2 Oct 2006
It's better to give than to receive 'positive feedback' 
I recently asked Jan Hargreaves for an update on her sterling work with Rob Gretton's generous bequest to the city of Manchester. I can only post her superb response in full:

Factory, the Hac and Dry - Rob Gretton's legacy at MSIM

"Rob Gretton contacted the Manchester Science & Industry Museum in 1998, when he was clearing out Gainwest's Knott Mill office near Deansgate.

The then Senior Archivist, Penny Feltham, went over to sort through the files, posters, videos and piles of art work and Rob transferred everything over to the Museum in August that year.

Sadly, Rob died before he could sign off the paperwork for the transfer, and it wasn't until 2003 that Peter Hook, as a director of Gainwest, made the transfer official. Contact with Hooky was made with the help of Dave Rofe and Rebecca Boulton.

Rob was an important figure in Manchester's music industry and, through choice during his lifetime, an unsung one. He was the man who decided Manchester needed a superclub to rival those of New York, although he phrased his reasons differently.

The Factory Archive at MSIM is one part of his story. It tells the tale of Rob's involvement in Factory Communications Limited, through minutes of meetings, financial documents and correspondence. Looking through the finance documents is like reading a who's who of whoever was owed money throughout the life of the company. More importantly, it tells Rob's story as the brains behind the Hacienda and Dry Bar.

The archive includes copies of Ben Kelly's architectural plans for both the club and the bar, along with design proofs for cocktail menus for both Dry and the Gay Traitor, samples of wine bottle labels, designs for Dry sugar sachets, guest lists for the Hac and details of which records were played at various club nights. Other revelations come from the pages and pages of door takings for Hacienda nights like Nude, Temperance, Void and Wide. The same sheets list the bands that played at Monday Club through the late 80s.

As a man renowned for his golden ears, Rob's other main input to the company was as an A&R man and band manager. The archive includes around a hundred artwork boards for record sleeves and posters. The majority of these have now been listed and are available for researchers to look at in the Study Area at the Museum. As well as the artwork, there are examples of posters for Hacienda nights, album releases and gigs, and a collection of videos. The videos come in a number of formats, including 1" video and audio masters. Those which can be watched in the Study Area on VHS include promos for singles, live appearances and tv appearances by Joy Division, Happy Mondays, Kalima, Cath Carroll and Revenge, among others.

Cataloguing of the archive is a slow process, but researchers are welcome to visit the Museum to look through it. The Study Area is open Tuesdays to Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.

The Museum is keen to build on this important collection and has been working with the Manchester District Music Archive to help make sure that Manchester's music history is documented properly. It would be an achievement to bring together more strands of the Factory story, including archives from the people who worked there, from artists on the label, from the other Directors, and from the rest of Rob's own collection.

The Museum plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Hacienda next year with an exhibition of items from the archive.

If you have any Factory-related documents or objects that you would like to donate to the Museum to help tell the Factory story, please call Jan Hargreaves, the Senior Archivist, on 0161 606 0115 or email archive@msim.org.uk. Contact details for the Collections Centre via this link."


This generous, philanthropic act is a lesson to us all. It is sincerely hoped that the significant remainder of Rob's tangible legacy - future currently uncertain - is treated to the same level of public safekeeping/access and steered far away from potential commercial exploitation. The more people use and enjoy this valuable archive, the better chance we all have of this coming to pass.

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Peter Saville colour wheel
Biting Tongues

In the grey days of late 1970s post-punk Manchester, youth culture was a serious affair: every musical performance was measured mostly by the conviction of its delivery. The term 'New Wave' opened up free vistas where acquired skills could once again be exercised after punk's monochrome blur. It could be applied to anything from a James 'Blood' Ulmer record to the latest Throbbing Gristle release, Magazine to Swell Maps. Move outside that terrain into Sun Ra, Parliament, Frank Sinatra and Martin Denny, and your options were suddenly without limit...

Then came Tony Wilson's Factory Club (at the Russell Club in Hulme) offering an open invitation to experiment that was taken up when Ken Hollings, Howard Walmsley, Eddie Sherwood and a few others decided to make some noise to accompany their 16mm silent epic Biting Tongues. A further performance followed a few weeks later, when Colin Seddon and Graham Massey disbanded their Post Natals project and joined up. The film itself, a flashing series of negative images, became a memory; the name remained.

- extract from the LTM Biting Tongues biography

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