Long after its demise, Factory Records remains one of the country’s most iconic labels, but few shows have so carefully reexamined its legacy as Use Hearing Protection – the Science and Industry Museum’s deep dive into the early years of the label, currently running until January 3, 2022. More tickets have just been released for this great show, so don’t delay in booking now via any of the links below. 

The show gathers together iconic artefacts and private memorabilia that plots the story of the first four years of Factory, from 1978-1982, alongside its first 50 numbered releases. It’s a lot to take in, from iconic items like Ian Curtis’ Vox Phantom guitar to the atmospheric Gig Room – and that means it’s easy to miss the smaller things. So here’s a quick round up of a few pieces to look out for on your first (or maybe return) visit.


Ian Curtis’ complaint letter

Famously a hard ear to please, Ian Curtis penned a very critical letter about the production on Unknown Pleasures – one masterminded by notorious producer and self-declared genius Martin Hannett, and now regarded as one of the most iconic pieces of production in rock history.

The first Factory Records vinyl, 1978

Fac-2, A Factory Sample, set out the label’s visual and audio ambitions. Like everything, it began with Wilson putting his hand in his own pocket to pay for it, then came fantastic music from the likes of Joy Division and The Durutti Column, an unconventional pair of 7-inch singles to make it an EP, and Peter Saville’s utterly impractical monochrome sleeve – printed on silver-dyed rice paper and protected only by thin plastic bag. A real stall setter.

Rob Gretton’s infamous notebooks

A prolific scribbler, Gretton was a man bursting with ideas, questions and plans – as his packed notebooks of unfiltered thoughts attest. He even sketched out gig posters; don’t miss the pad with his Joy Division poster plans in it.

Zoo Meets Factory Half-way poster

The perfect summary of Wilson’s ambitious nature and brilliant ear, Fac-15 documents a show we’d all beg for a seat in a time machine to go back to: top Factory names, plus Echo & The Bunnymen, OMD, The Teardrop Explodes… just so many. Also clock the travel advice at the bottom, “Use your wits or use the bus”, in which Wilson’s can-do personality lives on loudly.

Meet the women of Factory in Amplified Stories

As much as Wilson, Saville, Erasmus and Gretton get the headline press, Factory relied on an amazing mixed team – and at its heart were five equally incredible women. Learn about Lindsay Reade, Lesley Gilbert, Gillian Gilbert, Ann Quigley, and the artist Linder in this section of the show.

Stephen Morris’ Synare 3 Synth Drum

The digital drum that gave She’s Lost Control its distinctive sound (what Morris himself describes as “the bit that sounds like a flock of pigeons”), this is actually his replacement drum after making She’s Lost Control killed his first Synare.

A Manchester Wire Partnership post
Science and Industry Museum,
Liverpool Road Manchester M3 4FP

Sarah Walters
Published on:
Tue 14 Sep 2021