I guess my first real run in with the GMP (Greater Manchester Police for those who haven’t had the pleasure of being harassed yet!) would have been at the venue I ran in Manchester city centre about 10 years ago. After seeing this Mancunian legend be run into the ground by a succession of self serving arrogant stupid men I was begged to take over. The owner thought it would be closed within a month but when I managed to make a profit in my first week (the first time it had made money in 10 years) we heralded in a new age of live music and dingy underground clubbing on Piccadilly.
One Friday night I was working as a cashier as nobody else would and several police vans pulled up in the bus lane in front of the club. This obviously wasn’t unheard of on a Friday night and I suspected there was trouble at the pub next door or in the spar on the next block. After about 15mins I poked my head out the door to see what was going on and I saw a busy but peaceful stretch of Manchester. Two young folk walked up to the club and seeing the police vans turned around saying how there was obviously something kicking of down there (meaning inside, as the club was downstairs), let’s go somewhere else! 3 more groups of people did the same thing so when the vans had not moved for half an hour I approached one calmly and meekly like the tiny 5ft2 girl that I am.
There was an officer sat in the driver’s seat of one van so I got his attention and said something very similar to this “Excuse me, sorry to bother you but I was wondering why you were parked here and how long you were going to be. Obviously if it’s important police business and of a sensitive nature I understand but as there doesn’t appear to be any danger right here, could you move a bit so people aren’t put of coming in to my venue please?”
He replied “I’m sorry love, we won’t be long, we’re just getting some scran from the spar”
Here is where I made my first mistake… Instead of just leaving it and getting back to my rapidly dying night I saw red.
“Well could you park in front of the spar then please because you’re costing me money and customers?”
“We could do but we’re parked here. Do you have a problem with that?”
Second mistake coming up…
“Yes obviously! I’m trying to run a business and having 2 police vans parked outside isn’t exactly the best advert for a music venue!” I can’t 100% guarantee I used the word police and not pig.
“We need to eat”
“Yes I understand that but I’m just asking you to move a few metres up the road to help my struggling business that pays its business taxes and is operating well within the law”
“We can park wherever we want!”
“Yes again I understand which is why I started by saying if you have to be parked here then fine but you offered the information that your colleagues are at the spar getting food which I don’t believe is a good reason to be costing a business money.”
This is when he started to take my name and venue details. I, as I had been taught to do at the BNP march all those years before, took his collar number and this was like a red flag to a bull.
I hurried back to the club and spread the word with frightening efficiency that we would be raided within the next half an hour. I checked everything… the cctv was working, the fire escapes were clear, the promoter was told (on 3 separate occasions) to not smoke in the kitchen… come to think about it whilst I was running round sorting all this out I passed our wonderful promoter 3 times who was in the exact same place and pose every time… I guess it was after 11pm so he was fucked, I think I actually resorted to taking his cigarettes away to make sure he didn’t drunkenly light up in front of a gas cylinder in the cellar or something… I even had the bands behaving in the back rooms; the mention of an impending police visit does crazy things to a venue green room!
After ensuring that everything was spot on (I even had the door staff check the capacity several times, good job we weren’t busy!) I sat back in my cashiers booth and counted down almost exactly to my first official illegal police raid.
Approximately 15 of our countries ‘finest’ came bursting through the (open) doors, fronted by the head of licensing and some lady from environmental services or whatever they call themselves this week. When a good few had run down the stairs in a blaze of no glory whatsoever (because I’m not stupid) one of the younger ones asked if I was “the bird who told us we couldn’t park outside”?! I replied, quite calmly, knowing downstairs was being filmed and my staff all knew what to do, “No I’m the business person who asked the police force that I help pay for to do me a small favour which would have actually saved them time and effort”. He didn’t seem to understand me so grunted and ran off after his buddies.
With my 6ft4 head doorman escort I slowly but deliberately went downstairs and found an uncoordinated group of pigs (lets face it, that’s what they looked like!) snuffling round the obviously dark venue, being rude to obviously confused customers. I politely tried to get past the throng of testosterone and assuming I was a customer one of them grabbed me and tried to force me out saying I wasn’t allowed in. When I told him quite sternly, with doorman looking very menacing, to take his hands of me and show me the person in charge of this raid on MY venue he very quickly let go and shouted to a man in plain clothes that I recognised as the head of licensing.
“I’ve been expecting you!” I said with a smile, “What took you so long?”
“You know why we’re here then?”
“Well I know this is my punishment for asking the police for a tiny favour so yes I suppose you’re here to try to get some dirt on me or my venue. Good luck!” I gestured towards the main part of the venue where a dj played the most offensive techno we could find (strangely not one of mine, although my mp3 player was the first to be searched for offensive music!), very loudly to our remaining handful of customers.
After traipsing round the whole venue the only thing they could find that was ‘wrong’ was whilst I was out the back watching them check the beer was in date (!) one of the bands had stood outside one of the fire escapes and put a half full case of beer (their payment for playing) on the floor. This was written up as blocking a fire escape but if it had ever gone to court my simple rebuttal would have been (as it was at the time) it was a band’s case of beer… if there’s a fire, nuclear explosion, zombie attack or anything the first thing those boys are doing is picking up that beer thus clearing one of many fire escapes and as we were left with a fraction of our capacity by this time the 2 perfectly clear fire escapes would have been more than sufficient had there been a fire which was desperately unlikely as the place was so damp!
Another lesson learnt, the GMP do not do reason!