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Ben Adams: 'I realised you could make a career as a DJ'

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As House got the UK dancing again, I foresook architecture for the club scene, says Ben Adams

House music arrived in the UK from the Warehouse club in Chicago and I loved it immediately. Against a backdrop of  Thatcherism, post-punk gloom and whiny rock, it was fresh and optimistic. At the toe-end of the 1980s, House settled across the country in a haze of basslines, beats, piano sounds and ecstasy. Like so many others, I wanted to know how it was made. I bought two turntables and a mixer, determined to become a DJ.

The North of England, and especially Manchester, was the centre of the House music scene. Of all the clubs and venues that hosted those memorable nights it is the Hacienda that stood out as the defining club. We spent our Saturday afternoons driving north on the M6 to arrive in the early evening for a pint of Boddingtons in the Dry Bar before heading over to the ‘Haç’ at about 10pm. Ben Kelly’s interior was vibrant and traffic-themed. Graeme Park was the resident DJ and came to define the Hacienda sound. Graeme was revered by clubbers and yet he remained affable and approachable at a time before the superstar DJ really existed.

I played at smaller clubs and venues further south and realised you could make a career as a DJ if you loved the music and had some commercial nous. A highlight was playing alongside Park one endless summer evening in Cambridge, with a great crowd and a fabulous venue in a tent by the river Cam. We spun tunes and danced until the sun came up. In the weeks that followed I began to fall in love with architecture again, and concluded that you can only do one thing really well – and that architecture had a greater pull over me than music.

The Hacienda was later immortalised in 24 Hour Party People and we began to realise we had been at the centre of an amazing cultural moment. 

  • Ben Adams is founding director of Ben Adams Architects
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