Chris Hughes: Do You Own The Dancefloor?

In Features by Samuel Love

Do You Own The Dancefloor? is a new documentary film telling the strange story of what happened to the iconic Haçienda Club in Manchester, after it closed its doors for the last time in 1997. On the 25th of November 2000, the club was auctioned off…piece by piece. The film tells the stories of the people who bought bits of the legendary venue – from the dancefloor to the toilets – and why the club still means so much to them.

We spoke to first-time director Chris Hughes about his experience making the film, the significance of the Haçienda, and the experience of making your debut film.

What inspired you to make a film about the Haçienda? Do you have any personal connection to the club?
I went to the auction as I just knew it was an event not to be missed. I love music, and thought that in years to come I would look back and wish I’d have gone to the auction if I didn’t go. I was very much into indie at the time and the Haçienda nights I went to weren’t rave nights – it was very dark and not very full. The piece of wood on my wall that I bought at the auction was almost calling out for me to tell people this story. I love documentaries, in fact I’d say I’m obsessed with watching them! And I’ve always wanted to know how to make a film…It was just that at the start I had no idea how to do that, having never made one before.

Well, it seems to have worked out for you! Was it easier or harder than you expected? Were there any surprises along the way?
A lot harder than expected. I nearly gave up a few times, but I’m a completer and am so glad I didn’t stop. I’m thinking of writing a book about how to make a documentary when you’ve never made one. The biggest surprise was really how much effort it takes to stay on top of it all. Emails, calls, interviews, paying for things, finding new people to interview…The hardest thing I think is keeping a record of everything. Who gave you which photo, and have you got a release form for it, and what did you say to each person, do you need to ask a linking question in the next interview to put them together…the list goes on.

At least you weren’t alone – the film was made by yourself and a small group of people, all working for free. Was this a passion project?
Absolutely. I was amazed by how many people wanted to help. I had about 15 people working on the team overall. It was said by Trevor Johnson – who used to design a lot of the Factory posters and design work – that the way we were working reminded him of how Factory worked, in that a lot of like-minded people got together to try and create something.

The Haçienda still lives strongly in the hearts and memories of many people. Why do you think this is? What do you think made the club so special?
We asked everyone this question when we did the interviews. The stars aligned, and a lot of things came together at once. It just seemed to hit that time in a lot of people’s lives where they were a certain age, looking for a great night out and this amazing thing happened just at that time.

Do You Own The Dancefloor? is having its Manchester premiere on the 15th of August. Tell us a little bit about that.
We wanted to have a showing for the cast and crew, and to see if people in Manchester wanted to come along as well. The Royal Northern College of Music seemed like such a great place to have it. I’ve been there to see Dave Haslam interview David Byrne, and I loved the place.

What are your plans for the film, after the premiere? Is it getting a wide cinema release or will it be straight to DVD?
As we speak we are working on getting it shown at cinemas and film festivals.

Excellent! What’s next for you?
I’ll have to see!

Finally, do you have any advice for any other up and comers wanting to make their first film?
Yes; if in doubt whether to ask for something always go for it, but always ask nicely. Never ever give up – don’t just try and make a film, make it. And enjoy the ride.

Do You Own The Dancefloor? has its charity premiere on the 15th of August at The Royal Northern College of Music, with all proceeds going to Cancer Research and Kidneys for Life. Tickets are available here