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Factory records exhibition opens at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum

15th July 2021 By Sarah Black
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A major exhibition, curated to tell the story of Factory Records formative years opened last month at Manchester’s Science and Industry museum. ‘Use hearing protection: The early years of Factory Records’ was originally delayed a year due to lockdown restrictions and explores the independent record labels innovative work in music, technology and design; and how it contributed to Manchester’s authentic voice and distinctive identity it remains renowned for today. Founded by Tony Wilson and Alan Erasmus, the music label played an influential part in the city’s transformation from an industrial powerhouse to becoming a beacon of art and culture.

As well as having dozens of artefacts on display, the exhibition shows how the label went on to influence not just music but art, fashion and even Manchester itself, from the 70s to the present day. From the official Factory catalogue, including creations from Joy Division, New Order and The Durutti Column, to graphic designs by Peter Saville, previously unseen items from the Factory archives, and objects loaned from the estates of both Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton, the former manager of Joy Division and New Order.

Peter Saville still to this day is the UK’s most famous Graphic designer, celebrated for his work at Factory records. Retired or not, in 2013, his name is pretty much the only one in the field that might spark a flicker of recognition in someone who does not have a membership to the Design Museum and an ongoing subscription to Creative Review. Yet the designs on which Saville’s reputation rests are all between 25 and 35 years old: the diagram of a pulsar’s radio waves that are on the cover of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and the stark photos of tombs on their album Closer and the single Love Will Tear Us Apart. Furthermore, his most famous pieces of work are all record sleeves, that he now calls “a dead art” due to the rise in digitalisation of music through platforms such as Spotify, that he had no interest in pursuing after he turned the age of 30. 

At the new exhibition you can fully immerse yourself in the world of Factory Records and even get to experience a night out like no other with their tribute to The Factory night at the Russell Club. Just plug in and play, you can bring your own headphones and create your own unique versions of iconic tracks with their synthesizer and mixing desk inside the exhibit. In addition to this you can also explore how the city lived during those years and how music brought people together to party with crowdsourced photographs from the People’s Archive.