Use Hearing Protection: the early years of Factory Records

The Science and Industry Museum, Manchester | 19th June – 3rd Jan 2022

Use Hearing Protection: the early years of Factory Records is a new exhibition that shines a light on the little-revealed early period of the label and disclose lesser-told stories from family members, alternative voices and international collaborators to trace new outlines of its famous history.


The exhibition focuses on Factory’s formative years from 1978 to 1982, and what it was about Manchester at that time that allowed the label to spearhead innovation in the fields of music, technology and design, giving the city an authentic voice and distinctive identity, and helping to transform it from a post-industrial powerhouse to a beacon of art and culture.

Use Hearing Protection Exhibition
Use Hearing Protection :the early years of factory records.

Photo © The Museum of Science and Industry.

Rock Against Racism

As part of the exhibition British Culture Archive are showcasing a number of images from our featured photographers and People’s Archive to give a feel of the everyday life of city during the labels formative years.  Amongst the images on display from British Culture Archive are previously unexhibited photographs from Thomas Blower which document the Rock Against Racism Northern Carnival at Alexandra Park in 1978.

Moss Side

Images from Rock Against Racism founder Red Saunders who captured record shops around Moss Side at the time of the Northern Carnival, and photographer Luis Bustamante’s images that highlight the Manchester’s city centre during the late 1970s. 

British Culture Archive Exhibition
The British Culture Archive/People's Archive section of the exhibition.

 Photo © Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

Factory 1 - 50

Visitors are guided through the lesser-known story of the pre-Haçienda years, uncovering the history of the label and how it earned its status as a catalyst for innovation through rarely or never-before-seen objects. The first 50 numbered Factory artefacts are on display, as well as series of amplified stories that shed light on the individuals who played a fundamental but lesser-acknowledged role in Factory’s early years.

Ian Curtis Vox Phantom Guitar.
Ian Curtis’s iconic Vox Phantom VI guitar on display.

Photo © Paul Wright / British Culture Archive.


Audiences are immersed in its music through interactive experiences that offer the opportunity to get hands-on with technologies of the time that have gone on to change the face of music, including a mixing desk and synthesizer. The ‘Gig Room’ also transports visitors back in time by playing out the sounds of Factory Records through large-scale projections of the early bands it signed.

Use Hearing Protection British Culture Archive
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