LEGENDARY DJ Graeme Park’s journey from house music pioneer to university lecturer is as fascinating as it is random but don’t expect his students at Wrexham Glyndwr University to know they’re in the presence of one of the biggest names in dance music.

“They’re all quite young of course and have no idea who I am at first,” laughs Graeme. “But sometimes after a few weeks of term they come up to me and say things like their mum or dad used to come to the Haçienda and they want to know if I’m ‘the’ Graeme Park.”

Thirty years ago, Graeme’s life changed when Mike Pickering, DJ at the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester, asked him to cover for him while he went on holiday in 1988.

An eight-year residency followed and as house music travelled from its Chicago home to the UK, the Haçienda came to embrace this new sound, with Graeme synonymous with the hallowed Manchester venue during its peak years.

While ‘Parky’ made his name DJing to the packed dancefloors of the original superclubs, he made even more fans from his radio shows on the likes of Kiss FM and Key 103, with two Radio One Essential Mixes spreading his musical gospel even further.

He was one of the first British DJs to play places like Australia, South America, the USA, Asia and beyond, as well as producing and remixing tracks for the dancefloor, including The Brand New Heavies, Inner City, Eric B & Rakim, New Order, Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

So three decades on, how did he end up working at Glyndwr?

“In 2008 I was very unfortunate to lose three big radio contracts at the same time,” he remembers. “It was a big chunk of my income and by chance a friend of my wife was a lecturer here in Wrexham and was trying to persuade her to come and cover some of his lectures here.

“I overheard the conversation and said I could help and her friend then said why don’t you do it?

“I thought I’d give it a go and that was 10 years ago - it’s progressed to becoming a lecturer and the good thing is when I turned up here Calon FM asked me to do a radio show and within six weeks lots of radio stations began asking me about the new show and could they use it and now it’s become a weekly syndicated worldwide show.”

Now part of the Creative Media Technology team at Wrexham Glyndwr University, Graeme continues to DJ around the UK, Europe and beyond while also producing his weekly radio show.

Then there’s his work with the Haçienda Classiçal - a live show which sees seminal dance classics from the days of the Manchester club reworked with Manchester Camerata orchestra.

“As my career as a lecturer has progressed, I do lots of stuff under the creative industries umbrella,” he explains. “I love doing things with students who are interested in doing sound technology, television, radio and I’m also working with people who want to be journalists.

“Because I’m a practicing lecturer it’s a massive advantage for our students because I’m out there in the field, DJing presenting a radio show or performing with the Haçienda Classiçal.

“When I work with the students I’m giving them up-to-the-minute information and knowledge.”

Graeme uses his contacts in the music industry to good effect when it comes to his students and he talks proudly of the opportunities he can give them.

“I’m really big on work experience,” he says. “One of our sound tech students was recently helping out at the Haçienda Classiçal.

“When I turned up, there she was on the stage surrounded by big burly men setting everything up - I was very impressed! When I was performing I could see her behind the desk taking it all in.

“Glyndwr isn’t a big metropolitan university in a big city, but what we offer is that personal touch. I can give them this advantage that people at larger universities might not get.”

The original Haçienda DJ partnership has been reunited for the classical shows with Graeme and Mike Pickering (who went on to form chart toppers M People) working with Joy Division and New Order’s Peter Hook to bring the show to the stage.

“The new tour launched last week in Glasgow,” says Graeme. “This year I’m even singing my own song. In the past if Hooky wasn’t there I had to sing Blue Monday and it’s gone down so well that this year they’ve given me my own song.

“I’m hogging the stage now and it’s a great new set with some different guest vocalists.”

Haçienda club nights have continued at venues around the country since the club closed and Graeme says the lower age group at these provided the spark for Haçienda Classiçal.

“Lots of people are copying it now but I think we’re a bit different because we really dig deep and play songs that people have forgotten about,” he continues.

“It’s easy to pick the more obvious songs but we’re the only ones who tour it rather than do one-offs - we’ve made it work and we’re taking it to Switzerland and Dubai this year.”

So what would the young hotshot DJ think of the 54-year-old Graeme working as a university lecturer?

“He’d probably be surprised but I when I was at college I did some teaching at a primary school which I quite enjoyed and throughout my career I’ve done guest lecturing at secondary schools and colleges so this has always been something I enjoy,” he adds.

“I’m used to performing for thousands of people - last year we opened Glastonbury and there were 55,000 people there - so when I do a lecture I think of it as a performance, where instead of playing tunes to get people to dance I have to impart knowledge in a way that is appealing.” and keeps the students’ attention.”