The Reno Moss Side Manchester

A Cellar Full of Soul | Preserving Moss Side’s legendary Reno Club

British Culture Archive

The Reno, Moss Side’s legendary late-night soul and funk club was pulled down in 1987. The previous year Manchester City Council had deemed the building which housed the venue unsafe, and along with its sister club (The Nile). The late night drinking den near the corner of Princess Road and Moss Lane East was no more.

Mixed Race Communities

An important and often overlooked part of Manchester’s cultural history, The Reno began life in 1962 and soon became an important social haven for the cities mixed race communities. Many of its regulars came not just from Moss Side and neighbouring Hulme, but from Wythenshawe, Ancoats and many other working class parts of the city.

The Reno and Nile Club Moss Side
The Reno and Nile Club. Moss Side, circa 1969. Photo © Linda Brogan\@excavatingthereno

Racial Oppression

It was at The Reno where they found sanctuary and a place to escape the backwards racial oppression and abuse they often faced in 1970s Manchester. One former Reno regular recalls being refused entry into city centre nightspots for having a large Afro hairstyle, being told it was a fire hazard. Corrupt police would hassle young black and mixed-race youths on a daily basis, abusing the stop and search ‘sus’ laws to harass and intimidate them.

Sus Laws

A great reggae track of the era ‘Dem a Sus (In the Moss)’ by local band Harlem Spirit called out this discriminative behaviour and was often blasted out of sound systems in nearby Alexandra Park. The ‘sus’ laws were a contributing factor of ongoing tension that would eventually culminate in city wide uprisings throughout the UK in the early 80s. 

The Reno Moss Side Manchester
Reno owner Phil Magbotiwan with friends. Photo © Linda Brogan\@excavatingthereno

Kool Kats

During the clubs heyday between 1971 and 1981 it welcomed a great mix of characters. From the everyday regulars to flamboyantly dressed girls, streetwise kids showing off their dance moves, frustrated artists, weed smokers, Manchester City’s ‘Kool Kats’, through to the older heads, the sharply dressed men in the gambling room playing cards and dominoes. It was a unique place with its own set of rules. It even had its own successful football team known as Afroville.

Family

Yes, it may have had a reputation at times, but regulars remember it as being ‘like one big family’. Respect was earned and lifelong friendships and relationships were cemented here.

Afroville The Reno Moss Side
Afroville – The Reno’s successful football team. Photo © Linda Brogan\@excavatingthereno

DJ Persian

At its peak The Reno was one of the top clubs for soul & funk in the country. DJs over the years included its legendary residents Persian and Coolie, fellow DJs Hewan Clarke and Chris Jam and Tomlin (Aka Jam MCs).

DJing until five or six in the morning, they would have the dance floor packed, playing the latest US imports straight off the shelves of Manchester’s Spin-Inn records. As it was an unusually late night club many more would head back to The Reno after Manchester’s clubs had closed their doors to carry on the party and have a smoke until the early hours.

DJ Persian in The Reno Moss Side
DJ Persian in The Reno, 1982. Photo © Linda Brogan\@excavatingthereno

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali famously visited in 1971, as did actors and sports people of the era, Ray Winston, Clive Lloyd and Alex Higgins to name a few. Factory boss Tony Wilson had his stag do here (later poaching DJ Hewan Clarke for his new club The Hacienda) – it was even rumoured that Bob Marley visited around the time of his performance at Stretford’s Hardrock in 1972.

Reno Moss Side Regulars
Reno regulars and friends during the late 1970s. Photo © Linda Brogan\@excavatingthereno

Excavating The Reno

Linda Brogan is an multi award winning Jamaican-Irish playwright who was a former regular at The Reno between 1976 and 1983. Linda conceived the idea to dig up the site of the former club as she wanted to tell her own story about the place along with the people who lived it.

The project ‘Excavating The Reno’ began when Linda interviewed former Reno regulars and collected their memoirs in 2016. After securing funding from Arts Council England and with partners Manchester City Council and Salford University’s Applied Archaeological Unit, Linda and the team of former regulars started ‘the dig’ on the grassed over wasteland where the club was situated, evacuating the site over a three week period.

Linda Brogan in The Reno Moss Side
A Teenage Linda Brogan during her Reno going days. Photo © Linda Brogan\@excavatingthereno

Memorial Wall

As well as the physical items recovered during the dig, Linda is collecting and archiving memories, photographs and stories from anyone associated with The Reno. There is also a memorial wall remembering those from The Reno who are sadly no longer with us.

Cultural Importance

For a club that was such an important focal point for its mixed race communities, the amazing work Linda and the team are doing is instrumental in ensuring The Reno’s historical and cultural importance is documented and preserved for future generations.

Excavating The Reno Exhibition
Reno Memorial Wall at The Whitworth. Photo © Paul Wright / British Culture Archive.

Find out more, get in touch and share your memories of The Reno via the Excavating The Reno blog and website

You can follow Linda Brogan and the project on social media
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A Cellar Full of Soul | Preserving Moss Side’s legendary Reno Club

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