Friday 11 January 2019

1992.06.24 Tim Lennox @ Flesh Night, Haçienda, Manchester

What can you say about a night called FLESH!  The name itself provokes, intrigues and tantalises the imagination  to say the least!  The actual night went far beyond the images conjured up by the name though!  Hedonism, Excess, Debauchery, Sex, Queer as...... you kind of get the message!  Just say the name out loud, "FLESH" and you will understand where I'm going with this!

Early on in it's history, the Haçienda had put on a Gay night.  However these were not successful, and were reportedly to have been small affairs that attracting around 100 people..  The low attendance was probably not helped by it being held on a Monday!  Early flyer's such as the one below promoted 'G.A.Y Monday' but perhaps made it appear to be more of an indie night. It seemed far too low key compared to the imagery and approach that was to come eight years later! 

FLESH was the idea of Paul Cons.  Paul, who was Entertainment and Promotions Manager at the Haçienda felt that the time was right for a Gay and Lesbian night in Manchester.  The summer of 1991 had been witness to a highly successful event called the 'Lesbian Summer of Love' attracting 800 people.  Manchester was still high after the Acid House Summers of Love in the late 1980's and Manchester was still getting on one from the baggy grip of 'Madchester' in 1990 albeit the jeans a little faded and fraying round their blurry edges! The scene was now set for something a little different. 😍

FLESH was to change the clubbing scene in Manchester out of all recognition! Established in October 1991, it seemed surprising that Paul should chose the Haçienda over any other venue but what a decision it was.  An 'In Your Face' advertising campaign left you in no uncertain terms as to what the night was to deliver, with the phrase 'Queer Up North' leaving no second guesses as to who the nights were aimed at!    


'Queer Up North' was definitely a very clever play on words!  To many (and in my opinion - falsely!) Manchester at that time was viewed as a drab, dreary, dingy place, with it's cold rainy streets, run down buildings and dark, shady avenues that existed comfortably with the term its 'Grim Up North'.  The emerging Gay and Lesbian scene seemed to rip this outdated stereotypical image of Manchester and the North apart and was to send it screaming on a wave of hedonistic energy that was to change the scene and Manchester forever. Binning the clogs, it was now on with the disco shoes!  Pure marketing brilliance and I would love to know if it was a deliberate strategy or just chance...  but it definitely worked.

FLESH was to rapidly gain a reputation as one of the nights that you had to go to and it certainly wasn't easy to get into either. Open on the last Wednesday of each month, a strict door policy was in place to deter trouble and create the right vibe for the night. It was one that probably prevented many an individual from getting in or even attempting to get in too!  Aimed at Gay and Lesbian clubbers, who travelled from far and wide to experience the nights delights, FLESH was soon was to attract straight clubbers too.  Boundaries were beginning to be broken down!  Clubbers who wanted to party at the best nights found themselves being rigorously vetted and many people found themselves not getting in!  It was not only straight people who stuggled to get in too!

Throughout 1990 and 1991, Manchester had quickly become a focus for clubbers and this had now spilled over into an emerging Gay and Lesbian scene which now blossomed.    It was here that we would often start our Saturday nights drinking at a vibrant and colourful place called Manto Bar or Mantos as it was known to us!   Located just off the City Centre, we would find ourselves in the heart of the pulsating Gay Village along the aptly named Canal Street.  Here we would spend our early evenings drinking outside, enjoying the warm evening nights listening to House beats and taking in the atmosphere in anticipation of the night ahead.   The village was vibrant, it was alive and it added the colour and energy to what was once a vast drab wasteland of warehouses, buildings and polluted waterways that stamped on us memories of Manchester's Industrial past. Now there was a new dawn, a new feel to the City, a new Cultural revolution was replacing it's faded Industrial heritage.   Change was afoot.   

The Gay Village is a cluster of bars restaurants and clubs that for me felt more European than the traditional drinking holes of Manchester. For me, it had a holiday kind of feel to it. Modern looking facades where full length windows opened fully enabling revellers to spill onto the streets,  where people could socialise, sit amongst the trees that lined the cobbled street along the canal and it meant we could enjoy relaxed and good times.  Images of Amsterdam, Paris and Liege come to mind where people now approached life in a more leisurely manner which juxtaposed the fast paced aggression of city life that went on a few blocks away, it felt safe and refreshing!      For me it was the colourful hedonistic space that enabled clubbers to get on with the party.  A new, fresh energy was emerging that perhaps only Manchester could provide and we didn't give a damn, it was there and we were going to enjoy it!   Walking up Canal Street, heaving bars provided us with pumping pounding house music, exhibitionism and a private almost exclusive space away from the monotony of traditional City nightlife. It was little wonder that Canal Street  soon began to attract clubbers who wanted a safe start to the night, one where we were away from the beer boys and larger louts who wanted to fight.  We mingled and enjoyed the party atmosphere that was quickly being to establish a fresh scene. The added bonus was that, it was a stones throw from the Haçienda too - ideal!

 Manto on Canal Street!

What has this got to do with the Haçienda I ask of myself as I type?   Out of the emerging party scene, Manchester soon acquired a new label that was to replace the tiring Madchester image. Typical of the overground press, always seeking to categorise everything, label anything, perhaps in a bid to understand what was going on and perhaps to a degree, to control the things they don't understand! The term 'Gaychester', was coined.    It would be fair to say that, as this new Gay and Lesbian scene began to flourish; spreading it's rainbow wings, there was a new level of acceptance and confidence coming through. Diversity began to be celebrated, something we even now we need far more of!  Paul Cons recognised this and believed that the time was right for a new Cultural space in the City and soon a night began, that, was simply to become.... Legendary!   Indeed people travelled from all over the county if not the world to attend and experience it's delights!  FLESH was certainly not going to compromise anything either.... FLESH was a night billed as 'Serious pleasure for Dykes and Queers' you either got on for the ride or did one!  FLESH was in your face for sure,  and fortunately for Manchester the City went for the ride! What a roller coaster it was going to be....

I went only once. I wish it had been more!  I recall the wild, eye-opening, extreme, decadent, sexy, fun, beautiful, funny, ecstatic, outlandish, hedonistic, debauched, indulgent, pleasure-loving orgy of clubbers and partying; the gold, silver, lace, leather and oh yes! FLESH!  These are still images I visit when I think back to that wondrous hot night.  Believe me though, my list does not do the night justice and there are people who are far more qualified to pass comment than me!  All I know is we went, we danced we had fun and we experienced one of the best nights we had ever had. What more can you ask for!  To hear one of those nights again perhaps? Relive the atmosphere, the memories?

FLESH DJ's included Tim Lennox, DJ Paulette and Kath McDermott who literally rocked the floor and their skill and reputations easily matched those of Park and Pickering    Both Tim and Paulette gained their reputations at the infamous Number 1 Club amongst other venues. Soon they both were to  DJ on radio stations in Manchester and London.  Tim produced the excellent 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning' club hit under the guise of T-empo and Paulette was to take a residency at Heaven in London!  Kath cut her DJ teeth at FLESH, which led afterwards to a career in radio as a producer!   For me they were Cultural icons. They were instrumental in creating a new space where all clubbers could go to party.  It put the Gay and Lesbian scene in Manchester firmly on the map and enabled a generation to flourish to come out and own the party!   For me, it seemed that for the first time gay and Lesbian clubbers shared the same dance floor, and it appeared that there was a cultural revolution was happening, a fresh energy taking over and  Diversity was flourishing. And it started at the Haçienda.    I do like boundaries being broken down.  Manchester had now shed its 'Grim Up North' shackles and embraced a Diverse New Order!

Flesh DJ sets are as rare as hens teeth!  Until now!   I hope you take the time to download the set using the link below.  Turn your speakers up, don your disco socks and experience 90 minutes from one hot, hedonistic House night that happened deep in the heart of Manchester, at the Haçienda. A night called FLESH that changed lives! 💓   

To download - click the link and Enjoy!

The flyer from the final FLESH night

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