilson, then co-owner of the independent Factory Records label, and the band New Order, who named it after a reference in an obscure 1953 philosophical manifesto by Ivan Chtcheglov, which described "hacienda" as an idealised co-operative community.

The club will be best remembered for its subversive Eighties days of ecstasy-fuelled acid-house music, the dance beat that inspired a generation of so-called independent "Madchester" bands such as Happy Mondays and Stone Roses.

After Newsweek magazine put the club on its cover in July 1990, a prominent Manchester city councillor declared that ecstasy was "part of the city's cultural package alongside music and clothes".

Its end arrived with the rise of local drugs gangs of Salford and Cheetham Hill, into whose rivalry it was drawn. The club hired George Carman QC and successfully fended off an attempt by Greater Manchester Police to revoke its licence, but conceded it had run out of methods to curb drug-dealing when the place shut in 1997.

Despite the graffiti on the exterior, which reads "the Hacienda must be rebuilt", there has been surprisingly little local desire to remember the venue in the way that Liverpool venerates the Cavern. Mr Wilson opposed making a heritage centre out of the Hacienda and even the Manchester Civic Society has campaigned only to preserve the frontage.

Lots can be viewed on www.hacauction.com

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