The Reno and The Nile were two clubs within the same building, on the corner of Princess Road and Moss Lane East. They competed for trade from the early 1960s until 1986, when the building they occupied was demolished. Both clubs stayed open until around 5 or 6 in the morning, which was very unusual at that time; other clubs which opened late were usually intended for shift-workers, like The Press Club in town, which was supposed to be members only.
The Nile played reggae and had the larger, better premises, upstairs; The Reno played soul, funk and jazz downstairs in the basement, which was reached via treacherously steep steps leading down from street level.
“The Nile, along with the Reno, the Bengwema, the great Barry Fredericks Sheebeens, the Capitol and many smaller clubs in Moss Side were the most popular late night joints in the city.
Pop stars, actors and actresses, bent cops, pimps, drug dealers, ponces and the rest of the night people all were regulars in Moss Side in those days. ”
Hughie Flint, talking about the 1960s: www.manchesterbeat.com
Diagonally opposite the Nile/Reno building, was the Big Alex pub, now also demolished. This site is now occupied by a modern private hospital building:
The Reno was the closest Manchester had at the time to an Amsterdam-style bar; it was like The People’s Club in Paddington, London (where Tim Westwood started out) but not so big. The People’s Club was originally a postal workers’ club, hence the late license, and became a magnet for black performers visiting London from the U.S.
My husband went to The Reno in the early ’80s, after Rafters jazz-funk nights, and later, The Hacienda. He would stop off on his way back to Wythenshawe, which was a 7-mile hike from town. There were always people he knew in The Reno because of the strong ties between Wythenshawe and Moss Side. (Many Wythenshawe residents came from Hulme when it was demolished in the mid-60s, while family and friends in Moss Side stayed put.)
This is how he describes it:
“The big attraction of the Reno was that it was open after the clubs in town shut and you could buy a weed there. You could buy a pound wrap… you’d probably get about two spliffs out of that… or a five pound wrap.
The beer was generally warm… it was sold in cans. Sometimes we would get there and the beer would be gone and we’d be forced to drink warm Newcastle Brown.”
The Reno occupied only part of the basement. The interior was altered very little to accomodate the club, and had all the original features of a victorian cellar: a flagged floor, bare brick walls, wrought iron gates across alcoves containing tables where you could sit and eat, and a huge step up to the gambling area, which was on a different level.
“There was a kitchen and a gambling area where people used to smoke… you ordered food through a hole in the wall.”
Planks were attached to the walls at seat level to form simple bench seating. The back door was left open for ventilation… it led up to a courtyard at the back. The stone steps up to the front door were so steep that it was possible to fall up them as well as down.
Live bands appeared at The Reno during the sixties but later the music was more likely to be pre-recorded, played by the resident DJs Coolie and Persian.
Here’s Hewan Clarke, who also DJ’d at The Reno, describing the set-up in conversation with Greg Wilson:
“The Reno opened at eleven and it shut at six in the morning. It used to get totally packed.”
Hewan contrasts Persian’s DJing style with that of the Rafters DJs, John Grant and Colin Curtis, in the late 70s and early 80s:
Colin and John, they would play mainly twelve inches, but Persian would be playing album tracks, which is a bit different. For John and Colin, if something wasn’t released on a twelve inch, they’d just play maybe the obvious track off the album…
Persian would play the other ones and that’s how he built up his name, his fame…”
“He wasn’t part of that town, All-Dayer Soul scene.
…town DJs actually went into the Reno and listened to what he was playing…
…And he went to listen to them and he thought they were pretty restricted… there were four or five good tracks on an album and he would play all of them… that was the main difference between Persian’s style and the town side of it.”
Persian left The Reno in 1983 but the owner Phil Magbotiwan continued to run the club (and the patty shop next door) until 1986, when the building was purchased by the council in order to be demolished. (Prior to 1962, the club was called The Palm Beach and was run by Roland West. Before that, it was a hostel for African seamen.)
The Nile Club, run and co-owned by Tunde Moses, was also destroyed by the demolition. Not long after, the Wycliffe Cinema next door was also pulled down leaving the large patch of vacant land which still exists today:
It’s not clear why these buildings were demolished although it is likely that they were unsafe. When I went down to take some photos of the area I noticed that the buildings adjacent to this lot now look ripe for demolition:
For more photos of the area, see Flickr.
There has already been a website dedicated to reviving the Reno spirit at www.therenoclub.com but it hasn’t been updated for several years.
However during 2011 there have so far been two Reno Nites at The Rampant Lion on Anson Road in Victoria Park, featuring original Reno DJ Persian, who DJ’d there from 1967-1984. These were organised by Mike Mayisi through Facebook with support from Mr V from Big People’s Old School, who also hold regular nights at The Rampant.
The third Reno Nite takes place on Saturday August 6th 2011.
This is Persian DJing at the first event in April:
He was joined by DJ Gordon West at the event on June 4th. The music on both nights was excellent. Some of the songs played were completely new to me, like this one for instance:
Eighties Ladies – Turned On To You (1981)
Thanks to Greg Wilson for sending me the link to the right mix.
A familiar song which I heard on both nights was:
Sounds Of Blackness – Optimistic (1991)
And this was another familiar track I heard on the second night, which I used to hear in the Man Alive:
Cheryl Lynn – Encore (1984)
The details of more great songs from the Reno era can be found on Greg Wilson’s website www.electrofunkroots.co.uk.
Unfortunately there is an event clash on August 6th 2011, with the Rafters Reunion at Band On The Wall competing with the Reno Nite for a similar crowd. Hopefully neither event will suffer as a result.
The Rafters night is due to finish at 3 a.m. but last Reno Nite at the Rampant, they didn’t kick us out till 4, so maybe it’s possible to do both?