1980s Manchester – The Setting for my Debut Novel “Slur”

To get a feel for what 80s Manchester would have been like for the lead characters in “Slur”, here are a few of my own recollections.

The Music
I can remember that it was a time of big change on the music scene. On the one hand you had clubs that played mainly soul and disco music, and then were those that catered to the alternative music scene. My preferences were mainly soul and disco with Luther Vandross, George Benson and Whitney Houston amongst my favourites. However, I also remember listening to 80s Bowie, the Human League, Brian Ferry and the 12” version of Tainted Love in my friend’s house or mine while we experimented with make-up. We found some shiny purple eye shadow that my mother had discarded years previously and adopted it as lipstick. Bang on trend!

As we got towards the end of the 80s and into the 90s, Manchester started to develop its own music scene, known as Madchester. The emergence of groups like the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays and the Inspiral Carpets are linked to the Hacienda nightclub. At one point ‘Stone Roses’ was scrawled on virtually every wall in the city centre.


The Clubs
As for the clubs I used to frequent, I started in my late teens with Rotters, a converted cinema with a beautiful interior, and occasionally Tiffanys, which later became the Tropicana. At that time Pips and Placemate 7 were the places where the cool kids went. Placemate 7 was so called because of the 7 different dance floors, with each dedicated to a different style of music, so you got a real mix of people including New Romantics and Punk Rockers. In my 20s I moved onto Saturdays, Fridays and Sachas.

Out of all the clubs, Rotters and Saturdays were my favourites, mainly because they played a good mix of music – usually soul and disco but with some other genres thrown in, which suited my eclectic tastes. Another club I enjoyed was Legends. This was one that my brothers introduced me to and we were fascinated by the laser beams and strobe lighting. Occasionally we also went to the Ritz in the 80s and 90s. It had a bit of a bad reputation and the dance floor used to bounce if there was any particularly energetic dancing taking place.

One of the alternative venues I visited was Corbieres. This was a wine bar that hosted live bands and I went there with someone I was seeing who was into alternative music and dress. In an attempt to fit in I wore the trendiest outfit I could find. Acid Brights were really big that season so I turned up in my bright orange dress complete with matching white accessories. I was mortified when I descended into a dark cellar full of people dressed in black. I also went to The Venue, which I found a bit weird, and the famous Hacienda. The Hacienda was quite casual and full of student types who tended to dress down.

Disco dancing

The Fashions
There were so many fashions that came and went throughout the 80s and often what you wore would be linked to the type of music you preferred. I can remember feeling really daring going out dressed in mini-skirts and white stilettos. It seems that the mini-skirt re-emerges every decade. And yes, I did wear leggings the first time round; the original ones didn’t even have Lycra and they used to sag around the knees and bum by the end of the day. We also used to dance around our handbags in nightclubs – cringe!

Manchester also had its fair share of drugs and violence, as many major cities still do today. These are both evident in my book. In fact, it was due to drug problems that the popular Hacienda had to shut down. Because of this connection I have chosen to feature it in my novel.

The 80s were a great time for me as it was the time of my youth and I can honestly say that I never witnessed any of the crime that is featured in my book. I once saw a handbag snatched and I’ve seen a few nightclub brawls, but I’ve never witnessed a murder. I could go on reminiscing but that alone wouldn’t make a good novel. That’s why I decided to write a crime thriller. I’m hoping that readers will, like me, prefer something gritty and hard-hitting. I’ll be following up with an excerpt chapter from the novel in the coming weeks.

If you remember the 80s please feel free to share your memories in the comments box below. If you’re too young to remember the 80s, I hope you’ve been entertained by the reminiscences of an old dinosaur.


16 thoughts on “1980s Manchester – The Setting for my Debut Novel “Slur”

  1. Thanks very much for your feedback. You had me worried for a minute as I thought I’d made a mistake. Then again, you might be onto something – it would definitely grab the readers’ attention, wouldn’t it? 🙂

  2. Sounds really interesting Diane, all that background knowledge is extremely useful. I’ve heard of a movement in music called ‘Northern Soul’ . Does some of that music come under that heading?

  3. Thanks for your feedback Geoff. Yes, I’m really giving my age away here. My friend used to be into Northern Soul, and she used to go to events called ‘all nighters’ many of which were held at Wigan Pier. I never got into that type of music. However, there is a Soul and Motown evening that takes place local to where I live and they usually have a Northern Soul session about halfway through the night. I don’t know any of the music, but all the Northern Soul people get up and do this strange dance where they slide across the floor. It’s fascinating to watch but I wouldn’t attempt it sober. They also hold regular Northern Soul nights and the men tend to dress in black and white and wear pork pie hats. Eeh, we’re a funny lot up north. 🙂

  4. The 80s sounded fun. Unfortunately I was too young to fully embrace the decade. The Human League and The Fine Young Cannibals are my favourite 80s music. I remember hearing that the Hacienda got shut down because of nefarious activities. Whenever I hear Wigan Pier mentioned I am reminded of Orwell’s ‘The Road to Wigan Pier.’

    • Thanks for your comments Guy. I think a lot of people regard the time of their youth as the best time. I still listen to the Human League now and again and we’ve even introduced the kids to them.
      I always find it amusing when my daughter raves about a song in the charts and is amazed because I already know all the words. Then I proudly tell her that the original version was far better. 🙂

  5. Thanks Geoff. I’m doing edits at the moment following feedback from beta readers. However, I’ve still got a lot to do in terms of organising a massive online launch party as it’s my debut novel so I think it will probably be around Sept or maybe even Oct as I’m away for 3 weeks in the summer. BTW, I’m currently reading Rock n Roll Suicide and enjoying it. 🙂

  6. Kathryn, welcome to the blog. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes, there were definitely some great clubs in them days. I loved the idea of multiple dance floors to suit different types of music. 🙂

  7. Great post Diane. Although I remember the 80’s mine were very different to this with me being a country girl – no clubs to go to. We would have huge parties in barns in the countryside where some kind farmer had been coerced into giving up his barn for the night. I guess the music would be similar though we were probably pretty old fashioned compared to you city folk! I laughed at your description of turning up inappropriately in an orange dress and standing out – I did something very similar once – cringe making!! Can’t wait to read this book of yours, no doubt it will bring back all sorts of memories of the 80’s – big hair, shoulder pads….

  8. Thanks for sharing Georgia. It’s lovely to hear your perspective as I’d never thought about how young people find their entertainment if they aren’t within reach of nightclubs. The books on its way – I’m just doing edits following the feedback from my beta readers. My summer hols will really slow things down though as I will be going away for three weeks. I just want to publish NOW but I know I have to be patient. I hope yours is going well. 🙂

  9. For me the 80’s were about getting married, putting a husband through school, MTV,,VCRs, the rise of the PC,, Startrek The Next Generation and having babies, Guess I needed to get out more… 😉

    • Welcome to the blog Paula and thanks for your comment. I did all the hubby and kids thing in the 90s after I’d had years of fun in the 80s – not that I don’t have fun now (just in case they’re reading). Ooh yes, MTV was great, wasn’t it? And VCRS, quite a revolution back then. 🙂

  10. Nice and post about Manchester in the 1980’s. Pre Internet, Starbucks and Mobiles. One thing that strikes me about the city these days is that the Pub seems to play a less of a role. The pubs are still there but less and less of Manchester life is conducted in pub. Back in the late 80;s early 90’s a pint at lunch time or a meeting in the pub was common.. These days we go for a coffee and perhaps a Cake…Rock and Roll eh..LOL

    • Thanks for visiting the blog. Yes, I agree that pubs are playing less of a role especially in the daytime when it tends to be more coffee shops. Even in the evenings we tend to call them bars now rather than pubs unless we’re talking about the local rather than city centre bars. In the case of the local though, half of them have now disappeared as a result of the recession which is a real shame. 🙂

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