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The Reno Club

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 50s-born ‘half-caste’ stigmatised by the 1930 Fletcher Report: "Offspring of interracial alliances suffer inherent physical and mental defects." Demolished 1987.

A group of 4 young men wearing jeans smiling. One sits on a chair, the other three lean against a wall and each other. One is whispering into the ear of the man in the middle.
Derrick Thomas, Marcus Layne, unknown whispering, and Tony Bellos in the Reno. 1970s. Supplied by Marcus Layne.

How to capture our civilisation

Crossing the poppy filled site, I sat to remember our civilisation, black market, social structure, king and queen, all frustrated artists. I am a multi-award winning playwright, but a play couldn’t capture the nuances.

Reno memoirs

Instead, October 2016, Art’s Council England funded, I filmed 72 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."

Black and white photo of a 3 story block with a double height black door in the centre. 1970s.
The Reno is the double height black door in the centre. 1970s.

Excavation

October 2017, Art’s Council England funded, with partners Manchester City Council and Salford University Applied Archaeological we actually excavated the Reno. Tens of thousands 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. 

Red brick building structure of The Reno revealed during an archaeological dig.
The last day of the dig. 27 October 2017. Taken by photographer Karen Rangeley

Celebration and colonisation

Excavated, we professionally lit its beautiful remains. Held an epic all-night celebration on site. 23 November 6-9pm, hundreds 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.

The celebration night. 28-10-17. The wet ground is the actual Reno floor professionally lit. Taken by Reno regular Francia Messado.
The celebration night. 28 October 2017. The wet ground is the actual Reno floor professionally lit. Taken by Reno regular Francia Messado

Ghosts seeping out as artists emerge

We are finalists in the 2018 heritage category of the National Lottery Awards. We will edit our excavation footage, underscored by memoir excerpts into a film-poem: ghosts seeping out as we disinter the Reno. And submit it to global festivals. We’ll document our participants and artefacts in a ritualistic photo-book. And launch it as the Flagship of the Bound Book Fair. 2018 to 2020, resident in an entire gallery in the Whitworth, we will interrogate the culture we grew up in, and exhibit the artwork we generate in a glass ceiling. 2021 our musical underscored with our soundtrack will 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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