Tales From Clubbing Hell sees DJs, artists and writers tell us about their worst clubbing experiences. This week writer, actor and bad-clubber, James Wilson-Taylor, recounts his night out in a pound-a-shot Athletics Social
Location: Manchester (Closed 2009)
Dress Code: Top Man Timberlake/Lambrini Chic
Music: Watered down Timbaland beats/Anything by Keri Hilson (remember her?)
The Royale theatre before it ever experienced the harrowing ordeal of an AU Social at M2
It’s a tale as old as time – spotty young virgin arrives in the big city for Uni; virgin meets a pretty young flyerer promising free drinks; virgin follows said pretty young flyerer into nightclub; virgin has terrible evening; virgin questions every decision he has ever made.
I found myself in the middle of fresher’s week 2007, surrounded by other similarly naive young students with no idea where else to go. And so, off we went en masse to pay a fiver for the privilege of an hour-long queue in the cold, watching boys in front of us being thrown into the gutter for wearing the wrong t-shirt, before maybe being lucky enough to reach the glamorous heights of the weekly AU social inside. This was the draw – the Athletics Union used M2 as their party base and otherwise sensible people were turned into gullible idiots, rushing for tickets on the off chance they might get to cop off with someone with a hockey player’s physique. And as one of those idiots, I braved the weather, dodged the puddles of vomit and avoided eye contact with the seedy Robert Pattinson look-alike getting blown in the stairwell in the hope that some blonde netball player might have a thing for gingers under 6 ft.
M2 sat on King Street in the site of a former theatre, an incredible building from the outside, its original columns and signage still intact, that had since been gutted out on the inside, the stalls now a dancefloor in the centre of a giant circus ring with the #lads surveying and catcalling the ‘talent’ from the former dress circle area over platters of VK orange like a hornier version of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets.
In its heyday, M2 was full of huge moments like this
All the staples of a cynical student-aimed club were present and correct: the cash machine that charges £3 per transaction; the green shots in faux test tubes from the set of ‘Young Frankenstein’; the single rogue Hen party who took a wrong turn off Oxford Road and can’t find an exit. On AU nights, they would apply a theme to the décor, which on this first night was a beach theme, consisting largely of inflatable palm trees being used as Gladiators style clubs and the world’s least appealing jacuzzi, cornered off by a velvet rope with only a handful of hired models allowed entry. The tickets also encouraged beach themed fancy dress, so I spent this chilly September night in Manchester in a bright yellow t-shirt, green shorts and some oversized Kanye shutter shades from H&M.
Feeling awkward as hell next to the rugby players and swimming captains, I aimed to find the friends I had lost in the queue and headed up the stairs for a better view. I was halted by a group of the Muppet lads who, frustrated by the lack of attention they were receiving, stole my shitty shutter shades and pushed me back down the stairs and flat onto my arse. After complaining to a bouncer who kindly told me to "fuck right off", I aimed to reason with the Muppets as those shades had cost me eight quid and could be used for further fancy dress. Unconvinced, the Muppets entertained themselves further by throwing the shades into the VIP Jacuzzi, irretrievable behind the velvet rope whose guardian bouncer also instructed me to "fuck right off", like it was the club catchphrase or something. Fuming, I roamed the dancefloor looking out for anyone I recognised when the world’s least eco-friendly smoke machine decided to erupt and cloud my view. I scurried out into the foyer, alone, in flip-flops and pondering the futility of life. Could this really be what clubbing was like in Manchester? I’d seen 24 Hour Party People countless times, I’d listened to New Order and the Stone Roses, I was aware of the existence of Bez – final night of the Hacienda this was not.
It was at this point that one of my more streetwise hall mates emerged from nowhere armed with a pile of Smirnoff Ice bottles and encouraged me to "run before the bouncer catches me". Several free strawpedos later, I was in a much happier mood, suddenly finding the sticky dancefloor alluring as we improvised "Singing In The Rain" based dance moves to Rihanna’s "Umbrella". I doubt I even need to clarify there was no netball player action that night.
M2 shut its doors about a year and a half or so later, a victim of its own cheap and cheerful pricing. It would briefly reopen as the aptly named Coliseum; perhaps a nod to the Caligula vibe they had spent so long perfecting. And yet, much like the final days of the Roman Empire, nothing could be done to stop the inevitable – M2 had already fucked itself to death in an orgy of quad-vods and foam parties and the remains were crumbling fast.
I recently found myself back in Manchester and took a wander down King Street. The building now lies derelict, no one willing to take on the challenge of reviving its former glories. And yet, whilst I’m glad M2 is well and truly dead, a part of me does hope that one day some Tony Robinson figure might dig up whatever WKD soaked fossils lie within that beautiful architecture and marvel at the great early Twenty First Century hedonsim that occurred within its walls.