In Tribute To Jo Hilditch – Founder And Editor In Chief Of New Sounds (1973-2021)

‘We were on the lower floor of The Dakota Hotel when we first met. Renting the space impulsively in view of a love for Dakotian culture, Jo came dressed in mahogany-hued western boots for justification – an ode to her spontaneity that day. Our encounter had followed a 3 hour stop she’d made at the photographer Ian Tilton’s house, where conversation centred around an iconic image of Kurt Cobain he took some 20 years earlier. “I could have gone on talking to him for hours more,” she laughed with a sentimental grin. Growing animated, she handed me her phone mid sentence, and Tilton’s images looked back at me as she paper trailed over her formative years. Jo hadn’t changed, and without fail a smile always touched her lips. Her youthhood weekends consisted of leaving the house and sweeping up the big three music ‘inkies’ , later getting washed up in their pages, devouring them in awe. ‘I’m planning to start a paper like that!’ she’d let out in genuine veneration. She believed that the venues, the music, the photos and the gestures of the passers by were all made to be printed on paper and jump out at the masses, and when she’d explain this goal she could barely sit still. She never dropped that excited air, made evident alone by her ever growing ebay basket, which she displayed to us frequently with pride. From here, nostalgic music magazines, with faces from The Pogues to The Sex Pistols, and a pack of window crawlers would litter our meeting hangouts, and stay with her during her travels. In each room she’d pelt these little rubber men at me and the other writers before letting out a hearty laugh. I can imagine the remains of rubber limbs still linger in 33 Oldham Street. One day we were on public transport and she had three of these second hand music weeklies alone as reading material, where she’d marvel over the articles before repeatedly dropping the paper in my lap with a grin. “Cor, Jimmy read this!” , “well I’d rate Morrissey’s solo career as shit too”, “That’s a GREAT photograph”. Always having her third eye activated, every detail mattered, from the positioning of the penguin logo on the novel I had in my overcoat pocket, to the passing street art on a multistory building. 

Jo in NYC

Jo was a Visual and Cultural Arts graduate at The University Of Salford. In those days you’d find her in Deansgate’s Grinch Bar, scribbling lyrics down for her band Atlantis, then moving downstairs to hum her words over the in-house pianist’s allegros. In Manchester recording studios waiting to record these numbers, Jo borrowed a camera. In this period her first photography commission was made. A picture of the Factory band Space Monkeys, who she was sharing a studio with at the time. “Before I knew it I was Northern correspondent for the NME” she told The Bolton News, “I photographed anyone who played the Academy, Roadhouse or Night and Day, including Super Furry Animals, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and The Verve.” These were promptly spread over the Manchester Evening News, NME and City Life, who welcomed young Jo and her inventive vision warmly. Yet she didn’t just station herself here. Moving to form a music PR company, she got involved with brands and labels such as Sony, Decca and Gibson, and meanwhile continued work on her singer songwriter career. Performing in clubs throughout London, Manchester, Austin, Texas and The Bowery In New York, Jo caught the eye of many a passer by. At one point Katie Melua was planning to record some of her songs, only to be held back by the country genre being out of sync with the commercial masses. Throughout the 2000s, Jo organised a multitude of panels for women in music, which would go on to win her Manchester Woman Of The Year 2006 by Manchester City Council. She was a fighter, always battling off sexist comments from men in the industry, telling me that she wanted to empower any young woman who may be daunted by the male dominated field. Working next to her partner in crime Ron, she started lecturing Music Business in Bolton, and between them they later started a course at Spirit Studios Manchester. In true DIY fashion, Jo’s idea of New Sounds was a genius move to help the students understand the course from a real time journalist perspective. Jo’s mark was left everywhere. In fact, It wasn’t long until the dirtied outlying wall was covered at her request. Jo arranged to get a mural of Nico – who had recorded at spirit in the 1970s – graffitied on the side wall by artist Trafford Parsons. Something that has become a real hidden gem in Manchester street art. Jo and Trafford’s next plans were to get the industrial chimney refurbished with art too. 

Spirit Studios Manchester

As the clouds spat floods in the potholes, we ran for cover in the shed-like self storage building. Jo gazed at the first bundle she’d lifted off the delivery van, wiping the rain drops off it’s cover. She’d spent so many hours perfecting the way this paper would look and here she was holding it with a starstruck look in her eye. I cannot put into words how much detail Jo took into perfecting the front and back covers. She had this idea to champion an iconic photographer for the front, and have a new photographer’s work (of an equally reputable tastemaker artist) for the back. She didn’t settle for normality, and had it not been for covid, our papers may have looked nuttier still. A passer by one day would hear a fragment of our conversation about a back cover photograph we were planning. Jo would say:“Do you think they’d all fit in a supermarket trolley?’, or “I got one. I’ll put some dosh in your bank account and you can take the group and tour manager out to play mini golf at the junkyard.” The front covers had more than the stories found on the cover for both issues. When Jo found out that Danny Fields was to be staying in London, she invited him to come and stay in Manchester. Showing him round, they went record and book shopping. He’d pick up Iggy Pop LP’s and reminisce to Jo about his time working with the icon in his heyday. Following arranging him to do a seminar for her students, Jo had his Ramones image placed on our issue 2 front cover.

Left to Right: Danny Fields, Ron Atkinson, Jo Hilditch

The second issue was a long battle, with us having to start anew at the doors of its conclusion. The first coronavirus lockdown hit England a week before print. Meantime, in and out of Christie’s hospital, Jo had fought cancer relentlessly with not one complaint. During this time she edited the second issue of New Sounds twice, and started planning this third edition with us. With our deepest sadness, Jo Hilditch lost the battle and passed away in March 2021. All that is to follow wouldn’t be possible without her vision, and her spirit guides our paper forward from now. Jo lived for today to be remembered tomorrow.’ – Jimmy

‘For Jo, There will never be a minute without you in it’ –  Ron (your partner in crime)

Jo at Coney Island. The same location as our Issue 03 Debbie Harry/Lester Bangs Cover.


Wish I could have got to know her better and work with her, but it’s so good you and Ron
are keeping this going, I feel very honoured to be working on such a cool publication, ‘luvin it’!
Ric Gibbs (New Sounds Designer)

‘She was generous, positive and enthusiastic and we talked about our early experiences of cancer and how it’s so common that Christies looks busy as Grand Central Station’ Ian Tilton (Issue 1 Kurt Cobain Cover Photo Photographer)

From the moment I arrived on the train from London until I left five days later, Jo arranged everything, so that the cool and beautiful city (Manchester) was virtually at my feet, and it was one of the best trips to one of the best places that I’d ever experienced. Still, nothing about it was as cool and as beautiful as Jo herself, and I was so looking forward to seeing her again when it was going to be possible to visit the UK once more. Alas, that is not to be.

There must be so many who loved Jo, and my heart goes out to all of them, and of course to you.

We were all so fortunate to have had Jo in our lives.

Best,’ – Danny Fields (Issue 2 Ramones Cover Photo Photographer and Band Manager)

‘Jo was a truly remarkable woman. Last time I saw her properly she’d roped me in to keeping legendary manager and publicist Danny Fields entertained while he was in Manchester to mentor one of her students at SSR where she was a course leader for the BSc (Hons) Music Business and Creative Industries course. She’d run out of ways to keep his restless acerbic soul amused, I suspect, and thought that I could maybe help as someone that, like her, knew about Danny and his unbelievable legacy.

Imagine getting a call from a pal saying, “Wanna spend time with the guy who signed The Stooges, the MC5 and managed the Ramones?”. Well, that’s what Jo did. And we had a wonderful few days with her and Danny talking about Iggy, his room mate Edie Sedgwick, Dee Dee, Nico, the MC5, The Black Panthers and what an incredible twat Jim Morrison was both publicly and in private. Heaven.

I remember sitting in the Night & Day venue in Manchester having a glass of wine with Jo, Danny and my family on the last day of Danny’s trip. Jo took a photo of us all as a keepsake. I remember the moment she took it clearly – her beaming at the joy we were all having together. Joy that happened all because of her, her passion, her ability to join the dots and her overwhelming love of music. She genuinely took joy in making other people happy. RIP my dear xxx’ – Richard Hector Jones

I first met Jo in 1995, a brilliant artist, singer and photographer and just a beautiful person all round. Space Monkeys were recording our debut album ‘The Daddy Of Them All’ at Moonraker studio in Longsight, Manchester. Jo was a big part of the gang of friends who hung around Moonraker. At the time she was singing in a cool trip hop/electro outfit called Atlantis with another good friend of ours Adam Moss, who was the in house engineer at Moonraker. Jo had a beautiful, quite haunting singing voice and an enchanting smile at all times when she spoke. Everybody loved Jo immediately as soon as they met her.

Jo was always full of energy and enthusiastic about everything that we we’re all doing musically at the time. There was ourselves, Dust Junkys, Audioweb, Johnny Jay and a number of other bands and DJ’s and producers who were a very close knit group of friends based around Moonraker and the Hacienda and Atlas and Dry Bar in the 90’s. The music scene that we were involved in was very male dominated at the time and most of the people around us were men. Jo stood out as a strong and ambitious young woman, full of positivity, ideas and drive and I never doubted that Jo would achieve success in the music world. She certainly lived up to that throughout her career and she helped many other people to achieve their own dreams during her life which is a fitting testimony to her many talents.

Jo always had her camera around her neck back then and captured a lot of great memories and it was Tony Wilson, our record label boss at Factory, who suggested that Jo should take some promo photos for our record sleeves. Tony, like the rest of us, was impressed and energised by Jo’s spirit and enthusiasm and between Tony, Jo and the band we decided to head down to Hulme crescent where there was a number of colourful graffiti paintings on the blocks of flats that were about to be knocked down. Jo captured some great images for us which Factory used for the record sleeves including an iconic image of us crouched against a wall in Longsight just outside Moonraker which somebody had spray painted with the words; ‘Love & Peace is what we need’ which became our band motto.

Thirty years later, we came full circle and Jo kindly arranged free studio time for us at Spirit Studios to help us record our latest album ‘Modern Actions’. Without her kindness and generosity it may not have been possible. My memory of Jo will always be her huge beaming smile and her wonderful enthusiasm for music, art and life. Rest peacefully Jo and thank you for everything. We will always remember you. X’ Richard McNevin-Duff (Space Monkeys)

‘I didn’t meet Jo many times, but when we did it always ended up with laughter. She was one of those people you just wish you were more like. How lucky we were in the history of the world to be alive at the same time.’ – Elspeth Mary Moore

Dear Jo,

I remember when Phil Ellis introduced you to me at some music event.. This is Hilda he said.. I said oh I know you I’ve seen you on the telly,  and that’s when I saw your beautiful big smile.

We hit it off and became good friends.. we both talked of our love of Nashville and Elvis., and all things country.

Somewhere along the line we got to do some photoshoots .. ‘I’m not very photogenic’ you said.. yeah right how many times have I heard that one..lol

The thing is Jo, your are beautiful not only because you have that fabulous smile, that I was lucky enough to capture- But because you just ARE.. Oh my dear dear friend.. I miss you so much.

BTW how’s Phil doing up there has he got you networking already lol?..

Love always‘ – Karen McBride xxx

Jo was instantly likeable – Friendly, Funny and with the most Beautiful Smile. I was setting up My Music/  PR  Business in Manchester and Jo, helped and assisted me on some Projects..  and that was Great Fun..! Not only was she a ‘Bright shining Light’  , In  the room – she was Intelligent and very quick to pick up all the ‘Ins and Outs’ of the Music/ business. From there on – our Friendship remained Precious and Strong for all these Years. It came as a great shock when Jo was First Diagnosed with Cancer and we all hoped and prayed for her recovery – Sadly that wasn’t to be – and a Huge loss of our Dear Friend Jo. Still hard to believe , she is No longer with us..  I guess she is still there in Spirit , laughing down at us and saying – ‘I got The  Best Deal’..! Xx I could go on and on , with Loving Memories of Jo – but, just wanted to put in a few words of why she was a Very Special Lady.’ – Terrie Doherty

‘I first met Jo at Manchester City College in 2007 when she was working at Raw Fish Records. One of the best experiences of my life was going to Austin, Texas for SXSW and I saw Jo in full cowgirl swing! In 2009, we worked together at the University of Bolton as programme leaders on different music business degrees. I was at the very start of my academic career and so every experience I had was new; but Jo (and Ron) took me under their wing and provided friendly advice and support throughout a difficult first couple years as I learned the ropes. It was at this time that I saw first-hand how much experience she had in the music industry and how passionate she was about passing on knowledge and really helping the students. Jo inspired so many young people starting out in the music industry and her legacy will live on through them. She will not be forgotten, and I’ll always remember her smile, her free spirit, determination to succeed and her willingness to help people! RIP, Jo x’ – Paul Oliver

‘Utterly disillusioned with photography Jo messaged me and told me she loved my work and to continue with my style of photography because I was the only one doing it and “people deserve to see it”. That line has let me going 5 years’ – Paul Husband

‘So sad to get news that Jo Hilditch has died. Much loved and admired in the music world for her PR skills, her championing particularly of women in the industry, her knowledge – and willingness to share her knowledge. And her incredible friendliness and enthusiasm. RIP.’ – Dave Haslam (Hacienda Nightclub DJ, former NME and Guardian journalist)

‘I met Jo in the early 00s when working on Break In The City, every year from then on, she was one of the 1st people to contact when planning the event. Her enthusiasm for all things musical and creative was boundless, indeed truly a gorgeous person and spirit, I will miss her dearly’ – David McNicholas 

‘I remember Jo from working at City College Manchester, particularly taking students to SXSW in Austin with another sadly missed colleague, Phil Ellis.  One year we put a gig on at a fish restaurant and Jo sang (wearing a cowboy hat I’m sure), and it was a surreal moment. Such a positive person, always friendly and upbeat.’- Metcalf Gareth 

‘Jo was my university tutor and an amazing one at that, she was always so helpful, kind and caring. Through her help, she is the reason I have a career in the music industry, and am where I am today. Thank you Jo, I am eternally grateful’ Zoe Snelling

‘I met Jo over a katie Melua CD (generous secret Santa!) From there came a fab friendship and several degree programmes that uniquely managed to meet Higher Ed benchmarks AND create ‘work ready graduates ‘ (Jo’s phrase). Barriers no object. “sometimes  you just have to get shit done”! How many music business careers did she launch? Positively beautiful Jo.’ – Rachael McLean 

‘I can’t actually remember the first time I met Jo as it feels as if she has always been in my life, yet I didn’t know Jo in my childhood or student years. We shared a passion for the unsung heroines in music, the journey of young musicians and  exchanging fashion talk over a glass of fizz. Jo was such a creative thinker, always considering new ways to shine light on musicians whether they were up and coming or established. She had a quiet yet steely passion for artists and always did her utmost to give them a positive outlook encouraging them always to follow their dreams. I will so miss our meet ups where she always introduced a way for us to celebrate something over a glass of fizz. I was so blessed to spend time with her  in so many unglamourous settings with her looking truly glam with her signature red lipstick, cowboy boots with a glass of fizz . She did a great deal for her hometown of Manchester. I am deeply saddened that she isn’t around to follow up on her latest dream of the magazine New Sounds but Jo shared her dreams with us and we can continue her legacy on to ensure her dreams still come true.’ – Karen Gabay (The People Radio, BBC Manchester)

‘I first met Jo being on a panel for Women In Music at ‘In The City’ and after that we became friends.  Even though we did not speak often, when we did, we spoke for ages about the industry, being independent Women and putting the world to rights! Jo was such a formidable character, always had time for everyone and wanted to change the world.  Jo will be very much missed.’ – Jo Hart 

‘For me, knowing Jo reminded me of a beautiful butterfly…someone with grace and beauty who dazzled you as soon as she was in front of you, however to try and capture the essence and depth of her soul and work is not easy, considering Jo’s life was a page turner, (Where.to.start) her cheeky charm and deep heartfelt persona once she came dancing into your life was very special and unmistakable, Jo would leave an indelible mark on you and anyone that was lucky enough to meet her, someone you wanted to be around, to talk with for hours, to support, along with engaging in her world of music and fascinating projects she poured her heart into, we became friends through mutual friend and SSR prodigy Nicola Simcox over drinks in the North Quarter in Manchester, we had lots in common and it wasn’t long before we started to support each other on projects we were passionate about, Jo would recommend students for our live events and festivals which they became an integral part of in our delivery, put it this way, if Jo’s putting anyone your way it’s a given their from good stock and undoubtedly gone through her professional rigor before she’d put her name to anything, Jo didn’t have one the best rep’s in music for nothing, right?! Moving forward to late 2015 our team The Big Slice Music Show secured our own first TV music show on That’s TV on channel 7, a weekly show to aired on Sunday evenings across the That’s TV network, although we secured the show we were missing one minor detail, we had no studio to call our home, in rides Jo Hilditch to save the day in her typical Yeee-haaa PR style, we had a brief chat with Jo and explained our dilemma… well, AND opportunity, Jo had such a way of negotiating, convincing and the odd proverbial arm twisting (when required) of getting people onside and develop ideas into realities very quickly. To be honest, it’s still a mystery to me how she did it sometimes a quality and skill that I, and many others admired her for, Jo was fantastic at connecting the dots, and by ekk did she this time, Jo secured Spirit Studios as our home each month filming the TV show, a studio as we know that has seen the very finest through its doors, on this the school of music would work closely with us supplying students as our sound engineers on the show and give them first hand experience on working on a TV Show which gave us world class sound in a world class studio, Jo had helped us give birth to Manchester’s first territorial TV show in years, Jo didn’t stop there, of course she didn’t, the powerhouse Jo was she continued to support the show with big hitting guests from the music industry which gave us more weight and grabbed the attention and imagination of the music scene, I was lucky enough to interview her myself on the show as our special guest, The Big Slice Music Show was on air for over 3 ½ years and her support for us, the students and new music never faltered, Jo lay an important cornerstone for our show, enhancing students lifelong careers, Many bands and artists that featured on our show have gone on to do some wonderful things and give them the support the industry sometimes lacks, we at The Big Slice Music Show will forever be in Jo’s debt, something we could never repay if we tried, we doth our caps and salute you Jo, humble, smart, witty and a smile that set the world on fire.’ – Paul Owen

‘Jo (Hilda) was the most selfless and beautiful cowgirl that anyone could ever have the pleasure of meeting. I feel so fortunate to call her my friend. I’m not sure that she ever truly knew how much I adored her. I long for just one more margarita (“Easy with the salt on that rim”) fuelled afternoon of laughter.  Love and miss you everyday’Your Nic Nak xx 

‘To me Jo was a teacher, mentor & friend. She was a unique force, a rebel, a life changer. Her legacy will continue in all those she inspired and I am lucky to count myself as one of those people.’ – John Wood

This is sadness. I’ve known Jo since I was young. Fond memories listening to 45’s in her bedroom. I can’t do her justice. I’m sorry Jo.’ – Alex Mackie

You are loved and will be missed Jo.’ – Taff Sango-Moyo

A heart of pure Gold and one in a Million I feel blessed to have known Jo however sadly not for long enough. For some reason God only takes away the Best ones early. See you on the other side Miss Hilditch’ Spencer Wells

​​’I was asked by Jo and Spencer to do an interview with her in Manchester. I had a wonderful time talking to her. My condolences to her family. Jo was a lovely lady’ – David Ambrose

David Ambrose and Jo Hilditch – Illustration by Jessica Causey