What Tony Wilson did for Manchester Businesses

“This is Manchester; We do things differently here…”

Tony Wilson would (and should) have been celebrating his 67th birthday today (20.02.2017), but unfortunately was taken from us, far too early, in 2007. Known as “Mr Manchester”, he was primarily credited with helping to put the Manchester cultural scene on the map — in particular music. He was a co-founder of the Indie record label, Factory Records and a co-owner of world famous Hacienda nightclub, amongst other things. But, like anything successful, it can spill over into other areas of the life of a city

And one of those other areas is business and economic growth. There’s no denying that Manchester is in the middle of exponential economic growth. You only have to look at the sector-leading expansion of digital in the city centre, not to mention the rapid development of Media City, to understand why Manchester is becoming such an important part of the “Northern Powerhouse” initiative.

And it’s my belief that, indirectly, in some small part, Tony Wilson and his relentless, heart-filled promotion of his city helped at the embryonic stage of Manchester becoming the boom city that it is today.

And, his legacy is not finished yet. The Factory Project, named after Tony’s company, is a £110m arts venue is scheduled for completion in 2019 and will be a permanent home for the biennial Manchester International Festival, which also serves to bring many visitors and revenue into the city. Funded by government to the tune of £78m with the rest coming from private funding, the new building will house all theatre, TV, music and the usual aspects of a major international arts festival.

In his own lifetime, however, Tony famously never made any money. It is well documented how he had to accept donations to fund his extortionately expensive cancer treatment. To quote him on the Hacienda project “We made history, not money”. But it is the absolute adoration of his hometown that made Tony Wilson the legend that he is. And, I guess, the Manchester business community is grateful.