This is a curated collection of material focusing on the musical history of Maxwell Hall, which was officially opened alongside The Maxwell Building (then known as The Main Building and Main Hall) on 21st May 1961 to house the Royal College of Advanced Technology. The buildings were opened by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh. Maxwell is comprised of an upper and lower hall, with the upper seating 1,000, alongside a 220 seat balcony. The construction was jointly funded by Lancashire County Council and Salford City Council, with an estimated cost of more than £1.5 million.  

The first recorded concert held at Maxwell was Dave Berry & The Cruisers on 25th March 1964. Legendary acts such as The Who, Paul McCartney & Wings, U2, and The Smiths followed in their footsteps. This collection brings together a range of material including tickets, posters, advertisements and pictures. It is the result of research into the Hall to better understand its significance to local and musical history. The collection also includes material from other venues on campus such as The Union, The Pav and Salford College of Technology, which merged with the University in 1996. This ensures a full picture of music at the University is painted. The bulk of the material has come from Salford Students' Union newspapers: Amus News (1961-1971), The Gazette (1972-1981), and Salford Student (1983-1990). It also includes generous contributions from alumni, following a social media campaign that invited them to get involved through sharing their memories. If you have any items that could be added to the collection, please contact library-archives@salford.ac.uk.

Music at Salford

1960s-70s

The first known recorded concert held at Maxwell Hall (then known as the Main Hall at the Royal College of Advanced Technology) was Dave Berry & The Cruisers on 25th March 1964. They performed at the Athletics Ball alongside Chrys Nava Combo and Fabulous Flamingoes, with tickets costing just six shillings. From here Salford began to attract bigger acts as it became one of the top venues on the university circuit. Other acts included The Hollies (1965), The Who (1968) and Black Sabbath (1970).  

One of the more fabled concerts at Maxwell was on 18th February 1972, when newly formed band Paul McCartney & Wings arrived at the Students' Union in a van, asking to play that night. It was decided that it would be 50p per ticket, with 25p going to the University whilst the other half went to the band. This was part of an impromptu tour by Wings, who were travelling around Britain playing at universities to practice as a live band. McCartney recalled in the “Wings Over Europe” tour book, ‘We had a big hall where a play was being produced and they were afraid the scenery would fall on us. We just missed a blackout that time’.  

The 1970s saw a surge in concerts at Maxwell, including iconic acts such as The Kinks (1975), Motorhead (1977) and The Jam (1979). An up-and-coming American band at the time, Blondie, also performed on 3rd March 1978. This concert has been immortalised with an iconic photo of lead singer Debbie Harry wearing the gig poster, taken by June Buchan. Her photos were also featured in BBC documentary, ‘When Blondie came to Britain’.  

1980s

The 1980s continued to provide great bands for students. U2 graced the stage on 3rd October 1981, just as they were on the cusp of gaining widespread recognition. The collection includes a photo of all four band members performing at Maxwell. They were followed by other popular acts such as Misty in Roots (1983), Slade (1983) and Marc Almond (1984).

New Order also performed a hometown gig at Maxwell on 17th April 1985, with a relatively unknown band at the time, Happy Mondays, supporting. However, possibly the most memorable gig of all came on 20th July 1986, when The Smiths played to a sold-out crowd. This concert was listed by Q Magazine in the early 2000s as one of the 100 best concerts ever, and guitarist Johnny Marr recalled, ‘The PA had to be tied down because the floor was bouncing up so high that the stage was practically falling to pieces’. After this, due to damage from The Smiths concert and other safety concerns, Maxwell was used sparingly as a concert venue, but still featured other bands including James (1986, 1989), The Fall (1986, 1987) and The Woodentops (1988) in coming years.   

1990s onwards

Maxwell began to be used sparingly after the 80s, due to a combination of structural damage to the Hall and acts preferring to play at the better located Manchester venues. The Pav started to become used more often, mainly for smaller bands, with a pre-Britpop fame Pulp performing on 28th May 1992. Girl group Atomic Kitten also played there at Christmas 2000. After a long hiatus, The Charlatans played the last official touring gigs at Maxwell on the 19th and 20th December 2004, with a full-page spread reviewing the concerts available in our collection. In 2024, Sounds From The Other City saw Welsh Artist Gruff Rhys, formerly of Super Furry Animals, play at Maxwell, signalling a resurgence for the venue. 

Bands

Notable bands

Many iconic and revered bands have played at the University of Salford over the years. The Who, Black Sabbath, Paul McCartney & Wings, and The Kinks all performed at Maxwell between 1968 and 1975. The collection includes interviews with both Pete Townshend of The Who and Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath. Heart (1976) and Blondie (1978) also came from the USA to perform on the cusp of their mainstream success. This was the case for many artists that performed at Salford, as it often relied on the SUSU Ents team booking a band before they outgrew the venue. 

Local bands

Many equally celebrated local bands appeared at Salford during its heyday. One of the leading groups of the 1960s, The Hollies, performed at the Christmas Ball in 1965. They were followed by 10cc in 1974, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that local bands began to flourish at Maxwell. New Order performed their first hometown gig at Maxwell on 17th April 1985, with Happy Mondays in support. Cult band The Chameleons also played just under a month later. However, this all peaked once The Smiths performed the next summer, on 20th July 1986. It is fondly remembered by everyone who attended, with the full concert available on YouTube. Local legends The Fall and James performed multiple times between 1986 and 1989, with the former being joined by ex-vocalist and guitarist of the Buzzcocks Pete Shelley and Salford punk poet John Cooper Clarke for their November 1987 gig.  

Memorabilia

Tickets

These have been donated by the public and our alumni. They provide context such as prices and dates. Tickets include Lindisfarne, The Jam, The Smiths, The Fall, Pulp and more.

Posters

We have received multiple posters, which were often found around campus and the local area. These include Camel, The Jam, U2 and more.

Photos

Photos are a great window into how Maxwell Hall has looked throughout the decades. Those donated include U2 (1981), The Smiths (1985) and multiple exterior shots.

Reviews

The collection features a range of reviews from various sources, such as our student papers and NME. These are valuable as they reflect how these artists were viewed at the time, not as the legendary figures many have gone on to become. Highlights include The Fall’s 1987 gig in NME and New Order’s 1985 hometown gig in our very own Salford Student.

Interviews

Oral history interviews are also available in the archive. They were conducted with Alumni, helping to capture the student experience at Salford when Maxwell Hall was at its peak.