In Manchester today, there are few remaining club nights as iconic as Hit & Run.
Curated by DJ and promoter Rich Reason, it has defined underground parties in the city for a whole generation of bass music fans – bringing the likes of Jamie XX, James Blake, Ben UFO, Big Narstie, Silkie, and many many more artists to Manchester for sell-out shows back when no one else was even thinking to book them.
First beginning as an ad-hoc weekly drum and bass night for students, Hit & Run has hosted parties at nearly every club in the city you can think of – packing out the likes of The Attic, Thirsty Scholar, Mint Lounge, Area 51, Factory, Ritz, Factory, Sake Bar, Antwerp Mansion, and Hidden.
It’s still very popular with the student crowd today – but has also garnered a strong local following.
Rich jokes it’s often acted as a “gateway” night to other alternative events in the city.
Over time, it’s grown from a student haunt to a popular go-to for locals as well, carving out a USP for itself as an alternative club night that straddles the more avante-garde side of bass music.
Now, this weekend, it will host a huge 15th-anniversary show at the Warehouse Project – combining the soundtrack of the last 15 years with some of their biggest booking highlights, celebrating everything that’s been before, with a heavy degree of Mancunian representation on the lineup.
On the eve of the anniversary show, The Manc looks back at fifteen years of Hit & Run in the city.
We sat down with Rich to talk about how Manchester’s club scene has evolved over time, his go-to post-rave curry house in Rusholme, and the role his club night has played in shaping how contemporary Manchester music is seen on the world stage today.
First arriving in Manchester in 2004, Hit & Run promoter Rich came to the city to do a music course – but soon enough found himself landing a number of residencies around the city at various bars and clubs, such as All That Jazz at the former Music Box (now a Tesco Express) and Po Na Na.
Drawn to Manchester by Mr Scruff and Marcus Intalex – who he describes as two of his heroes – he started flyering for Sankeys in the pre-Warehouse days, back when a lot of that team, Sacha Lord included, were still over there.
After getting a break DJing for APE – which still runs today – he then went on to be the first DJ ever to play at The Warehouse Project, taking the opening slot for Public Enemy when they played Boddingtons in 2006, and soon after that, landed upon an opportunity to start a weekly student drum and bass night at Po Na Na.
He’d previously run Hit & Run in Oxford with two friends, Riz Ahmed (of Star Wars fame) and Craig Carr, so when the opportunity arose, he decided to bring it up north to Manchester.
Bookings focused on local DJs, and following a co-sign from Tonn Piper – who started to come down regularly – the night went from strength to strength.
By the end of the first year, he’d welcomed a few headliners and brought down Chimpo and Chunky (now famous artists in their own right) for their first sets, and in the years that followed, the night moved from club to club, covering a decent amount of ground in the city.
Still, things weren’t always plain sailing.
Rich tells us of how, in the early days of his events, he often faced pushback from labels when he wanted to book one of their artists and pair them with a Mancunian DJ.
“It’s always blown me away, the sort of incredible talent we have on the doorstep in Manchester.”
“As an outsider, you can always see things more clearly. I don’t know, but it’s always been very clear to me that there’s always a huge wealth of talent in the city and something I’ve always tried to do, especially early on.
“Usually when you book a big artist they’d go ‘oh they come with this MC, you need to book this MC’ – I’ve always pushed back against that because I’ve always felt there was an incredible array of MCs in the city already.
“For example, the first Warehouse Project we did it was like 100% Mancunian MCs and you know we have a lot of the best and I think, ironically, when I first sort of started it wasn’t known so much as that.
“They were always there but they didn’t have the reputation, but now I don’t have to fight as hard to kind of like push for that Manchester representation.”
“I think now we’re recognised as that as having an absurd cornucopia of microphone talent in the city, whether it’s like Skittles or fox or DRS or Strategy or Chunky, I think they’re known now as some of the best”.
After about seven or eight years of doing every Monday night – sometimes 50 out of 52 in the year – Rich tells us he started to notice a shift in student club culture and made the move from focusing so much on the student weeklies, to hosting a few more weekend nights.
This, he said, meant that sometimes they would be doing 60 or 70 nights in a year – an experience he says was “pretty crazy”.
It was around that time that the night moved over to Antwerp Mansion – a venue that in later years became synonymous with student club culture – but, in fact, began as more of an underground neighbourhood haunt with nights showcasing quirky (and sometimes just outright weird) local bands.
“I was, in a way, the most commercial promoter there,” he says, adding: “They were doing so many like interesting, quirky things and I think people forget that Antwerp wasn’t really like a student venue early doors”.
There were some memorable Hit & Run nights there, including one in which large chunks of the ceiling came down thanks to the pure power coming out of the soundsystem – but ultimately, Rich made the decision to move when a change in management led to a ballooning of bass music nights at the venue.
“I mean, they would literally see what I’d booked the year before then book the same – and so I was, I’m a proud man so I was like ‘I’ve had enough of this'”, he says.
One Rusholme institution he never let go, though, is Al Madina – a legendary spot on the curry mile that, until recently, was open until 5 in the morning, making it a go-to favourite for Rich and any artists he might’ve booked that night.
Described by Rich as “the best curry in Manchester”, he’s been passionately going for over a decade – and even confesses it was the first place he took his partner Jamina for a date.
“Honestly the amount of people that I’ve taken there,” he laughs.
“The funny thing is the guy’s son, Manny Usman, who I’m pretty good friends with, the only person he’s ever been impressed with and I’ve taken all sorts of musicians there, the only one he was impressed by is Trigga.”
He adds, such is the love for Al Madina now, that when he books artists to play they’ll often request a curry from there on their rider – and one artist, Commodo, who lives in Sheffield, has confessed to getting an Al Madina craving and driving across just for a scran, even when he’s not playing at Hit & Run.
“Yeah, it’s very much part of my life and my story or whatever,” he says.
“For a curry and a naan with a drink under a tenner you still can’t beat it […] I like treating everyone to a curry – big up the Madina crew.”
Turning to this weekend’s anniversary show, he tells us it’ll be a celebration of everything that’s been before, with several key artists and combinations with some heavy representation from Manchester.
“It will start off as sort of 130-140 bass sounds from local lads Cartridge, Hypho, Biome, and then go up through the gears, Sicaria and then DMZ”, he says, adding that it’ll be great to reunite Dub Phizix and Skeptical, Stragey, ten years after Marka came out (a statement that makes us feel very old).
“Chimpo’s playing a jungle set and then Sherelle, who, I’m a massive fan and I think’s done great – I mean she’s a wicked DJ but I just think it’s great as well, something I’m always trying to champion with Hit & Run is to make it a very accepting and inclusive space.”
15 years on, it’s fair to say that the clubbing landscape in Manchester has changed dramatically from how it was when Hit & Run first landed in the city.
Many venues have closed, many club nights have come and gone, but Hit & Run, however, is still going strong.
Whilst he acknowledges it’s a bit of a mad time to be throwing events, Rich is hopeful that attendance will still be high, despite the current situation.
We, for one, are very thankful Hit & Run is still going ahead – and long may it continue.
Featured Image – Hit & Run