The search continues to find what truly qualifies as a “sign of the times.” In 1977, Manchester’s first factory club night was advertised with a poster using the famous health and safety warning symbol, urging workers to protect their ears from loud noises. However, the original signature used in the artwork is missing.
Acclaimed designer Peter Saville was a young student at Manchester Polytechnic. Tony Wilson, a TV presenter and promoter of the city’s burgeoning music scene, asked him to create an advertisement for the event. Fortunately, inspiration was just around the corner.
“There was a yellow laminated stick-on sign on the wall of the poly that I used to look at every day,” Saville said this weekend.
“I had a romantic view of Britain’s industrial past, bestowed on me by a middle class who grew up comfortably in leafy Hale, so it has a certain ironic beauty and befits the name Factory. I took it out one night to trace it for a poster.”
A predecessor to the Hacienda nightclub, a regular at Joy Division and a venue for early Public Image gigs, the club was the birthplace of some of British music’s most famous moments. As a result, the poster later appeared in a show at The Corner House (now home), a gallery and art venue in Manchester.
“I loaned it to exhibitions in the 1990s as a kind of ‘patient zero’ gesture,” recalls Saville. “Unfortunately someone, like me, had taken it off the wall and I was sad not to get it back. More than 40 years later, British Pop at the John Ryland Institute in Manchester. I think it belongs in the archives, so if someone comes forward, they should go there.”
The story came to light when author Andy Spinoza was going through his new book. Unspun Manchester: Pop, Fortune and Power in the Original Modern City, will be published next month by Manchester University Press. Spinoza, co-curator of the Corner House exhibition, points out that the ephemera of that era are valuable now. Her Fac 1 poster was the starting point for his vast catalog of Fac artifacts, which now spans over 500 records, books and images.
“That poster set the tone for the entire Factory aesthetic,” Spinoza said this weekend. It’s good to think that it was. I hope I can help complete an archive of perhaps the most personally meaningful items from Peter Saville’s entire design career.”
The Pop Archive, curated by then-veteran Professor John Savage, hopes to see the inspirational signature return.
“British pop music stories are very important because they are great gateways to understanding our social history,” he said.
“Our archives are public, including Ian Curtis lyrics and Tony Wilson archives. We opened last May and started out at the Factory. Working for Granada TV, Tony wanted a local journalist to cover his band, mainly Joy Division, as it was a depressed post-industrial area at the time and Joy Division was a great response to that. It seemed to me
“Club nights weren’t always full, and the hamburger-smelling venue could only hold about 250 people anyway. I would.”