Factory Records, the legendary Manchester label, has been reborn as a nightclub. Thomas Lane nips in ahead of the crowds

Eighteen years after Factory Records went bust, and three years after its founder Tony Wilson’s death, the Factory is reborn. The legendary Manchester record label’s former head office has been reinvented as a nightclub called, you’ve guessed it, The Factory.

This is no cheap nostalgia trip on the back of buried heroes. Peter Hook, founder member of Joy Division, which released Factory Records’ first album, and Aaron Mellor, former DJ at Factory-financed nightclub The Hacienda, joined forces to create the new club. What’s more, Ben Kelly, who designed the original head office for Factory, was brought in to craft the conversion.

The nightclub is one of the few good things to come out of the recession. When Factory Records went bust the building went through various incarnations, including a gay nightclub called Paradise Factory, before it was abandoned. The site was just about to be redeveloped as a hotel when the recession kicked in.

The ground-floor bar.
Credit: Kevin Cummins
The ground-floor bar.

“I thought it was quite sad as that was the last bit of the Factory and it was going to be knocked down, but there was nothing we could do as we didn’t own the building,” says Mellor, a former QS with Shepherd Construction and now managing director of Tokyo Industries, which owns 15 nightclubs. “When it came back on the market it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.”

For former New Order bass player Hook this was the realisation of a long-held dream: as back in 1990 he had tried to bid for the building at an auction. “He wanted to buy it but there was a mystery bidder who had loads of cash,” says Mellor. “The bidding started at £60,000 and crept up to £120,000 – he pulled out then as the building was basically just a shell. Afterwards he found out the buyer was Factory Records, who had bought it using New Order money.”

The building was bought late last year and in just two months turned into the new club. Kelly says it wasn’t a physically massive job, but needed handling with care. “It was an editing process. We had to decide what to strip out, what to keep and what to change,” he says. “We ripped out all this horrible stuff from when it was the Paradise Factory, opened up the entrance to the ground floor and added a first-floor DJ booth, which cantilevers over the entrance so you can see what is happening on the ground and first floors. We put in two stages on two floors and built some toilets – and there is a new colour scheme that refers back to the Factory without being too overt.

Getting the balance between old and new was the key challenge. “We can’t be a museum piece; the tricky bit has been keeping the building’s heritage but keeping it up to date,” says Mellor. “Tony Wilson would not have wanted it to reopen and wallow in the past.”

FAC 481 to our friends…

The Factory Records HQ had the catalogue number FAC 251, and the new club retains this number. For the uninitiated, the Factory system of numbering might need explaining …

Each album release received a number, but numbers were also given to everything from stationery to lawsuits to Tony Wilson’s coffin, which received the number FAC 501. Even Building has its own number, FAC481, which was given to us by Tony Wilson when he guest-edited a Manchester special issue in January 2006.

Original print headline: Back to the floor