TODAY would have been Anthony H Wilson’s 67th birthday.
Growing up with a Mancunian mother and living close enough to the city for a Saturday afternoon outing, Manchester has always been a massive part of my life, and now studying in Salford, it truly is home.
Although too young to remember Tony Wilson commanding a Granada Reports audience or gracing the floor of his Hacienda, for a very long time I have understood just how much Mr Manchester meant to our city, and how much at least I am indebted to his service to Cottonopolis.
So, who was Tony Wilson?
Born in Salford in 1950, Wilson went on to become a cultural icon.
A talented broadcaster and journalist, he began working as a news reporter on Granada Reports before presenting music and culture programme So It Goes, which Wilson used to showcase talent from across the region. After seeing The Sex Pistols at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, which he later described as “nothing short of an epiphany”, Wilson booked the punk band for their first TV appearance.
Wilson went on to be lead anchor of Granada Reports throughout the 1980s and 1990s, a position most from the North West remember him in fondly.
However, it’s Wilson’s championing of Manchester’s music scene that gets the respect which launches him into a position of almost mythology. Co-founder of the legendary and profoundly Mancunian Factory Records, Wilson backed bands such as Joy Division, Happy Mondays and New Order to name just a few.
Factory Records opened the now defunct-yet-dreamed-about Hacienda club in 1982.
At the epicentre of the Madchester years, the former warehouse hosted bands and DJs, who then often went on to be bands or DJs! Visits to the club undoubtedly inspired people like Tim Burgess of The Charlatans, Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers and the Gallagher brothers.
DJs Dave Haslam and Mike Pickering were at the forefront, playing records sending shockwaves down Whitworth Street, before the club lead the wave of the Acid House era in the 90s.
Funded by the sales of New Order records, the Hacienda struggled to keep up with the shifting trends of nightlife in the city as well as constant security troubles, and hosted its last dance in June 1997.
Steve Coogan starred as Wilson in the film 24 Hour Party People, a semi-fictionalised version of Wilson’s life and the Factory era.
Wilson developed cancer and passed away tragically from a sudden heart attack in August 2007, almost ten years ago.
I have read about Wilson’s impact, his accomplishments and what he means to so many. However, as often the younger generation are, I’m jealous of those who got to live in the era of Manchester domination which he helped lead.
Wilson is an iconic worker bee who helped to shape the city’s cultural identity, and who’s work continues to inspire young people to become journalists, get into bands and have a dance on a Saturday night. Thank you Tony.
“This is Manchester, we do things differently here.”
By Natalie Rees