I thought I went to the Festival of the Tenth Summer but I didn’t; I went to the ‘Tenth Event of the Festival of the Tenth Summer’, which was a concert at GMEX on the 19th July 1986, organised by Factory Records.
We bought our concert tickets weeks in advance because The Smiths and New Order were on the bill and we wanted to see inside GMEX.
People were very excited about GMEX (the Greater Manchester Exhibition Centre) because it was one of the first neglected landmark buildings to be renovated, and not vandalised, burned down and turned into a carpark.
This picture of the Central Station ruin was taken from the roof of the Midland Hotel in early 1985:
A year and a half later it looked like this:
A big concert showcasing Manchester talent to celebrate the opening of GMEX would have been an obvious project. That’s what would have happened in any other city, and that was the spirit in which many people thought the Tenth Summer concert was taking place.
But the Factory organisers had another agenda: they were marking the tenth anniversary of the Sex Pistols concert at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester on June 4th 1976. This was irritating because the Sex Pistols were from London, and most people my age didn’t feel that they were massively important to our lives in 1986. And then there was the obvious question which no-one seemed to ask at the time: how come John Lydon and Malcolm McClaren aren’t on the bill?
Even worse, the punk theme excluded most black performers from the event, including some of Factory Records own acts.
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On the day, the Tenth Event was as peculiar and disconnected as the intentions of its organisers.
GMEX was impressive and the crowd were in good spirits on arrival, but most were pre-occupied with queuing for beer, and took no interest in what was happening on stage.
I watched all the early acts close up because there wasn’t much competition for space at the front. It made sense that The Fall, John Cooper Clarke and Pete Shelley were there, but there was general confusion about the presence of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, John Cale and Sandie Shaw. OMD looked really uncomfortable on stage, (perhaps they too were asking themselves ‘Why are we here?) and people heckled John Cale. To most of us, he was just an old bloke playing a piano; not a punk and not local.
Paul Morley and Bill Grundy tried to pull it all together but they were like a couple of college lecturers and nobody was listening.
Then at some point I realised I’d lost my ticket. As the crowd enclosures filled up, the bouncers were demanding to see tickets to check that people were in the right place. Bouncers were leaping over barriers, man-handling some people and throwing them out!
Terrified that I might be next, I scuttled back to my place and stayed put for the rest of the evening. I was miles away from the stage; when the Smiths came on they were just little specks in the distance. Even they got a luke warm response from the crowd, making me feel like a freak for being excited to see them!
The crowd didn’t gel until right at the end when New Order were due to play. But then the band ruined it by making us wait for about 45 minutes; the crowd entertained itself by doing mexican waves, but the good cheer felt strained. There was great relief when New Order finally appeared but this soon turned to disappointment when they only played half a dozen songs.