Linda Brogan reminisces about the 80s and the Reno shining a light on Manchester’s past
- Award-winning playwright Linda Brogan speaks about paying homage by recreating the Reno
- The Reno was a nighclub where mainly the Afro-Caribbean community met to socially gather in Moss Side
- The exhibition is currently on display at Whitworth Art Gallery
Growing up in Manchester during the 1970s was a difficult period for members of the Afro-Caribbean community, with Linda Brogan vividly remembering the racism the community had to endure.
The playwright spoke out about growing up in Manchester, as well as her experiences visiting the Reno.
Linda Brogan has written four award-winning plays and is a writer in residence at Contact Theatre and the National Theatre.
The Reno nightclub was a place where mainly the Afro-Caribbean community and people with mixed-race heritage met to socially gather in Moss Side.
The Reno at The Whitworth Reloaded. Official relaunch event: 21 Nov @WhitworthArt 6-9pm – celebrate the revamp of the gallery space & learn more about the ‘Excavating the Reno’ project @ExcavatingReno. Uncovering the much-loved Moss Side nightclub The Reno https://t.co/74u1rwq82u pic.twitter.com/Notll9isgR
— Haunt Manchester (@hauntMCR) October 23, 2019
As young adults, Brogan and her generation would go out and look for the people who fit into their shared scene.
Linda said: “My dad never really spoke about his experiences, and Windrush is a kind of modern thing. At that time people sort of came from the Caribbean. To name it and give it an angle is quite a model thing.
“It’s not a joke though – racism was massive then. And not even just a word, it was everywhere, including work.
“Imagine that feeling as a man that you’re walking down the road and you have to part for white guys.
“So, to be with their own people was just comfortable, they would just come home from work and want to just be comfortable with their own people.”
The first time Linda visited the Reno was in 1976 at the age of 16.
“There was a lot of things we didn’t have back then. One of them is dead obvious, we didn’t have social media, we didn’t even have a phone, our house didn’t even have a phone.
“To meet people, you had to go outside to meet them.”
Linda explains: “We did go there all the time, and you could guarantee that there would be someone there all the time.
“It was open all day long, but we mainly went about 10pm at night and stayed until dawn.
“We went every night because if you don’t go, you’re going to miss out, aren’t you? If you don’t go anything could have happened.
“But the flip side of that is, the fact that you’re going is what causes it to happen.”
Visiting the club was a rite of passage for many young members of the black community before the nightclub closed in 1987.
When I first ‘visited’ The Reno, it was in 2019, at the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. I walked in and broke down. For the first time ever I was seeing mixed-race Black history delineated, presented in its own lane. Here was a cultural legacy.
— Moya Lothian-Mclean (@mlothianmclean) September 15, 2020
Brogan asks me whether I’ve seen the film Goodfellas.
Linda said: “You know that feeling when everyone is going in saying hello? That nod and you say a little something? It had that. And to be a part of that is everything because you are in the know.
“Some nights nothing would happen, you’d have a dance and that, other nights terrible things would happen like a guy would beat up their girlfriend or the police would come down and raid it or some nights someone would get completely drunk and make an ass out of themselves.
“It’s either a laugh or a bit of gossip but most of the time you’re just zoned out to your own music. There were tones of weed. We smoke more weed than we drank.”
Discussing the importance of recollection, she said: “It’s really important at that time. It was rare because polaroids were fashionable then. So, if you took photos you had to get them developed, so you really had to be stingy with your photography.”
Speaking about what influenced her as a playwright Linda said: “What I would also say, is that I bet in the Reno, 80% of the people there were actually artists. Because, you know a lot of people could paint, could draw, were stand-up comedians and that wasn’t available to us then.”
Linda has written numerous plays, including What’s in the cat, Black Crows, Speechless and Rebel Voices: Monologues for Women by Women.
Currently she is writing for Manchester International Festival.
Speaking about her next great work, which will be inspired by the Contact Theatre, Linda said: “It was a true golden age – we were all artists (and) there was money flying round. There should be great works of art from that time.”
The age that is being referred to is 1999 to 2006.
With the help of the Salford archaeological department, they planned together the operation which lasted a month to dig up the Reno.
The cost of the operation was £70,000.
Discussing the operation, Linda said: “So I filmed them first. I would always open by saying ‘tell me about your first night at the Reno,’ but in the back of my heart I was always hoping for the ordinary stories.
“We’re big people now, so we’ve had kids. Grandkids. Our mums and dads are dead so what I hoped to capture was the vulnerability. So, I hoped to catch it by listening.
“It was absolutely wonderful, the actual doing of the work was wonderful, to be on the site – I can’t see an archaeological picture even of Rome on the mosaic floor without thinking of the Reno and its ruins.
“It was fun, people who didn’t want to dig just came to drink and hang out. It was like being at the Reno at a different time and place because a club isn’t a club. It’s the people in it.”