Pubs of Manchester

All pubs within the city centre and beyond.
A history of Manchester's hundreds of lost pubs.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Rafters / Jilly's / Music Box, Oxford Street

Rafters, Oxford Street, 1978. (c) Manchester Music District Archive.

Hearing about the closure [1] of a heavy rock / goth club (Jilly's Rockworld and Music Box, below) would barely rasie an eyebrow to most modern day Mancunian music aficionados, except for those that knew their history. Originally this venue was arguably one of the centres of the creative bursts that spawned Joy Division, The Fall, The Smiths, etc. in the wake of Buzzcocks in the late 1970s.

Fagin's first opened at street level on Oxford Street in 1970, hosting the likes of Cliff Richard, Lulu and Scott Walker, the club downstairs opening a few years later as Rafters. By 1977, soon-to-be Joy Division manager Rob Gretton was a promoter at Rafters, putting on Slaughter & The Dogs, Magazine, Warsaw etc. The following year, on 17th April 1978, the Stiff Test / Chiswick Challenge was held at Rafters.
Joy Division were seventeenth on, watched by Anthony H Wilson, Alan Erasmus and Gretton (three gents who were about to start Factory Records), who remembers "...they went on about ten to two and they were blazing madmen. And I just watched them. Great! Best band I've ever seen - and they sent a tingle up my spine. And I was dancing all over... I went up at the end telling them how brilliant I thought it was... And I went raving about them all next day [2]."
Also at this event performing were Paul Morley and Kevin Cummins who would go on to great things in the music industry - though not as musicians (their group The Negatives were a band hastily thrown together just for the night!). Rafters eventually closed in 1983, taken over by Jilly's, a small but popular rock club that had been across town near Piccadilly Station during the '70s - though not before some Rafters regulars had been snapped supping at the bar. Rather confusingly, upstairs then became Jilly's Rockworld and downstairs, the Music Box.

The bar in Rafters, 1983. (c) Manchester District Music Archive.


  1. Yes very sad news. A piece of Manchester's musical heritage and Fagins was actually the first club I went to when I started drinking in Mncr.

  2. Rockworld also played a big part in the early 1990's Madchester rave scene. Although The Hacienda got all the glory, one of the best all night weekly rave nights was held there on Fridays for a time. Hosted by New Dawn they even saw an early Prodigy do a live set there along with a lot of other big names in the scene. Could be a bit dodgy though, especially if you were not a regular.