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Welcome to the official Distractions website. We will be aiming to record the history of one of the greatest, but least heralded, of all Manchester beat groups.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Zoo Meets Factory Half-Way

FAC 15. (c) Manchester District Music Archive.

The Leigh Festival took place over the August bank holiday weekend of 1979. The last day, Monday 27th August, was "headlined" (or is that "first on"?) by The Distractions and the day was billed as Zoo Meets Factory Half-Way. The Peter Saville poster for the event was denoted FAC15, with the tag line "Zoo Records and Factory Records bring you the flesh that brought you the vinyl". Interestingly, these may have been created AFTER the event, according to some sources on the Factory Records archive. Leigh is literally half way between Liverpool and Manchester, and so halfway between two of the most famous independent record labels in musical history, Zoo and Factory.

Bill Drummond, founder of Zoo and of course later of KLF, recalls the day, and more, in his book 45:
Tony Wilson phoned me from Factory Records. They had started at about the same time as Zoo. There was some sort of friendly rivalry between the two labels, which mirrored the less friendly rivalry that existed between the two cities of Liverpool and Manchester. There had even been a rather sad and pathetic attempt at a festival in the summer of '79 - 'Factory meets Zoo Half-way" - on some derelict ground outside Warrington. Tony Wilson tried to dissuade me from signing the Bunnymen to a major label. He told me that it doesn't have to be this way, that joy Division, as we spoke, were recording an album to be released on Factory. We should do the same with the Bunnymen. Up until then none of the rah of indie record labels that had sprung up around the UK in the wake of the Punk DIY ethic had produced anything but seven-inch singles. As far as I was concerned, this was part and parcel of some vague ideology. I assumed that most people out there running small independent labels must think the same way. That they too were going for the eternal glory of pop and the seven-inch single. The Alan Hornes, the Bob Lasts. So when Tony Wilson implied I was selling out and buckling in to the power and money of London, I didn't get what he meant. As far as I was concerned he was the one compromising, by giving in to the indulgent muso tendencies of Joy Division and letting them record an album for Factory. (There is another side to this. We were skint. Tony Wilson was on telly every night earning loads of money. We needed the cash the southern bastards could tempt us with.)"
Drummond also wrote about the Leigh Festival in the Guardian:
Ring, ring. I pick up he phone: 'Bill, is that you?' And before I had time to say yes, or no, or you've got the wrong number, he's off. It's always the same with Tony Wilson. 'I've got this idea, we'll do a festival, we call it Factory Meets Zoo Halfway. We have it halfway between Manchester and Liverpool. You bring your bands and I bring mine.' 'Whereabouts?' 'Leigh, I've got the field booked, staging, the PA and lights. It's going to be on...' 'Who is going to promote it, Tony?' 'Don't worry Bill, people will come.' But that was it - as far as Tony was concerned it was all sorted and agreed. That's what's great about Tony Wilson; it's also what drives people up the wall about him. I turned up on the given date with my bands, as Tony called them, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. Tony bought his. There was a field, a stage, a PA system, even lights, but there were next to no people. Just a few friends of the bands and some kids from the local council estate. This was the summer of '79. Both mine and Tony's bands meant little in the national pop consciousness. Whatever impact and legacy they were gonna leave was in the future.
Tony Wilson's account in the Manchester Evening News:

'It was April 1979 and this guy from Leigh rang me', recalls Tony Wilson. 'He said 'we're putting this festival on and you've got some bands, haven't you?''. The stage for the Leigh Festival might have been impressive, but the booking wasn't. A few weeks before the festival Wilson decided to take matters into his own hands. 'I said 'give me a day and I'll give you the bands.' So I phoned the guys at [seminal Liverpool label] Zoo and we called it Zoo Meets Factory Half-way. It was FAC15.' The line-up was impressive but the turn out less so. 82 people turned up. Mick Middles had already persuaded Sounds to run a full page review and the headline was 'They threw a party and no-one came'. 'The thing was,' recalls Wilson, 'that all those bands broke big two months later. If you'd run the festival six months later 10,000 people would have turned up. But we didn't, and 82 did.'

One of the 82 was Kevin Cummins, who recollects in the Guardian:
"One day of this three-day festival was entitled Factory meets Zoo Halfway [a bit of Manc bias there?]. It was a bank holiday and there as a transport strike. Very few people managed to make it to Leigh, but the gig has attained legendary status due to the bill: In one afternoon we saw: The Distractions, the Bunnymen, OMD, Lori and the Chameleons, ACR, the Teardrop Explodes and Joy Division. All for two quid."
Stickers from the Leigh Festival. (c) Killermiller at Cerysmatic Factory.
Brilliantly, you can now get Leigh Festival t-shirts from the Cerysmatic Factory site which must be one of the few ranges of clothing to bear the Distractions label.
Leigh Festival T-shirt. (c) Cerysmatic Factory.
A Jon Savage article about the Leigh Festival appeared a few years later in a 1983 issue of NME:
Leigh Valley Festival
ZOO met Factory half-way (between Liverpool and Manchester) and very few came.
Blame it on the site - hastily prepared fields a mile outside Leigh, surrounded by an East Lancs landscape of collieries, slag-heaps, bare hills sloping into dull 1930's estates and the inevitable Victorian mill. Inaccessibility and uncertain weather, plus inadequate promotion / media coverage, resulted in a turn-out (200) a tenth of the original estimate.

Joy Division come into the dark like a late-night horror movie - scary but right. Sabotaged to an extent by poor sound - the interplay between instruments needs more careful preparation than the time allowed - the exorcised the increasing cold with cinematic, metallic blocks of noise.

Songs from the album - "Insight", "She's Lost Control" among others, the new single "Transmission", and the unrecorded "Colony", "Dead Souls" (with a stunning chorus) and the final "Sound of Music". Two encores, and general dancing.
Apply the truism: you should have been there. - JON SAVAGE.
Agreed, you should have been there, because as the cover to the Zoo Meets Factory bootleg CD confirms, not many were there.

Zoo Meets Factory bootleg. (c) 2522zoo meets factort2522 at photobucket.

We'll finish with this comment from Dave Wright at the Manchester District Music Archive: "I went to this gig with Steve Perrin and Mike Finney of The Distractions as I was going out with Steve's sister Gill (where are you now?). It was so cool, I was really starstruck, because I got to meet Ian Curtis and Pete Hook. Pete Hook reckoned The Distractions would chart before Joy Division and had a £5 bet with Mike Finney on it. I wonder if he ever paid him?"...

1 comment:

  1. Them t-shirts are bootlegs mate. The originals had no band names on and were white and red, designed by Merilyn Seddon from Culcheth. It wasn't a black T-Shirt festival at all.


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