Tony Wilson

Tony Wilson
Anthony "Tony" Wilson

Hosting TV discussion After Dark in 1988
Born 20 February 1950(1950-02-20)
Salford, Lancashire, England
Died 10 August 2007(2007-08-10) (aged 57)
Withington, Manchester, England
Resting place Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester
Nationality British
Education BA in English (University of Cambridge)
Occupation Journalist, TV presenter
Employer Granada TV, BBC North West
Known for Factory Records, Madchester impresario, The Haçienda nightclub

Anthony Howard Wilson, commonly known as Tony Wilson (20 February 1950 – 10 August 2007), was an English record label owner, radio presenter, TV show host, nightclub manager, impresario and journalist for Granada Television and the BBC.

Wilson was the music mogul behind some of Manchester's most successful bands. He was the founder and manager of The Haçienda nightclub, and was one of the five co-founders of Factory Records. Wilson was also known as Mr. Manchester,[1][2] dubbed as such for his work in promoting the greater cultural status of Manchester throughout his career. He was portrayed by actor Steve Coogan in Michael Winterbottom's 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, and by Craig Parkinson in Anton Corbijn's 2007 film Control.


Early life

Wilson was born 20 February 1950 in Hope Hospital, Salford, Lancashire to Sydney Wilson and Doris Knupfer (who was 20 years her husband's senior), and moved to Marple, Stockport at the age of 5.[3] His maternal grandfather was German. After passing his Eleven plus exam, Wilson attended the De La Salle Grammar School in Weaste Lane, Pendleton, Salford. He developed a love of literature and language, ignited by a performance of Hamlet at Stratford upon Avon.[4] Wilson started his professional career in 1968 at the age of 17, working as an English and Drama teacher at Blue Coat School in Oldham.[5] He later graduated with a degree in English from Jesus College, Cambridge.[3]

Broadcasting career

Hosting After Dark during Easter 1991

After his graduation in 1971, Wilson began as a trainee news reporter for ITN, before moving to Manchester in 1973, where he secured a post at Granada Television. He went on to present Granada's culture, music and events programme, So It Goes. Through the 1970s and 1980s he was one of the main anchors on Granada Reports, a regional evening news programme, where he worked with Richard and Judy among others. He continued in this line of work even at the height of his success in the music industry.

In 1989, Wilson hosted The Other Side of Midnight, another Granada weekly regional culture slot, covering music, literature and the arts in general. Its Sunday night slot made it one of the UK's first experiments in late night weekend TV. He reported for ITV's celebrated current affairs series, World in Action in the early 1980s and also hosted Channel 4's After Dark, the UK's first open-ended, late night chat show, in which he chaired loose discussions in a darkened studio between intellectuals and celebrities of various descriptions, often in various stages of inebriation. Wilson co-anchored the BBC's coverage of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in 1992. He hosted the short-lived TV quiz shows Topranko! and MTV Europe's Remote Control in the 1990s, as well as the Manchester United themed quiz, Masterfan, for MUTV.

In 2006 he became the regional political presenter for the BBC's The Politics Show. He presented a weekly radio show on Xfm Manchester - Sunday Roast - and a show on BBC Radio Manchester. In October he joined Blur bassist Alex James, Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and previously unknown presenter Emily Rose to host the 21st century version of the iconic 80s music programme, "The Tube", for Channel 4 Radio which ran until 2 March 2007. His final music TV show was filmed in December 2006 for Manchester's Channel M. Only one episode of the programme - entitled 'The New Friday' - was recorded before Wilson became ill.

Music career

Wilson's involvement in popular music stemmed from hosting Granada's culture and music programme "So It Goes". Wilson, who intensely disliked the music scene of the mid 1970s, saw the Sex Pistols at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, in June 1976, an experience which he described as "nothing short of an epiphany".[6] He booked them for the last episode of the first series, probably the first television showing of the then-revolutionary British strand of punk rock.

He was the manager of many bands, including A Certain Ratio and The Durutti Column, and was part owner and manager of Factory Records, home of the Happy Mondays, Joy Division, and New Order - the band managed by friend and business partner Rob Gretton. He also founded and managed The Haçienda nightclub and Dry bar, together forming a central part of the music and cultural scene of Manchester. The scene was termed "Madchester".

He made little money from Factory Records or the Haçienda, despite the enormous popularity and cultural significance of both endeavours.[7] Both Factory Records and the Haçienda came to an abrupt end in the late 1990s.

A semi-fictionalised version of his life and of the surrounding era was made into the 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People, which stars the comedian Steve Coogan as Wilson. After the film was produced, Wilson wrote a novelization based on the screenplay. He played a minor role (playing himself) in the 2005 film, A Cock and Bull Story, in which his character interviews Steve Coogan. Wilson also co-produced the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic, Control (his character this time being played by Craig Parkinson). He died a few months before its release.

Wilson was a partner in the annual "In The City" music festival and industry conference, and also F4 Records, the fourth version of Factory Records, which was set up to be an online distributor for Wilson's long term protégé Vini Reilly, of The Durutti Column. F4 also released music by Manchester based bands RaW-T and The Young Offenders Institute.


Wilson was an outspoken supporter of regionalism.[8] Along with others including Ruth Turner, he started a campaign for North West England to be allowed a referendum on the creation of a regional assembly, called "The Necessary Group"[9] after a line in the United States Declaration of Independence. Although his campaign was successful, with the Government announcing that a vote would take place, this was later abandoned when North East England voted against the introduction of a regional tier of government. Wilson later spoke at several political events on this subject. He was also known for using Situationist ideas.[10]


Wilson was married twice, first to Lindsay Reade and then to Hilary, with whom he had a son, Oliver, and a daughter, Isabel. In 1990 he started a relationship with Yvette Livesey, a former Miss England and Miss UK, who was his girlfriend until his death in 2007[11] Livesey has since co-operated with a biography of Wilson's life – called You're Entitled To An Opinion ... – written by David Nolan and published in 2009.[12]


After developing renal cancer, and having one kidney removed in 2007, Wilson wished to take the drug sunitinib (aka Sutent), the £3,500 per month cost of which was not funded by the Manchester Primary Care Trust. He was turned down by the NHS, while patients being treated alongside him at the Christie Hospital and living just a few miles away in Cheshire received funding for the medication, for other conditions.

A number of Wilson's music industry friends, including former Happy Mondays manager Nathan McGough and their current manager, Elliot Rashman and TV stars Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, formed a fund to help pay for Wilson's medical treatment.[13]

Wilson said: "This [Sutent] is my only real option. It is not a cure but can hold the cancer back, so I will probably be on it until I die. When they said I would have to pay £3,500 for the drugs each month, I thought where am I going to find the money? I'm the one person in this industry who famously has never made any money. I used to say some people make money and some make history, which is very funny until you find you can't afford to keep yourself alive. I've never paid for private healthcare because I'm a socialist. Now I find you can get tummy tucks and cosmetic surgery on the NHS but not the drugs I need to stay alive. It is a scandal."[13]


In early 2007 emergency surgery was performed to remove one of his kidneys.[14] This forced the postponement of plans to create a southern hemisphere version of the In The City festival.[15] Despite the surgery, the cancer progressed and a course of chemotherapy was not effective. Wilson died of a heart attack in Manchester's Christie Hospital on 10 August 2007 aged 57.[16][17] Following the news of his death, the Union Flag on Manchester Town Hall was lowered to half mast as a mark of respect.[18]

As with everything else in the Factory empire, Tony Wilson's coffin was also given a Factory catalogue number - FAC 501.[19] He is buried at the Southern Cemetery in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester.[20] His black granite[20] headstone, erected in October 2010,[21] was designed by Peter Saville and Ben Kelly of Factory Records[21] and features a quotation, chosen by Wilson's family,[20] from G Linnaeus Banks's 1876 novel The Manchester Man,[20][21] set in Rotis font.[20]


  1. ^ Malkin, Bonnie (11 August 2007). "'Mr Manchester' Tony Wilson dies". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "Tributes paid to 'Mr Manchester'". BBC News. 11 August 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Taylor, Paul (10 August 2007). "Wilson put city on the map". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  4. ^ Morley, Paul (13 August 2007). "Tony Wilson. Record label boss and broadcaster with twin passions: music and Manchester". The Guardian.,,2147392,00.html. 
  5. ^ Ferguson, James (16 August 2007). "Tributes to the former town teacher—also known as Mr Manchester". Oldham Advertiser: p. 3. 
  6. ^ Sean O'Hagan. "Guardian interview on the release of 24 Hour Party People".,6737,661059,00.html. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  7. ^ Music Careers: Tony Wilson Retrieved on 2008-08-09
  8. ^ Shaughnessy, Jessica (11 August 2007). "Liverpool tributes to Tony Wilson". Liverpool Daily Post. 
  9. ^ Liverpool Links: Business[dead link] Retrieved on 9 August 2008
  10. ^ Factory Records Profile Retrieved on 9 August 2008
  11. ^ "Tony Wilson". The Daily Telegraph. 13 August 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2008. 
  12. ^ Donohue, Simon (15 July 2009). "Nolan's truthful tribute to Tony". CityLife. 
  13. ^ a b "Friends fund Wilson's cancer drug". BBC News. 11 July 2007. 
  14. ^ "Obituary: Tony Wilson". BBC News. 10 August 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  15. ^ Collins, Simon (9 February 2007). "Music showcase postponed after founder in surgery drama". The West Australian. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2007. 
  16. ^ "Family Notices - Manchester Evening News". Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  17. ^ "Factory Records founder Anthony Wilson dies from cancer". Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  18. ^ Crook, Amanda (13 August 2007). "'Wilson extraordinary' - Yvette". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 15 August 2007. 
  19. ^ "Tony Wilson and his coffin". Retrieved 30 August 2007. 
  20. ^ a b c d e Burgoyne, Patrick (2010-10-22). "- Saville and Kelly's memorial to Tony Wilson". Retrieved 27 October 2010. 
  21. ^ a b c Lynskey, Dorian (2010-10-26). "A fitting headstone for Tony Wilson's grave". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2010. 

External links

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