Joy Division fans fail in bid to save singer’s home for a museum

The Macclesfield house where Ian Curtis took his life in 1980 is for sale but a campaign to buy it seems doomed

Barton Street, Manchester

A valiant attempt to rescue a modest terraced house from obscurity and turn it into a musical memorial to its late owner appeared to have failed this weekend.

Campaigners had hoped to raise enough money to buy the Macclesfield home of Ian Curtis, the frontman of Joy Division, who lived here with his wife Deborah and their daughter Natalie, until his early death in 1980.

The two-bedroom house went on the market last week with an asking price of £115,000 and a modest description as a “double-fronted character cottage” with a pleasant outside space that made no mention of its tragic past.

Curtis, who suffered from epilepsy and depression, took his own life in the kitchen of the Barton Street house in 1980, aged just 23.

Joy Division
Ian Curtis on stage with Joy Division in 1979. Photograph: Martin O’Neill/Redferns

Zak Davies, the organiser of the campaign, told his supporters that he accepted that it was “unlikely” that enough money could be raised to buy the house but that all the donations so far received would be passed on to the mental health charity Mind, in memory of Curtis. The plan had been to buy the house, restore its interior to a late 1970s look and create a museum to Curtis and to Joy Division. The kitchen, Davies insisted, would be off-limits to visitors to prevent any ghoulishness among fans.

At the open house day for viewings this weekend, there was no shortage of music fans wandering through the rooms, apparently in search of some sense of the artist who lived and died there more than three decades ago.

The estate agents in charge of the sale, Gascoigne Halman, said that they were going through several offers made on the property, but that no final decision had been taken by the current owners and the house was still on the market.

The house was used as an authentic location in the filming of Anton Corbijn’s 2007 highly acclaimed Control, which profiled Ian Curtis (played in the film by actor Sam Reilly) and was based on his widow’s biography of the singer, Touching From a Distance. A BBC documentary about the band was also filmed there.

Last year, the old kitchen table from the home went up on eBay and ultimately sold for £8,400, despite protests from Curtis’s Joy Division bandmates, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris, who issued a statement calling the sale “distasteful and upsetting”. They said “great distress” had been caused to Curtis’s family, who had sold the house complete with much of the furniture soon after the singer’s death.

It was run for some time as a bed and breakfast but had been used recently as a private home again.

Joy Division, formed in 1976, were one of the most pioneering bands of British rock history. They had released only one album, Unknown Pleasures, and were just days from their first US tour and on the brink of success with their gloomy and abrasive sound when Curtis took his own life.

A posthumous second album Closer charted as did perhaps their most famous single Love Will Tear Us Apart. But Joy Division died with Curtis, honouring an earlier agreement within the band that if one member left, the group would be over.

The three remaining band members, Sumner, Morris and Peter Hook, went on to form the successful New Order, a band which launched a whole new music scene in Manchester.

Thanks to the Guardian Newspaper for this article

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