Tony Wilson never wrote a song, sang one or played an instrument. Yet he created the modern Manchester music scene. He made things happen; he cajoled people into doing important things. He harried, encouraged, pushed, promoted. It might be fair to say without him Manchester’s music history might have stopped with Sad Café.
As part of the Manchester Heroes and Heroines weekend in April, Fri 20– Sun 22 we honour one of the most popular figures in recent Manchester history: a vainglorious, proud, arrogant, infuriating but genius impresario.
We will visit Granada Television (now being revamped into the Factory arts centre, named after his record label), where he preened and pontificated; the Hacienda, which he swore “must be built”; Rafter’s (now Tesco’s – fab!) where he met Ian Curtis (imagine a universe without Unknown Pleasures and Closer…no!); and the Hidden Gem where he made his last confession to an astonished priest.
The Hacienda went bust. Factory Records went bust. Granada TV has been abolished, but as the man said Wilson was fond of saying “we made history, not money.” Factory Records’ designer Peter Saville explained: “Tony created a new understanding of Manchester; the resonance of Factory goes way beyond the music. Young people often dream of going to another place to achieve their goals. Tony provided the catalyst and context for Mancunians to do that without having to go anywhere.”