Please note: Use Hearing Protection ended on 3 January 2022. To find out what exhibitions and activities are open today, visit our What’s On section.
One of the artefacts on display in Use Hearing Protection is FACT 30 The Hey Day, a cassette-only release featuring interviews with Sex Pistols members by music writer Judy Vermorel. Some of the cassettes came with a Christmas card that read ‘From the city that brought you “Strangeways”. Seasonal Greetings and a seasoned cassette. Love Factory.’ In the exhibition, we describe it as ‘Not exactly a Factory Christmas gift, more a Factory gift in time for Christmas’. It’s an early example from a legendary series of Factory Christmas gifts.
The Christmas cards and gifts are a social history of Factory Records, often marking important products or events from a given year. The first true Factory Christmas gift was given out in 1979, and has an out of the ordinary FAC catalogue number, FAC X79. Not only is the number completely out of sequence, but it has a letter code unlike anything else in the catalogue. It doesn’t appear in Matthew Robertson’s Factory Records: The Complete Graphic Album, either.
According to the Cerysmatic website, FAC X79 is a red plastic box measuring 1-inch square that contains two rubber earplugs. On the front of the box is a black and silver sticker that reads ‘FAC X79 this Christmas, feel safe with modern music’. A dust mask was also sent as a present in 1979, with a similar black and silver sticker reading ‘A Factory Product – for your protection Xmas 79–80’, but this didn’t have a FAC catalogue number. The mask was sent out with a pink détourned Christmas card, for which there’s a mock-up in the Anthony H Wilson archive. The theme here seems to be industrial PPE, in line with the release of FAC 2 A Factory Sample earlier in 1979 and its image of a worker wearing ear defenders on the sleeve.
The next official Factory Christmas gift came three years later, in December 1982. Factory held the first Haçienda Christmas Eve Party and guests received a commemorative flexi-disk, FAC 51B Merry Xmas from The Haçienda and Factory Records. The disk contains two heavily synthesised Christmas carols recorded by New Order, The Rocking Carol (also known as Little Jesus Sweetly Sleep/We Will Rock You) and Ode to Joy. The tracks are delightfully unsettling rather than festive.
The Haçienda was the inspiration for the next Factory Christmas gift, FAC 86 in 1983. Designed by Trevor Johnson, this was a model kit for recipients to build their own Haçienda, and was reissued in 1990 as FAC 86R. The museum displayed an example of a completed model in our 2008 exhibition The Making of MOSI, which celebrated the museum’s 25th anniversary on the Liverpool Road site.
The next two Christmas cards, from 1985 and 1986, featured the Factory Records logo. FAC 145 was a cardboard ‘CD’ in a sleeve that featured the logo alongside a molecular design representing snow. FAC 175 was a combined Christmas card and gift, featuring an origami logo in black textured paper with red thermographic printing placed inside a box, and the smoke from the factory chimney rendered in red glitter. Alongside the card was a cassette containing a recording of Blue Christmas by Thick Pigeon. This is one of my favourite items in the Science and Industry Museum’s Jon Savage archive.
The next Christmas gift, FAC 235 from 1988, is another of my favourites. Blue Monday was an important release for Factory Records, and the 1988 Christmas gift was based on the flick book that featured in the video for its re-release as Blue Monday 88 that year.
The following year, the Madchester scene had exploded, and Johnson/Panas designed a set of postcards issued as FAC 245, using photographs taken by Vini Reilly with iconic Mancunian landmarks renamed Madchester, including Madchester United and Madchester Piccadilly.
The new Factory headquarters on Charles Street in the city centre opened in September 1990 as FAC 251. That year’s Christmas card, FAC 295, was an art print of the entrance to the Headquarters at night. The cost of the headquarters was a contributing factor in Factory’s financial decline, and 1991 was the last year that Factory Records sent out a Christmas card. FAC 345 was a wraparound sleeve for the booklet that accompanied FACT 400 Palatine. Its wording read ‘Christmas. Love and Peace/1991–1992’. The museum has an example of the booklet in its wrapper in the Jon Savage archive.
When Factory rebooted itself as Factory Too, Christmas cards continued to be issued to the Factory family. You can read about them on the Cerysmatic website.
The Christmas gifts and cards sent out year on year by Factory Records are one of my favourite things about the record label that was so much more than a record label. If this blog has put you in a festive mood, the Use Hearing Protection exhibition is open until 3 January 2022. Why not use some of your time off to pay it a visit?