Black and Asian histories are a vital part of England’s story. Yet in our books, at our historic sites and in our records they're not well represented.
By Linda Brogan, Reno Regular and multi-award winning playwright
The opening beats of a Reno classic make my flesh tingle, orchestrate an opera in my veins. I know other Reno Regulars share that feeling.
The Reno was a cellar club in Moss Side Manchester on the corner of Princess Road and Moss Lane East. Heyday 1971 to 1981. Soundtrack, imported soul and funk. Predominantly populated by no blacks, no Irish, no dogs, 50s-born ‘half-caste’ teens stigmatised by the 1930 Fletcher Report: "Offspring of interracial alliances suffer inherent physical and mental defects." Demolished 1987.
Crossing the poppy filled site, I sat to remember our civilisation, black market, social structure, king and queen, all frustrated artists. I am a playwright, but a play couldn’t capture the nuances.
Instead, October 2016, Art’s Council England funded, I filmed Reno memoirs. And posted them on www.thereno.live. I spent 1976 to 1981 in the Reno yet we’d never before discussed being spat at in our prams. Not knowing our ostracised mum’s white family. Living in a home divided by mum’s roast and dad’s yam. As Annette Ileke comments: "Made me realise I am not mad and many of my age group experienced the same. Ha I feel to tell my GP I don't need their counselling. I get to understand a lot more listening to these stories at least I can relate."
October 2017, Art’s Council England funded with partners Manchester City Council, and Salford University Applied Archaeological, us Reno Regulars, now OAPs, actually excavated the Reno. 80,000 interacted with our daily progress posted on www.thereno.live. BBC Northwest, Granada Reports, the BBC One Show, Manchester Evening News and The Guardian broadcast it to millions.
Excavated, we professionally lit its beautiful remains. Held an epic all-night marquee celebration on site. 23 November 6-9pm, 1,500 who do not usually engage with the arts colonised the Whitworth Art Gallery to view our memoirs, excavation footage, and photos obliterating their art. Our artefacts sat exhibited in museum cases, as we danced to Reno DJs in the Whitworth main hall. We are sculpting a place in English history.
We are finalists in the 2018 Heritage National Lottery Award. 2018 to 2020, resident in an entire gallery in the Whitworth, we will edit our excavation footage, underscored by memoir excerpts into a 60 minutes film-poem: and submit it to global festivals. We’ll document our teen photos, excavation participants, and artefacts in a ritualistic photo-book: and launch it as the flagship of the Bound Book Fair. Our process will evolve into our Whitworth exhibition: and a 2021 musical that will use our soul and funk soundtrack to tell the nuanced story we now understand.
Finally we are the artists we were meant to be. I am so proud of us. Memoirs, excavation, celebration and colonisation footage are on http://thereno.live.
Follow #NLATheReno for updates on the outcome of the National Lottery Award for The Reno.
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