Hulme Parties

It's 1989 and everyone is off their tits on E listening to Acid House, the Mondays and the Roses. The Hacienda might be banging, but John Robb says the real action is taking place in The Kitchen, a club made from three box flats knocked together on a Hulme council estate. Everyone is 'on one' and looking baggier (and saggier), no-one seems to get to bed until daylight. It's an endless rat run - blagging guest lists and partying. Good times. The real epicentre of this bacchanalian action is not the Hacienda though, the real raw beat central is just down the road from the legendary club, in the concrete wasteland of the council high rise of Hulme. Rebuilt in the sixties after the biggest demolition in Europe, Hulme is a collection of flats and rat runs built around the notorious crescent flats.

Police patrolling or searching the crescents, early 90's

Ruthless Rap Assassins, Crescents, Hulme early 90's

By the early mid seventies it had swiftly developed into an area of cheap housing for students and skint outsiders. By the mid-eighties it had become a squat central with dog shit and post punk idealism everywhere, full of boarded-up flats and great parties, everything covered in graffiti - from ornate murals to the anarchy symbol, to half crazed magic mushroom inspired slogans; it was a wonderful lunatic place to live.

Chemist, Clopton Walk, Hulme early 90's

Punx Picnic, early 90's, the Eagle pub, Hulme crescents.

Student girl inspects a burnt out stolen car below one of the Hulme Crescents, early 90's

Stolen car crashed and dumped outside the Zion Centre, Hulme, Hulme 1990

It seemed like every band in the city had done time there, the cops left it alone and the pubs were full of drugs. It was a magnet for every crazy, every loon, every counterculture inclined freak in the north of England and beyond. By the time of acid house the structure of the area had totally decayed and it was a boom time for the party mob. Before house music became the staple of wine bars and overpriced DJs, it was the soundtrack to wild squat parties and guerrilla clubs just setting up where the fuck they liked. Hulme was perfect for this. A concrete wilderness with no control, a virtually independent freak scene run by the freaks for the freaks. No wonder it got a little crazy in there. On a Saturday night when you finally went to bed you could hear the boom-boom-boom of loads of sound systems blasting out from all over the estate. The epicentre of all the action was a club called The Kitchen. Three flats way up on the third floor of the Crescents, which had been knocked clumsily with a pick axe into one super-squat-club. The Kitchen was box flats three stories high in the middle of a concrete wilderness - the real heart of Manchester acid house culture. It may have been a ten minute walk from the Hacienda but it may as well have been a million miles away. In the Kitchen was minimum lighting. Want a bigger club? Well get a big fucking hammer and knock the walls through to next door... and that's what they did. There was a massive sound system in the front room - the downstairs kitchen had been turned into a bar selling Red Stripe, and the whole block seemed to ooze spliff. Not that it matters because every one is E'd up - gonzoid-eyed and scrunched-up faces leering into the dark haze. Careful as you wander around that staircase that sort of goes to the second floor. 
The wall joining the flats together had been removed and the floor seemed to have gone as well. There were a couple light bulbs as well blinking in the murk. The music is booming acid house circa 1989, you can hear it all over the estate - it's like a beacon to every leering crazy in town and the glass strewn car park is chokka full of beat-up cars arriving through the night from all over the north of England. A couple of years in and there are already acid house veterans; crevasse faced all night people with tales to tell. Here?s one car load just back from the Blackburn all-nighters, giving the cops the slip and chasing the music all over the beaten up ex-cotton towns of mid Lancs. A whole bunch of heads have just arrived from The Hacienda, a ten minute walk down the road, cutting through the dimly lit subways and the gonzoid graffiti, and up the piss-stained flights of stairs in the feral Hulme crescents to the Kitchen party. They're looking for a 48-hour rave and are dancing around like loons, and they've not even got into the party yet. The corridor outside the flat is full of the sort of people who curse daylight, milling about buying drugs, popping E's or just doing Bez style bug eyed dancing on their own in small circles - oblivious to the music - oblivious to everything apart from the tactile pulse of the ecstasy. The cops don't come here. The cops haven't come here for years. This is a no go zone.  

Hulme kids posing in front of one of kELzO's paintings on Otterburn Close 1996 and Anti police sentiment painted over near the White Horse pub and Hulme library, early 90's

A party central. A concrete maze perfect for crime and even better for mental parties run under their own rules. "Leave 'em to it" sniff the local cops who prefer to stay in their concrete fortress station just up the road. The whole area is full of travellers' buses, dogs-on-a-rope types, junkies, squatters, freaks, outsiders - its also full of ex-cons, muggers and mini gangsters, but you can't have everything can you? In the summer it feels like the last stand of the party culture - a never ending chemical high in the winter- and it dies off as everyone drifts into smack and starts moaning about the weather. For a couple of glorious summers though, it was the real acid house party in Manchester, when the whole area seemed to pulse to the ghetto BPM and party like one mad shitfaced bastard. Of course it couldn't last and the bulldozers moved in in the mid nineties - these days it's all yuppie flats and wine bars full of shaven-headed thugs; the party is pretty well over even though some of the freaks remain. The days when Hulme M15 was a byword for party action are long gone. The yuppie scum have pushed up the house prices and the Hulme soundtrack is more likley to be Dido than mad crazy drug music. Welcome to the 21st century. JOHN ROBB