Music guru put Manchester on map
Tony Wilson, the Factory Records founder portrayed in the film “24 Hour Party People” who put Manchester, England, on the map as “Madchester” with such acts as Joy Division, the Happy Mondays and New Order, died Friday of a heart attack after a long bout with kidney cancer. He was 57.
Label entrepreneur and nightclub owner battled cancer since late fall, but the heart attack was not related to his cancer treatments, according to doctors. He died in Manchester’s Christie Hospital, of which a spokesman said Wilson had been a “very great supporter.”
He founded Factory Records in 1978, the Hacienda nightclub in 1982 as well as the Dry Bar, and he managed the label’s biggest acts. Steve Coogan portrayed him in the 2002 film “24 Hour Party People,” a fanciful riff on Wilson’s heyday in Manchester.
Members of the bands he had championed rallied financially this year after the government turned down funding that would have paid for his expensive treatments, which doctors had recommended after he underwent emergency kidney removal in January and chemotherapy failed.
A native of Salford, in the greater Manchester area, he graduated from Cambridge and became a broadcast journalist for Granada, for which he ran the music series “So It Goes” (he booked the Sex Pistols on the show early on) and current-affairs program “World in Action” during the 1970s. His Hacienda club hosted world-class raves for the next two decades, and bands such as Oasis performed there.
But while Wilson had an ear for music and the zeitgeist, he wasn’t the best businessman: The Hacienda failed financially and closed in 1997; Factory went bust in 1992. Wilson himself famously didn’t make much money.
A longtime political activist, he also became the main presenter on the BBC’s “Politics Show North West.”
Wilson is survived by his wife and children.