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

The Reno, Moss Side’s legendary late-night soul and funk club, was demolished in 1987. The year before, Manchester City Council had declared the building that housed the venue as unsafe, and, along with its sister club (The Nile), it was demolished. The late-night drinking den, situated near the corner of Princess Road and Moss Lane East, no longer existed.

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 city’s 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

At The Reno, they found a sanctuary and a place to escape the prevalent racial oppression and abuse they often faced in 1970s Manchester. One former Reno regular recalls being denied entry into city center nightspots because of having a large Afro hairstyle and being told that it was a fire hazard. Corrupt police would hassle young black and mixed-race youths daily, 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 the local band Harlem Spirit called out this discriminatory behavior and was often blasted out of sound systems in nearby Alexandra Park. The ‘Sus’ laws were a contributing factor to ongoing tensions that would eventually culminate in city-wide uprisings throughout the UK in the early 80s.

Outside The Reno, Moss Side.
Reno owner Phil Magbotiwan with friends.

Photo © Linda Brogan\@excavatingthereno

Kool Kats

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


“Yes, it may have had a bad 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's Football Team, late 1970s.
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 in order to continue 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, such as Ray Winston, Clive Lloyd, and Alex Higgins. Factory boss Tony Wilson had his stag do here. He later poached DJ Hewan Clarke for his new club, The Hacienda. It was even rumored that Bob Marley visited around the time of his performance at Stretford’s Hardrock in 1972.

Regulars at The Reno, Moss Side.
Reno regulars and friends during the late 1970s.

Photo © Linda Brogan\@excavatingthereno

Excavating The Reno

Linda Brogan is a multi-award-winning Jamaican-Irish playwright who used to be a regular at The Reno between 1976 and 1983. Linda conceived the idea of digging up the site of the former club, as she wanted to tell her own story about the place and the people who experienced 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 grassy wasteland where the club was situated, excavating 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

Aside from the physical items discovered during the excavation, Linda is gathering and archiving memories, photographs, and stories from anyone affiliated with The Reno. Additionally, there is a memorial wall honouring those from The Reno who have passed away.

Cultural Importance

“For a club that was such an important focal point for its mixed-race communities, the amazing work that Linda and her team are doing is instrumental in ensuring that the historical and cultural significance of The Reno 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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