Don’t Hang the DJ

Emily Whitehouse

Having lived in Manchester for over two years, I decided it was about time I attended the much loved Smiths Disco at the Star and Garter. The popular night has been running successfully since 1994 and with the new wave of 80’s revival pouring into Manchester, it is no surprise that it shows no signs of stopping now.

The walk from Piccadilly Gardens was longer than envisaged, especially on a cold November night, and saw me and my friends venturing out to a less than salubrious part of Manchester which we were not accustomed to. The pub itself was rather secluded and from the outside looked totally run down; honestly, it was a complete dive. As I walked up to the steps of the side door (the main door was chained shut) I was certain I was in the wrong place; could this really be the venue of the famous Smiths Disco? If it was not for the faint sound of Morrissey’s melodic tones spilling from the top floor, I’m sure I would have turned around right then, convinced I’d come to the wrong place. Thankfully I didn’t.

As I ascended the stairs, leaving the quiet, outdated bar behind me, the pub’s aesthetic appearance did not improve. Despite this, coupled with the poetic resonance of The Smiths, the Star and Garter did in fact have a certain charm about it and actually suited the indifferent, carefree attitude of the night as a whole.

On entering the upstairs bar, I was met by a sea of 80’s throwbacks, most of whom were sporting dedicated Morrissey-esque quiffs. This is not to say however that the audience was not varied, in fact it was very much so. It seems that the disco attracts the young and mature alike, from new fans to old, all coming together in appreciation of their idols. Every single person appeared to be an avid Smiths fan, singing along with great passion and dancing with so much enthusiasm and energy that each could have rivalled Mozza himself. I half expected them to begin swinging gladioli above their heads.

DJ and organiser of the night, Dave Cotrill, has clearly scoured every vinyl shop in Manchester to create his large collection of Morrissey records and therefore does not simply play the crowd pleasers (although This Charming Man did make a welcome appearance). Despite the Smiths Disco being the world’s longest running Smiths night, it is, and has always been, Cotrill’s only DJ job. His set is therefore not polished and each song not seamlessly woven into the next; not that this matters to his hordes of loyal regulars. He is also responsible for the large bed sheet strewn across the wall behind the DJ box which displays projections of popular films from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s throughout the night.

The upstairs bar consisted of a small room just off the dance floor which had only one member of staff. Not that this was a problem as most people were too busy dancing to actually fit in regular trips to the bar. What was a slight problem however were the rather steep drink prices; a pint of cheap lager was £3.45 and the cans were just as costly. Okay, so perhaps I’m simply used to student-orientated nights, but to me that seems expensive. I would definitely advise pre-drinks to fellow skint students.

If you are a Smiths fan then this night is a must, however even if you simply have a vague interest in the band, the atmosphere will keep you dancing right until the very end- and a quiff isn’t even essential!  If you can get past the grotty exterior of the pub and brave it through Manchester’s red light district, then I would certainly recommend this night.

The Smiths Disco runs every first and third Friday of the month at the Star and Garter.

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