Reno regulars gather to remember heyday of iconic Moss Side club

  • Playwright Linda Brogan launches digital book about excavation of the legendary Moss Side club
  • Reno regulars remember club as safe place for mixed-race Mancunians in the 80s who faced discrimination in other musical venues

Moss Side’s famous soul and funk club, The Reno, came back to life on Thursday at Manchester’s Whitworth art gallery.

Award-winning playwright Linda Brogan launched her book about the remarkable community project, Excavating the Reno, while the club’s 76-year-old legendary DJ Persian was playing.

The Reno was based in Moss Side during the ’80s when the neighbourhood was plagued by gang and gun crime. Despite the problems residents, faced including racial discrimination, they considered Reno a safe space.

Susan Taylor, one of Reno’s regulars  said: “The book is stories of people who were in foster care, divided homes, mixed-race families – the children of the sixties. The story is about their life and how the Reno gave them a sense of place.”

She said she attended the event because of her personal history and that it was a legacy of a place where she and her community felt safe.

“We all cared for each other and looked after each other. Even though there was drugs, gambling and it was in the middle of the night, it was always safe,” she said.

The club was demolished 1986 because of safety regulations, but regulars – led by Linda Brogan – decided to ‘dig into it’ many years later and started the excavation project.

They dug with their bare hands and found some ‘artefacts’ such as a part of the dance floor or lipstick (even a sack of cannabis), some of which are displayed in the exhibition in the Whitworth gallery today together with photographs and memoirs collected by Linda. 

Linda won an award for outstanding contribution to Manchester’s culture for the project this year.

She said: “I’ve tempted to write a Reno play for years, but I couldn’t capture the nuances. Instead, I harvested the Reno itself.” 

And so she did, as the Whitworth gallery got packed with Reno regulars and lots of curious visitors who wanted to experience the 70s funk and soul vibe on Thursday evening.

Dancing the night away to memories of the Reno club

Attendee Alex Pigott said of the event: “I didn’t know anything about the exhibition beforehand. It’s funny how everyone has been opened about their experiences at the Reno.

“It’s a unifying place. It’s interesting how they talked about it being a magnificent and homely place for them.”

Alfonzo ‘Fonzo’ Buller, who]se memoir forms part of Linda’s book, first sneaked into the Reno when he was 12 years old.

He said: “The Reno was my life, I grew up there.”

He went to the club with two other boys with mixed-race family backgrounds and used to do backflips to DJ Persian’s music: “People could not believe that we were so young, the three of us.”

The club has been part of a key part of Mancunian history and shaped its underground funk and soul scene.

Michelle Culpepper, whose whole family visited the club, said: “It was a place with music, no trouble. Muhammad Ali used to go there,  Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, Tony Wilson, even MPs – just to relax and dance.”

The exhibition about the club’s excavation and its fascinating stories will be on display until 19 April 2020. To find out more about the project, visit Linda Brogan’s website

Photography: Leonie Backhaus