A Soulman's Diary!

Home


About me


What's New on this site


News and Views


A Soulman's Diary


Events Calendar


Venues


Photo Galleries


Soul links


Offshore Radio


My Manchester


My Favourite Places


My Poland


Where there are links available, if you click on the date, you will be able to see online photos from the venue, clicking on the venue name will bring up a venue write-up where one exists.

Please note, unless stated otherwise, the views expressed here are those of the site owner and are purely personal. Do not rely on the comments here when deciding whether or not to go to an event. Visitors are recommended to make up their own minds for themselves. If you would like to submit your own review of an event you have attended, I'd be delighted to include it on the site - just e-mail me at alan@soulman1949.com

11 Aug 2007 The Real Deal - R&B, Soul, Ska at Hare and Hounds, 46 Shudehill, Manchester, M4 4AA

First time around for me at Stan Evans and Ian "Nai" Dunning's R&B venue in the centre of Manchester. This is the third event held at the Hare and Hounds, a friendly old pub opposite the Shudehill Transport Interchange/NCP Car Park on Shudehill, very much a genuine traditional pub. The event was billed to run from 8.30 pm till 1 am. I got there around 9, got served at the bar downstairs (cheap drinks, by the way) and made my way up the stairs to the function room, meeting Barry and Jane Tasker, plus a few other friends from the Wheel. Billed as the "Real Deal" it was promising "Real R&B, Real Soul and Real Ska". Free entrance, by the way!

I had seen it advertised in previous months but what swung it for me this month was that Carole Fortey was set to guest here. After her brilliant set at the Hideaway about six weeks earlier, I was really looking forward to hearing what else she would be playing.

Carole was already there with her husband, Alan and their friend, Dennis, so I said my hellos. Stan and Ian were getting proceedings under way, the tone was very much underplayed R&B, the sort of material that is par for the course at the Hideaway, some of it familiar to me, some not, but that was fine too! Then it was time for the guest DJs, Carole Fortey and John Kelly, to have their say. They each did a couple of sets and the night was rounded off by Stan and Ian double-decking.

The function room isn't that big and although there is a small dance floor, not that many people were dancing at the outset. For some strange reason I felt inhibited going onto the floor - must be out of practice! Anyway, as the evening progressed a few people ventured for a dance including myself.

I've forgotten who played what, but neither of the guests, nor the promoters disappointed. Probably my fave record of the moment and thanks to Carole for playing it, is Azie Mortimer "Lips" - big voice, big sound, that's how I love 'em! Here's a selection of else what was played that grabbed me: James Bay "It's a miracle", McKinley Mitchell "She called me daddy", Shayne Hunter "Luck to you dear", Prince Conley "I'm going home", Jeannie Barnes "Can't get you off of my mind", Chuck Carbo "Out on a limb", Clydie King and Mel Carter "Who do you love", Norma Jean "Call me a fox", Beverley Ann Gibson "Give me a chance", Ray Fournia "Settle down", Betty O'Brien "She'll be gone", Sugar "Boy" Williams "Little boy", Jimmy McCracklin "What's that (part 1)", Malcolm Dodds "Laugh my heart", Billie Davis "What you gonna do", The Duke of earl "You left me", Lamont Anthony "I don't know", Tams "Blue Shadow", Now that's what I call a result of an evening!

if you're thinking of going in the future, the evening is very much in the style of the Hideaway - the venue is held on the second Saturday of the month every other month, the next one being Saturday 13th October. I had a great evening - as you will have gathered there was a lot of material I wasn't familiar with, but, that was no problem going there with an open mind. Thanks again to Carole for another belter of an evening - if you're into R&B she's the gal for you, do seek her out - and to the other guest, John, not forgetting Stan and Ian. I'll most certainly be back!

16 Feb 2007 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

Third Friday of the month again, where else but the Ritz at Brighouse? Full complement of Al's Gals (tm) in the car, Julie, Karen and Sue, plus Charlie making our way over the Pennines - the journey didn't seem to take any time at all and there we were arriving at the Ritz, just before 8.10. There was already a queue filling the space under the canopy. Cookey and the rest of the gang had arrived before us and within a few minutes, Doddy turned up to join us. It was especially lovely to see Tommy, back after a period of illness. Looking at the queue developing, this already had the makings of a very busy night.

The place seemed to fill up very quickly indeed, there was a tremendous buzz from the outset and within minutes, folks were on the floor dancing. And that's how it was for most of the night, with a busy floor throughout.

Alongside the resident DJs, there were two guests, Roccia (from Pisa in Italy) and Sean Chapman (from Swansea). It's always interesting to see what guests bring to an occasion and we weren't disappointed. Superb music back to back, with a full floor as a result. I must make a special mention of Sean, whose enthusiasm for the music is legendary - first and foremost he is a dancer, so he understands pacing and sequencing, his was pretty much a faultless set.

The usual crowd was there in attendance, too numerous to mention - it was lovely also to see Gail and Jez from Stoke, whom I'd originally met at Whitby. This was an awesome night, one of the best in a while and it was busy, busy, busy. I don't think I've seen such queues at the bar in the two years I've been coming here. Nothing official regarding the fate of the venue, other than rumours we may have a reprieve until September, but we can't bank on that. It's a matter of making the most of it while it's here. I suspect the busy numbers indicated the punters doing just that. Next month, unfortunately, we're having to give it a miss as we're at Prestatyn, but we're back in April. Roll on!!!

10 Feb 2007 For Dancers Only, St James Social Centre, Orrell, near Wigan

Last month had been totally ridiculous, with me trying to do 3 venues in the one night! Never again! This time around, I was determined to concentrate on just the one venue, "For dancers only" at Orrell. Charlie decided to give it a try so we zoomed up the motorway together. Do you ever get the feeling in life that you've lost the plot? Well, that's what hit me when I suddenly realised I was on autopilot and on my way to the Monaco!!!! Oooops! So we ended up going the scenic route passing through the centre of Wigan, eventually finding ourselves at St James' Club close up to 8:40pm.

In the car park, we bumped into Pete and Suzie on their way in, then once we got served at the bar, sat with my pals Tony and Ann, whom I'd not seen for a while. Although the place wasn't heaving it was buzzing nicely and there was a steady flow of people at the door coming in. Pete was doing his opening slot and was followed by Liz. Must admit I was very impressed by her material, notably Donnie Elbert's "Little Piece of Leather" and my favourite record of 1966 Spencer Davis "Gimme Some Lovin'", although we were still in catch-up mode and chatting, rather than dancing.

Tony Brookes from Ormskirk Civic was the guest starting off with some blistering tracks from the earlier part of the soul era - his opener was Motown's Eddie Holland "Leaving here" from 1963 followed by another Motown track, LaBrenda Ben & The Beljeans' "Chaperone" from 1962 and Etta James' "Mellow Fellow" from 1964 (the last two being tracks I've never heard played before at a Northern event). This was an awesome start and at one stage I remarked to his wife that I wished he'd play some crap, so I could have a rest! In the end, I just had to give up and take a break.

I was somewhat stunned later on to hear that a number of people had complained that the tracks were too obscure. Well, sorry, they can't be THAT obscure, as there wasn't a single track in his set that I didn't know! Underplayed, maybe, but surely that's what Orrell is all about. I was more than disappointed by this reaction and, as far as I'm concerned, Tony's slot was one of the best I'd ever heard at Orrell. Certainly, the people I spoke with were of the same opinion. I've no wish to get into politics but maybe some of the children around need to remember that there was life before Wigan and some of us were listening/dancing to Soul while they were still in their nappies! In any case, over his hour Tony did a mix across the board from different eras and I felt he attempted to present something for everybody - I wondered whether him closing his set with Dean Barlow's "Third Window From The Right" was a (not so subtle) two-fingered riposte to the critics!;-) Watch out for Tony's new Northern venue in Ormskirk, if the music he played tonight is anything to go by, this has the makings of a superb place to be.

I was pleased to see lots of my pals on the night and catch up with them, including Paul and Jean Wilkie, Chris (I'm in training for the Olympics, luvvee!), Charlie and Dave Truscott from the Birchfield, among others.

With Ian Gee and Tony Clark, as regulars on the DJ roster, the place rocked and by the end of the night there were a number of tracks added to my wants list, among them, Barbara Lindsay "I'm prepared to love you", Fred Hughes "I keep trying" and Aretha Franklin "Tighten up your tie".

A great night with loads of buzz and a brilliant slot from Tony Brookes. Yay!

9 Feb 2007 Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Ramsbottom

The last time I attended this venue was way back in September, a combination of weekenders and other circumstances standing in the way. I was really looking forward to seeing my pals again and made my way up the M66 on my own, Doddy having cried off due to the bad weather. First through the door, I caught the promoters unawares by making my entrance through the kitchen as they hadn't yet opened up the main door. I was greeted warmly by Des and Bev and we spent a bit of time catching up on what we'd been doing in the past few months. By this time, my pals, Sue and Ged from Romiley had arrived so I joined them, spending more time catching up on events, later joined by my pal Helen, who was also on her own.

I very quickly remembered just why this is a favourite venue of mine and why I love coming here so much. It's a mix of the friendliness of all, promoters and punters alike, the choice of DJs and the music played. I know I'll hear my favourites here plus some "new" tracks for my wants list. We had regulars, Des Wilson and Dave Lowe doing their spots, high quality as always, plus guest DJ, Andy Childs.

Andy did two sessions as the other guest, Pete Eccles, hadn't arrived and they were both superb slots with a great mix of across the board material, including a good dose of R&B. I was delighted that Andy remembered I loved Sammy Turner's "Raincoat in the River" which he duly played, alongside a great Jackie Wilson track from 1959 called "That's Why (I Love You So)", this one verging on Rock'n'Roll/R&B - interesting that Keith Ridge was responsible for alerting me to those two tracks. Other tracks added to my wants list included Germany's Frank Popp Ensemble "Leave me alone" (this sounded just like yer typical 60s soul belter, even though it's only a few years old - I've managed to track down a copy in Italy which is wending its way to me as I type this). Another couple of tracks worthy of mention, the Chocolate Boys (sounding like Ramsey Lewis) instrumental "Voltair Pier" and Brenda Holloway's version of the Prince Philip Mitchell track "I'm so happy" - never heard that one before.

This was a superb night, despite the grotty weather. The numbers attending were pretty respectable too, meaning that there was a nice atmosphere in the place and a busy floor for most of the evening.

3 Feb 2007 Soul in the Cellar at the Greatstone - The Greatstone, Chester Road, Stretford, nr Manchester

For a few months now, I've been rotating this venue with the Monaco and, even though I'd been to the Greatstone in January, I'd also been to the Monaco mid-month for a birthday bash, so it was the Greatstone again for me. My pals from Yorkshire, Jane and Dave, were going and I picked them and their friend Margaret up from Piccadilly Station. It was another bitterly cold night and we were glad to get into the warmth and go down the stairs to the cellar.

This is a real fave venue of mine these days as I know I will hear some sounds I've never heard before, intermingled with the classics from the 60s and 70s. The night in question did not disappoint and I picked up nearly a dozen tracks for my wants list. Barry Tasker and Brian Walker have superb collections and a wealth of knowledge and the night was full of great music. My pals were delightful company, as always and there were many laughs on the night.

Turnout was a bit disappointing - although the venue doesn't have a large dance floor, it is adequate for those who are prepared to adopt a less expansive style of dancing. Plus it has the intimacy you expect from cellar venues.

After dropping off my friends at Piccadilly, I doubled back for the last 20 minutes or so. I got back just in time to hear a bombshell being dropped, Brian had secured a new venue. Unfortunately it clashed with the Greatstone and reluctantly he was announcing his departure from the Greatstone gig with Barry. While wishing him well, I am saddened by this news as Barry and Brian have made a great team, complementing each other very well. The news took the edge of what had been a really good night at the venue - in fact, since I started attending in the middle of last year, I've never had a duff night. Nothing lasts for ever and I hope that Barry can find a replacement co-promoter to continue the venue.

2 Feb 2007
Soul at Joe's, St Joe's Catholic Club, Peasley Cross, St Helens, WA9 3BN

The gang were going to Bolton on the night as Cookey was DJing there, but I decided to give Soul at Joe's a go. We'd been there in December and had a really good night. I made my way down the M62 and, this time, I found the correct turning off the St Helens Expressway, getting to the venue around 8.45ish.

I was a little surprised that there weren't as many people in as I'd expected, but it was a bitterly cold night. Quite a few familiar faces were there and I sat down with "Biff" and the crowd from the Birchfield, spending the first hour or so nattering. The music was good, but there was no action on the floor and I felt a bit reticent to be the first to get out there. Others must have felt the same way because it was slow getting started, even Biff, who did a slot from 10.30-11.30, commented that it was hard work. The slow nature of the night was nothing to do with the music that was being played which was across the board oldies.

When I did get onto the floor, it was decidedly sticky and needed a load of talc to get it moving. Unfortunately, I ran out of talc partway through the process and that inhibited me from dancing as much as I would have liked. Despite this, I did enjoy myself and although it was a slightly disappointing night compared to December, all venues have them from time to time and it certainly wouldn't stop me going again.

27 Jan 2007 Hideaway, Manchester

I'd had a great night last month and couldn't wait to visit the Hideaway. When I got there about 9, the place was a bit quiet but it soon started to fill up, although as the evening went on the place got a bit too smokey for my liking.

It was nice to see my friend Helen paying a visit there, we had a natter about various events she had been to and it was pretty clear that both of us are going down the R&B line, so it was interesting swapping experiences. It was also lovely to get to know Kev Kus and discover that both of us shared Polish heritage, also to have a natter with another Kev, this time the one who runs "No More Doggin'". Then my pals from Yorkshire, Jane and Dave arrived and we did the usual round of catching up in things.

The evening opened with residents, Mike, Paul and Neil doing their slots, followed by guests Ted and Nashee doing the first of their spots. I have to say that for the first half or so of the evening, the whole tone of the place was a bit too heavy on the R&B/bluesy side for me. So much so that Dave and Jane left early. It was a pity that they did because the music changed much more to my liking as the night went on. Again some belters made it to my notebook to chase up, including Tyree Glenn "Yesterday", Invitations "Watch out little girl", Jo Ann Campbell "I changed my mind Jack", Chuck Reed "Females", The Arter Set's rousing "Sermon", Madam McCoy "Running for my life", Connie Questell "World of Confusion" and the Drivers "Dangerous lips". The track that had most people rushing to the DJs booth was the most unlikely: Gene Pitney's "Quando vedrai a la mia ragazza", a finalist song in the 1964 San Remo Song Festival, a real stormer of a track and one which was a big hit on the night.

With the Hideaway you have to approach it like panning for gold, sifting through the mud, but the nuggets are there. That last hour or so was just brilliant and it reminded me of the need to be patient when I go to the venue. A mixed night but more than enough gems for me! Bravo!

26 Jan 2007 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

The last visit to the Wheel had been a bit of a bitter-sweet experience for me, nevertheless I was looking forward to another outing to my spiritual home. I got to the venue about 15 minutes late but I hadn't missed anything as the punters were only just being let in. Quite a few of the regulars were there, including Pete and Suzie and Doddy, although missing in action was Tommy, still suffering the after-effects of a bad cold. There was a change in that a new floor surface had been laid on top of the concrete

John and Pete opened up with their one hour slots as usual. By the time 11 had come around, the place was already pretty full and it was evident this was going to be a busy night. Little did I know what a treat lay in store for us. Mickey Rooney was guest DJ and he started his spot playing some absolute gems, lesser known tracks but crackers nonetheless and sounds which had the floor to capacity for most of his session. In particular it was sheer joy to hear the Ben E King Drifter's soundalike Harry and the Keyavas "If this is goodbye", one I've hardly ever heard on the scene but a sure classic. We had some real fun with the likes of P.J. Proby's "Nikki Hoeky", another one which had the place bouncing. For my money this was one of the best guest slots I've heard since I started coming to the Wheel, Mickey not being afraid to mix in the lesser known tracks with the more familiar favourites. I do hope we get to hear him again soon. As always, the evening ended with residents John and Pete playing Wheel classics.

I was delighted to see my friends from the Greatstone, Rob and Elaine making their first visit to the Wheel, all the way from Newbury in Berkshire. Elaine is one of the best and most energetic dancers on the scene and even she got pooped by the music!

This was a belter of a night, more than making up for the problems of the previous month.

20 Jan 2007 Lancashire Soul Club, Polish Catholic Social Club, Chamber Road, Hollins, Oldham, OL8 4NZ

This is a venue that's become adopted by us as one of our regular haunts. The wide range of DJs means a very varied diet of Northern. Julie and Karen were coming later on, so I made my way alone to the Polish Club, meeting up with Doddy inside. The place was pretty empty initially, but the numbers started to build up after 9 and although it wasn't heaving, it was busy enough to create a good atmosphere. My matey Cookey was on during the first hour or so, but it was a case of catching up on things with Doddy, so we nattered for a fair bit, largely oblivious to the music. Sorry Cookey!

Senile decay means that I don't retain names as easily as I used to do, so, apart from Keith Ridge, whose name I look out for these days, I can't now recall who else was on on the night! Having heard Keith before, I know what to expect and he didn't disappoint, doing an absolutely blinding slot, very much hitting the head on the nail for me, with a good across the board mix, and some R&B gems thrown in.

It was lovely seeing Fay (aka the Soul Witch) again, as I'd missed her at the Soul'dham Alldayer do. With her was Lala Brooks, one-time lead singer of the Crystals - she had done a spot on stage at the alldayer the previous week, which I was unfortunate to miss. Those of you who know my tastes in music well will know how big a fan I am of the "Girl Group" scene, none more so than Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" so it was nice spending a few minutes talking with the lady. She said how much she enjoys it over here and was looking forward to coming back soon. She did the honours when it was raffle time announcing how she was appreciative of the Northern soul scene - apparently the artists of the 60s are largely forgotten about in their native America. She also told us that she was 59 years of age - don't you mean 59 years young?

It was another lovely evening with good company, great music and I managed to get my share of dancing in. Oh and it was also an opportunity to replenish my bar stocks with a selection of bottled Polish lager. Nazdrowie! (Cheers!)

19 Jan 2007 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

It's always a great joy to go to this venue and on the night in question, it was a full car load with Al's Gals (tm) Julie, Karen and Sue, not forgetting Charlie. The previous day, the north had suffered some torrential weather with hurricane winds causing lots of damage, but, thankfully, it wasn't quite as wild going across the Pennines. We got there at 8:15 and there was already a queue, but we just about got in under the canopy.

Pretty soon, it was time to go and hit the floor. I still had my old pair of glasses so it was a case of taking them off when I danced and putting them back on again as I sat down, on-off, all night! It wasn't just the glasses that were on-off all night - yes, I enjoyed myself, but balance of music seemed to be a problem with fast numbers being followed by slowies, then back to fast again, so you never really built up a rhythm. Although I danced a fair bit, certainly for the first half of the night, I felt that the music wasn't as adventurous as it could have been - maybe this is a sign of my tastes changing!

It was good to see my Yorkshire pal, Den, after a gap of many months, this time with some of her pals making their first visit to the Ritz. Make the most of it, gals, the way things are going there ain't going to be a Ritz to dance in, in six months time.

13 Jan 2007
Part 1
Oldham - Soul'dham All-dayer, Queen Elizabeth Halls, Oldham.

They say you wait ages for a bus then three come all at the same time. That's how it was on this night. I'd originally planned to go to Orrell, as I'd not been there since September due to a combination of weekenders and illness. Then along came the Soul'dham event, a charity alldayer, so I thought "I'll do that in the afternoon, then go on to Orrell at night". Then Jane and Dave badgered me to go to Nicola's 40th birthday bash at the Monaco - in the end, I had my arm twisted and, mad fool that I am, decided to do all three!!

Having been away overnight, I didn't get home till late in the afternoon, then an hour or two later I was off out again, to Oldham. I reckon I've not been in the centre of Oldham for about 10 years and it took me a while to work out how to get to the Civic Centre car park, driving around in torrential rain, finally getting there about 6pm, somewhat later than originally planned, but hey! what's new?;-)

I'd not been to the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 30 years, last time was way back in the 70s to hear hilarious explosives expert and raconteur, Blaster Bates. I'd quite forgotten just how huge the place was, apparently 1200 capacity, or thereabouts. The room was gigantic with a very high ceiling and a really large dance floor, comparable in size to the King Georges Hall in Blackburn, with seating around 3 sides of the room. The gang were already there - Doddy, Charlie, Cooky, Julie, Karen and Sue. I got myself a drink and joined them, not that I was going to be staying long!

First impressions were pretty favourable, the floor being absolutely superb but lethally slippery, even for me wearing rubber souled shoes - heaven knows how folks with leather soles made out! I got a few dances in, but had to temper my movement because of the surface. The DJs on stage were having problems with the sound system - I later found out that it was a temperamental turntable. I have to say that during the time I was there (from about 6 till 7:45pm), there didn't seem to be any great pattern to the music, oldies being followed by modern of a totally different pace and rhythm, so you were constantly on and off the floor - I suspect the DJs in question were not dancers. Also, the volume of the sound system could have been cranked up a few notches and the lighting could have been turned down. Still, this is the first time to my knowledge that a Northern Soul event has been held here,so those lessons could be heeded in the future. I did hear whispers of this venue possibly being used again.

Even though some live acts were billed, I'd committed to go on and so around 7:45 I had to leave prematurely. Listening to the gang after the event, I got the impression that it had been a successful and enjoyable night, although one or two folks said the place was a bit lacking in atmosphere. Anyway, for me, it was back outside into the elements - mercifully the rain had stopped!

13 Jan 2007
Part 2
For Dancers Only, St James Social Centre, Orrell, near Wigan

Continuing on my mad night out, I made it to Orrell around 8:45pm. I hadn't been here since September so it was lovely seeing Pete and Liz on their "first anniversary at Orrell" do. Initially there weren't that many people in, although numbers crept up gradually. It was a tough night regarding competition with the regular venue on at Bernadette's, alongside specials at Oldham and the Monaco, not to mention a do somewhere in Stockport.

I must admit being somewhat surprised to hear pretty mainstream sounds in the hour going up to 10pm, no disrespect, but I can hear that anywhere! Things changed at 10pm when Pete Everett came on and, as you'd expect, he dug deep and presented some pretty rare stuff. Unfortunately, I think tiredness had caught up with me during my stay here, as I didn't dance a lot. After covering over 200 miles in the day so far, I needed to chill out! In fairness, I'd done so much mileage and just wasn't in the right frame of mind to do justice to the venue. Also, earlier in the day, I'd broken my glasses, so I had to make do with an old clunky pair, too heavy around the head for dancing!! Anyway, the numbers were creeping up quite healthily by the time I left around 10:30 for the Monaco! Never mind, next month, I'll have a better stab at things!

13 Jan 2007
Part 3
Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

I got to the Monaco around 11pm and was stunned by what greeted me on my way in. Quite simply, the place was just heaving! I've been to the Monaco when it's been busy, but I'd never seen it this busy! As it was a birthday bash, there were lots of youngsters around, but, rather than detracting from things, it just added to the party atmosphere. Apart from service at the bar suffering, it was pretty much business as usual with a packed floor, but not annoyingly so.

After saying my hellos, I needed to let off steam and unwind and what better way than on the dance floor! To be honest, I didn't pay that much attention to the music played, the atmosphere was top-notch, the place just buzzed. This was very much the Monaco at its best. Although I rationed my dancing, it was hard to stay off the floor, so I can only guess the music was brill!!;-)

The numbers stayed more or less until the end, by which time I was truly exhausted and ready to make my weary way home. I've said this loads of times but the Monaco has to be one of the best oldies venues around - it does what it says on the tin and does it extremely well. There can't be many places that can beat it.

12 Jan 2007 Crown Inn, Nottingham Road, Spondon, Derby

This last few months since I've been going to the Hideaway and Greatstone, I've got to know some folks really into the R&B/mod scene, including Kev and Hillary Kus from Bolsolver in Derbyshire. At the last Hideaway, I was invited to Kev's 50th birthday party - this was to be held at the Crown pub in Spondon, on the outskirts of Derby, a regular venue for monthly R&B sessions - so I thought I'd give it a bash. I must admit it was a longer thrash driving down than I'd anticipated, going across Woodhead then down the M1, but as I needed to go to Lincoln the following day, I had decided to stay in the area overnight, which, at least made the end of night drive relatively painless.

Checking in at my billet, I set out to find somewhere to eat, but took a wrong turn near to Spondon and got hopelessly lost - it took me 15 or 20 minutes before I finally stumbled on the right road. I found the pub and a few hundred yards down the road there was a newly opened Indian restaurant, the Cinnamon, where I had a lovely meal. I finally got to the Crown about 10pm, rather later than originally planned, but there you go!

The birthday bash was held in the function room at the rear of the pub. There weren't that many faces I recognised but this was hardly surprising as I was some 70-80 miles from my home turf. I sought out Hillary and Kev and was made to feel very welcome by them - the birthday boy was having a great time. I didn't find it that easy to socialise as most of the guests were esconced in their groups. The music being played was in the style of the Hideaway, very much up my street. There was a small dancefloor which was certainly receiving some regular action - hardly surprising, given the quality of the music and I didn't need much presuading! There were a couple of record dealers, so I spent a bit of time seeing what was on offer in their boxes. About 11-ish I was delighted to see my pals from Yorkshire, Jane and Dave, making their entrance.

It was a really lovely evening with quite a few DJs doing the honours for Kev, including well-known R&B afficionado Roger Banks. I was delighted to meet again DJ Steve from Melton Mowbray, whom I'd last heard doing an awesome spot in the Redemption Room at last March's Prestatyn. I was more than a happy bunny with over a dozen tracks added to my wants list, such as the Fabulous Four's "I'm coming home", Sammy Turner's "Love keeps calling" and Harry and the Keyavas' Drifters inspired "If this is goodbye". The two hour drive down was made easier by my not having to return home as I'd booked a hotel a few miles up the road. A brill night.

6 Jan 2007 Soul in the Cellar at the Greatstone - The Greatstone, Chester Road, Stretford, nr Manchester

October was the last time I'd been here and, appetite whetted by my visit to the Hideaway the previous week, I was looking forward to going again. I picked up my Yorkshire pals, Bridget and Dave from Piccadilly Station and we made our way over to Stretford. Again, a quiet night, with not too many punters in when we arrived.

I do love the music here, as Barry and Brian are very much "my era" and their record collection is brilliant, to say the least. Although the dance floor is miniscule, it doesn't stop the dedicated getting in some dancing, the cellar location adding to the atmosphere of the place. This venue is also one to have a natter and a laugh or two and that was the case here, in delightful fun company.

Partway through the evening, some folks from the Monaco came in - they'd not realised that event was cancelled on the night in question. Presumably, arriving at the Monaco to find it closed, they were geared up for a night of Northern, so hunted down this venue as a replacement night. Anyway, their presence was welcome, adding to the numbers. Having said that, the venue does deserve more support, as it is not the usual run of the mill evening.

Around 1am, I donned my taxi-driver's hat and nipped out to ferry the Yorkshire duo to the station, and came back 20 minutes or so later to continue the night. During the evening I added half a dozen or so tracks to my list, so I was a happy bunny. It had been a lovely night and one I'm looking forward to repeating soon.

5 Jan 2007 Bolton - Bolton Soul Club, Derby Ward Labour Club, Deane Road, Bolton, BL3 5AH

Second time around at this venue for me, this time with Al's Gal's, Julie and Sue (Karen being absent due to illness) together with Cooky and Charlie. Numbers were a bit on the low side, but then this time of year is always tricky, with folks spent up and partied out after the festive season.

As previously, the music was really good, pretty much across the board Northern and although initially there wasn't much action on the floor, that certainly wasn't the fault of the DJs. Gradually, the numbers crept up but nowhere near the levels of October, which was the last time we were here. In fact, this venue wasn't the only one suffering with low attendance - we got a call from some friends that Heywood only had 8 people in, so they drove over and joined us!!!

Anyway, it didn't stop us dancing, although the solid floor needed a bit of talc to get it going. The music really was top notch for me, apart from one set. A pet hate I have is DJs speaking/singing over records - yes I *KNOW* Little Anthony and the Imperials' "Going out of my head" is an awesome track, that's why we wanted it playing, not to hear him doing karaoke over it!

We had a brill night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, nice atmosphere, nice people, good music. Top night!

31 Dec 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

Looking back in my diary it's over 3 months since I was here last. This time, accompanied by Charlie and Al's Gals (tm), Julie and Karen, we got to the venue bang on start time at 8pm to find most of the tables already taken. I knew it was going to be busy, but hadn't quite bargained on this busy! There was a real party atmosphere in the air, although there didn't seem to be much dancing going on, not at the beginning, anyway. That didn't stop me making an early start on the floor and reminding myself of what a lovely floor we have at the Monaco.

The Monaco just has to be the epitome of how to run a successful oldies night, with classic after classic on the decks and the floor busy for most of the evening. To break things up, I did the rounds saying hello to folks, some of whom I hadn't seen in ages, such as Tony and Ann from Garswood and Dave and Lyn Sharples. That's the thing about the Monaco, it's such a friendly place, or should I say, the people are so friendly here.

Before we knew it, we were bidding farewell to 2006 and toasting in 2007 (thanks for the champers, Doddy!), then again doing the rounds, this time wishing everyone a "Happy New Year". I enjoyed last New Year's Eve at Stoke, but this one seemed better, probably because many of the people local to the Manchester scene were there and let's face it, it's the people who make the difference. We originally came to these venues for the music, we come back for the tremendous friendships we make with like-minded souls (pun intended!)!

Normally, the Monaco quietens down after around 12:30/1am - this time the floor was pretty full right to the very end. That's how parties should be! Just reflecting on the past year, it's been a great one for me on the scene, meeting so many people through the website and the photos. I hope to be back with a vengeance early in the New Year, trying to get my piccies up to date. To everyone who has made it a special year for me, heartfelt thanks and lots of love from the Pole with Soul!;-)

30 Dec 2006 Hideaway, Manchester

The Hideaway is one of those slow burners that's really grown on me as my tastes in music have developed and veered more towards the earlier days of R&B and soul. I hadn't been in 3 months so was well overdue for another visit. I got there not long after the 9pm official start to find the place pretty empty compared to previous months. My Yorkshire pals, Bridget and Dave were already there, so I joined them in the corner. Gradually, though, it started to fill up, although numbers were down on what I'd seen when I'd previously been there. Alongside residents Paul Welsby, Mike Warburton and Neil Henderson were guest DJs Damian Hewitt and Mick Parry.

As I may have said before, the Hideaway is one of those places where you are unlikely to love everything you hear, as the musical range is pretty wide. While I don't mind a bit of the heavy R&B/bluesy stuff, it isn't my favourite. My stuff is the late 50s/early 60s R&B that was morphing into soul, Drifters from the Ben E King era, solo female vocalists, girl group sounds, that sort of material. It's a bit like panning for gold, you go sifting through a lot of material to hear the gems that grab you. And grab me they did, from the Del Vikings (best known to me for their American hits "Come go with me" and "Whispering bells") on a lovely real Drifters-soundalike track "Bring back your heart", to Patience Valentine 's "If you don't come", to Teddy Randazzo "Let the sun shine in" (I'd only ever heard the Peddlers version of this some 40 years back). In all there were about a dozen tracks I ended up jotting down in my little notebook.

Mercifully, it wasn't as sweltering as on previous nights, which made dancing much easier. I spent a bit of time getting to know co-promoter Neil Henderson and finding out what had brought him to this scene and learning a bit more of the background to the Hideaway. Close time at 2am came far too early. A lovely night, some great new tracks, nice company. Yeah, a good 'un!

29 Dec 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

Another All-nighter at the Wheel - these start at 10pm, an hour later than the normal monthly events and boast 3 guest DJs compared to just one on the normal monthly sessions. This month, guests billed were Ian (Nai) Dunning, Clarence and Pete Everett, so an opportunity to hear some slightly different fayre musically. I got there just about bang on kick-off time and what was noticeable this time around was how quickly the place filled up. Having said that, quite a few of the regulars were absent - for example Barry and Jane Tasker, but then Christmas is a time of family commitments and folks going away - that was certainly the case for both Doddy and Tommy who were warming themselves in sunnier climes. Great, though, to see old friends Paul from Newquay and Goldie from Liverpool.

Promoters Pete and John each did a couple of excellent one-hour slots to kick the evening off and, as you'd expect, the floor was heaving more or less from the outset with track after track, all top notch, tempting dancers onto the floor, but that's hardly suprising as the guys were playing music requested by the audience.

This is where the positives end - on the night in question, there were a few new faces in the place, but their attitude wasn't exactly respectful. One young lass was dancing with a drink in her hand and when told by a regular that we didn't do this at the Wheel, she just ignored him, continuing dancing. A little while later another older lady in the same group dropped her drink on the floor, the glass smashing into tiny smithereens. We all have accidents from time to time but this visitor made only a cursory (and totally inadequate) effort to remove the broken glass using her feet and then carried on dancing. If that had happened to me, I'd have been off to the bar staff immediately to get them to clean the floor thoroughly of the debris, but this wasn't me. In the end it was down to me to approach the bar staff myself to do the honours. I'm sorry, but the safety of my fellow dancers is of paramount importance to me, but, sadly, that view doesn't appear to be shared by all. Sigh.... If that's the sort of newcomer that gets attracted to the place, then I want no part of it.

By the time Ian came on to do his slot, I was distracted by events and struggled to concentrate on the music and the dancing. I stayed until the end of his spot at 3am but by then I'd had enough - I was shattered and needed to hit the sack. The events of the previous hour had upset and angered me - I know I'm no good at letting go of things like this, but that's just me. It was a sour end to what had started off as a good evening.

26 Dec 2006 Drax Social Club, Drax, near Selby, Yorkshire

Drax is the site of a large coal-fired power station, not far from Selby in Yorkshire, the venue being the Power station's Social Club. My Yorkshire friends have raved about this venue for a while, but as it's normally held on the last Friday of the month, clashing with the Twisted Wheel, it's a case of "no chance"! However, this time the venue was advertising its Boxing Day party, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I faffed around getting ready, leaving it a bit late to leave and finally arrived at the venue, just off Junction 34 on the M62 at around 9pm - it had taken me about 70 minutes and that was thrashing it down the motorway. A lot longer than I'd thought! I came close to disappointment going in through the door - I hadn't bargained on how popular the Boxing Day event would be and hadn't got a ticket, only to be told at the door that the event was a sell-out! :-( Fortunately, some returns saved my bacon.

The place was heaving, but service at the bar was swift - and at £1.60 for a pint of Diet coke (typically £2) the prices were good too. Even though it was busy, there was some seating still available, so I parked myself at a table on the edge of the floor. Virtually immediately I was greeted by a number of people whom I'd either met previously or who had seen my website, including Graham from York who was there with his son and friends. I was quite taken by the friendliness of the folks there, a lovely feeling. First impressions were of a quality floor (with seating on three sides) and the place was nice and cool - the air-conditioning made it very comfortable indeed, despite the place being busy!

The music in the remaining hour until 10pm was pretty good, although the floor didn't seem as busy as it could have been. Unfortunately, the next hour proved to be a bit tricky as guest DJ, Neil Jones, seemed to struggle to find the pulse of the place. That all changed at 11 when the residents got back on track with some floorfillers that did what it said on the tin - the floor was just heaving!

Going onto the floor itself was a real revelation - it was simply superb, wonderful to dance on, so silky smooth, a truly top notch surface. Congratulations to the staff at the Social Club for knowing how to maintain a surface of this quality. Musically, the venue was pretty much across the board, although there was a tendency for a tad too much modern/crossover for my liking. But clearly the punters needed no pressing to get dancing - the floor was pretty full for most of the evening from 11pm onwards right through to closedown at 1am, so the jocks were clearly doing their job well.

Having visited the venue, I can well understand why my Yorkshire friends rave over it so much. It has to be one of the best dance floors I've danced on and the air-conditioning and cheap bar prices are an added bonus. I had a great time and would just like to thank all the people who made me feel welcome. Incidentally, for those who prefer their music more strictly "Northern oldies", there is a virtually identical venue at Eggborough (another power station social club), which is a couple of junctions nearer Manchester on the M62 and run by the same promoters. I'll be listing that in the events calendar in the future, along with Drax.

23 Dec 2006 St Bernadette's Soul Club, Whitefield

I hadn't been to Bernadette's in around six months, as it's one of those events that unfortunately clashes with other venues I attend, which is a shame as I rate Has Grundy (one of the promoters) very highly. This time, however, it was on a free night and the Christmas party, to boot. Full complement of Al's Gals (tm) on the night - we got there just around start time, meeting Doddy who had also just arrived.

We got ourselves a table, meeting up unexpectedly with Ged and Debbie who were already there. There were a fair number of DJs lined up, all doing a 30 minute or so slot. The music here is across the board, a lovely mix, mainly oldies and favourites on the night. The only downside for me was the guest DJ who was doing a "Mike Sweeney" - I wasn't the only one who found the rah-rah "are you enjoying yourselves" style pretty irritating and tiresome, a shame because it got in the way of some excellent music.

We hadn't realised that there was going to be buffet, with food kindly brought along by fellow attendees - I find some food always goes down well partway through the night to replenish the dwindling energy levels.

It was a lovely party night with a great atmosphere about the place. The music was good, as was the company - a brill night.

22 Dec 2006 Soul at the Birchfield, Birchfield Park Sports and Social Club, Widnes

Birchfield is always a favourite place of mine, what with the welcome always extended to me and the mix of music provided by residents Biff, Dave and Chris which hits the spot for me. This time I was collecting Julie and Karen, who hadn't been to the venue in a while. We met up with Doddy outside, not long after the 8pm kickoff.

The pattern here, the last few times I've attended, has been for the place to fill up slowly, hitting its peak around 10pm. This time around it was a tad faster, although I still think the venue deserved to have a fuller attendance.

The first couple of hours or so, it's down to the regulars doing what they do best - providing a mix of material, some familiar, some less so, some virtually unknown. I totally trust their judgement - I know they're going to play tracks which will appeal and have me rushing onstage, notebook in hand, to get details. So it was on this night with half a dozen tracks added to my collecting list. But this isn't mere anoraky stuff, the material played was all eminently danceable and I got my fair share of dancing in. The guests were from the Viaduct in Earlestown and they, too, acquitted themselves very well.

Meeting friends such as Brian and Jane is always a pleasure, not forgetting Dave from Widnes who always greets me like a long-lost brother. It was a lovely night, reinforcing all my positive vibes about the place. If you haven't been before, do give it a try - here you will find good music played without massive egos dominating. The residents promise to play all requests if they have them on the night and I have never found them wanting.

Well done guys, a top night!

16 Dec 2006 Lancashire Soul Club, Polish Catholic Social Club, Chamber Road, Hollins, Oldham, OL8 4NZ

This venue is rapidly gaining the well-deserved reputation for providing a top-notch Northern Soul night out. Karen had offered to do the driving on the night, so with Julie, we were Oldham bound. We got to the club about 9-ish, meeting up with Doddy, to find most of the tables had been taken. Still, we found some seating on the edge of the dancefloor.

It was a Twisted Wheel-type night, with guest DJs, Pete Roberts and John Green, together with the Sink's Stan Evans, not forgetting Albert "Jock" Heron. Doddy was delighted as he could have his Wheel fix for the month (as he would be away for the Allnighter). The night seemed a little slow in getting started, not that the music was at fault with Pete and John providing the usual Wheel fayre we all know and love.

Stan's spot, however, was less well received with the floor deserted for a fair chunk of the hour. Unfortunately this sort of dose of hardcore R&B is too heavy for the majority of Northern Soul audiences, the same problem even existing at the Wheel. For those not aware of the history, Stan's heritage comes from the Brazennose Street days of the Twisted Wheel when heavy R&B/electric blues was de rigeur - during the mid-60s as R&B morphed into Soul, the character of the Wheel changed, with many of the youngsters of the day demanding faster more up-tempo dancing tunes, so much so that the leading light behind the early days, Roger Eagle, left the Twisted Wheel largely taking his entourage with him. That schism remains to this very day, even at the Wheel, where the Brazennose Street style is not applauded as much as the later, post-1966, days. Personally, I don't have a problem with the music, per se, although when concentrated, it is heavier to take than the later style.

"Jock" Heron had the unenviable job of picking up the floor for the final slot of the evening, which he did admirably, but by then, the damage was done and a lot of people had started to make their way home.

So for the reasons outlined, it was a mixed evening, unfortunately many of the audience let one slot cloud their perception of the night. I think, on balance, we all have personal favourites and one of the strengths of this venue is the large number of regular DJs (over 20) on which the Lancashire Soul Club can draw, which gives it a tremendous variety of styles. To each their own!

15 Dec 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

This was my first time out for two weeks after doing my back in the previous week, so I was anxious about how it would hold up, but, having said that, I was desperate for my fix of Northern and this one of my favourite venues. Sue had kindly offered to drive, so after picking me up, we took on board the rest of Al's Gals (tm), Julie and Karen, plus Charlie. We made our way across the Pennines to join the queue, where Doddy and Tommy were waiting under the front canopy, sheltering from the rain. By opening time, there was quite a crowd outside waiting to be let in, so the omens looked positive for a good night.

Pretty soon, it was time to go in and, as is quite usual here, it wasn't long before people starting dancing on one of the best sprung dance floors for miles around. I, too, got down to some serious dancing more or less right away - apart from the odd twinge or two, the back was holding up well, so I relaxed and proceeded to enjoy myself.

Unlike some venues I've attended recently, the Ritz filled up very quickly and there was a great buzz about the place, with numbers attending being pretty near capacity. I love the atmosphere of the place at the best of times and I thought it looked even nicer on the night, all decked out with festive streamers and balloons. The music was as good as ever, so much so that pacing went to the wind - that resulted in me having to sit out a chunk of the night while I recovered!

During the night, Ginger announced that the venue is booked until June, and, after that, it's all in the lap of the gods. It's a tragedy that the place is set to close - what we need is some sort of consortium to buy this as a going concern and keep it going as one of the prime soul venues in the North. Anyway, we have six months left, so we need to make the most of things while they last.

It was a great night and as things closed at 1am, we all made our Christmas greetings and departed, homeward bound, blissfully happy!

2 Dec 2006 TSOP (The Sounds of Prestwich), Longfield Suite, Prestwich

Al's Gals (tm) had other things lined up, so it was Charlie and I who made our way to the Longfield Suite on this blustery evening for the customary December half-nighter. The last time I'd been here was in September and the previous few sessions at this venue had left me feeling something was missing. I felt that if anything was going to have that spark, then it would be this Christmas party.

I was among the first there and palled up with Ged and Sue from Romiley. I was expecting the crowds to come piling through the door, but that wasn't happening - not at the start anyway. Even by 11pm, there were still quite a few tables going spare - now that is quite a turnaround from last year's equivalent event when it had been a lockout an hour earlier!

The evening started with Terry Davies doing his opening hour, followed by Pete Eccles, who got the floor moving. Carole McCarthy was on next - I think my expectations of her have risen significantly in the last few months, having attended some scorching sessions, but it seemed to take her about 20 minutes to find the pulse of the room. Once she did the floor really moved - I was nattering to my pal, Denise from Yorkshire for part of that slot but looking at the floor it was buzzing. She was followed by Ally Mayer, who continued with a well-constructed set, then at midnight, Ginger Taylor - personally I thought he was a bit off the boil from what I'd normally expect. By then, the numbers had crept up, although they still seemed a tad down on the norm.

At 1am, it was the turn of Nige Brown - I must admit that, unusually, I struggled with large chunks of his set, but that was all to change when Robbo came on for the 2-3 slot. I don't recall ever hearing him before but was absolutely knocked out by his spot - he played a whole raft of largely unfamiliar stuff but all eminently danceable and I was forever rushing up onto the stage to get details of the latest track he'd played. I was really taken by his passion for the music, particularly the less familiar tracks. Talking with him later, I discovered he is a Manchester lad who mainly does nighters - I'll certainly be looking out for him in the future. The night was closed off by Pete Eccles and Terry Davies doing a double-header - I don't know whether they had planned this or had taken a leaf out of Robbo's book but they largely continued with the less familiar theme, mixing in some classics and it worked very well, right up to close of business at 4am.

A few comments looking back on the night. Firstly, I thought the floor was in about the best shape I have ever known it - even in my rubber-soled shoes I could just glide along on it. As an aside I was most surprised to see some talc on the floor near to where I was sitting - the stuff is banned at Prestwich and the floor didn't need it anyway.

Secondly, I thought the sparkle was back in the place, although I don't know whether it had been a case of absence making my heart grow fonder. It just goes to show that the place is still capable of producing a top-notch night. It's a shame the numbers attending weren't as high as I'd have expected, although that was just my subjective perception.

Finally, for me, the booking of Robbo was just inspired - here's a guy who is prepared to go with his gut instincts and do something different and his faith was reciprocated by the floor. Nice to see the final hour following in that style and not "playing safe" - taking risks is bold but it can, and did, pay off.

An absolutely brill night!

1 Dec 2006
Soul at Joe's, St Joe's Catholic Club, Peasley Cross, St Helens, WA9 3BN

We decided to give this venue a try after hearing some positive comments from a number of respected sources. Al's Gals (tm) Julie, Karen and Sue accompanied me on this Friday night - we made pretty good time bombing down the M62 and getting onto the St Helens Linksway. Unfortunately the plethora of roundabouts getting close to the venue threw me and I got lost after missing the correct exit. A few roundabouts later I realised I was lost when I saw a road sign which I recognised from looking at the map the night before, if you know what I mean. So, a quick stop to work out where we were (not really sure I did that successfully), double back and try another turn - fortunately, we stumbled across the venue just as we were beginning to worry if we would find the place!

We parked around the side of the club and made our way in - by this stage it was around 8:30, so we'd been travelling for about 45 minutes. We were told that the entrance had increased from £3 to £4 despite the price advertised in "On the Scene", still a fair price though, for a Northern venue.

This is a medium sized venue with a large bar on the left as you go into the function room and a reasonably sized floor - a fair amount of seating on two sides of the room and some just beyond the bar. There were quite a few people there and the place started to fill up fairly quickly. I recognised a fair number of familiar faces from venues such as Birchfields (on the other side of the motorway) and from the Monaco.

The music was excellent, an across-the-board range of traditional Northern. People seemed to be a bit slow to get onto the floor despite the good music - would this be one of those places that would take a while to get started? First impressions of the dance floor were mixed - a nice wooden floor but it seemed decidedly sticky and very hard work. We sprinkled some talc onto the edge of the floor (long before noticing the sign that talc was not allowed - oops)! The talc worked for a few steps but then the benefits seemd to get eroded very quickly as it again became hard work. Gradually, though, the floor became easier to dance on as more talc got worked into the surface. Havin said that, I wouldn't labour the point any more, as it was evident from the start that there was a nice atmosphere in the place - that "buzz" being there from the outset. It was friendly too, I was really heartened by the number of people who came over to say "hi" - very much appreciated one and all.

Not long after 9, the first dancers made their way onto the floor and from that point on, it never stopped with the floor being busy (although never uncomfortably so) for the rest of the night. The crowd themselves were a nice bunch, all pretty much Northern soulies, this ain't yer Friday night handbaggy venue, thank heavens. The DJs played extremely well to the floor and were very responsive to requests - in our group a number of us made requests and all (apart from one which the DJs did not have in their box) was honoured within minutes - most impressive. Only one minor niggle - I have a thing against DJs speaking over records, no problem across the intro (a la 60s radio) as that keeps the momentum going but please not across the main part of a record as one DJ kept doing. But that is a minor niggle (it was nowhere near as irritating as at Preston Grasshoppers) - this is a quality venue which is deservedly successful and has a loyal local following. We all really enjoyed ourselves and based on this showing, it won't be long before we are back. If you get a chance to go, don't even think twice, you'll have a ball! Thanks to all concerned!

25 Nov 2006 King Georgeís Hall, Blackburn

The evening marked my third anniversary on the scene and the event had been a sellout for the best part of a week. Charlie hadn't been well so was unable to join me on my journey into deepest Lancashire. I got there in bags of time and was among the first in the queue. The lack of organisation at the KGH always bemuses me when I watch the DJs at the front door begging the heavies to be let in!

When I got upstairs the DJs hadn't completed their sound checks but it wasn't long before proceedings got under way. It seemed to take a bit to get folks onto the floor, but once they did, the place just buzzed with classic Northern soul. Pretty soon after I was joined by Dave and Stu from Leyland and Sue from Grantham.

There was a tricky hour or two around 11pm till 1am, when it all got very handbaggy on the dance floor. Having said that, the floor was packed, unfortunately though with dancers who had little idea of etiquette - cue for me to take a break from it all. I think this is what gets me so frustrated about the KGH - it's a great venue with a superb dance floor, but the handbaggers do my head in at times!

The music was good solid Northern, although, as at Blackpool, the DJs did seem to play safe and quite a few tracks were repeated during the evening. I noticed Ginger Taylor wasn't on the DJ roster, but in his place, Bob Hinsley and Richard Searling joined the regular team in the Northern room.

By around 2am, I was flagging quite a bit and spent most of the last hour, sitting and chatting. I'd enjoyed the evening, although I'd probably benefit from a break from the place.

24 Nov 2006
(part 1)
Soul at the Birchfield, Birchfield Park Sports and Social Club, Widnes

I decided to throw caution to the winds and attend two venues on the night. It was Birchfield's anniversary and I just had to be there to pass on my best wishes to the friendly trio of Biff, Dave and Chris. I adore this venue, not just because of the music which has an early 60s slant for some of the night, including tracks you just aren't likely to hear anywhere else (which suits me down to the ground) but also the sheer friendliness of the 3 co-promoters and the regulars.

As sometimes happens here, it was a tad slow to get moving and it wasn't until around 9:45/10 that the numbers gradually crept up. Not that it stopped folks dancing, nor the quality of the music, excellent, as ever. I got into conversation with Brian and Jane, another couple with whom I've previously just exchanged cursory greetings - it was delightful on this occasion to get to know them both better.

But bearing in mind, I'd only set myself a couple of hours at the venue before moving on to the Wheel, I was itching to get dancing and managed to get a few good dances in before 10:30 when I had to leave. There are 5 Fridays in the month of December and I look forward to spending a full evening here next month. If I hadn't had the Wheel to go on to, I would certainly have stayed for what was shaping up to be a great evening.

24 Nov 2006
(part 2)
Twisted Wheel, Manchester

I got to the Wheel not long after 11pm and the place was just buzzing having already been going for a couple of hours. My delayed arrival had caused some consternation among the regulars who were close to arranging a search party! I'm obviously part of the furniture and it's always nice to see my pals!

I got there just in time for the guest spot from my mate, Goldie, assisted on the decks by Stan Evans. John was away on holiday, so it was left to Pete Roberts to hold the fort for the rest of the evening. I was asked to step into the breach on the photography stakes, so I spent part of the evening doing the honours, in between dancing my little wotsits off!

Another great night, see you folks next month for the All-nighter!

18 Nov 2006 Lancashire Soul Club, Polish Catholic Social Club, Chamber Road, Hollins, Oldham, OL8 4NZ

The girls had decided to come along a bit later so I made my way to Oldham on my own, getting there not long after the 8pm start, being one of the first to arrive. A tad later, we were joined by Doddy and Eilish, then Karen and Julie, and finally Pete and Wendy and Debbie and Ged.

I have to say that for the first 90 minutes, I thought the music was diabolical, with the DJs clearly playing for their own benefit - certainly no-one was dancing. But once that barren period was over, we had a brilliant mix of music for the rest of the night.

The "Mod" Mayor of Oldham was in attendance for part of the night, as "Big Shed" Wayne made a presentation of funds raised at a previous event, the beneficiary being a Spinal injuries charity.

Apart from some piccies I'd taken of the presentation, I'd given the camera a rest for the night, but just had to take some shots of some stunning dancing from young Chloe - she was a joy to watch and I look forward to sorting out the piccies in due course.

As always, a superb night here. Watch out for the Charity All-dayer at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham town centre in January - this promises to be a mega-event with a star-studded cast of DJs.

17 Nov 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

Here we are, half way through the month and it's time for Brighouse again! Yay! A full carload as usual for this venue, with Al's Gals (tm), Julie, Karen and Sue, plus Charlie. We were a tad earlier getting there than in previous months, joining the queue around 8.15pm - a few minutes earlier and we'll hit the front of the queue one of these days - mind you, I'm sure Tommy camps out overnight to be first in line!;-) The usual chitchat with pals while waiting for the doors to open and before we know it, it's 8:30 and in we go!!

The place seemed a tad busier than in previous months, which all adds to the buzz. It didn't take long for me to hit the floor and that's how it was for the first 90 minutes or couple of hours. I must admit, I'd over-done it for that initial spot or two, but things quietened down for me after that. I have to say that the guests generally didn't really the mark for me, although to be fair, the floor was busy for most of the night. I was grateful for the rest, hahahahah!;-)

There was a group of young lasses present, quite obviously not "soulies" - at one stage I felt as though we were some sort of freak show, going by the looks they gave the regular dancers. They'd obviously not seen anything like it before, as was evidenced by them gesticulating and sniggering at us. At one stage I felt like asking them whether they were too young to come unattended by their parents, but hey! it's their loss. Us oldies certainly knew how to enjoy ourselves.

A few new tracks for my notebook and lots of good dancing left me a happy camper by the time the evening came to an end, far too early at 1am. Roll on next month!

12 Nov 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester Charity Dayer

I got back from Blackpool late morning and the plan was to get a few hours kip in before the Charity Dayer at the Wheel. It was badly needed as I'd only had about 4 hours sleep the previous night, but with various domestic chores it just wasn't to be. I finally got to the venue just after 4:30, a tad later than the 3pm start I'd planned on making!;-)

Pete had spoken to me a couple of weeks earlier to sound out comments on the Charity all-days which had been instigated following publicity on Mary Fox's Northern Soul show on BBC Radio Stoke - the beneficiary being John O'Brien who had been refused a life-saving cancer drug by the NHS. Sundays are always tricky dates, but no-one need have worried, as the place was very busy when I finally made it there!

It was also surprisingly warm - the last time I'd attended a dayer, well, the word "evil" just about described the cold! The venue was just jumping, which is how I like it. As someone who is usually through the doors right at the start, it's quite strange making your entrance when the place has well and truly warmed up.

I witnessed Pete and John playing some great music, including a superb guest slot from one of the most under-rated DJs on the scene, Has Grundy. He knew how to pick 'em and certainly had us moving. I'm not sure if there were any other guests as I'd been late arriving

I was in "chilling out" mode, spending some time talking to Fred Fielder and his lovely fiancee Joan - much to my surprise, I found she is also a Salford Council employee and it was clear we shared a common ethos, as regards the things that matter in life. A lovely couple and a sheer joy to spend some time with them.

I was slowly grindling to a halt after a very hectic weekend and finally bid my farewells around 7:15pm, after the raffle had been held. I later heard that £800 had been raised on the day, a magnificent effort on the part of all concerned.

10 Nov 2006
to
11 Nov 2006
Blackpool Soul Togetherness Weekender 2006, Blackpool Tower Ballroom, Blackpool

It was two weeks since my last Northern soul night out, after a break the previous week for an Offshore radio get-together in Amsterdam (my first complete weekend away from things Northern for nearly 15 months), so I was itching to get dancing. The previous year, the Togetherness weekend had been held at the Cala Gran holiday camp just outside Morecambe and, apart from the live acts, that event had left me distinctly underwhelmed - quite honestly the venue was a dump.

This new (for Northern soul) venue, however, held plenty of promise. The Tower Ballroom has been home to professional ballroom dancing at the highest level for more years than I care to remember. There is no way that it would be able to host such prestigious events unless it was able to come up with the goods - basically, a quality dance floor. So, I was understandably doubly excited.

I left home late on a miserable Friday afternoon, with rain throughout the journey, hitting all the Friday night traffic on the motorway. Thank heavens that the Blackpool Illuminations had ended the previous week, otherwise the traffic would have been even heavier. I found my hotel easily enough on one of the main hotel thoroughfares, Albert Road - dumping the car on double yellow lines outside, I unloaded my luggage, getting drenched in the process and was then directed to the free car parking at the rear of the hotel. Unfortunately, no access to the hotel from the rear so I got drenched again! Sigh... Despite the late booking, the room was reasonable, a tad on the small side, but not uncomfortable for one.

After unpacking, I made my way into town. It was blowing a gale and chucking it down, but I needed to have some food and also pick up my ticket from the Box Office. I'd actually bought my ticket way back last year, soon after the event had been announced, but in the intervening months, bonehead here had mislaid it, so a few days beforehand I was forced to order another one over the Internet. Walking all round the Tower, the building was all locked up with no sign of life - the only tell-tale mark of the weekend ahead was a note stuck on a door, advising that the Tower was closed for a special event. Round the back at the staff entrance, I saw Kev Roberts outside who advised the Box Office would open at 9pm when the event commenced.

In the block of shops behind the Tower, I found a nice restaurant, the Bella Italia - lovely food but shame about the slow service. I put it down largely to a lack of organisation - at every stage in the proceedings, my corner table seemed to get overlooked. Ah well, maybe Blackpool isn't used to a discerning clientele.

Back to the hotel to get ready and await the arrrival of Al's Gals, Julie, Karen and Sue. They arrived before 9 and decamped in the room next to mine. Now this room wasn't that much bigger than mine and far too small for three, despite one of the beds being a bunk bed. When you think of hotel accommodation abroad, you begin to realise what a losing battle Blackpool is facing inthe holiday stakes. Still, that's a debate for another place. We all met downstairs and within half an hour, we were on our way to the Tower in our taxi (far too wet and windy to get there on foot!).

The last of the evening's problems faced me at the Box Office as they had no record of my internet booking! After hanging around for about a quarter of an hour the staff still couldn't find any trace of my booking despite me furnishing them with all the appropriate evidence. Eventually, the manageress took my details and let me in! Never a dull moment, eh?;-)

FRIDAY 10th NOVEMBER 2006
We've all seen the TV footage of events such as "Come Dancing", but nothing prepares you for the spendour of the main ballroom. Words such as jaw-droppingly, spectacularly beautiful don't even begin to do it justice. It is ornately and intricately decorated and an absolutely stunning sight for someone like me, who has never ventured into the ballroom previously. Sadly, no sight of the reknowned mighty Wurlitzer Organ - I loathe Blackpool but I really must make a return visit sometime in season to see this spectacular beastie.

What else? Well, that floor - reputedly the world's largest sprung dance floor, although it looked smaller than I'd envisaged. I later found that the carpeted areas on both sides of the hall actually covered part of the sprung floor - essentially the sprung floor covers the area in between the pillars. In the past, the seating was in the passageways behind the pillars. I reckon removing the carpeting would more or less double the width of the dance floor. Anyway, from what I can make out it's been this way for the last 5 years or so with seating in the carpeted area, the passageways being used for record stalls for the duration of this event.

Even though the event had been going less than an hour it was already very very busy, most of the tables having already been taken and the floor just bustling with activity. NOW, that floor... well, I had to try it out, so once I'd found the gang (thanks Ann for saving us a table by the side of the floor) I just piled on to have a quick dance or three! Superlatives fail again, when describing the floor. Talk about sprung.... it just bounced. In fact, our drinks on the table were bouncing away merrily and one of our crowd remarked how she was feeling a bit queezy with the bouncing!! Well, we ARE at the seaside!;-) I just LOVED the spring in the floor, it was just awesome, quite the best floor I have ever danced on. Come to that, it's the most spectacular venue I have ever attended. Just MADE for a weekend of NORTHERN and all power to the organisers for managing to secure it.

The music was just brilliant all evening. Unfortunately, I am writing this up more than 2 weeks after the event, so the fine details of the evening are lost, suffice to say, I just had a ball, dancing my little socks off.

I hadn't taken any photos all evening, but when the night ended, the lights were put on and we could see the inside of the building in its full splendour. It was just too much to resist, so out came the camera and I clicked away to my heart's content. The girls were waiting for me, so I packed away my kit and we all walked back to the hotel. Although it had stopped raining, it was extremely blustery to say the least! Strewth, I don't think anyone living in Blackpool would ever have any cobwebs as they would be absolutely blown away!!;-)

SATURDAY 11th NOVEMBER 2006
Saturday morning started bright and early, around 8:30 when I met the girls for breakfast. We were all suffering in different ways, whether it was a lack of sleep or whatever. Now I do like my food, but I like my sleep too, so after breakkie and a short natter, I left the girls to it and went back to my room for a kip. A few more hours made all the difference and I finally surfaced gone 2pm and, after a shower, made my way into town. I was looking for somewhere nice to have some lunch, but hey! this is Blackpool and it only does tacky, brash and down market! I eventually found a place that did a so-so butty.

I popped back into the Tower to see what was going on - by then it was around 4:30pm and there were quite a few people around, although obviously not as heaving as in the evening. As I'd had a late lunch, I stayed with Doddy and Eilish to secure our table while the girls went back for their evening meal. Just like the night before, the music was superb with the DJs playing to the floor.

By around 8-ish, my turn arrived for my evening meal so I set off around town in pursuit of a decent place. My lunchtime experiences were repeated, all that seemed to be around was lots of grotty places serving fish and chips. I fancied chicken, chips and curry sauce and eventually found a cafe which looked reasonable, but quite honestly, it was all pretty poor fare. It got me thinking about the "time warp" that Blackpool is in. Long gone are the days when even the masses were happy with what it has to offer - certainly even the budget package tours that started in the 60s were catering to a higher and more varied level. I don't know whether it's a chicken and egg thing, but I don't honestly see how Blackpool can turn itself around from being such a down-market town. Soul weekends (and maybe curiosity to see and hear the Wurlitzer organ) apart, wild horses wouldn't drag me to the place - quite honestly, dropping a mighty bomb on the seafront (after towing away the Tower) would be probably be the kindest thing to do to the place.

Anyway, I was only here for the dancing, so quickly made my way back to the Tower to continue with that. I was a bit surprised in that it didn't seem that much busier than the previous night. Saturdays are often much busier than Fridays - those working in the week who have to travel some distance to a venue often leave it until the Saturday to come over for a weekender. So while it was busy, it wasn't TOO busy.

I was busy using up energy on the floor, so I needed a quick pit-stop finding the shop upstairs (near the Modern room) which had snacks on sale. While I was there, I spent some time chatting to Christine and Jack from Yorkshire - we'd bumped into each other so many times, especially at Brighouse and Prestwich but never really talked before, so it was lovely to touch base with them. Yet another example of the lovely people you meet on the scene.

By the time we'd finished nattering and I made my way into the main ballroom - the dancing contest was in its final throes, with contestants already whittled down to the final six. The eventual winner was a guy from the Midlands, with Adriana comign second and Connie from Teeside third.

The rest of the evening just buzzed, as it had been doing all weekend and by around 3-ish I was starting to flag a bit, finally calling it quits around 4:30am.

A LOOK BACK
It's quite difficult when doing a write-up of this type to cut down on the use of superlatives, but it really is hard to do justice in words to this awesome venue. Quite simply the best dance floor I have ever been on and the most spectacular dance hall I have ever seen. Next year, it's a three-nighter (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). If you went this year, you will need no encouragement in booking for next year - if you missed it this year, never mind, you just HAVE to go next year.

A quick word on the music. This was pretty much yer bog-standard Northern fayre and the only criticism I would make is that the DJs tended to play safe, with quite a few tracks being repeated a number of times during an evening. With the amount of good music out there, there really is no need for this sort of "playing safe" attitude, but I get the impression that DJs these days generally don't seem to care what's been played in previous slots. But this is minor carping.

The other thing I would like to see is more rooms being opened next year to offer a wider choice to the punters. I don't know the layout of the Tower and what facilities are available, but I'm sure something could be done along those lines.

See ya there next year.

27 Oct 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

It is said that time zipping by faster and faster is a sure sign of old age, in which case I plead guilty. Here we are again going down those stairs to Mecca, the birthplace of what subsequently became known as "Northern Soul". For once, no music was blaring through the speakers to greet me on my way in, apparently some sort of hitch! Not that it lasted long fortunately, and soon the usual familar sounds were blasting their way through the PA system. Within seconds I was transported 40 years or so, through the magic time capsule to the music of my youth. The tracks I would hear played on my beloved Radio Caroline North and, later on, by the legendary Mike Raven on his Sunday R&B show on Radio 1.

The usual fayre on the evening in question, with residents Pete and John doing the honours and Pete Dyson guesting with an interesting and enjoyable spot. As I'm writing this up some 3 weeks after the event, it's hard remembering the fine details, suffice to say it was another great Wheel night!

Which brings me back to previous comments I made about guest DJs - I still stand by those comments made a few months back - assuming we have guest DJs with a relevant pedigree (not yer Mike Sweeneys of this world), a guest introduces an element of freshness to the proceedings. Even though the guest may have the same tracks in his possession as the residents, the fact that it's HIS take, is likely to mean that tracks which would have otherwise remained hidden are more likely to see action on the decks. Varied programming keeps proceedings fresh. It takes a lot of bottle to take risks, but the results are more satisfying than playing safe. Sermon over! Having said all that, it was still a brill session, as ever.

21 Oct 2006 Kings Hall, Stoke-on-Trent

A great weekend with two of my favourite venues on, this night being the Kings Hall in Stoke. I set off early because I'd arranged to meet some friends for a meal beforehand and not long after 7:30pm, Pat arrived in the car park with her pal, Josie from Southport, closely followed by Ann and Tony from Garswood. We made our way to a local hostelry where we were fuelled appropriately for a night's heavy dancing. Then it was time to put on our coats and join the queue outside the venue. There were already about a couple of dozen folks ahead of us and by the time the doors opened bang on 9, there was a fair queue behind us. We made our way in and got a table - once I'd texted my pals due to come on after us with details of where we were sitting, it was off to the bar for drinks. Within 15 minutes or so, most of the tables were taken, which is pretty much par for the course here - to be sure of a good table you really need to join the queue at least 15 minutes before start time!

This place is just magic, the music is brilliant and the atmosphere is something else. I was raring to get onto the dancefloor and within minutes was doing just that. Pretty soon I realised that dancing with my old heavy pair of glasses on was going to be major hassle as they kept slipping off, so I compromised by having them in my shirt pocket when dancing and putting them back on when going off the floor! After all, you don't need glasses to feel the vibes or dance to the music!;-)

With music this good, at my tender stage in life you have to pace yourself - on for a couple of dances, off for a couple and so on!;-) Within an hour or so of coming through the door, we were joined at our table by Pete and Wendy and Doddy and Eilish, so it was a busy table with us all continually going on and off the floor. The dancefloor was very busy for most of the night, with DJs playing well to the floor.

In between the dancing, I did the occasional walkabout, chatting with various folks from all over, the lovely Elaine from Berks (I never did catch up with her hubby Rob), Sandie and Sheila (whom I met on the way in but never got round to nattering inside), Chippy, Paula and the Lancaster gang, Dave from Stoke (who sat at our table), Brighouse regulars stomping Chris and her fella Ali from Barnsley, Katie and Carl, Denise and Mark from Yorkshire, Jez and Gail from Stoke, the list just goes on and on. I would also like to thank the various people who came up to me to introduce themselves - you all know who you are! It was lovely meeting you all and putting faces to names! Thank you for that and for the many kind comments, it's so much appreciated, especially given the present circumstances where my RSI is causing me so much grief!

By about 3:45 I was struggling - the feet had been worn to a frazzle, so, after a quick round of goodbyes I made my way back to the car and home. A good job I left when I did, as the last 15 minutes or so from home, I was fighting tiredness bigtime. A shower, a cuppa tea and off to bed at 6am, reflecting on what had been a brilliant night. To all the people I spoke with and our table especially, many many heartfelt thanks - you were all delightful company and a joy to be with! If you enjoyed it half as much as I did, then I enjoyed it twice as much as you!;-) Seriously though, life really doesn't get much better than this! Hopefully, I'll be back here on New Year's Eve. Love it, love it, love it!

20 Oct 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

It's always a pleasure to be visiting the Ritz, one of my favourite venues. A full carload as usual, with Al's Gals (tm), Julie, Karen and Sue, plus Charlie. It was a miserable evening with drizzling rain greeting us as we queued outside for door opening at 8:30pm. Numbers seemed up on last month, but maybe just a tad down on the capacity volume.

It didn't take long for the first dancers to hit the floor and we gladly joined them, as the DJs cranked out classic after classic. This month, there seemed to be a better rhythm to the place, none of the stop-start of the previous month and it was a sign of the Ritz getting back on form. Even Soul Sam (who, I must confess doesn't hit the spot for me with his usual fayre) turned out a great slot. Apart from a few blips the floor was pretty full most of the night.

Proceedings were disrupted for me when partway through the evening my glasses came apart - a nut securing one of the arms to its lens had just sheared off, causing more than momentary panic! As I didn't have a spare set of glasses in the car, how was I going to get folks home in this state? Anyway, thanks to the helpful staff of the Ritz I managed to do a "Jack Duckworth" and tape the arm onto the lens. I didn't dare dance with my glasses on in this state, so I dumped them on dashboard in the car, hoping they would last the course on the way home. The rest of the evening was spent dancing "blind", well almost!:-(

It took the edge off what had, until then been a great night for me, with lots of friendly faces around. After dropping everyone off, I arrived home around 2am, with great relief - the glasses had just about help up, although it was very much touch and go. Moral, next time have a spare set in the glove compartment! That apart, it had been an enjoyable night with lots of good music and great dancing!

13 Oct 2006
to
16 Oct 2006
Prestatyn Motown and Soul Legends Weekender 2006, Prestatyn Sands Holiday Centre, Prestatyn, North Wales

A change of location to Prestatyn for this weekender, after two years at Pontins' camp at Hemsby, Great Yarmouth, with the promoters hoping the easier accessibility would attract a larger audience. I'd booked my ticket at Hemsby last year at what was a very special weekend for me, where I had seen Brenda Holloway, Kim Weston and Frances Nero perform live and subsequently met the ladies - undoubtedly that weekender would be a hard act to follow. Unlike the main Soul Weekender in March, the place was not being thrown open to the public on the Thursday night - instead proceedings commenced on the Friday afternoon.

FRIDAY 13th OCTOBER 2006
I picked up my son, Simon, after work and we joined the traffic jam on the M60, wondering whether the crawl would be typical of the rest of the journey. Fortunately, the cause of the congestion (an accident further up the road) was soon cleared and we picked up speed, making pretty good timing after that and arriving at our destination around 6:45pm. Checking in at reception, we met up with Charlie and Sue and, hot on their heels, Barry, Laura and Ann.

This time around, the accommodation was club class and we soon found our chalet - ground floor too, so no humping boxes up the stairs. The chalet was pretty much like the ones I'd been in previously, with one notable exception - it was warm! Heating is included in the package at club level, plus there are a number of extras, such as a toaster (no more cremated toast from trying to do it under the grill). There were no car parking places immediately near our room, so once we'd unloaded we moved the car to a bay nearby. No light in the kitchen, nor the bathroom, sigh... don't the staff check these things? Simon went off to the shop to get a few items I'd forgotten and to get an electrician to sort the problem, while I started preparing a tagliatelle meal in semi-darkness! Anyway, the lighting soon got sorted, we had our meal, then a shower and change. Now it was high time to get dancing, so around 10pm it was off to the main gate to meet Eilish and Doddy and then onto the main block.

The bar area was pretty busy - for about the next 15-20 minutes it was just "hellos" and catching up with friends, introducing Simon to my pals and vice versa. We were then guided to where the gang was sitting in the main hall, Arena 1 - they were all there, Julie, Karen, Sue, Charlie, Pete and Wendy, Debbie and Ged, Dave and Stu from Leyland and Pat from Liverpool. A quick burst of dancing to reacquaint myself with the lovely wooden dance floor (I'd forgotten just what a nice surface it was), then a bit later, off to Arena 2, previously the Modern room, now dubbed the Motown Room - lots of ladies in high heels, handbags galore, not my scene, so a quick peek in what was called the Redemption Room in March, now a Modern/Crossover Room, even less my taste, so back to the Northern Room!

Although Friday is not the busiest night at weekenders, as a lot of people travel up for Saturday, it was nowhere near as busy as in March. We subsequently found that 1800 tickets had been sold compared to the 3200 in March - how that compared to the figures at Hemsby, I wouldn't know, but the place seemed quieter. Having said that, the benefit to the dancers was a less crowded floor! The music was pretty good throughout, good solid Northern, with lots of familiar faces from the scene, including Katie from Hull.

Undoubtedly, the Motown Room was the busiest, pretty heaving in comparison. The Masqueraders did a live act there during the evening, but I gave that a miss, concentrating on the Northern room. By around 2/2:30 I was flagging - Simon had retired for the night a little bit earlier (these youngsters have no stamina!) - I made my way back to the room reluctantly, nattering with Simon till the early hours.

SATURDAY 14th OCTOBER 2006
The morning started in the afternoon, if you get my drift, as we got up around 1pm. A leisurely breakfast followed around 2 and lunch at 4pm!;-) We then made our way into the main hall about 4:30ish. There wasn't a lot happening, although I was pleasantly surprised to see Katie from Colwyn Bay, whom I'd last met in Ince when she accompanied Brian Rae who did a DJ spot there. Into the bar area and there were Ann and Tony from Garswood who had come to see the live acts later that evening - great to catch up with them, even if that was interrupted by the sound of the Miracles' "Whole Lot of Shaking (Going On In My Heart)" - a guy's gotta dance when summat that good comes on the PA system!;-). Back to the billet for a cuppa tea or three, then 6:30ish it was time to have the evening meal, so Simon and I went to the restaurant. My chicken khorma was a bit of a flavourless affair, but it saved having to cook. Back to the billet to get changed then I was back off to the main block just before 8 to save some seats - a lot had already gone but I managed to snaffle a couple of tables near the stage and waited for the gang to arrive. Simon, in the meantime, was resting - what is it with these youngsters?;-) By 9 most of the gang had arrived and we settled down for a night of good dancing.

I occasionally popped my head around the door of the Motown Room and even had a couple of dances, but it was so crowded and slippy, I didn't stay long. I was keeping an eye on the clock as the live acts were scheduled on stage in the main Arena at 11, so around 10:30 I took up pole position at the front of the stage, joining the other photographers.

Before we knew it, it was 11, the Midnight Hour band and backing singers in position - co-promoter, Rob Wigley comes on stage announcing the first of the live acts, JJ Barnes. What a performer! The guy knocks out all the old Northern Soul favourites in a superb performance lasting about half an hour. He gets rapturous applause that leads to an encore with the whole crowd swaying, clapping and singing along. Brilliant stuff!

Then it's the turn of the Andantes - they were Motown's in-house vocal backing group, allegedly appearing on 20,000 tracks during their career. Louvain Temps is the only member of the band still performing and she has co-opted the Pree Sisters, Karen (on lead) and Lolita into the Andantes. The over-riding image I had of their performance, was three gals having the time of their lives, such bundles of fun. Quite apart from the quality of their singing, they won us over with their fun personalities in their half hour slot.

Then, on stage came the Contours, opening up with my favourite track of theirs "First I Look At The Purse". The only original Contour still in the group was Sylvester Potts and he now tours with 3 replacement Contours - but don't think they are a poor substitute for the "real thing", the lead singer in the opening track was just as good as the one in that record 40 years ago. Over the next hour, they entertained us with most of their "hit" tracks, such as "Do You Love Me" and "Just A Little Misunderstanding". It wasn't just the quality of their singing, it was the sublime choreography that stunned us all - although I've seen the Tops and the Temps do their routines, it's not been close up so I've just not been able to appreciate the moves. A stunning performance and one which had the whole house rocking! I later spoke with Pat and Pete and Suzie independently and both had seen the Contours before and had specifically come to Prestatyn to see them again. Here's an unreserved recommendation, if you ever see them billed, go and see them, you will have the time of your lives.

Finally the showcase parade when all the artists came back on stage to do the finale, Barbara Randolph's "I Got A Feeling", the whole crowd joining in. Before long it was 1am and it was all over, bar the wonderful memories the acts had left behind. I was wet through and that was just from clapping and singing along to the acts! I've said this a few times, although I love a Northern Night, there is nothing to beat the live acts that we see at these venues. It's obvious that they're knocked out by the response from the audience, but what is amazing for us is to see these acts putting on the performances of their lives.

The artists were signing autographs a bit later, so I took the opportunity to go back to the chalet and have a shower and a quick change. Half an hour later, back to the main block to join the queue for the autographs, where I joined Pete and Suzie and Doddy and Eilish. We were all still on a high from the performances, swapping notes on the memorable parts of the night for us. Thanks to Pete and Eilish who did the honours taking photos of me with the artists, much appreciated, guys!

After that, back onto the floor to dance to some solid Northern. I would like to single out special mentions to the DJ who was on from 3 till 4, I loved the variety of music he was playing (quite a few new tracks to add to my notebook) and to Brian Rae, who followed. Unfortunately, by then I was flagging badly and retired to my room around 4:30. Nattered with Si until about 6 and then hit the sack.

SUNDAY 15th OCTOBER 2006
We came to around noon and after breakfast did our packing and loaded the car. Then it was a quick trip to the main block to hand in our keys and say any last goodbyes. I was perusing some books at one of the stands when on comes Marvin Gaye's "When I feel the need" - I dropped the book back on the table and rushed into the hall to have a final dance, sandals and all!;-) A quick goodbye to Doddy and Eilish chilling out in the corner and to Chippy, dancing on the floor, then back to the car to make our way home.

A LOOK BACK
It was inevitable that I would be comparing this event with the same one at Hemsby last year and with the big soul weekender at Prestatyn in March. Although the Motown Room was very busy (and the music pretty good, certainly better for me than the modern stuff in the same room in March), the main arena was nowhere near as busy as in March and that was to the detriment of the atmosphere in the place. Apart from a few exceptions, the music in the main room was pretty predictable - I'm not saying this as a big criticism but I felt some of the DJs could have stuck their necks out a little bit more. Also I felt that it was far too dark in the main arena - it was far more acceptable on the Sunday afternoon. Finally, I missed the Redemption Room from March, no two ways about it.

However, putting all that aside, the live acts more than made up for any minor disappointments with stunning performances on the Saturday night from all 3 acts, not forgetting the backing band. Congratulations to the organisers for putting together such a great bill - for me, it was always going to be difficult following the event at Hemsby last year, but, all I can say is that I was had a ball and wasn't disappointed one little bit. Actually, I felt it was better than in March simply because each act had longer on stage - let's face it, they had a greater "Northern repertoire". I would far rather have a smaller number of acts spending longer doing their turns.

Although attendances were down on March, hopefully, the promoters will now have the opportunity to built up the event in the years to come. No two ways about it, Prestatyn's location is far more accessible for the Northern "Northern crowd".

On a personal level, thanks to all the people who made my son, Simon, feel so very welcome - it was appreciated by both of us. I enjoyed the weekend tremendously, spending some quality time with my friends and my son.

7 Oct 2006 Soul in the Cellar at the Greatstone - The Greatstone, Chester Road, Stretford, nr Manchester

The third visit in about 6 weeks for me at this venue. Not being a footie fan, it wasn't until I hit the Chester Road that I realised Manchester United were at home and playing an early evening game - the procession of fans trawling down the main road was too late for me to take evasive action and choose an alternative route. I got snarled up in a slow moving crawl of traffic, it taking half an hour to travel from the White City roundabout to my destination. Moral, check the fixtures before embarking on your journey! I wasn't the only one held up as one half of the promoter duo, Brian Walker, had only just arrived himself and was carting his records down the stairs.

I was one of the earliest of the punters, despite being half an hour late. Some folks I knew from the Oakfield arrived not long after, but it was all looking a bit thin on the ground. Gradually, the numbers crept up, including some new friends from Berkshire, Elaine and her husband, Rob - they had come up to visit their daughter at Manchester Uni and were planning to go on to the Allnighter at Winsford. Now there's dedication to the scene! We'd only spoken very briefly at the All-dayer during the August Bank Holiday weekend, but I was pleased that they joined me and we then spent some time getting to know each other - what never ceases to amaze me is the lovely people you meet on the scene! Finally, the tambourine duo, Dave and Bridget from Yorkshire joined us to complement the proceedings.

As on previous occasions the majority of the music played was 60s oriented. the nearest tag would be Twisted Wheel, but in practice rather wider than this and covering earlier R&B, as well as soul. Promoters Barry Tasker and Brian Walker have a wealth of experience in this sector and record collections that reflect this. The cellar location of the venue adds to the atmosphere of the place, although those looking to dance will find that the dance floor area is very small - having said that, it is adequate for the venue, but it would not suit those with an expansive dancing style. Think Wheel or Hideaway and you'll get the idea!

I had a great evening with lots of laughs. some brilliant music and delightful company. Dave managed to find a sausage from somewhere and that caused some hilarity as multifarious uses were found for this appendage. My silence can be bought for a modest fee!;-) Unfortunately, my RSI was causing me a lot of discomfort towards the end of the evening which took the shine off what had been a great night.

It has to be said that this time around certainly, attendance was disappointing for a venue of this calibre - there were a number of other events on that clashed with this venue, so that won't have helped but maybe it is an issue of publicity, in which case, I hope to help the venue as regards publicity on the net. If you like the music of the Twisted Wheel and the Hideaway, then you'll enjoy the music here, do give it a whirl.

6 Oct 2006 Bolton - Bolton Soul Club, Derby Ward Labour Club, Deane Road, Bolton, BL3 5AH

This was the first time I'd been to the Bolton Soul Club, despite promoter Dave bending my ear gently for a few months. I'd originally pointed out to him that the first Friday was normally reserved for one of my favourite venues, Prestwich, so the chances of getting to Bolton for that night were slim. But times change and, after a few disappointing sessions at Prestwich, I quite fancied a change - not a statement made easily! Checking out with the girls, they were happy to go along with my whim. So, on the night in question, Julie, Karen, Charlie and I found ourselves on the M60 and carrying on past the Prestwich junction, then onto the M61 and the A666 into Bolton town centre. A quick stop in the centre to check we were on the right road and we soon found ourselves at the venue - a large social club on a main road, with some car parking at the side.

Making our way in, the greeting from Linda at the door couldn't have been friendlier, nor that of Dave inside. The function room looked pretty big with a stage in the far corner and a reasonably sized dance floor arranged in a quarter circle round the stage with tiered seating behind the floor and the bar behind that. The layout reminded me of various cabaret clubs I'd attended in the 70s, I just had this picture all night waitresses delivering the many "chicken in a basket" orders to the paying punters - sorry Dave, I don't mean it in a derogatory way, but I just couldn't dislodge that picture from my mind!;-) We got to the venue around 8:30 and, as you'd expect for a venue starting at 7:30, a lot of the tables were already taken, nevertheless we found one not too far from the floor.

The music being played was a general cross-section of Northern, but it seemed to take a little while to get the dancers moving on the floor. Most of the tables were filled with groups of 4-6, having a natter. Eventually, we shifted our asses into gear and hit the floor - this was a solid floor, some parts a little sticky but nothing that a bit of talc wouldn't put right. Once things got moving, the floor was busy for most of the evening, although never to the heaving/uncomfortably busy stage, with a bit of a lull as the guest DJ tried to find the mood of the place.

The majority of those dancing seemed like soulies and any handbaggy element was not the problem it can be at some venues, such as Blackburn. I recognised a number of faces from the Greater Manchester soul scene, from a variety of different venues. The promoters and DJs seemed to be keen and eager to please. The consensus from our group at the end of the night was that, although there was a different feel to some of the bigger venues, we'd all enjoyed the night and the music had been good solid Northern - we'd been made to feel very welcome. I would have no hesitation in recommending the venue to anyone fancing a change and would certainly return.

30 Sep 2006 Hideaway, Manchester

This was only second visit here, the first one being at the end of April. I'd fancied a bit of an easier night, as my foot was still a bit sore from being trampled on the previous night. But I was also looking forward to meeting my pals, Dave and Bridget from Yorkshire. Just like last time, I got there around 9:15 and the place was already pretty full. I had my coat on for less than 10 seconds before taking it off, the place seemed as hot as it had done on my previous visit. After I'd got a drink, Jane Tasker saw me enter the main room and waved me over where dumped my coat and bag and joined her and Barry and Pete and Suzie Everett. Shortly after, met up with Dave and Bridget and spent the rest of the night, flitting between different groups of friends (largely from the Wheel), having a natter, trying to keep body temperature cool and ..... a dance or three.

The music format at the Hideaway, if you didn't know, is 60s mod music, going back to the R&B of the early to mid 60s, with a dose of blues, even a hint of rock'n'roll/rockabilly plus a dash of early solo girl-sounds. The DJs are limited to two 30 minute slots, thus keeping things moving and fresh. Guesting tonight were Kevin Kus and Jorge from Barcelona, showing the widespread appeal of this club.

While I couldn't say, hand on heart, that all of the music was to my liking, there was an awful lot that was. That I didn't know many of the tracks was no problem, it just meant that more tracks were added to my notebook. Talking with one of the promoters, Paul Welsby, he confirmed that the idea was to provide something for everyone. Certainly worked for me!

The spotlight on late 50s to mid 60s R&B won't appeal to everyone but this is very much where I'm at currently. It's an era I know only a little about, nowhere near as much as the mid to late 60s period - it's a learning curve that appeals to me as I explore the roots of what was to become soul music in the mid 60s. I first came across this era through the legendary Mike Raven when he had his Sunday night R&B show on the newly formed Radio 1 in late 67/early 68.

As I said earlier, this time around I got past the heat in the place and got on the floor to do some dancing. The place wasn't quite as busy as on my previous visit and I was told a lot of dealers were at a record fair in London. I've warmed a lot more to the venue (not that I disliked it first time around), in that I am increasingly looking for something that little bit different and this venue, with the Greatstone (first Saturday venue) is increasingly meeting that need.

Special mentions to Barry and Jane, Pete and Suzie, Carolyn for her friendly greeting and, of course to Dave and Bridget. I stayed till chucking out time at 2 am, making my way out onto the wet streets of Manchester, having had a thoroughly brill time and adding 9 new tracks to my little notebook.

29 Sep 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

Here we are again, last Friday of the month, where else other than the Twisted Wheel? This time, one of the (now-quarterly) Allnighters. I got there just after kick off at 10pm and made my way down the stairs. There were already a few people there and the numbers quickly increased as the punters came in through the doors for what was to become a very busy night.

It only seemed like 5 minutes but, after the opening slots from residents/co-promoters John Green and Pete Roberts, it was already midnight - time certainly flies when you're enjoying yourself. It was now time for the first of the night's guests, Patrick Costigan, with an R&B flavoured set, as you'd expect from him. Following him and sandwiched between second sets from John and Pete, we had guest slots by Mike Grimes and Albert "Jock" Heron - I have to admit that, unusually for me, I was talking in the bar area during Mike's spot, but that didn't stop me enjoying the music during that part of the night, or indeed any other. There simply wasn't a duff spot during the evening. The floor was packed for most of the night, the dancers enjoying the music. As I've said in a previous review, it is especially good having more guests on, as a wider range of music gets played, which keeps things fresh.

For me, the nights are as much about the people as the music. No exception tonight - quite apart from the usual regular suspects, it was especially lovely to see Joe and Sylvia from Barnstaple, Paul from Newquay and, making her first visit there, the lovely Katie from Hull.

It's difficult to conjure up new phrases when describing the Wheel. Suffice to say it's my spiritual home, the music of my youth. By 5 am, though, I was flagging - unfortunately I was also hobbling a bit having been trampled on by an inconsiderate dancer - and there was no way I was going to last till the close at 7 am. I said my "goodnights" and was halfway up the stairs going out of the building when on came Lou Johnson's "If I Never Get To Love You". Just had to rush down to have a last dance. It didn't end there, as, second time around, I was halfway to the car when I suddenly remembered I'd left my coat in the building, so it was back again to pick that up. Third time of leaving was for real, thinking back to what had been another superb session. What a brilliant venue! See you next month!

23 Sep 2006 King Georgeís Hall, Blackburn

The April event here had been a bit of a lacklustre do with attendance well down. A few months later, the place had been much busier largely due to a live appearance by Kenny Thomas in the modern room. This night, however, was on a different scale altogether - it was the 33rd Anniversary of the start of Wigan Casino. It had sold out earlier in the week and that was evident on the night by the number of people in the Box Office queueing for ticket returns. Charlie and I had made our way across to the King George's Hall and inside I met up with Dave and Stu from Leyland and Sue from Lincolnshire.

Making my way to the main bar upstairs, I noticed it had been revamped. It had been split into two counters along each side of the room, making serving more people much easier. So far so good. Now let's get the negatives out of the way - bar prices have never been low here, my usual pint of diet coke costing £2.40 previously, now the price had been hiked to £2.60. Maybe these sorts of levels are typical in town centre venues, but they do leave an unwelcome taste.

It was lovely seeing the main Hall busy, all tables taken, with a floor full of dancers. There was an electric buzz in the air, at a level I haven't witnessed here in a long time. Dancers who had attended the April event wouldn't have recognised the place. I'd far rather be at a busy event, than one where the dancers are rattling around like peas in a pod. A place such as the King George's always attracts its share of handbaggers but for the first few hours that element wasn't too bad and it was possible to find a spot on the floor without coming across inconsiderate behaviour. Unfortunately, that changed for a couple of hours around the middle of evening with dancers prancing about on the floor, totally oblivious of others and their space. It's a long way from the respect of the Northern scene and is the worst aspect of the place. Mercifully, it didn't last too long and by around 1:30 am, they had departed leaving us with the floor and respectful dancers.

Now let's focus on the music. I have to say I wasn't concentrating on the DJs in the early part of the evening, so please forgive me if I've omitted anyone. Kev Roberts set was excellent targetting the Wigan years very effectively, although I could have done without the rambling introductions - yeah, I know, pot, kettle, black!;-) Richard Searling's slot reminded me of his considerable Northern pedigree and what he is still capable of, even though he does mostly modern sets these days. Terry Davies entertained us as he always does with music guaranteed to get us dancing. The night ended with Neil Jones, enthusiastic as ever, again playing great music. The interesting aspect of the night was that we still had a full floor even when proceedings reluctantly came to a close just after 3 am, after Neil had played the "3 before 8" in reverse order (although I thought it was unforgivable to fade Jimmy Radcliffe's "Long after tonight is all over" prematurely to squeeze in two more tracks). The music was just brilliant throughout the night without any lulls and dancers responding appropriately.

For me, nights out are partially about meeting up with friends, old and new. During the evening we were joined by Pete and Wendy, Ged and Debbie, Ronnie and Doddy and Eilish, always a great pleasure, guys! I had countless enjoyable conversations with folks over the evening. Special mentions to the lovely Bridget and Dave from Yorkshire, the Blackpool posse, Dave and Pauline from Blackburn, Karen and Margaret from St Helens and last but not least, Pat and Peter from Liverpool.

In November this year it will be my third anniversary of attending my first Northern Soul do, it was here at the King George's Hall in Blackburn. Since that first, I have only missed a few dos at the KGH and this is probably the best event I've been to at this venue. There was a magic and a sparkle throughout the night, with brilliant music in a superb setting and a wonderful dance floor. No wonder it's been going all these years.

22 Sep 2006 Soul at the Birchfield, Birchfield Park Sports and Social Club, Widnes

There's only one place you'll find me on the fourth Friday of a five Friday month - as far as I'm concerned, it's a total no-brainer of a decision! It's the Birchfield Social Club in Widnes. The girls were handbagging so I was on my tod - bombing along the M62, I got to the venue more or less bang on time, to be joined by Tommy a short while later. A few people were already there, including a 50th Birthday group. Resident DJs Chris, Dave and Bif were behind the decks and opened up proceedings in their usual way, playing a great mix of tracks, some familiar, some less so.

Over the next hour the venue soon filled up and the place got busy, but not heaving. Although dancing was a little slow to get going, soon after nine, the floor started to see some regular action and from that stage on it was busy, busy, busy. And that's how it was for the rest of the evening, as the resident DJs played track after track designed to get you on the floor, while responding very positively to requests from the floor.

Then it was the turn of guest DJ, Flanny from the Orwell, very much a bastion of modern, rather than Northern soul. The evening was closed off by each of the regulars doing a slot. Lots of familiar faces were present during the night, from venues such as the Monaco and the Manchester scene in general - it's always lovely to have a natter with friends old and new.

Going back to the music on the night, although Flanny did a very good Northern set, in all honesty, I much preferred the offerings from the residents. Looking through my diary notes from previous attendances here, I notice I've made similar comments in the past. One normally looks to the guests to introduce that element of freshness, that something different. I've wondered why I feel differently here - I suppose I know I can trust the residents to do that, by digging out those "forgotten oldies" - that keeps it fresh for me. Those of you who know me, will know how much I love that early 60s period in soul/R&B and what the resident trio does is regularly present me with half a dozen or so "new" (to me) tracks from that era. This night was no different, with ten tracks new to me! Oh and I mustn't forget I did manage to get more than my quota of good dancing!

I'm always made to feel very welcome here - what I particularly like about the resident DJs is that they know what I like and play not just my faves but tracks which they think will appeal to me. Their devotion to providing what the audience wants is very evident - they promise to play any request if they have the track and that results in a busy floor. When you add that mix to a really nice friendly crowd of attendees, it makes it a special place for me, one I very much love coming back to. It's a pity there are only 4 months a year with five Fridays! Thanks for everything, guys and see you soon.

16 Sep 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

After missing the August session at the Monaco, I was making up for lost time by returning twice in two weeks, this time for a free night - a Charity special with Wigan Casino DJ Steve Whittle coming out of retirement. I'd had a busy day, after re-establishing contact with the family of my best friend, Pete, who died over 5 years ago - I'd visited his widow and children, so it was a bitter-sweet afternoon, although punctuated by many happy memories recounting shared experiences during the 40 years I'd known him. So to cut a long story short, I'd not managed to have a break at all in the afternoon.

This time around, Al's Gals (tm) had chickened out, but I'd met up en route with Tommy to guide him to the venue, which he'd only attended once before. We got there about half an hour after kick off, and although a lot of the seats were taken it wasn't quite as busy as a fortnight earlier; but then this was an extra night and no doubt hardened soulies would have found it clashing with whatever was their normal regular venue for the night.

We joined a good pal of mine from Darlington, Joe, with his wife, Barbara. After a brief natter catching up on things, it was time for business - to get dancing! It was certainly a busy night on the dance floor as the DJs played well to the floor, as you expect at the Monaco. As usual, the place remained busy until the bar closed, after which time the crowd slowly started to drift home. In the intervening hours, we were treated to the usual mix of oldies, with a brilliant spot from Steve Whittle. The night didn't quite have the same buzz as the one at the beginning of the month, but that's nitpicking, because it was still a great evening.

During the evening we were joined by Pete and Wendy, Ged and Debbie and Doddy and Elish - someone remarked that we'll soon have to bring fold-up tables with us to accommodate us all! As always, it was lovely to meet a succession of pals from all over, Val from Wigan, Helen, Dave from Bolton, the Garstang crew, Ann and Tony, Paul from Shaw, Dave and Bridget from Yorkshire, oh the list is endless!

What can I say that I haven't already said about the Monaco? Not a lot really, you always know what you're getting here, very much the best of the favourites and oldies - that coupled with great company makes it a winning formula. Oh and not forgetting that the raffle raised £600 for a Breast Cancer Charity.

15 Sep 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

It was a couple of months since I last visited the Ritz, one of my favourite venues, so understandably, I was really looking forward to the night. A full carload on the night, with Al's Gals (tm) Julie, Karen and Sue, plus Charlie as we made our way across the Pennines, briefly stopping off to pick up my pal from work, Michele, who followed us across. We got to the venue about 10 minutes before kickoff, despite a diversion due to a serious Road Traffic Incident the day before. Normally, you can judge your likely position in the queue based on the time you arrive - even though we were about 5 minutes later than normal, we were fairly near the front of the queue. When doors opened, there weren't as many in the queue as we would have normally expected and this was the marker for the night - numbers were down throughout with a number of seats being available well into the night - not the usual situation at the Ritz.

I was itching to get dancing and that didn't take long, as the first hour was loaded with pretty good music. Unusually for the Ritz, there seemed to be a bit of reluctance for dancers to hit the floor. Having said that, Brighouse is one of those places where I never feel self-conscious going onto the floor, even if I'm the only one on, so it was just a matter of enjoying the music, oblivious of any eyes pointing my way.

Unfortunately, the euphoria was a little short-lived as the night turned out to be a bit of a patchy affair. The guests were very hit and miss for me, both with the music and the pacing. Even Ginger's spot suffered from these criticisms. I had a bit of difficulty getting onto a roll, going on the floor, off and back on again throughout the night. Most of the music was a bit predictable for me on the night and I only picked up a couple of new tracks (to me) to add to my notebook.

As I'm a good couple of months behind in getting my web pics up on the site, I gave the photography a miss, except for a group of young mods who were out for the night enjoying themselves. Nice to meet you folks, but ladies, you don't have to have a friend with you on the floor to dance with!;-)

I think the difficulty of such a successful venue as the Ritz is that expectations are raised more than with other venues. I certainly did a good bit of dancing but maybe it wasn't quite as continuous as I'd have liked. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed myself, although I have known better nights there. Hopefully, next month will see a return back to top form.

9 Sep 2006 For Dancers Only, St James Social Centre, Orrell, near Wigan

The last time I was at Orrell, was in April, although a fill-in event had been arranged at Horwich Leisure Centre in June - a long wait for my dose of 100mph music. I was eagerly awaiting this event, as the night is so different from the usual Northern "oldies" nights. I got there bang on time, one of the first to arrive. The punters soon started pouring through the doors - a lot of new faces plus a lot of regulars returning - and it was evident this was going to be a busy night.

The music that greeted me as I came through the doors was a track I hadn't heard in 40 years - the Strangeloves "Night Time" on the (late great Bert Berns') New York label "Bang Records", which was responsible for early recordings by Neil Diamond and Van Morrison (click on the link to read more about the label history). The last time I heard this track was in early 1966 on Radio Caroline North, a track produced by the same songwriting team who had done the McCoys hits such as "Hang on Sloppy" and the other Strangeloves American hits of 1965 "Cara-Lin" and "I want Candy". A white group but an eminently danceable track! The first twenty minutes or so, promoter Pete was double-decking with Tony Clark, before settling down to the rest of his slot solo. During this first hour, I heard quite a few tracks I'd never heard before, including a version of "I'll bet you" by Theresa Lindsey, also recorded by Billy Butler (when I returned home and researched the track further on the internet I found that Theresa Lindsey was actually one of the co-writers of the track), all very danceable.

During the first hour I was joined by my pals, Ann and Tony and a bit later, their friends Jill and John. During the night Eilish and Doddy came along for their first visit, joining Pete and Suzie and a whole gang of folks from the Greater Manchester scene.

The second hour or so seemed to take a bit of a dip, as the guest DJ seemed to struggle to find his feet. This he eventually did with some fairly poppy Northern - while it got the dancefloor full, it wasn't as cutting edge as I would normally expect from this venue.

When Carol McCarthy came on, we knew she wasn't going to take any prisoners as she reeled off track after track of storming material and I thought her slot was the highlight of the night - not only did she have more folks consistently on the floor dancing but the tracks were to my taste. Her slot was followed by another bit of a dip, where the floor was not full. The evening closed with a set from Tony Clark, again some highly danceable material but it seemed to take a while to excite the crowd.

During the evening I was approached by a lady who was not a happy customer - she told me that she and a group of her friends had made the journey to the venue largely on the strength of my previous internet reviews and they hadn't enjoyed the music, finding it not particularly danceable. It was clear that they were very disappointed indeed and they felt that the DJs had been self indulgent and not played to the floor. She made a comment that I have often made myself - "the floor never lies" - yet I found myself disagreeing to a degree. I thought Carol's slot was the highlight of the night, the unhappy lady thought it was the low spot! We had a bit of a debate, but it was clear there was not going to a meeting of minds.

It got me thinking about the blanket statement "the floor never lies" and whether it was always valid, that market forces are the true and only arbiter of success. You could extrapolate the comment to the whole Northern scene and say that the records we play on the scene aren't worth a dime or a second's further thought simply because they were not commercial successes. Well, we know that isn't the case, the whole thing about the Northern scene is that it champions the underdog, the tracks and artists that never made the big time. We know that records might not have made it big for a variety of reasons. One might be that the label didn't have the resources to push the record and give it the publicity it deserved, or in the case of Motown, the simple fact that they had so many balls in the air that they simply couldn't juggle with any more. Or it was difficult to get air play for the track on the radio - in American radio in the 60s, payola was rife where record companies would bribe DJs/radio stations to play tracks - if your wallet wasn't deep enough then many records never got past first base. (Having said all that, some records didn't make it simply because they were so bad they didn't deserve success, although equally we all know tracks which were appalling but did make it!) So, if we accept that the market force argument is too simplistic and crude a sledgehammer to determine whether a track is "worthy" enough to make it or not, what makes it different when applying that argument to the dance floor?

Maybe the key here is the audience, the market place on the day. If you go to the Twisted Wheel, you have to accept that their policy is not to play tracks outside the 1963-1971 timeframe when the Wheel operated - you have to accept that you will not hear tracks outside that era. It's facile to be disappointed because they're not playing some great 1973 Wigan stomper. If you go to the Monaco, their music policy is unashamedly the popular oldies - that's what you go to hear. If the DJ throws in the odd minority-appeal track that's fine but not if he consistently does it throughout his slot - given that scenario, he would be faced with an empty floor and with punters understandably and justifiably unhappy with his choice of music.

I can well imagine punters coming to Orrell for a night of "Monaco-style" oldies would be disappointed because that's not what Orrell is about. So, if the audience is made up of general oldies fans, then the floor may well end up being empty. Does that mean the DJs are wrong by not playing to the wishes of the audience? I would submit not, that this is a case where the bold statement "the floor is always right" is simply not correct. It's akin to going into an Indian Restaurant and telling the management they should be serving Chinese food - you wouldn't do it, you would simply do as I do and that is to go to a Chinese restaurant in the first place.

Another comment was made by the same lady - certain tracks only had 4 or 5 people dancing to them and this was cited as proof positive that the DJ had got it wrong. Thinking back to the nite, I approached Carol McCarthy for just one request during the evening. That was for a track I had heard for the first time when she had played it at Horwich in June - Billy Butler's "I'll bet you" (as mentioned earlier in this review). I hoped she would have the record in her box and she did - in fact, she already had the record out because someone else had asked her for it. Sure enough, one or two numbers later she played it. I was a happy bunny, for sure (in fact, I nipped out this afternoon to Beatin' Rhythm in Manchester to get that track on a CD I had sourced on the internet). But I was one of only 5 or 6 people dancing to it!! Now the point I am making, is that, in my eyes, Carol was being responsive by playing my request (and someone else's too). The other side of the coin (as would be put over by the unhappy punter from St Helens) was that Carol was failing to play to the floor when playing that track because only a small handful of people were dancing. So who is right? I'll leave it for you to decide.

I've been upset that a punter was unhappy and had felt they weren't getting something they felt they should. Looking through my reviews and the main Orrell page I genuinely can't see where anyone could have got the impression that this was a typical "oldies" night - quoting from the Orrell page "Music policy here is to go for the fast 100 mph tracks and play the records that were popular at Wigan Casino but don't get heard so much these days" and from the March review "Pete was saying he doesn't want to attract the local crowd out for the Saturday night, he wanted people who were prepared to try something different" and later on, "There are enough venues doing much the same, there's no point in fighting on their terrain - in selling you need a USP (Unique Selling Proposition), something that makes you stand out, something different". I may well modify the main Orrell page to make the objectives of the promoters even more explicit, although I do believe I've made the point adequately that this was not the typical "oldies" night. Anyway, I've welcomed the debate because it's actually had me looking at things from a different angle and that the argument "the floor never lies" might just be too simplistic. Maybe, in the future, I won't be as harsh to judge DJs adversely where just a few dancers are on the floor!

As regards the night overall, I thought it was a good night, albeit there were a few blips. It wasn't a "great" night in that it didn't match the dizzy heights achieved in April, but it was still a very good night - I came away with 11 tracks I'd never heard before that I wanted to get my hands on! I'd pretty much danced my butt off, although I will readily agree there were some dips where the music didn't hit it for me. No venue gets it right all the time, but I'm clear on a number of points. I'm sure the regulars attending this venue don't want this to be a typical "oldies" night, this is a brave venture to be different and Pete and Liz are to be applauded for going down that road. No venue can appeal to everyone equally successfully - you have to set your stall out for what you want to pitch at and go for it. This is very much a niche market and it sounds as if some people came expecting something different, in which case they were very understandably disappointed. But that shouldn't detract where this venue is going. As my pal, Ann quoted "you can please some of the people some of the time...".

I think Pete was stung by the criticisms on the night. Those who know him would agree he is very keen to make sure people have a good time on the night. However, he has a very clear vision of what he wants to achieve at "For Dancers Only" and his uncompromising message was that he took the criticisms on board but that he didn't want to appeal to "plastic soulies", his words not mine! Harsh words maybe and yes, he shoots from the hip, but there is no denying his passion in trying to recreate the storming atmosphere at Wigan Casino by playing 100mph danceable tracks. I'll say amen to that!

8 Sep 2006 Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Ramsbottom

Another month whips round again, as I found myself bombing up the motorway towards Ramsbottom. I made my way in with Kim and the two Alans and found a few folks already there. I was momentarily thrown not to find Bev on the door - she and hubby Des were away on holiday in the States!

From a numbers point of view, the punters seemed to come in a bit earlier than usual, maybe prompted by the earlier nights, but inexplicably entrances tailed off around 10pm. Numbers ended a fair bit down on the usual, but that didn't affect what was happening on the floor, which started off pretty busy more or less from the outset and continued that way for most of the evening!

Ronnie McCarthy got proceedings under way - I was amazed later when chatting to him to find that this was his DJ debut. He was followed by Colin Walsh, continuing with a very danceable mix of music. Then came Andy Childs turning in a very skillfully and well paced set with something for everyone. He was followed by one of the regulars, Dave Lowe, as always hitting the mark and the evening closed with Andy doing a second set.

Another great evening, lots of old favourites, interspersed with a few newies, a busy floor, a great atmosphere, good company and lots of dancing. That's what it's all about and this event never fails to deliver. Unfortunately, I'll miss October and November (in more ways than one) as I will be at the weekenders in Prestatyn and Blackpool but back in time for the Christmas party in December!

2 Sep 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

I'd missed last month's do at the Monaco so was really looking forward to going back to one of my favourite stomping grounds, plus I needed to make up for a disappointing night at Prestwich. It was a full carload, with the complete set of Al's Gals present, Julie, Karen and Sue, plus Charlie. We arrived bang on time and there were already a fair number of people in. By 9ish most seats in the floor area were already taken - pretty quickly, the Monaco filled up to capacity. It was looking good and the spark was there from the outset, even though it took 45 minutes or so for people to hit the floor dancing. Very soon, the place was absolutely buzzing. And that's how it continued for the rest of the night - the floor was full with people just dancing their butts off to some great music, only quietening down after the bar closed.

During the night we were joined by Dave and Stu from Leyland and their friend, Sue, and Pete and Wendy and Ged and Debbie. A lot of the regulars were also present including my pals, Ann and Tony from Garswood, Steff and Carol from Yorkshire, the Garstang crowd and many, many others. As I'm around two months behind with the piccies, I'd decided not to take any photos to add to my backlog, but the Blackpool posse twisted my arm!

This was probably one of the best nights I've ever attended at the Monaco and that's not an empty statement. The Monaco does what it does extremely well, unashamedly airing the well-known oldies and favourites, playing extremely well to the floor. Nights like this are a reminder of what an oldies night should be like, why the Monaco is so successful and why I and countless others keep coming back. There is a ticket-only Wigan Casino Anniversary special on the 16th September with Steve Whittle coming out of retirement, see you there!

1 Sep 2006 TSOP (The Sounds of Prestwich), Longfield Suite, Prestwich

The gang had all cried off with other engagements, so it was a solo journey for me to the Longfield Suite this month. I got there bang on time and palled up with Ged and Sue from Romiley. As the evening went on, I was joined by Doddy and Eilish, Pete and Wendy and Debbie and Ged.

The crowd seemed slow to come through the door, and even by 10pm, the place was nowhere near as full as I've previously seen it, certainly speaking for the main ballroom. I don't know what kept people away, whether they were still away on holidays, with children not due to return to school until next week, or whether it clashed with another event.

The evening started off with a blinding set from Alex - a youngster he may be, but he knew his Northern Soul onions, for sure! Although not many folks were dancing (like me, they were probably catching up on the week with their pals), it was certainly no reflection on the music being played. He was followed by Terry Davies, as usual doing a great set. Then came Dave Rivers, from London, I believe - I must admit I struggled big-time with his set, especially the first half, although, to my eyes (and ears) he recovered somewhat in the second half. He was followed by Bob Hinsley, who played a great no-nonsense set, that certainly had me back on my feet. Then came Ginger - I missed the middle of his set, as Michele, my pal from work dropped in to see me. Ginger always delivers the goods for me and tonight was no exception, certainly for the part of the set I was around for. The evening closed off, as always, with Terry's excellent second spot - by then I was flagging, even though the music was good. Given the late hour, there were still a fair number of dancers on the floor.

Overall though, the evening seemed a bit flat to me. I would willingly admit I wasn't at my best - I was tired (I'd have given anything for a couple of hours kip before the night started) and still struggling with the after-effects of a wisdom tooth I had removed nearly 3 weeks ago - so whether it was me or the crowd numbers seemingly down on the norm, I don't know. Certainly that buzz wasn't there for me as I made my weary way home!

27 Aug 2006 Soul in the Cellar Greatstone Alldayer - The Greatstone, Chester Road, Stretford, nr Manchester

I'd originally intended to pop into this venue for a few hours in the afternoon, then go on to the Allnighter at Morecambe, but things don't always go to plan. With various shopping and household chores to sort out first, I was a bit delayed only arriving at the Greatstone just after 5:30pm, a couple or so hours later than planned! I was greeted by the friendly face of Jane Tasker at the foot of the stairs, who relieved me of a fiver for the entrance fee. The main room was full and there were a few folks in the other rooms at the back. Bridget and Dave from Yorkshire were in the bar area, so I dumped my rucksack and took my pew in the corner next to them.

The usual brilliant sound mix that I've become accustomed to from Barry Tasker and Brian Walker was emanating from the DJ booth. It soon became evident to me that there was no way I was going to be able to leave this behind and go on to Morecambe, even with the star-studded DJ lineup planned there! After all, if you're already having the greatest fun, why give it up? The music was across the board Northern but with the usual Twisted Wheel slant, lots of early and mid 60s R&B thrown in.

I felt totally at home here (both individually and musically), just as I had done at the event I'd attended at the same venue earlier in the month - what a contrast to the previous night at Winsford! It's difficult to know what new to say over and above my previous comments, which contain a detailed description of the venue.

Having had a brief natter with Bridget and Dave at our previous meeting, we spent some time getting to know each other better and our tastes in music, which overlap significantly, adding lots of must-hear tracks into my notebook. That and tapping to the infectious rhythm with their tambourines! I was really chuffed when they gave me one of their tambourines - thanks guys, I'll be making use of that in the gigs to come - maybe I should change my moniker to "Mr Tambourine Man"!;-)

A number of people were dancing so there was no embarrassment about getting on the floor - even with the small floor, I managed to get my share of dancing in, so I was a happy bunny. I must make mention of Elaine (who had come up from Berkshire with her hubby, Rob, they had also been at Winsford the previous night) - her dancing was simply stunning and no still photograph could ever do justice to her footwork! A fair number of folks from venues such as the Wheel and the Oakfield were present. Also lovely to see Jez and Gail up from Stoke enjoying the music!

I'd arrived about half an hour after food had been served and the locusts had made short shrift of that by the time I arrived so I was starting to get hungry as the evening wore on. No fear, just after 9, more food was on the way which was devoured eagerly! Not long after, the Yorkshire duo had to leave to get their train back home - amusingly enough, while they were waiting upstairs for the taxi they heard the first few notes of the Jarmels "Little Lonely One" and both came rushing down the stairs to get one more dance in! Hey guys, I think we were hewn from the same block!;-) Thanks for being absolutely delightful company!

During the evening we were treated to a thirty minute spot from Roger Fairhurst who was involved with the Twisted Wheel in its Brazennose Street days - a very unusual slot of R&B almost bordering on Rock'n'Roll - quite fascinating!

Reluctantly, the evening came to a close at midnight - I'd thoroughly enjoyed myself and vowed to find a way of visiting this venue more frequently (it's unfortunate that it clashes with another regular fave, that of the Monaco at Hindley). I had no regrets at staying at the venue rather than going on to Morecambe. My notebook sported 18 tracks played during the evening which were added to my must-find list! Thanks to everyone, especially to Brian Walker and Barry Tasker for making this such an enjoyable night!

26 Aug 2006 Winsford Allnighter, Winsford Civic Centre, Dene Drive, Winsford, Cheshire, CW7 1AX

I figured it was time for a change, to try a new venue and when I heard my pals, Pat from Liverpool and Ann and Tony from Garswood were also going to give it a try, I didn't need much persuading. We met up at the nearby Wetherspoons and made our way to the venue just down the road. We were greeted at the door by promoter, Sam Moore and got seated in the main function room. The main lights were still on and there was a lot of huddled activity on-stage - presumably there was some sort of problem with the sound system. This was eventually sorted, the lights dimmed and the night started. Gradually from midnight onwards, the numbers started to pick up and it got busier on the floor, although that was largely due to the music played. These venues are always a great opportunity to meet up with old pals, in this case, the delightful Bev and her fella Mark, Stef and her pal (oops forgotten her name), plus the crowd from the Polish Club in Oldham, not forgetting Shirley and her bloke Dave, etc etc.

Bank Holiday absence was in evidence again, certainly at the start of the night and this was evident in a hall as big as this (comparable to the Longfield Suite at Prestwich) - the few punters present at the beginning just rattled around in the big room. The floor also left a bit to be desired, with quite a few dodgy patches where it had been damaged and covered up, or not, in some cases.

So we turn to the music. My pal, Julie, her of Al's Pals (tm) fame, has commented to me on a few occasions that the music at allnighters tends to be different from the standard fayre and that was certainly the case on this night. To be honest, I found myself struggling with the music big-time for the first couple of hours. It wasn't just a case of me not knowing the music, it really wasn't my cup of tea. The second hour was marginally better than the first. Of the few punters present even fewer made it onto the floor. Mercifully things took a turn for the better at midnight and the DJ who came on then had the floor moving with the oldies - my initial thought was "so it's not just me"! Unfortunately, that only lasted an hour - I found that, although the next DJ in line played more acceptable music, I was struggling big-time with the pacing. You could never get into a groove, as a fast number would be followed by a slow one followed by another fast one- and that's the way it went, until Sam Moore came onstage. I saw Sam when he did a spot at Bury the other week and loved it - my feelings were unchanged on this night. Sam played some brilliant music, mixing up the faves with the lesser well-known tracks, all dished up with a bare minimum of chat.

Unfortunately, I had to call it quits at this stage as I had a busy day lined up for the Sunday too. During the evening a number of us had spent some time discussing what makes a successful night - a tough one to narrow down but it includes the music played, the quality of the dance floor, the atmosphere of the venue, the buzz of the place... Stoke Kings Hall has it, the Ritz Brighouse has it, the Twisted Wheel in Manchester has it, but for me, the buzz just wasn't there, that certain something was missing here, although there were some great moments. Maybe I'm just not cut out for the traditional Allnighter!

25 Aug 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

Q. What's hot and sweaty, has people coming back to see it 35 years after the event and is 300 minutes long?
A. A standard session at the Twisted Wheel!;-)

In the words of the Elvis song, what a night it was, ooh such a night! I joined the queue in the drizzling rain around 9 pm. The August Bank Holiday is a big weekend in the Gay community, as Manchester's Gay Village hosts Mardi Gras which attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world - this is the first time that the owners of the club have allowed promoters Pete and John to hold the monthly Twisted Wheel event during that Bank Holiday weekend. The question was, how would the attendance hold up, when a lot of people go away for the holiday weekend?

Well, the evening started off pretty quietly with attendance initially well down. The music was superb, though, as always, John and Pete starting off proceedings with their 60 minute spots. The dance floor gradually started to fill up but in the first couple of hours we were able to experience a real novelty at the Wheel - ample room to spread out and dance! Slowly but surely the numbers crept up, although still not to the capacity we would normally see on a non-Bank Holiday weekend.

Barry Tasker was the guest DJ and what a pleasure it was to see him behind the decks, especially when compared to last month's guest - Barry is steeped in the history of the Wheel and it showed in the broad variety of music he played, all true to the Wheel tradition. It also highlighted the benefits of having a good guest - you get a wider range of music from the norm, but all valid within the Wheel playlist policy. While I am more than pleased with the residents, it would do no harm to have two guests every month - that would mean 2 out of the 5 hours from guests rather than just the one, as at present. Obviously financial considerations play a part in the overall equation but it would keep things fresh from a music viewpoint.

Anyway, going back to the evening, the night's entertainment was rounded off with Pete and John doing their second spots which had the floor packed. During the night it was announced that next month's event on 29th September would be an Allnighter (10pm till 7am, £10 on the door), as planned - great news in that from now on the Allnighters would be held every three months!

Quite a few of the regulars were missing, presumably having gone away for the holiday weekend. Among the visitors on the night were some people who had come from Paris and also a group of lads from Keighley - one of them, Bob, showed me his original membership card dating back to 1971 - it's been 35 years since he was here last and his face was a picture of emotion and passion for the music transporting him back to a bygone era. Strewth, it was before decimal coinage was introduced! See you back here soon, guys.

I run out of superlatives when describing the Wheel - it's my spiritual home, the music transports me back to my school and student days in the mid to late 60s. It's an experience and one which is very, very special to me. The music, the people, the atmosphere! In the words of the fast food advert "I'm lovin' it"! It's home. See you there next month.

19 Aug 2006 Lancashire Soul Club, Polish Catholic Social Club, Chamber Road, Hollins, Oldham, OL8 4NZ

We'd had a great time when we attended this venue last month, so it was a no-brainer as to where to go on the night in question. Julie and I delayed our entrance somewhat till about 8:45pm, meeting Pete and Wendy who were already there in the car park - they were bemused to have arrived before us! There were already quite a few people inside but not enough to stop us bagging a good table.

First behind the decks was newcomer Phil Wray - there wasn't much dancing going on during his slot, but that should not imply any criticism of the music played, which was good solid Northern. I was just taking the opportunity to catch up with Pete whom I hadn't seen in a couple of weeks - I suspect the other visitors were doing likewise with their friends. Following him were Tony Poff, Phil Stones, Ste Andrew and the evening was rounded off with the closing slot from promoter "Big Shed" Wayne. There was some excellent music played during the night - it's always a delight to discover a good track and get details from the DJ and that happened on quite a few occasions over the evening.

This place has such a great buzz about it and it was no exception on the night. Once the dancing started, the floor was busy all night, although never uncomfortably packed. The DJs were very responsive to requests and played very well to the floor. For connoisseurs of good beer, I should point out there is a good selection of quality Polish bottled beer, which you are unlikely to come across elsewhere - as I drive on Northern nights, I've taken the opportunity to get some takeaway supplies for home!

It's a really friendly venue with lots of faces from the local scene, especially the Twisted Wheel. The music is varied because of the policy of having a pool of some 20 or so resident DJs to draw on, but both this month and last, it's been absolutely top-notch, with lesser known tracks being skilfully sprinkled in between the favourites. No-one can ever be complacent, but Wayne and the team can be justifiably pleased with the way things are progressing. I was especially pleased to see Gail and Jez from Stoke, whom I'd met at Whitby - they had been to another venue ooop North and, as that had been quiet, had made their way over to Oldham. They were among many who had a great evening at the Polish club. My feet were aching when I hit the sack but I had a smile on my face!

18 Aug 2006 North Manchester Soul Club, Bury Town Hall, Bury

Normally the third Friday of the month means it's Brighouse, but as my fellow soul brother, Sully, was celebrating his 50th birthday, it was a change of venue to be with him at Bury Town Hall. Arriving there more or less bang on 8, I got myself seated in the corner with Trish. She was the official minder for the pressies and cards and these were being added to every few minutes. I was soon joined by Den and Angie, my pals from Wakefield - not the infamous duo from East Enders you understand, these were both of the female persuasion!;-)

The venue was filling up nicely, apparently busier than it had been for a few months. The Bury venue has two rooms, the second one alternating between rare 60s/R&B and modern - as it was modern this month, I stayed downstairs in the main ballroom doing Northern. The session started off with promoter Neil Jones, as enthusiastic as ever, doing a great spot, sharing some of the time with Sully. For most of the evening, the floor was pretty full, although never to the point of being uncomfortably packed. Special mentions to Pete Eccles who played well to the floor, as he always does and to Sam Moore. I think this is the first time I've heard one of his slots - sizzling and incandescent would be two words to describe his hour behind the decks - wonderful stuff! Add to that a superb dance floor and it's a great recipe for some good dancing! The music had me going up to the stage a few times to get details of the record being played.

Unfortunately, I don't think I was on top form, sliding somewhat as the evening progressed. I'd had a wisdom tooth removed earlier in the week and during the night, my jaw started to give me increasing pain. Clearly, I had been dancing too much and was now paying the price!:-( That apart, it was a really enjoyable evening with some great music and superb dancing. Special thanks to Den and Angie for being such delightful company and lovely as always to meet, Beverley and Mark.

12 Aug 2006 Northern Soul Club, The Oakfield, Oakfield, Sale

This was one of the first few Northern Soul venues that I'd attended a couple of years ago and it rapidly became a favourite of mine. I especially liked the range of music, a pretty general mix with a good R&B element. However, things move on, and the attendance habit got broken late last year with a few weekends away distracting me. Unfortunately, also during last year audience figures started to dip as did the numbers of dancers on the floor - before long, it was just a small number of dancers out on the floor, while the rest of the audience waited until last orders at 11pm before hitting the floor. A combination of factors led to one of the promoters, Greg Osbourne, pulling out earlier this year, leaving the remaining promoter Les Hare with the unenviable task of relaunching with new resident DJs. Numbers had been badly down with many regulars deserting the venue, but we decided it was time to revisit an old friend, after all, my last visit had been in January, under the old regime.

On the night in question, Julie, Karen and I made our way there arriving around 8:45. We sought out a table and pretty soon, it was time to hit the floor. Not that many people were dancing, but I'm not as self-conscious as I used to be and when the music is good, then who cares?

There was a group of 10-12 non-soulies there - I later found that they were a social club who had chosen the venue as there was nothing else on that night! I was quite bemused at them all dancing in a big circle, taking up half of the dance floor! My reaction was nothing compared to theirs when we hit the floor - we saw jaws dropping and elbows being nudged as if to say "look at him/her/that"! They had clearly seen nothing like this before! I mischievously told one of the ladies that when they all dance in a circle it's compulsory for both the men and women to put their handbags on the floor in the middle of the circle - I think she was totally bewildered by my comment!;-)

Through most of the evening the music was really good, although the guest DJ didn't really hit the mark for me. Also, what I had to contend with was a change in the music being played - I suppose it's pretty inevitable when one of the mainstays leaves, taking his music collection with him. Collections vary from one DJ to another and I have to say I missed Greg's R&B-oriented input to the night - quite often he played records which you would only hear at the Twisted Wheel or, maybe, the Monaco. No two ways about it, that will take some getting used to for me. I was disappointed that the two favourites I'd written on the request sheet weren't played (these were tracks which had previously been regular faves at the club) - whether the DJs ran out of time or simply didn't have the records or any other reason I wouldn't know. Obviously, newcomers to the venue will have no such legacy issues.

Since my original visits of 2004 and 2005, last orders has been extended from 11pm to 12 midnight, a welcome change for a night running until 1am. The place still gets hot, although the fans by the stage did help. The floor never got really jam packed, although it was busy. I don't know whether there has been some damage to the floor but my shoes kept hitting a patch of raised floor, although in fairness, it was just one small localised area. By the end of the evening, most of the tables were occupied, which, by all acounts, was a big improvement on the previous month and more people seemed to be dancing - undoubtedly the publicity efforts have paid off. the club now needs to keep the PR machine going from one month to another.

However, it was quite a shock to see how many of the old regulars were absent, folks who had previously never missed a month. I don't know what it will take to get them back - we tend to be creatures of habit and settle into a groove - habits get displaced either through dissatisfaction or when people get tempted by something new. The club isn't doing anything wrong at all, it's a nice venue, inexpensive bar, lots of parking and the music is good. What it needs is more people through the door and more dancers on the floor. There are no easy answers but two factors are essential - keeping the PR going so prospective visitors (both old and new) are aware of the venue and playing to the floor, playing what the audience wants. I have other commitments for the next few months, so I am not likely to be back until the New Year. I do hope that this month has been the start of a well deserved upward trend for the club.

11 Aug 2006 Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Ramsbottom

For me, the second Friday of the month is usually Ramsbottom Cricket Club and this month was no exception. I made my way up the motorway and Bev was at the door as usual, friendly as always. I keep saying it, but this is such a relaxed friendly venue, I always look forward to my monthly visits here. Mercifully, the temperatures were somewhat down on the previous couple of months, which is just as well when you've got a night's dancing ahead of you.

The last couple of months have seemed a little bit slow to get going, only building up around 10pm, but things were very different on this night. By 9:30, the place was already pretty packed and the dance floor was just buzzing. Promoter Des Wilson got the evening under way, before handing over to Andy Child, followed by Dave Lowe, with a faultless spot. The music was top notch as ever and the dancers soon got down to business, with the floor busy for most of the evening. For me, the next spot with guest DJ Matty didn't really hit the mark, probably being too modern/crossover slanted for my tastes and this was largely reflected by the reaction from the floor. I think the audience for this venue is pretty much oldies-oriented and the residents cater well by playing superbly to the floor. It's always interesting to have guests, because they inject a freshness to proceedings but sometimes this can be difficult when they are too intent on playing their own choice of music. It didn't matter here, as the evening was brought to a close with another great spot from Des.

The company was excellent as ever with our table growing with extra chairs. Sully and Trish, Alan and Kim, Ronnie, Eilish and Doddy, to name the folks at my end of the table. Partway through the evening, I was surprised when Des announced my birthday and that of Sully and Doddy - even more surprised when Eilish came along carrying a birthday cake with umpteen lit candles (you stop counting at my age). Nice thought and much appreciated.

Reluctantly, proceedings came to a close at 1am - I could have quite happily kept going for another couple of hours. Although this isn't a large venue, the promoters have successfully built up the night and it already commands a loyal following. You know what you will get here, good music, no politics, friendly crowd and an inexpensive bar. Musically, as I said, it's an across the board Northern mix, slanted towards the oldies. Singling out the slot of the night, that accolade goes to Dave Lowe - he really knows how to hit the spot for me, with a nice touch of R&B. See you next month, guys!

5 Aug 2006 Barry and Jane Tasker's Wedding Reception/Party - The Greatstone, Chester Road, Stretford, nr Manchester

Well, after getting to bed at 4:30, I'd set the alarm for 9:30 and just after 11, left to go to Liverpool for the wedding of my pals, Phil and Trish, followed by their reception at Southport. I got home just after 8, a shower and change, quick lie down for 15 minutes, then out again just on 9, to attend Barry and Jane Tasker's reception at the Greatstone on Chester Road, Stretford!!! Strewth, you don't go to a wedding in 25 years and two arrive on the same day! Fortunately, I'd had my second wind and wasn't feeling as wiped as I had done an hour earlier!

Now it's confession time. The Greatstone was only about the third Northern soul venue I'd originally attended over two and a half years earlier and I was a tad apprehensive as that hadn't been a happy experience for me. I didn't know anyone and had come to dance only to find a postage size dancefloor - it was impossible to dance that night with all the people at the bar. Everyone was in their cliques chatting to their friends and no-one spoke to me all night, so it had been a thoroughly miserable night out and one of the very few where I had left long before the night had ended. Undoubtedly, it had left a lasting scar.

Some 32 months down the line, things are very different, I now know a lot of folks on the scene - but tonight, it wasn't about me. It was to celebrate the wedding of one of Northern Soul's giants, former DJ at the Wheel and Pendulum and all-round good guy, Barry Tasker, to the lovely Jane. I felt honoured to have been invited and when I arrived, the place was already heaving, just a massive throng of people delighted to be there for a very special couple.

What can I say about the night, other than it was a brilliant party with great music being spun by, amongst others, Les Hare and Brian Walker. The company was superb with many faces from the Manchester scene in attendance, especially the Twisted Wheel. I even got some dancing in on the postage-size dancefloor!;-) I'd like to join everyone who knows the happy couple and send all my best wishes for a long and happy marriage to Barry and Jane!

I wouldn't normally comment on what was essentially a private event, except that the venue is a regular one (first Saturday of the month) on the scene and one where I am now happy to revise my original impressions.

The venue is located in the cellar at the rear of the Greatstone Hotel just down the road from the Manchester United ground at Old Trafford (on the left hand side of the A56 Chester Road going towards Sale). There are 4 rooms, including one which houses the bar/dancefloor, another houses a dining room which is laid out for the buffet food that is a speciality of this venue. Undoubtedly it does get hot as there is no air conditioning but there is a great atmosphere in the place - promoters are ex-Twisted Wheel DJs, Barry Tasker and Brian Walker and the Northern Soul slant is very much Twisted Wheel/R&B oriented, as you would expect from these two fine DJs. It is a place where people come to meet, talk and listen to the music, primarily rather than to dance, but there is some dancing - but if you're a regular at the Twisted Wheel, you'll recognise many faces. If you fancy a bit of a different night out, give it a whirl! The next event from the promoters is a Bank Holiday All Dayer on Sunday 27th August 2006 from 12 noon to 12 midnight, £5 on the door - the food special is a barbecue! I'll see you there!

4 Aug 2006 TSOP (The Sounds of Prestwich), Longfield Suite, Prestwich

It was in August 1999 that this venue ran for the very first time, so "Happy Anniversary" to Terry and Lynne to celebrate 7 years running the most successful venue in the Greater Manchester area. This anniversary is celebrated by the Summer half-nighter, running from 8pm till 4am.

Karen had been struggling with a chest infection and was anxious to be able to bale out early if needs must, so she was arriving later under her own steam with Julie, while Sue had a 50th birthday party to attend. Accordingly, it was just Charlie and I who made our way there arriving bang on start time. We met up in the car park with Michele, my good friend from work and her pal, Val, over from Northern Ireland - we made our way up the stairs even beforesecurity had arrived!

The venue was a little slow to get started and numbers seemed down, but then there are plenty of those who don't like coming out in daylight. I have to say that the first hour's music from Rob didn't do an awful lot for me, but at 9, promoter Terry Davies soon got things moving and within minutes the floor was pretty full. The DJ line up for the rest of the evening in the Northern Room was Nige Grice, Derek Pearson, Ginger Taylor, Kenny Burrell, Pete Eccles, with the final hour being rounded up by Terry again. As the sun set, the main hall started to busy and fill up. All of the main acts acquitted themselves superbly with particular praise for Kenny Burrell who played a number of tracks that had me trotting up to the stage with notebook in hand to get the details - I think there is a real skill in introducing the less well-known numbers while keeping the floor busy and Kenny was absolutely spot on!

Mercifully, it wasn't quite as hot as it had been for a number of weeks, in fact, at one stage the air conditioning made it chilly, not that this lasted long! The floor didn't seem quite as busy as usual, but no complaints there, the music was good, as was the dancing.

I was having to pace myself as I'd had a hectic day with another crazy day ahead on the following day - I needed to be up early on Saturday to go to some (non-soulie) friends' wedding in Liverpool and reception at Southport. I'd taken a night off the photography (with this hot weather we've been having, I've simply been too shattered to update the website and, in any case, I've needed a bit of a holiday away from the treadmill, but hopefully, will start catching up soon) and by 3:15am, my feet were killing me, so Charlie and I left 45 minutes early. Another great night!

29 Jul 2006 Non-Northern Soul night at Margate celebrating 40 years in Radio for DJ Roger Day
(ex-Swinging Radio England, Radio Caroline, Radio Northsea International, Piccadilly Radio and BRMB, to name just some of the stations where Roger has worked since commencing in May 1966)

Doctor's note available on request authorising me to miss my first Northern night for a year (time off for good behaviour)!;-)

28 Jul 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

Most of July had been one long sweltering heatwave and the Wheel is not for the faint-hearted if you struggle with the heat - it's hot enough at the best of times, but who cares - the music is the best of 60s club soul you will get anywhere on the planet! Mind you, for a change it was quite pleasant there when I wandered in soon after the doors opened. It seemed a little quieter than normal, but over the next few hours, things changed. Summer months are always tricky for venues with the holiday season and folks doing other things (you mean there ARE other things to do?). Anyway, as the evening progressed the punters started to fill the place up, including, bizarrely, a hen party! Maybe that was down to the guest DJ, more of whom later. A lot of the regulars were present, although the summer holidays must have kept some away. Particularly moving was seeing regular, Sally-Ann, bravely attending and staying for the whole evening despite not being well - best wishes to you, luvvie!

The evening started off, as always, with residents John Green and Pete Roberts doing their excellent spots - I keep saying this but these guys know their audience and how to play to the floor, all done in an understated manner, letting the music speak for itself.

They were followed by guest DJ Mike Sweeney, ex-Piccadilly Radio, now Capital Gold, also of local band, the Salford Jets. Now I'll lay my cards on the table, I've never been a fan of his - to put it kindly, I've thought of him as a loudmouth with an overinflated ego, my uncensored thoughts are pretty much unprintable. Nevertheless, the guy does have a great knowledge of the Manchester music scene spanning many years. It seemed a strange booking but hey! you never know what gems you will hear from the most unlikely sources.

Well, in the end, for me, sorry, there were no gems, at times just some strange choices of music. Initially, Mike seemed to struggle with the decks, admitting it had been some time since he had last played any vinyl, indeed Pete Roberts played the decks for him for virtually the first half of his spot. There was no doubting the man's enthusiasm, although his presentational style was reminiscent of either a Butlin's redcoat trying to whip up crowd support or that of a direct sales manager cranking up his salesforce before sending them out on the road! All of this delivered with enough ego to fill an empty aircraft hanger - "I'm Mike Sweeney from Capital Radio" he kept telling us, every three or four records! Contrast that with the comments I've made about John and Pete's presentational style and you will see that I wasn't impressed - I would have taken it from a quality 60s DJ such as Emperor Rosko, who had the personality to carry it off, but it all seemed out of place here.

The choice of music was pretty much 60s chart (rather than club) soul and while good in itself, was not particularly inspired. Some records really made me wonder - just to single out one track, this was called "The Sins of The Family (Fall On The Daughter)". He played a version which was a "B" side of a single recorded by a local beat band, whose name I forget. Now I do know my 60s pop and this track in particular, which was written by P.F. Sloan, a songwriter who enjoyed some fame in 1965 when he wrote "Eve of Destruction", a massive hit for Barry Maguire. I hope I'm not a soul purist, having pretty wide tastes across the genre, but what that track has to do with soul music totally confounds me - yes a 60s rarity, yes a folk/protest song, but soul??? No way!

So, all in all, a thumbs down for the guest spot - talking to folks there, either at the time or since, only one had positive comments to make about the slot, although I wouldn't even pretend that this was a statistically valid sample. But the floor was pretty full for most of his slot so what does that say? Still, after midnight, it was back to normal business with regulars John and Pete showing how it should be done, playing the grooves we like till close just before 2:30.

The temperature escalated over the evening and, I must say, it has to be the hottest night I have ever experienced at the Wheel. Not once did I go to the loo, despite drinking well over a pint of fluid every hour, I just sweated it all away. To give you an idea of how hot it was - the handkerchieves in my trouser pockets were totally wet through from the inside! My undies were also soaked through and no, I hadn't pee'd myself!

It had been a strange evening but hey! us Wheelies love our music and Pete and John both provided us with what we wanted. My feet were aching at the close of the night with all the dancing. I'd also taken about a couple of hundred photos to add to the list of items awaiting sorting out! Despite my negative comments about Mike Sweeney's spot, I had thoroughly enjoyed myself, as I always do at this venue. Roll on Bank Holiday weekend in August for the next one!

22 Jul 2006 Kings Hall, Stoke-on-Trent

It was my first time to this venue since the superb All-nighter on New Year's Eve and I'd been looking forward to it for months. I had first attended the venue exactly a year earlier, but had made the mistake of not pacing myself as I'd been out in the afternoon at the Flower Show at Tatton Park. Consequently, I'd hit the wall around 3am and had endured a frightening journey home, desperately trying to stop myself falling asleep at the wheel. No such error this time around, as I'd done Tatton on the previous day and just taken it easy on the Saturday. I was on my own this time around and set off just after 7.30, getting there without incident around 8.15. Already quite a few soulies in the car park - I joined the head of the queue around 8.30, nattering to familiar faces from the Manchester area. A little while later, I was joined by Pat from Liverpool and Tony and Ann from Garswood, whom I'd not seen in a while, so it was lovely catching up on things and swapping notes.

Pretty soon, it was 9pm and we were allowed in, making a beeline for a well-placed table. Sprinkled some talc down and within minutes, I hit the floor. The atmosphere was just electric, with track after track designed to get us dancing - and dance we did, needing no persuasion. It was Tony and Ann's first visit here and it was heartening to hear Tony say to Ann within minutes "Why haven't we been here before?" I suppose for those of us from the Greater Manchester area, it is just beyond the edge of normal travelling distance for soul venues as we are rather spoilt for choice in our neck of the woods - nevertheless, this is no normal venue. To say it's special would be rather an understatement. Quite simply put, it is an essential venue for any serious soulie - to give you an idea of the esteem in which it is held, on my first visit I was chatting to a couple of guys who had come all the way from Brighton. On this night, there were folks present from Bristol and Swindon, hardly on the doorstep! Tony and Ann's sentiments were echoed later in the evening when my mate Doddy made it here for the first time, accompanied by Eilish.

Incidentally, while most of the DJs played very well to the floor, I must make special mention of Nige Brown who did an awesome opening spot. When I went to congratulate him at the end, he modestly said he was just a local DJ - well, no "just" about this guy, he knew just what was needed to get folks dancing with an absolutely storming spot!

Within a couple of hours, the place was just heaving and the atmosphere just buzzed and that's very much the way it stayed only starting to quieten down after 4, when numbers gradually thinned out with folks starting to make their way home. Excellent spots too from Chris King and Ginger, as always - unfortunately while Soul Sam started well, his spot soon dipped for me and this was reflected by the numbers on the floor. I forget who was the DJ on for the final hour but he knew how to work the crowd and had a capacity floor for most of his spot. His music revitalised me - I had hit the wall a few hours earlier, due to the heat and was having to pace myself, but a lot of that caution got thrown to the wind with the music being played.

Quite apart from the superlative music and dancing, venues like this are the ideal place to meet friends old and new. Among others, it was lovely to see locals Pete and Wendy and Ronnie, from Halifax the absolutely delightful Bev, from Northampton the lovely Beverley and her brother Mark, their pal Rose, a stunning dancer whom we'd seen at Whitby, "Snakehips" Ray and his pal Garry and not forgetting Louise and Chris from Garstang.

I also need to make special mention of Gemma Preston from Dudley, a 21-year old youngster who, apparently, has only been doing this for 6 months but turned in some acrobatic dancing that would put the very best to shame - her father, Martin, had seen me with my camera earlier in the evening and said what a superb dancer she was. I didn't really need the prompt because, some time later in the evening, I saw this absolutely incredible dancing out of the corner of my eye and rushed onto the floor to take some shots, it was Gemma! A modest young lass who must have been embarrassed by my gushing superlatives on the standard of her dancing - we could do with more youngsters like this on the scene. Lovely to meet you Gemma and Martin.

The night ended about ten past six, when the security came on stage, presumably to tell the DJ that it was all over for another night! The lights were put on, not that this made all that much difference as day break had hit an hour earlier! We were all saying our goodbyes and pretty soon, we were outside, a massive throng of people milling around, reluctant to let the evening come to a close. I bombed home back up the motorway, making it back just after 7, hitting the sack around 8, only being awakened by the phone just after 4pm. What a brill night it had been. I must get my ticket for the next do on October 21st!

21 Jul 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

Time whipping round fast must be a sign of old age, as it seemed only 5 minutes since we were last at the Ritz in Brighouse and here we were again, because it was the third Friday of the month. Al's Gals (tm) in full complement, Julie, Karen and Sue together with Charlie accompanying me across the Pennines. We joined the queue outside at around 8.15pm with friends such as Tommy and John and Joyce from Yorkshire. It was evident by opening time that numbers were likely to be down, as the queue was rather shorter than usual. Not that this stopped the action on the floor - maybe folks held back initially a tad, but certainly by around 9, there were already a fair number of dancers doing their stuff.

Musically, the Ritz was back to its usual magnificent self (compared to a disappointing evening the previous month) with brilliant music throughout the nite, resident DJ Ginger and guests playing superbly to the floor. By 11, the numbers had crept up and it had a really busy feel about the place - it was sweltering inside, the doors near the stage mercifully being wedged open to let some cool(ish) air in. A few old friends turned up on the night, including Ronnie, Doddy and Eilish, Des and Bev from Ramsbottom and Ginger's driver, Billy - however, quite a few of the regulars were absent, no doubt to it being the holiday season. Thank heavens the numbers were down a bit, at least there were a few less bodies generating heat and sweat!

As I was a bit behind with uploading photos from Whitby two weekends ago (I have yet to finish sorting out over 1000 photos I took over the weekend) and at the Polish Club last weekend, I gave the photography a miss. As for the dancing, that was superb, although I had to pace myself with the intense heat in the venue. The terrific buzz that you get at the Ritz was there throughout, confirming its well deserved place as Yorkshire's leading soul venue. I adore the Ritz and it was sheer joy being there on another brilliant night - I was also making the most of things as next month I will be staying over on my side of the Pennines and going to Bury for my soul brother Sully's 50th birthday.

15 Jul 2006 Lancashire Soul Club, Polish Catholic Social Club, Chamber Road, Hollins, Oldham, OL8 4NZ

I'd only been to this venue once before, in autumn last year and it had left mixed impressions at the time. While the music had been very good, the punters attending at the time hadn't. Apart from a few exceptions, there wasn't even any toe tapping, let alone dancing - they were a miserable crowd, couples out for a Saturday night, with nothing to say to each other, staring into their drinks - we had joked about them waiting for the undertaker. Not many genuine soulies here.

It was to be a very different experience this time around. My mate, Doddy, had been here last month and told me what a great night he'd had, brilliant music, good dancing, great crowd (a lot of Wheelies present). Also Fay, a lovely lady I'd met at the Northampton weekender, had been extolling its virtues and told me that the soul club's second anniversary was due in July.

So, on the night in question, Al's gals (tm) in the form of Julie and Karen, accompanied me to the venue. We arrived bang on 8pm and were the first in the function room - the layout was different, the tables were arranged in a continuous letter-U around the room, rather than in rows and that left more space on the dance floor. There was a really nice warm feel to the place. Promoter Wayne (Big Shed) was spinning the decks, the music was good. As the evening unfolded, a long line of DJs did their spots, including John Mitchell, Clarence, Keith Ridge, Brian Walker and Ronnie Hanley.

By around 10, there was a really good crowd in attendance, with lots of regular soulies, the two Alans and wives, Kim and Anne, Pete and Wendy, Ged and Debbie, Hans and Julie, Chippy, Ronnie, Jock and Marie Heron, Vance and Chris and Elaine and Jimmy Knox from Aldwinians, to mention just a few. The atmosphere this time around was as different as it could be from our last visit - the place was just buzzing. No reticence from the crowd about dancing - from about 9:30, the floor was very busy, only quietening down after midnight as people slowly started going home, or, in some cases, onto the Allnighter held that night at Middleton Civic Centre.

The DJ spots were all different in style, reflecting their individual tastes - I would particularly single out John Mitchell, Clarence and Keith Ridge for hitting the spot for me. Partway though the evening, a charity raffle was held, with the star prize being a limited edition print, signed and donated by Martha Reeves.

I had a great night, really enjoyed the music, and danced my socks off, filling a memory card with piccies of the action on the floor. As we made our way home, our little gang was unanimous about what a brilliant night we'd had. It just goes to show how things can change and how perseverance pays off when a promoter is intent on building a successful venue with a loyal following. To quote Arnie, "I'll be back"! Most certainly will!

14 Jul 2006 Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Ramsbottom

I do love coming to this friendly venue, I'm always made to feel so very welcome. Al's Gals (tm) were handbagging so I bombed up the motorway on my tod, getting there just before 8. The first through the door I was greeted warmly by Des and Bev. Like last month, things were a bit slow to get started but then it's always tricky in summer with the light evenings - sure enough, by 10pm, the place had filled up pretty well. Ditto on the floor. Partway through the evening, a number of punters came in - they had been at another newish venue, which had been pretty dead, so they made their way here because they knew they would have a good time. Not wrong there!

Great sets as always from residents Des and Dave, ably assisted by this month's guests Pete Gratrix and Steve Lane. It's very much an across the board mix at Rammy, from 60s R&B through to mainstream Northern to crossover and it works well.

It took me a while to get going on the dance floor but that was nothing to do with the music being played - I was just in a relaxed chatting mood. Once I got on the floor, there was no stopping me! I took a rest from the photography being snapped out at the Whitby weekender. Unlike previous months when proceedings have been brought to a close around 12:30, this time the club let the event go on till 1am, which came around far too fast.

Special mentions to Debbie (guest DJ Pete's partner) with whom I had a long natter and her daughter, Elisha, celebrating her 12th birthday, to Louise and Chris and to Steve and Linda Lane.

As I've said before, this is a lovely friendly place - it has that special intimacy that comes with the smaller venue - you won't go wrong here. Very friendly promoters who are anxious to please, great music, great crowd. See you there next month!

7 Jul 2006
to
9 Jul 2006
Whitby Soul Weekender 2006, Whitby Pavilion, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Well, dear reader, this was a weekender with a difference, for some good and bad reasons - I guess the fallout from the negatives will rumble on for some time, but more on that later.

FRIDAY 7th JULY 2006

We'd decided a while earlier that we'd go in two separate cars, Al's Gals (tm) in the form of Julie and Karen in one, Doddy and I in the other. So on Friday morning, just after 11, Doddy picked me up in his car and we made our way across the Pennines over to Yorkshire. Apart from a holdup on the M62, it was a good journey and within a couple of hours, we found ourselves on the quieter "A" roads north of York, bypassing Malton, then going through the lovely little town of Pickering. We stopped off at a delightful pub/hotel and had a very pleasant lunch, then continued with our journey, passing the spectacular natural amphitheatre, the Hole of Horcum and what used to be known as "the Golfballs", now "the Pyramids" - Fylingdales Early Warning Radar Station.

Just as we were approaching the village of Sleights, 3 miles or so from Whitby, got a call from Karen to say that the girls had arrived at the digs, a pub in the town centre and, to put it bluntly, it was a dump - a smoky dingy "drinking" pub. There was no disguising the horror in her voice and it unnerved Doddy and me sufficiently that we wondered whether we'd be better finding an alternative. We'd been going through some lovely countryside and Doddy had spotted a very attractive pub off the main road a few seconds earlier, so it was a quick turn round and double back to do a recce. It looked a delightful place but what was it like inside and would they have anyaccommodation left? The landlord confirmed that there were some rooms free and took us up to have a look. They were absolutely superb and we quickly put a call out to the girls just to confirm they had not paid up at the original B&B. Fortunately they hadn't and soon they too were winging their way back to the new billet, where they joined us.

The girls were delighted with the alternative digs and checked in, after which we descended to the beautiful garden at the rear of the hotel where we had a lovely hour or so, chilling out, chatting, having a drink, taking advantage of the gorgeous weather. We'd met DJ Andy Bellwood and his wife when Doddy and I were first checking in - Andy was doing the first spot at the Pavilion that night - so we had a nice natter in the garden, then it was back to our rooms to get ready for the night out. We'd ordered a meal with our obliging host, so we demolished that, then piled into the car to make our way into Whitby town centre for our night's entertainment.

We thought it would be difficult to get a spot in the Pavilion Car Park, but not so, it was suprisingly easy - once parked up, half an hour before kick-off time at 8pm, we joined the queue which started at the Pavilion front doors, extending all the way up the steps to street level. There a few faces that we recognised in the queue but not that many. More or less bang on 8, the doors opened and we moved in, swapping our tickets for wrist bands. Moving from the upper foyer area, we made our way down the stairs to the lower foyer, where there were quite a few stalls selling records and memorabilia. The modern room was on the next level down but I never even bothered to find it, instead concentrating on the main "Northern" dance hall. This was in a very pleasant setting with large windows at the rear facing the sea and seating around the edge of the dance floor but my immediate reaction was that there didn't seem to enough of it - we were lucky to get a table even though we'd queued for half an hour and were no means at the back of the queue. There were lots of seats around the wall perimeter but nowhere to put drinks, other than on the floor. The main bar was not as well staffed as it should have been, with pretty lengthy queues throughout the night - prices were on the higher side though pretty typical of seaside and town centre venues, £2.40 for a pint of diet coke, compared to the norm of around £2.00 for venues in the Manchester area. The other comment I would make relates to the totally inadequate toilet arrangements - as far as I could make out, there was just the one set of toilets in the main foyer in the Pavilion, so we had the relatively rare sight of the guys queueing in the Gents.

The music was top notch all night and it didn't take long for the floor to get into full flow, as folks really didn't hang back waiting to get tanked up before they plucked up the nerve to start dancing - a real party spirit! The DJs played well to the floor and within half an hour or so the floor was pretty full and it stayed that way throughout the night, particular mentions to DJs Andy Bellwood, John Poole, Sean Chapman, Mick H and Snowy. Although the main dance hall (on and off the floor) was busy, it was the right sort of busy, not too crowded.

Over the course of the evening we were joined On our table by the following Al's Pals (EA ©): Paul and Gill (now living in Australia but on their annual Northern Soul tour of the UK), Dave and Stu from Leyland and Sue from Lincs, Peter and Suzie and later, once it got dark, Ronnie and Charlie!;-)

As always it was lovely to meet friends old and new, Sylvia and Joe from Devon (whom I'd last met at their trip to the Twisted Wheel earlier in the year); Christine and Janine from Yorkshire; Christine and Jack from Yorkshire; Beverley (whom I'd met at the Northampton weekender) and her brother Mark; one of my favourite dancers, the lovely Katie from Hull; Rosa and Jackie; Anne and Trevor from Flint; Wendy from Prestwich and Brighouse; Alan and Kim from Irlam; Linda and Edwina; Chris and the lovely Louise from Garstang; Joe from Darlington; Mick France from Sheffield, his wife, Michele and their pals; and last but not least, Judith from Middlesborough.

By the time proceedings came to an end at 3am, I had danced my little socks off and, in addition to meeting and chatting with lots of lovely people, I took just under 300 photos - it will keep me busy sorting that little lot out! Got back to the B&B and crashed about 4:30 after a nice shower.

SATURDAY 8th JULY 2006

I didn't see anything of the morning, waking up around 1pm. Doddy and I nattered for ages until we realised it was 2:30pm. Time for breakfast, hahahahaha! We made our way back up the hill to the Plough in Sleights where we had brunch and I had a lovely pint of real ale, then time to buzz into Whitby for an hour or two to do the tourist bit! Back to the billet for a quick snooze - you can never have too much sleep!;-) - then it was time to get ready again for the evening's session. Pop down for the evening meal and off out again to Whitby for a night's dancing.

We got there not long after 7:30 but were further back in the queue than on the Friday. The doors opened bang on 8 and security started to let us in, but by the time we had got into the main hall, all the tables had gone. However, I did see some folks going out into the lower foyer and bringing tables in, so I took my cue from them and did the same. It was significantly busier than on the previous night and within half an hour, there was a layer about five deep in front of the tables by the edge of the dance floor. The wrong sort of busy!:-(

Still, it didn't stop me getting onto the floor dancing - having missed the afternoon session which had been a good one, by all accounts, I was up for a good night and for the first couple of hours or so, that's what we had, with spots from Snowy, Kenny Burrell and Butch.

From the time we'd got in rumours were rife that there was likely to be trouble at some point in the evening. We'd heard that someone had been caught selling counterfeit tickets and been arrrested but we weren't sure how many tickets he had sold. Basically, thre event was a sellout and as there were lots more people expected on the Saturday than on the Friday night, once the 1500 capacity had been reached in the building, it was likely to kick off - at that stage there would be a crowd of people outside, with valid tickets who were still waiting to get in and they would not be happy bunnies. And that's exactly what happened. At around 10:30 I was on my way to the loo and there was a massive crowd congregated in the foyer. Turning my head round to see what what they were looking at, I could see a load of police and security desperately trying to hold a crowd back partway up the stairs inside the Pavilion, attempting to stop their entry. It was a very ugly scene and had their cordon been broken the officers would have fallen backwards down the stairs and been trampled by the crowd, possibly with fatal results. That scene continued for quite some time time and it was obvious that feelings were running very high on both sides of the cordon. Some punters were almost in tears describing how their friends were on the wrong side of the security cordon. Eventually, the position seemed to stabilise and I made my way back into the main ballroom.

At around 11:30, just prior to Ginger Taylor commencing his spot, Kev Roberts addressed us in the main ballroom and brought us up to speed with events. He explained what had happened and confirmed that around 100 people were still outside, but as the crowd inside had reached the 1500 fire limit capacity, security (who were Pavilion staff) had basically closed the doors. The police had been called to prevent the situation from escalating as disgruntled and increasingly vociferous punters were prevented from entering the building even though they had valid tickets/wristbands. The bars had been closed on the orders of the Police. He said the promoters were powerless to do anything other than to delay entry until the numbers of the crowd inside dropped below the 1500 limit - so he asked for volunteers to leave the building, thus allowing some of those outside to come in. He said that the people affected by the actions of the forgers would be compensated, although he was not specific. It was clear that his words were not being received well and throughout his address he was booed and jeered with personal abuse being hurled at him from the audience. In the end some punters left the building and over the next couple of hours the crowd waiting outside was gradually let in, but feelings were obviously very high not just outside but inside the building.

I have to say I was upset by what had happened and too pre-occupied to enjoy Ginger's spot, which for me is usually the highlight of a Northern night out, although, in fairness he was doing a great job and the floor was pretty busy. Anyway, eventually, the bars were re-opened and I got myself together to enjoy a couple of great spots from Neil Jones and Chris King.

For me, a Northern night is all about good music and friendship and both were there in abundance as during the night I met: Karen from Wakefield; Dave and Rowena from Ashbourne whom I'd met at Prestatyn and their pals, Steve and Sandra; Brian, Connie and Ian from Teeside, whom I'd met at Brighouse a few months ago; Julie's friend, Sean from Middlesborough; from Ramsbottom, Des and Bev Jones and Ginger Taylor's wife, Christine; Eric Heacock; DJ Pete Eccles; Vonny, whom I hadn't seen in months: and last but certainly not least, the most delightful Bev (originally from Grantham, now from Halifax) whom I'd met recently at Brighouse with her fella, Mark.

Again, I danced myself silly on what had been a strange night and took over 330 photos. Hit the sack around 4:30am!

SUNDAY 9th JULY 2006

The morning started rather earlier than normal for me, as I'm not usually up before 11am - we'd set the alarm for 8:30, to make it down for breakfast, with the intention of going back to bed afterwards. However, we'd forgotten that we were supposed to be checking out by 10, so "bang!" went the plans of getting any more kip. The girls were bemused by the sight of this pale apparition facing them over the breakfast table, although Doddy and I were able to take comfort from the fact that we'd beaten them down for breakfast!;-). But that was as good as it was likely to get, for a few hours, at least! I need my sleep and 4 hours just ain't enough for me. We had a few hours to kill, so we made it in Whitby and found a lovely coffee shop where I had a couple of mega doses of absolutely gorgeous coffee. Who should happen to come in looking for a seat, but a lovely lady I'd met at the Jackie Ross/Syl Johnson concert in Frobishers in April, the lovely Jenny from Scarborough and her fella Mike. We chewed the fat, reminscing about that spectacular live event a few months earlier as well as disecting the events of the previous night. Afterwards went for a quick walk about town and the girls insisted that we had a look at the B&B we were originally booked into - Doddy peeped through the windows, I went inside and their impressions were spot on - a real "drinkers" pub. Phew, a narrow miss!

Then it was time to make the pull up to the Cliff level - not something I was looking forward to, feeling fragile after sleep-deprivation. I'd struggled enough the previous day when I was feeling fitter! Rescue came in the form of the vintage 1930s Steam bus which was doing tours of the town centre, including the pull up the steep incline. Well worth the £1 to take us to the Pavilion!!!

There were already loads of people in the main ballroom when we made our entrance around 12:30, it was busy but not heaving. We found a table by the side of the stage and hit the floor. There was a lovely party atmosphere, so relaxed with folks seeming to want to eke out whatever was left of the weekend. The DJs billed were Rob Smith/Kev Roberts, Ginger Taylor, Snowy and the Walker brothers and friends. The music was absolutely top-notch and I danced and danced at danced. There were some stunning dancers on the floor, especially Spuggy and Judy from Northallerton with their young son - they looked brilliant and danced superbly, both indidivually and together, it was like poetry in motion watching them as I took loads of shots of them from the dancefloor.

As always, it's the people that make the event and special mentions to: Dave from Rotherham; Spuggy and Judy; Alan and Linda from the Ritz in Brighouse; Gail and Jez from Stoke; Pete, Tina and Julie from Barnsley/Mansfield; photographer Andy and Tracy; Andy Blood from Rotherham; Martin from Barnsley; Lester from Halifax; Sue from Selby; Krisi from Tyneside and not forgetting the lovely Beverley from Halifax.

5pm came and with it, the end of the weekender proper - Snowy made the closing announcement. When he referred to the previous night's debacle, it was clear that many folks still felt very upset by what had happened and were not in a forgiving mood. But pushing that aside, we'd had a great weekend and just before everyone said they goodbyes, we had the traditional Whitby group photo - we were asked to line up against the back wall, as Snowy took photos of us.

It must have taken me the best part of half an hour to say my various goodbyes and we finally left, knackered but happy. I'd taken around 460 piccies that afternoon alone, bringing the weekend's tally to over 1,050!

A LOOK BACK

Last year, Pete and Suzie had been to Whitby and raved about it, as had others who had also attended, so the event came with a very positive reputation and I'd been looking forward to it for some time.

Accommodation is a problem in Whitby especially when 1500 soulies descend on the place. Having said that, some folks seemed to find B&Bs even relatively late on. I think we were lucky in finding an alternative billet, a few miles out of the town in stunning countryside and I would certainly go back to where we stayed.

Turning to the event itself, I've already commented on the bar, toilet and seating arrangements, all of which need attention. The numbers attending are another factor which needs looking at, but I will come back to that later.

Undoubtedly, much will be said and written about the events of Saturday and there is no doubt in my mind that this event runs the risk of being damaged by what happened. Let me say at the outset, that I am not interested in the politics surrounding soul events. What attracts me to them is the music and dancing, what makes me come back time after time, is the lovely people I meet. It is clear that when you mention the name "Kev Roberts" it provokes a reaction, quite often a negative one. I've only spoken briefly to the man, at the Stoke All-nighter on New Year's Eve, so I can hardly claim to know him. I never attended Wigan, nor was I part of the original scene. The man has a reputation, but then, so do a lot of the leading DJs currently around. Let me just say, I'm not interested, I'm there to listen to the music and dance, to meet existing and make new friends. Period.

To my mind, on Saturday night, the promoters were faced with a no-win situation, because there was no way of identifying who had gained entrance validly - on initial entry we presented our tickets and were given a wristband to tide us over the weekend. So, with the forgeries there were essentially more tickets than wristbands. Security could not risk ignoring the fire regulations - to do so they would have been breaking the law and put their public entertainment licence at risk. Had there been an incident if the place was over numbers, they would, quite rightly have been pilloried - worse still, they would have been prosecuted. So, once 1500 had gained entry, basically the doors were closed. At that stage, the sh*t hit the fan.

On the night and since, all sorts of accusations have been thrown at the promoters, including one of printing more than 1500 tickets - this has been strenuously denied but what is clear is just how many people on the scene have strong negative feelings against Kev Roberts. Like I've said, I've no wish to get involved but it is interesting how many individuals who don't like him, yet still choose to attend his events. I could respect more those who, on a point of principle, stay away.

The counterfeiter didn't just cause trouble on the night, he stirred things up in the "we hate Kev Roberts" debate. Readers may or may not accept my conclusion that the promoters could not have acted differently without the benefit of hindsight - just putting the problems aside, perhaps we need to concentrate on why we attend these events. I've already made my views known here. Anyone who has met me at the countless gigs I have attended over the last two and a half years will surely be in no doubt as to my enthusiasm and passion for the scene. I love the music, the dancing, the people. As Ginger said on Sunday afternoon "let's concentrate on why we are here - LOVE!" I'll say amen to that.

if we take away the bad things that happened on Saturday night, what are we left with? Great DJs playing great music in a great venue with a great atmosphere! We had a real ball, dancing to those tracks. We met old friends and made new friendships. We got to know existing friends better. Isn't that enough? It certainly is for me! It's what I look for when I go out every Friday and every Saturday. I was with and met some very special people that weekend, I'm itching to come back!

Yes, this episode could rumble on and on and, no doubt, it will. There are lessons to be learned. I believe that will happen. I will be writing to the promoters, Kev Roberts and Snowy, with a copy of what I've posted here, so they are aware of my thoughts. If you attended, I hope you do too. Kev has already posted on Soul Source - the promoters haven't yet decided whether or not to go with the event next year, if they do, it will be with reduced numbers even though the fire regulations spoecify 1500. I am delighted with this statement. My own thoughts are that, on Saturday night by around 9/9:30, it was already significantly busier than it had been by the Friday peak around 11pm to midnight. Maybe the building can stand 1500 and I don't know how many were in the modern room, but I would hazard a guess the majority were in the big ballroom that was used for the Northern sessions. It was the wrong side of busy in that room and I would welcome overall numbers being reduced for our comfort. I'd like to see more tables for our convenience. Most of all, I would like to be back there next year, with my friends and meeting new friends!

Finally, a big thank you to all of you who made this such a special weekend, to Al's Gals, Julie and Karen, to Doddy for being brilliant company all weekender - you're a diamond geezer, to everyone I met and spoke to, thanks to all of you and to the promoters and DJs for putting on a great do! Cheers!

1 Jul 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

I had originally planned to go to the Sink but only found out the night before that it had been cancelled, so it was back to my usual first Saturday diet, the Monaco, never a great hardship! Al's Gals (tm) were not playing out, saving money for the upcoming weekender at Whitby, so it was Charlie and myself who made the journey over, getting to the venue bang on 8pm.

Earlier in the day, England had been playing in the World Cup, so it was expected that turnout would be affected and so it seemed initially (although numbers did pick up significantly as the evening rolled on). In addition, it seemed to be a slow night getting the dancing going. The first DJ tried his best, but only got a couple of people on the floor, despite the good music being played. The second DJ tried a different tack, kicking off with some crossover which initially got a bit of a response but that too died. Then about 9:30, on came "Emperor of my baby's heart" and it seemed to be the cue that everyone was waiting for and folks piled onto the floor. Having got them on, a few numbers down the line he reverted back to the crossover and promptly killed the mood again. Woody came on at 10pm obviously determined to get things rolling - on came the favourites and within seconds, the floor was full again and that's the way it continued for the rest of his and Dave Peet's excellent spots. Midnight meant a change of DJ and again, the floor wavered somewhat, finally dropping off again after 1am, as it does after the bar has closed at around 12:30am.

It was a hot evening at the Monaco and, after the previous night at the Wheel, followed by a hot day, I was pacing myself and sitting out many dances - not because the music wasn't up to it, because certainly for Woody's and Dave Peet's slots it was top notch, it was simply a case of me not being up to it! Mind you, there are always times when even a flagging spirit is roused - at one point, I was absolutely knackered and was making my way to the loo, when on comes the Miracles "Whole Lot Of Shaking In My Heart (Since I Met You)", cue to dash back on the floor at 100mph for my usual frenzied performance to that wonderful track!;-) Having said that, there is a limit to the number of rabbits like that which you can pull out of the hat!

We were joined later in the evening by Doddy, Eilish and Ronnie. A lot of the regular crowd were present but, for me, it wasn't a night to do much in the way of chitchat. I didn't do any photography either, fancying a night off. It wasn't the Monaco at its very very best, but I am being a bit harsh here - the Monaco has a reputation of playing unashamedly to the floor and sometimes the floor is just going to be difficult to get going. Having said that, it's interesting how DJs in that upper league (and I include Woody and Dave Peet here) do have the ability to grab it by the scruff of the neck and get things moving. That comes from being able to read the floor and responding accordingly, something that a number of DJs didn't do adequately on the night. But I am nitpicking, all round it was still an excellent night.

30 Jun 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

The last time I was here was nearly a couple of months ago (I'd missed last month's session as I was at the Northampton weekender) so I was really up for a great night out! And that's exactly how it turned out! It had been quite a hot day - the sort of day that stops people going out dancing - so I wondered whether attendance figures would be affected. I needn't have worried because it turned out to be a really busy night. I joined the queue at the front door just short of opening time and we were all ready to dance! It was good to see a lot of the usual crowd, Tommy, Doddy, Eilish, Stan, Pat, Barry and Laura, Paul and Karen, etc etc etc. No messing about, within minutes got onto the floor to dance.

The temperature was hot - and so was the music. We started with the usual brilliant residents slots from John Green and Pete Roberts. Then on came guest DJ, Dave Slater - I must admit I really struggled with his spot. There were gems, for sure, but they were buried in a raft of obscurities, the wrong side of esoteric for my liking. The pace varied too much, so much so that you couldn't get a rhythm going, as it swung from fast to slow and back again - judging by the dancefloor, I wasn't the only one having problems. John then came on, with an absolutely barnstorming spot that had the floor jam packed and Pete closed off with another excellent spot.

In between the dancing, got to meet up with friends old and new - Frans and Julie, Ray "Snakehips" Pearce and his pal, Garry, Chris and Carlos, Garry, Roy, Gary (from the Pendulum who wanted his picture taken with his hero Barry Tasker), the Junction 10 (Walsall) crew, Lorna, among others. Filled a memory card with lots of piccies too!

Every time I come here I feel I've come home and this night was no exception. Even though it was like a sauna, which didn't make for easy dancing, the atmosphere in the place was just incandescent. I know I keep saying it, but there's nowhere else like it, it's so special, luvvit, luvvit, luvvit! Can't wait till the next time!

24 Jun 2006 King Georgeís Hall, Blackburn

The last time I came here, in April, I was a bit disappointed - the atmosphere had felt a bit flat, partly due to the low-ish attendance. I'd debated giving the event a miss this time around, but I knew my pals Dave and Pauline Rimmer were celebrating their 25th Wedding anniversary on the day, so I wanted to be there to add my congratulations.

Al's Gals (tm) were absent, so Ronnie, Charlie and I made our way to Blackburn getting there in plenty of time. The guys went off to the pub while I joined the head of the queue with a couple of the Blackpool lads. Soon after nine, the doors opened and we were admitted onto the premises and I quickly took up position at the usual table on the edge of the dancefloor. Not long later was joined by Dave and Stu from Leyland and Sue from Lincs - Dave wasn't too well, so he was struggling somewhat, but it was good to meet up again!

The buzz, absent on the previous occasion, seemed to be there from the outset and the excellent music gave me the encouragement to get straight on the floor and start dancing. And how I danced! The top notch music, provided by Neil Jones, Terry Davies, Ginger Taylor and Pete Eccles, just kept me on the floor, working away - when the evening ended I realised I'd not even been to the loo in the 6 hours (a first!), even though I'd gone through a pint of fluid every hour - I'd sweated it all away! The floor was busy all night, only quietening for a short period around 11:30, when Kenny Thomas was doing a live performance downstairs in the modern room. This venue always attracts some handbaggers but on this night they certainly didn't cause any problems.

Special mentions to a number of folk including the Blackpool and Garstang crew who were joined by friends who had come from as far as Swindon and Plymouth! The Blackpool lads had decided to have a laugh and on the night dished out a number of red and yellow cards to anyone deemed to be guilty of dodgy dancing!!;-) Also hi to Wendy from Garstang, Anne (a pal of my work colleague Maggie), former Wheelie Lillian (now from Malta) and to Adriana (who put in some great dancing) and her pal, Corinne (vocalist from "Swing Out Sister").

Everyone I spoke to had really enjoyed the night - the music and dancing had been superb, as was attested by my sore toes! I'd been busy with the camera too, taking over 300 piccies in all. A brill night, got home at 4am just before daybreak!;-)

23 Jun 2006 Soul at the Birchfield, Birchfield Park Sports and Social Club, Widnes

Five Fridays in the month, so another opportunity to revisit a venue I really like. This month I was on my own with Al's Gals (tm) on holiday or doing other things. I usually try to get some shuteye before a Northern do and I'd done this in style, waking up at 7pm oversleeping after 3 hours kip! It was a mad rush to get out but 50 minutes later, after a chippy tea, I was on the road, getting there just before 8.30pm. There were already a few folks there, including Tommy. Paul arrived shortly afterwards, with Ronnie making his way as the sun was setting!;-)

Resident DJ Dave Truscott was spinning the tracks at the start and it was the usual fayre of favourites and unpredictable oldies that I love so much when I come here. That's pretty much how it continued over the evening with excellent music being played.

Last time I had been here was over a Bank Holiday weekend when crowd numbers were down - not the case this time around with the place pretty busy and buzzing from the very start. Met quite a few folks I'd met previously, Brian and Jane, the Wigan crew, Carole and Deano, Alison from the Monaco and Ste Gaskell. Also a few new faces including Mark from Frodsham - thanks for introducing yourself - and Dave from Widnes (he of the wild moves)!;-)

Apart from the guest DJ spot which, except from a few tracks, didn't really do it for me (too much crossover/newer stuff for my liking), the residents delivered the goods in style with superb tracks played throughout the evening. I find this venue totally refreshing because, these days, it's one of a select few where I come away with half a dozen or more tracks listed in my notebook that I haven't heard before or only rarely. These guys love the early 60s material as much as I do and are not afraid to play it. For example, Baby Washington "I got a feeling", Furys "I'm satisfied with you", Tommy Hayes "Trance", Karen Sue "Something on my mind", Just Brothers "Carlena", Patience Valentine "If you don't come", Kenny Roberts "Run like the devil", Hytones "You don't even know my name", Gwen Davis" "My man don't think I know" and Dalton, James & Sutton "Run baby". Wonderful stuff!

Loved the night, didn't take any piccies, but got a load of dancing in - my feet were throbbing at the end! I suspect I wasn't the only one, as the floor was busy throughout the evening, with folks hanging around at the end to have a natter and say their goodbyes. Just looking ahead, it looks like the next time I'll be here will be in September and December when there are another 5 Fridays in the month. As the Yanks would say "missing you already"!;-)

17 Jun 2006 Dean Parrish - Ince Public Hall, Ince near Wigan

I'd ummed and aahed as to where to go on Saturday night - the problem was solved when Pete and Wendy texted around lunchtime to ask if I was going to see Dean Parrish. I'd forgotten all about the gig, even though I'd seen the odd flier and heard Russ Winstanley's show the previous Sunday, making mention of the appearance.

I'd been faffing around in the early evening, so I was a bit later than usual setting out, but got to Ince around 8:30. I slowed down at a likely building to see if I was at the right place - couldn't see any sign to confirm this, one way or the other then spied Russ Winstanley outside!

There were already a number of people inside the hall. Making my way to the bar, there were Pete and Wendy, Ged and Debbie already there. We found a table in the dance hall and were soon joined by Karron, my pal from Monaco and Katie from Colwyn Bay, whom I'd seen at a number of venues but never spoken to.

There wasn't much dancing going on, even though the music was good. Things seemed to change once Brian Rae started his spot - Brian certainly hits the spot for me musically, being an ex-Wheel jock and tonight was no exception with classics all the way. A number of us got onto the floor and things really started to rock, although you did feel as if you were in a goldfish bow!

Then Russ Winstanley came on to do his spot, followed by the main attraction of the night, Dean Parrish. He told us how surprised and delighted he was to be performing in front of us, at the age of 62 (or was it 63?). In a spot lasting just over half an hour he did tracks such as "Determination", "Tell Her", and, of course, "I'm On My Way", coming offstage right down into the audience, singing and dancing with the crowd. Still with a strong voice, it was pretty evident that Dean (real name Phil Anastasia) is a very experienced performer - he certainly knew how to work the crowd and enjoyed doing so.

The half hour or so, all went far too quickly, then it was back to the dancing. Dean (Phil) made himself available for photographs and autograph signings - a really genuine, very likeable guy. Nothing was too much trouble and you could tell he really enjoyed meeting the fans.

During the evening met some familiar faces - David and Sheila from the Monaco and Orrell - and a number of new faces, including Kenny and Cathy, Joe from Durham, Susan from Denton and her friend (who had won tickets to the gig through Russ Winstanley's show on XFM). Lovely also to have a natter with Brian Rae - both his spots were bang on the nail - well done, matey! Also, got some great dancing in and took over 250 photos on the night!

A really nice night - thoroughly enjoyed myself. Thanks to all who made it such a memorable evening.

16 Jun 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

A slightly depleted gang tonight, with Karen on holiday, Pete, Wendy and Charlie not able to attend and Paul and Eilish at Bury. Nevertheless, Julie, Sue and I made it across the pennines to join the queue around 8.15. Karen was missing the night and called us from Crete while we were waiting to go in!

As usual, the place got going pretty sharpish with great spots, as always, from Nige Grice and Ginger and dancing to match from the floor. Although numbers were maybe down just a little bit, it was nothing to worry about - it certainly didn't affect the atmosphere, which was hot in more ways than one - probably the one aspect where the Ritz can be criticised is the searing heat in summer, sweltering doesn't even cover it!:-(

Unfortunately, musically it was downhill for me as the spots from Steve Womble and Soul Sam largely failed to hit the mark - generally too modern/crossover-ish for me and judging by the reaction from the floor, it wasn't just me. (Later on Ginger admitted he'd dropped a clanger booking two modern-ish DJs on the same night.) I really don't understand DJs who play to emptyish floors (when the evening had already got going) and don't change their tack - there were the odd moments when the floor filled but nowhere near as much as for the other two DJs on that night. Mercifully, both Nige and Ginger did second spots which were as good as their first spots.

Nice as always to see existing friends, to name a few - Tommy, Chippy, Karen and Elaine, John and Joyce, Steve from Sheffield, Paul from Shaw - and to have a natter with new friends - Derek, Mick France from Sheffield (a stunning dancer), Linda (now of Bradford) and Bev and Mark.

I got over 100 shots in during the evening and some good dancing, although not as much as I would have liked, but then that was down to the music played by a couple of the DJs. Although the evening was rescued by Nige and Ginger, it was a bit disappointing - but I do know it was a blip, I'll be back next month!.

10 Jun 2006 For Dancers Only, Horwich Leisure Centre. Horwich

This was a special put on by Pete and Liz to plug a gap of two months in the events schedule, and, because of the regular venue was already booked, they had to find an alternative location.

It was held in a very pleasant new, albeit slightly clinical-looking, leisure centre - the centre itself was easy to find, although I don't remember it being signposted from the main road. I was on my own but met up at the door with a crowd making their way in - there was a bit of confusion whether parking charges applied but they did (until 11pm), all 30 pence worth!

We were directed to a nice function room with probably a dozen or so large round tables around the sides of the hall, stage at the far end and bar immediately on your right as you come in. So far so good. The bar staff seemed a bit young and inexperienced, although prices were extremely cheap. Pete was a bit harassed, trying to get the house staff to organise some spot lighting - it has to be said he was nervous about the turnout on the night, a change of venue for a one-off, always a concern.

We're now well into June and with it, the holiday season, plus it had been an extremely hot day. England had been playing that afternoon in the World Cup, so many folks may well have imbibed too much of the amber nectar and fancied a leisurely barbecue. In addition, because of the hurried way in which the extra event had been organised, there hadn't been time to organise publicity in the form of flyers. All that, coupled with a change of venue, could conspire against the promoters.

Anyway, pretty soon, the regulars started making their way in, Tony and Ann, Pat, Rosa and Jackie, Jeff and Carole, Paula, Mark, Chippy and a host of others. Although it was a creditable effort given the short notice in which the event had been organised, it soon became apparent that attendance had suffered, as numbers seemed a fair bit down on the norm. Not that it stopped people dancing, they just got on with it!

The musical highlight of the evening was Carol McCarthy coming on at midnight, announcing "right, let's get warm" - as if we weren't already - then cranking up the pace with an absolutely blistering set that yanked proceedings into overdrive and beyond. She certainly meant business and, true to form, dug out track after track of 150 (not 100) mph material, some familiar, a lot not, but all extremely danceable. We were left speechless at the pace of her set, truly awesome and one of the best sets I've ever heard. Bravo!

Apart from Carol's set, the rest of the evening paled in comparison - I felt the music was off the boil compared to the usual fayre from the "For Dancers Only" and the spark that's present at St James' simply wasn't there. At the end of the night, I remarked to Liz that you don't know what you've got until it's not there, she agreed and said that she and Pete had felt it hadn't been the right venue for them. But you won't know until you try it out for yourself.

A slightly disappointing evening given the high standards set by these promoters, but then we were all tired with the heat and struggled. The heat certainly made a lot of us sit things out, but it gave an opportunity to have a natter with friends, old and new - nice to have a proper chat with Val, towards the end of the evening, after months of a quick nod and a "hi" and "hello".

Next month, Saturday 8th July, back at Orrell for normal business - if this was your visit to this promoters venue, come back next month to see what it's usually like.

9 Jun 2006 Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Ramsbottom

Another second Friday whips round again - there's only one place for me, Ramsbottom Cricket Club! Al's Gals (tm) were handbagging at Aldwinians, so I zoomed up the M60/M66 on my tod, getting there more or less bang on 8, virtually the first through the door. The building work which was evidenced last time around is very much in the final stages, so this meant we had to enter the building round the back.

The light nights, plus the very hot weather, seemed to take their toll on the attendance figures and things were very quiet for the first couple of hours. By 10, however, the numbers had crept up and most tables were busy. It was a similar story on the floor, initially quiet but then building up nicely, ending up busy but not too crowded.

It was a lovely surprise seeing my soulsister,Trish (recovering from her recent hospitalisation) and soulbrother, Sully, making an appearance. A while later I was joined by Doddy, Ronnie, Eilish and Tommy, the latter two making their first visit to the venue.

The music was faultless for me, with excellent spots from Des and Dave (a lovely R&B "Wheel" influenced one there) plus from visitors John Griffiths from another of my favourite haunts, the Birchfield and Kev Jones from Wrexham. All 4 DJs played well to the floor but were not afraid of introducing their own stamp of individuality in their sets. I was made very welcome by the residents and was especially touched that John Griffiths remembered me liking a Baby Washington track when I was last at the Birchfield over 6 weeks ago!

It was a lovely evening with superb dancing and great music. I loved the atmosphere of the place the very first time I came in January and nothing since has changed the allure of the place for me. I know I'm going to have a good evening and I did - and that was certainly the feeling of my little party. The evening has been billed till 1am but soon after 12:30 the lights came on, much to the promoters surprise and we reluctantly drew proceedings to a close not long after.

If you're looking for a nice night out with good music and a friendly atmosphere, you won't go wrong here - make it a diary date, just like I have, second Friday every month. See you next time!

3 Jun 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

Al's Gals (tm), in the form of Julie and Karen were up for a second night out on the trot and this being the first Saturday of the month, the regular outting is to the Monaco Ballrooms in Hindley - together with Charlie, the four of us made it to the venue bang on time. We were joined by Doddy and Ronnie - lots of the regulars were in evidence, including the newly married Paula and Mark. Special mentions to Laura and Simon who shared a birthday and a cake - hugs and "Happy Birthday" to both of you!!

From time to time, the Monaco takes an hour or so to get warmed up but that wasn't the case on the night in question - it didn't take long for the odd sole (pun unintended) dancer to come on the floor and before too long there were a respectable number of dancers strutting their stuff. As always the music was superb and kept us all on the floor for most of the night, that is, in between chats with pals and the odd bit of photography - I took over 260 photos, a lot of them being dance action shots, so it will be interesting to see how they came out. I don't know about you but I find that in some venues, the Monaco included, you hardly go to the loo all night, despite drinking lots of fluid - it's the "sweat it out on the floor" factor which tells you in a roundabout way that the music is so good, you just stay on the floor!

Special mentions to Frans - we had a nice chat about his Dutch origins and to Eddie - a fellow Polak. Nice to meet you guys.

I was determined to make the most of the night out (as next month I will be at the Sink) - I had a thoroughly brilliant night out, and danced my little socks off. Brill! Love the place!

2 Jun 2006 TSOP (The Sounds of Prestwich), Longfield Suite, Prestwich

Another first Friday of the month usually means its Prestwich - I'd missed the previous month's event due to a night at the Wheel, so was looking forward to revisiting one of my favourite stomping grounds (pun unintended!). Al's Gals (tm) present on the night were Julie and Karen and, together with Charlie we made our way, arriving more or less bang on 8pm. Met up at the door with Den, my pal, from Yorkshire - it was her first time at Prestwich and, as she didn't know anyone, a hearty welcome was extended to her, as she was introduced to the gang. We met up with Sully and Trish inside, whom I hadn't seen in the best part of a couple of months, so a double pleasure there. Sully told us he was making his DJing debut and was rather nervous. Soon after, the extended gang arrived in the shape of Doddy and Eilish, (Ronnie having decamped to a nearby hostelry as he could not get his head round the concept of dancing in daylight!), closely followed by Wendy and Pete, then Sue.

Young Luke from Bradford was DJing for the first hour and, although we didn't dance that much, as we were catching up on events, it was an excellent spot. Sully showed he meant business with a great selection of favourites, which got us on the floor. And that's the way it was for the majority of the night, apart from the hour before midnight, which was a bit disappointing. Having said that, it enabled me to catch up with friends, do walkabout and take some piccies.

Prestwich deservedly has the reputation of being the premier Northern venue in the Greater Manchester area - quality music provided by leading DJs, top-notch dance floor - it's a tremendously successful formula.

Unfortunately, the evening's revelries were rather dampened by Trish's sudden illness which lead to her hospitalisation on the night. Get well soon, gal (as of Tuesday afternoon, 6th June, I've heard Trish has come home from hospital).

26 May 2006
to
28 May 2006
Northampton - IN CROWD WEEKENDER 2
Chris Clark, Bobby Taylor, The Falcons, Pat Lewis, Almeta Lattimore, Tommy Good

As I start to write this up on late Monday afternoon, I'm still in a state of numbness and euphoria, if you imagine such an incongruous mix. WOW!!! What a weekend! Now the hard bit, to find the words to convey the excitement of an awesome weekend! Cuppa tea at the ready, the first lot of the weekend's washing is in the machine, so let's start at the beginning!

I'd orginally decided to go to this weekender in January, having for some inexplicable reason missed out on the previous weekender at this venue, featuring Chuck Jackson. A few years back, I had decided I would never say "shoulda" - life is too short to wish you had done things, you have to grab the moment when it's presented to you. I'd slipped up with the Chuck Jackson event butthen it did clash with another weekende. This time around I was determined not to go through the same lapse of judgement.

THE attraction for me was the billing of Chris Clark. In all honesty, the other names billed weren't as familiar to me, although I had heard of them and, in some cases, some of the tracks they had done, but they were nowhere as familiar as Chris, whose work I'd admired from the 60s - "From head to toe", "I want to go back there again", "Love's gone bad", "Don't be too long". Of course, Chris' version of Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" was sometimes played as an alternative to Frank's, but her status on the Northern Scene took a massive hike in popularity with Universal's release early in 2005 of the double CD "Chris Clark - The Motown Collection". This anthology contained 25 previously unreleased tracks including one that was to take the Northern scene by storm, the blistering dancer "Something's Wrong", undoubtedly THE dance track of 2005.

FRIDAY 26th MAY 2006

I'd taken the day off work to get ready for the journey and sort out some domestic errands and by 3:45pm it was time to pick up my son from the school in central Manchester where he works - this was his first weekender and also, an opportunity to spend some quality time with him. It was also a Bank Holiday weekend and it was a busy time to be on the roads. I knew that the Woodhead Road was likely to be a busy one so I decided to take the more circuitous route around the M60, then picking up the M62 across the Pennines before taking the M1 southbound. It was on the M62 that I began to wonder whether I'd made the right decision as I hit holdup after holdup after holdup, in most cases, with no apparent reason apart from the volume of traffic.

The 150 miles or so took just under 6 hours in what was a nightmare journey that ended up with us losing our way in the centre of Northampton - it would have been nice if the event organisers had informed us that the hotel had changed name from the Moat House to the Park Inn! Let's just say that I'm not at my best when tired and hungry! Anyway, we finally checked in, too late to get a meal in the restaurant although we were told that we could order food from the bar menu. We dropped our stuff in the room, quickly got freshened up and changed, then made our way downstairs to the bar. The food didn't take too long to arrive and it got demolished even sooner! The performers were getting ready, it was coming up to 11pm, showtime!

We made our way next door into the main ballroom and took our seats. Pretty soon after, compere Rob Moss made the announcement heralding the start of the weekend's live entertainment. I zoomed to the front of the stage, in time to see the first of the night's acts. Instrumental backing was provided by Soul Patrol, an extremely competent 4-piece band (keyboards, lead guitar, bass and drums) plus two backing singers. On came, Pat Lewis, who was taking the place of Belita Woods, absent due to other work commitments. I was delighted to see Pat present - her resume includes singing with the Adorables on Golden World Records and the Andantes - Motown's premiere female backing group, although I must admit I'm not familiar with her solo output. At times like this I'm pretty rubbish at remembering tracks performed, suffice to say, I thought the set was a really good one and she got a well-deserved response from the audience.

Then it was time for Almeta Lattimore - I knew nothing about this lady, but found the weekender programme notes helpful in providing useful background information on her career, which had involved doing backing for Aretha Franklin. I thought she had an interesting and unusual voice - another great spot, highlights being "These memories" and "La la".

Finally, time for the Falcons. Now I did know something about this group, being familiar with their American hits "You're so fine" (1959) and "I found a love" (1962) and that Mack Rice, Eddie Floyd and the late great Wilson Pickett were members, the latter singing lead on "I found a love" prior to going solo in 1962. Ironically, it was a later track "(I'm a fool) I must love you", which has enjoyed some popularity on the Northern scene, albeit with totally different personnel to those singing on their pre-1963 sides. Anyway, the Falcons came on, with lead singer Carlis "Sonny" Munro and two accompanying group members. Apart from "I'm a fool", again, I didn't know any of their other material but that didn't stop me enjoying their performances. In fact, I would say the same for all the night's acts who all performed well and were appreciated by the audience - it just shows how much good music and talent there is out there to be enjoyed. For me, it's one of the enjoyable aspects of seeing and hearing these acts perform.

By now it had gone midnight and it was time for me to hit the floor and make up for lost dancing time. The music was good as was the dancing and that continued until close of business at 3am. the only general comment that sprung to mind, was that numbers seemed low, with a number of empty tables, although in fairness, the floor was busy enough. During the evening, the various other performers including Chris Clark, were all in evidence mingling with the fans. Simon had enjoyed the music and been making friends with a couple we'd met at our table, Jo and Bob, from near Cambridge - one of his comments on the night was what a friendly bunch they had all been. Virtually the last job of the evening was to order breakfast in bed for the following morning - well, there was no way I intended to make my way down for 10:30am!

SATURDAY 27th MAY 2006

The Saturday was just spent chilling out and having a quick wander around the town centre - I did pop my head round the door of the main ballroom late on in the afternoon - although there was a small handful of folks in the room, no-one was dancing. Anyway, before I knew it, it was time to go into the restaurant for our evening meal. At this stage I have to say, I thought that the hotel was a very pleasant one indeed, not as "plastic" as many of these newer hotels and the food was excellent as was the service. Then, into the main ballroom for the start of business at 7:30.

I don't know whether it was as a result of the audience numbers still being down or the lights being on too high, but the evening seemed to take the best part of two hours to get going. No-one was prepared to go onto the floor to dance - I certainly didn't want to be the first - even though the music was good. The first hour was billed as an Unissued Motown spot and was really enjoyable, but I really have to pass comment on the DJ who followed. I don't know whether it was a lack of familiarity with the equipment but we were treated to a succession of miscued records where the stylus had left the groove, other records being cued with the volume turned up while the current track was still being played (the DJ being totally oblivious to what he was doing), talking over a number of records - all in all, I found his spot totally irritating and a number of us repeatedly abandoned our dancing partway through a track in sheer frustration. Quite the worst spot I have ever heard at a professional venue. Mercifully it came to an end and the advent of the next DJ coincided with the floor coming alive as the punters piled onto the floor with track after track after track of good material. Tony Dellar, Jo Wallace and Sean Chapman all did excellent spots which took us up to 11:30pm, the start of 90 minutes of live entertainment, cue for me to take up position at the very front of the stage.

Again, Soul Patrol were doing the backing and after a few numbers, on came the night's first main act, Tommy Good. I was so impressed by his 20 minute spot, very slick and professional, what a true gentleman. He told us how he had been tracked down out of retirement and an amusing tale of the suit he was wearing, which he'd had made in the 70s - I don't think there are many of us who could fit into clothes going back 30 years! A great act with lots of passion. The excitement was evident on Tommy's face, as was his sincerity - it was touching to realise how much it meant for him to appear live. The highlight for me, apart from his Motown single, "Baby I Miss You" was the beautiful "Ask The Lonely" which should have been a single for him, but inexplicably was pulled - we had a chance to redress the balance by showing our appreciation of a gorgeous song performed beautifully by a real gentleman.

Then it was the turn of Chris Clark, looking positively resplendent in a stunning white outfit, so tall, long-legged, absolutely statuesque. It was clear she was having an absolute ball being there, treating us to numbers such as "Love's Gone Bad", "Sweet Loving", "I Want To Go Back There Again", "From Head To Toe", "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" and, of course, "Something's Wrong". At one stage in her act, she came out with the microphone and stuck it in front of my face for me to sing a line - even though I'd been singing all through her act, I instantly dried up! She showed her sense of humour telling us how she was prepared to answer any questions about her private life totally openly, again flashing the microphone in front of me for a millisecond before pulling it away! There was no disguising her total glee at being there, performing in front of a crowd for the first time in years. What I found so moving, was that at the end of her 25 minute act, she took out her camera and proceeded to take pictures of the audience - again, a measure of just what it meant to her to be appearing live in front of us. She was as excited as we were, looking at her jumping up and down in excitement you could have mistaken her for an 8-year old being told she was going to get a special treat!! Wonderful!

Finally, it was Bobby Taylor to the stage. A very professional act from a seasoned perfomer, who has been in the music business since the 50s. He knew how to work the crowd well. I was not familiar with this material apart from "Does your mama know about me" but, in particular I enjoyed "Blackmail", "Oh I've been blessed" and "Don't be afraid".

After his 30 minute spot, we were given a special treat when all the weekend's artists came together on stage and sang a brief finale - don't ask me what it was, I was too wrapped up in the emotion of the moment! Again, photographs were taken not just by the those of us in the audience but also the folks on-stage. And with that, at just after 1am, we had been brought to the end of a truly memorable weekend of live performances. Thanks and appreciation to Soul Patrol, who provided solid and professional instrumental and vocal backing to all the live acts over the weekend.

But the evening was far from over. Now it was down to some serious dancing, with brilliant music throughout the rest of the evening. A while later in the night, I tracked Chris Clark down to the bar where she was talking with fans and signing photographs - I introduced myself and my son - it was lovely meeting her and having a natter with her, during the conversation Simon took a few piccies of us both. She teased me about drying up when she thrust her microphone into my face during one of the numbers in her act.

We had a laugh about her postings on the SoulfulDetroit internet forum last year. This was a few weeks before the Four Tops/Temptations tour and the forum had carried a debate "Will Chris Clark be joining the tour or won't she?" Someone had stated she would be appearing, then someone posted saying she definitely wouldn't. The next posting in the thread went along the lines of "Shows how much you know" - it was accompanied by a photo of a horse sticking out its tongue - then the caption "you heard it from the horse's mouth. Signed CC"!!! It was Chris posting online and we laughed at the furore it caused. Anyway, I had missed that tour because it had clashed with the Cala Gran weekender but, as it happened, it was all for the best, it had led to me deciding to go to this weekender where the setting would be far more intimate - and more intimate it couldn't have been. She signed my copy of her "Motown Collection" anthology CD with the caption "To Alan, my front row guy, you're with me, Chris Clark".

Then it was back to the dancefloor, interspersed with chatting with various friends and taking photos. Again, the evening came to a close far too quickly at 3am. We had been assured that Saturday night would be an Allnighter - why this plan was shelved, I don't know. It had been a brilliant evening but the weekender was far from over. For this night, however, it was time to hit the sack!

SUNDAY 28th MAY 2006

The Sunday morning started fine with me making it down to breakfast and then going back to bed to catch up on sleep! I need all the help I can get in the beauty-sleep stakes!;-) The evening itself started at 8pm and there was a party atmosphere in the air - although lots of people had gone home, those left were determined to have a ball. Dancing seemed to get rolling much earlier, with great music throughout the night. Special mentions to Jo Wallace and Sean Chapman doubling up to do a great DJ spot as the "Testicle Twins".

Partway through the evening, Pete Meadows came to tell me that folks were signing photos of the audience that Chris Clark had taken the previous night and that I was right slap bang in the middle of one. Rushing out into the foyer/bar area, lots of people were signing underneath their images on the black and white pictures. As I added my caption to the photo, Chris came up and said "I've got something for you upstairs" - a few minutes later she came back with a massive A2 colour print of the piccie with me at the front of the audience and signed it "Alan, you were the star, love, Chris Clark"!!;-))) There were also three weekender T-shirts that people were signing for Chris, so again, I signed one. I found it a totally ironic situation, here we were surrounded by the artists we admired - yet they themselves were so appreciative of the attention they had received, were loving every bit of their weekend too and asking US to sign our photos!! Surreall!!

During Jo and Sean's spot, the artists all danced a while with the rest of us, then came up on stage briefly to share a last public moment and to make brief speeches of appreciation. As I am writing this up and referring to my photos, I have just noticed that Chris was wearing one of the T-shirts we had signed!!!!

It was left to promoter, Paddy Grady to do the final spot at midnight and wind down proceedings to tracks such as Jimmy Radcliffe's "Long After Tonight Is All Over" and Jackie Wilson's "Because Of You". The last 30 minutes soon went and before we knew it, we were saying our farewells.

Love and thanks to old friends and new - to Ray, Pete Meadows and his wife, Steve and Ann from Darwen, Sean Chapman, Fay Jones, Jo and Bob from near Cambridge, Marie and Heather from Lincoln. And to my son, Simon, for being the best! It had been an awesome weekender - they are all special in their own way, what will stand out for me is the informal way in which the artists all mingled in such a friendly setting. That and Chris Clark, jumping up and down on stage like a little girl and taking photos of the audience! As the advertising poster for the event said "How COOL is that?"

20 May 2006 Lytham St Annes - Our Lady's Social Club

A few days earlier, I'd been undecided as to where to go on the night, but when I got an e-mail from my good pals, Dave and Lyn Sharples, about a soul nite in Lytham that was moving to a new venue. They're folks whose judgement you trust implicitly, besides which, it's a great opportunity to spend some quality time with them. In any case, this was to be a charity venue to support North West Air Ambulance (NWAA) - I subsequently found that, about 18 months earlier, Dave and Lyn's oldest son had been involved in a serious Road Traffic Accident - quite simply, if it had not been for the prompt action of NWAA, he would not have survived.

I'd gone up early and found the venue easily. When I arrived, Jem and Elaine were busy setting up shop, assisted by Dave and Lyn. My first impressions of the venue was that it reminded me of a smaller version of Formby Hall, Atherton - a similar feel to it, for me, anyway. Adjoining the dance floor was the lounge bar where prices were very inexpensive and the service was speedy and friendly. I met Jem and was struck by his desire to please and make the venue a success. He explained about the difficulties he had experienced at another local venue and how the managers of this new venue were responsive and helpful - this was confirmed by chats with some of the bar staff during the evening. Jem also explained his policy was to play the popular oldies that people wanted to hear (rather than the obscure tracks) - he went on to say how much he liked the policy at the Monaco - all he wanted was good music, no politics, just aim to have fun. Sounds good to me!

Dave and Lyn were busy helping on the door, so after a natter, when Alan and Kim arrived, with Jeff, Carole and Laura, I sat with them. Gradually, the punters started rolling in, albeit slowly. The music being played was solid classic Northern, but no-one seemed to be dancing, even I was holding back. At one stage, I must admit I was getting a bit worried. Then just before 9:45, someone must have flipped a switch somewhere - one or two dancers appeared on the floor and taking their cue, other people started dancing. From that point on, the floor was busy for the majority of the evening, the DJs unashamedly playing to the floor. For the vast majority of the evening it was good solid Northern, with the odd bit of poppy Motown thrown in, all going down very well!

Dave came round with a collection bucket for the charity and was delighted when the evening's donations totalled £300, a magnificent effort from the punters and on the first night of the venue, as well - Dave and Lyn were astounded and delighted by the funds raised on the night. It was lovely meeting old friends again - always superb to see delightful folks like Louise and Chris and, of course, the folks I was sitting with - and also chatting to a few new faces. I took quite a few photos and got lots of dancing in, totting up over 12200 steps on the pedometer despite my late dancing start.

All too soon, it was 1 am and proceedings ended with my favourite track to finish a soul night, Jimmy Radcliffe's "Long After Tonight Is All Over". Everyone was so friendly - it took me nearly half an hour to get out of the door after the finish!

A nice night with lovely people and great music! Plus a magnificent fundraiser for a very worthwhile charity. Jem and Elaine deserve to succeed and there is no reason why they shouldn't, with the appropriate publicity they should be able to build up the attendance figures. Despite the distance for me (about an hour's drive), I'll certainly be back in the future.


Guest Review by Brian Charnock from St Helens

Soul@Burtonwood, Burtonwood Community Centre, Green Jones Brow, off Chapel Lane, Burtonwood, nr Warrington (M62 junction 8)
7:30 - 12:30 pm £4 OTD
Tamla, Northern, current in demanders
Wooden dance floor, big car park
Regular DJs: Ron Col & Andy plus guests Info e-mail

Brian and JaneJane and I went out on Saturday. We looked up where was on and Burtonwood was the nearest. Now the last time I visited said venue there must have been 40 to 50 people in - anyway arrived there about quarter to 9 and there were about 30 in. But not long after we arrived, I could not believe my eyes, the place was buzzing, not a seat to be had and the dance floor was chocker, hardly room to dance. The music was tip top,and a good night was had by all. There were people there from Birchfield, Warrington & North Wales. This venue, in my opinion, can only get better. Must have been between 200 people in. Well worth another visit by yourself.

Keep the faith, Brian & Jane

19 May 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

Charlie was on lates, so it was the ladies, Julie, Karen and Sue, plus your truly, making our way through the rain across the Pennines. When we got to the venue at around 8:15, there was already a small queue, but we managed to find room under the canopy to shelter from the rain. In no time at all, it was 8:30 and time to go in, I was already buzzing in anticipation! An extended gang was expected so we reserved a table on the edge of the floor and the alcove behind it. Pretty soon, we were joined by Doddy and Ronnie and later on, Pete and Wendy, Eilish and the Yorkshire lads - especially lovely to see Karen and Elaine again and have them joining us. The extended group keeps on growing!;-)

Numbers seemed a little down on previous outings here but that didn't detract from the atmosphere. From the off, the music was excellent and so it remained for much of the night, as was evidenced by a very busy dance floor.

As always, it's a sheer pleasure meeting up with old pals and meeting new friends. Special mentions to Joyce and John sitting on the next table (John had trimmed his beard and been mistaken for me during the night - apparently he'd been asked where was his camera!), Edwina twisting my arm to try new venues, Tricia and her Lee (now from Sydney, Australia at her first Northern nite in 25 years), Christine and Janine (sorry the flash was acting up ladies, another time, eh?), the Garstang crew including Chippy, not forgetting Carole, Kim, oh the list goes on!;-)

When the evening ended, we didn't want to leave - it took us half an hour to leave the premises!! The consensus was that this had been one of the best nights we'd ever attended at Brighouse. Took quite a few piccies during the night, although had some problems at the end with the battery pack on my camera, danced a load (the evening's step count was over 15,200), in short, had an absolute ball. To all who contributed to making it such a lovely evening, my heartfelt thanks! Love ya!


Guest Review by Ann from Garswood

Regency Rooms, Prescot Road, St Helens
7.30 pm till 12, £4 OTD, Info: e-mail
DJs: Dave Truscott (Birchfield), Tony Abbott (Monaco), Carole McCarthy (Lowton), Freddie Turner (Soul@Joes)

Went to Regency Rooms in St. Helens, and as it was a first time venue and we were the pioneers, it turned out to be a very good night.

The venue itself was really good, not like I imagined. Dance floor was very good and the music (classic Northern) was excellent. Carole McCarthy did a set and was very good, so were the other DJ's from Lowton, Monaco and Soul @ Joes. A few faces that we recognised from various venues and altogether a very good night. Would go again. It finished prompt at 12, but that was O.K. as we conserved some energy for Saturday night!!!!

13 May 2006 St Bernadette's Soul Club, Whitefield

It's not often I get to a venue bang on time and find a large crowd already in, but that's what greeted me when I came in through the doors. It's been about 6 months since I was here last and this was only my third visit to the venue. There was a party atmosphere going on, as long standing regulars Ann and Paul were about to leave the country to settle on the Continent and their friends were giving them a good send-off. The day before had also been Has' (Harry's) birthday, so all in all folks seemed up for a good time.

Minutes after I had arrived, Alan and Anne came through the door, followed by Barry and Laura, then a while later, Doddy making his first visit to the venue.

My initial reaction to Bernadette's when I first visited a while back was that it was a soul venue frequented by quite a few loyal regulars and it was certainly no different on this night. Lots of people were mingling together, clearly catching up on their latest news. Behind the scenes there was some top notch classic Northern being spun on the decks, with promoters Has and Ian playing well to the floor.

For the first hour or so, no-one seemed to be dancing, then the lights were dimmed and everything changed as the punters piled onto the floor - for most of the evening the dance floor was extremely busy. Bernadette's isn't a large place but that's in its favour, there is no massive dance floor to intimidate the less confident dancer, it has a really nice intimate feel. I've got to know many more people since my last visit and that helped my enjoyment. A crowd of young ladies were let in after the pubs had closed and although they didn't seem to be regular soulies, everyone blended in well and there was no hint of the unease that can sometimes occur in these situations. The DJs kept the balance right, playing some poppy soul to keep the newcomers sweet but remaining true to the predominantly Northern contingent.

Much as I like the larger venues, this is very much a model for how the smaller venue should be run and it's hardly surprising that the venue has been running for so long.

In no time at all, it was the end of the evening and time to wind things down. "I'm gonna miss you" was played for the departing couple - some of the regulars had gathered in a circle, with Paul and Ann in the middle. When it ended, Has got everybody on the floor to join the circle and hold hands while the track was repeated. A really nice touch! Then a photo call followed to end a really lovely evening.

12 May 2006 Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Ramsbottom

First punter through the door, virtually the last to leave - that's me! I arrived bang on 8 pm to find building works in progress at the venue with an extension to the conservatory partway to completion. Soon after, a raft of pals arrived - Doddy and Ronnie, Alan and Kim, Alan and Anne, Leyland Dave with Sue and Stu - pretty soon, it was a full table!

The evening was a little slow to get started, though that was nothing to do with the promoters. Even established venues, such as Prestwich, have seen a drop in numbers in the last month or so, as the lighter evenings come in and the holiday season starts. During the evening, certainly after 10 pm, the numbers gradually crept up to a respectable level.

Music from the resident DJs was excellent, as always, a nice mix of northern, R&B and crossover. Particular mention has to be made of fellow "Pole with Soul" Steve "Grutch" Gruczlik with his R&B set - I know that this early R&B is not to everyone's taste but Steve plays some very interesting material and this night was no exception. All credit to the promoters for a brave and adventurous booking.

Apart from Carl and the Mansfield/Chesterfield crew, Louise and Chris from Garstang and Linda from Rossendale and her hubby, there weren't too many other faces I recognised from the scene. It was lovely to see Karen, my pal from Prestwich and Brighouse and especially to meet Elaine, her delighful friend (originally from Ramsbottom but now living in Leeds), who also appreciated the early R&B from Grutch.

A lovely evening, as always, got lots of dancing in, took a few piccies, had some nice chats with friends, old and new. You can't whack it! I feel totally at home here, in a lot of ways it reminds me of the Oakfield when I first started going there a couple of years ago, friendly atmosphere and a varied music policy. Took my pedometer out for some exercise for the night and it told me it had done 14,700 steps.

9 May 2006 Everything Is Tuesday, RMI Social Club, Horwich

The RMI is one of those nice chillout venues that I love to go to - it's also a monthly opportunity to catch up with my pal, Lera. It's a shame it doesn't get the attendances but then midweek events are always problematical - there's certainly no escaping promoter Gordon Stone's sincerity and enthusiasm.

It was a Motown/Detroit night and Gordon and his guest, John O'Donnell, spun varied tracks from the soulful Motor City. I didn't dance that much but the evening was a lovely showcase of the best from Detroit and a very enjoyable one at that.

6 May 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

Another pretty busy night at the Monaco. Charlie, Julie, Karen and I got there not long after 8 and got ourselves settled in. The place filled up reasonably quickly, although it took a little while for the floor to get started. We were in a nattering mood initially anyway, so I certainly wasn't taking that much notice of what was going on. Then, it was time for me to hit the floor - the last time I'd been here, I'd had neck problems and I was conscious it had taken me the best part of a month for the injury to heal, thank heavens, now just a memory of the past.

The thing about the Monaco is that you know what you're getting and it's a formula I adore, as do the regulars - this is why it has such a loyal following. Ronnie joined us later in the evening, with Paul (Doddy) making his first visit there. Doddy's initial reaction was identical to mine the first time I had visited the Monaco, in late summer last year - he felt that same buzz and loved it! The dance floor was busy most of the evening, everyone enjoying the music, only starting to thin out after the bar had shut at 1.

The other thing about the Monaco is that it's the place to meet your pals, Ann and Tony, Anne and Trevor, Alan and Kim, Sharpy and Lynn, Chippy, Lisa and the Wigan crew and many, many others. I also need to mention Paula and Mark, just a week from getting married - all the very best to you, guys!

A lovely evening, as always, at the Monaco. The team here really know how to get things right. That verdict was echoed by all of us as we made our way home. I'd not taken any piccies, just concentrating on the music, the dancing and my mates. Brill!

5 May 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

This was an extra night put on to make up for the fact that there wasn't a Wheel event at the end of April - in any case, the one held during the Easter Bank Holiday had been on a Sunday, not on the normal Wheel night of Friday. I met up with Tommy, Doddy and Ronnie outside, all of us looking forward to another great Wheel evening.

Initially, attendance was significantly down on a normal Wheel night and it soon became apparent that the event was going to be victim to the fact that it wasn't the usual last Friday of the month. I suppose we're all creatures of habit.

The music was as brilliant as ever, with Pete and John sharing the honours throughout the night, no guests this evening. As the night rolled on, the audience figures gradually crept up and after an hour or so, there was a respectable number in the place, which was reflected on the dance floor.

I keep saying it, this place never disappoints, I had a ball, dancing to great music in superb company and taking lots of photos of the action. Reluctantly, proceedings ground to a halt after 2 am, my sore feet reflecting the good time I'd had. It's always tricky for me, foregoing a night at Prestwich (first Friday of the month), but the Wheel has a special place in my heart. Thanks to everyone there for making it a brilliant night!

29 Apr 2006 Hideaway, Manchester

First time here for me. I'd previously been tempted but hadn't got round to it, however, after attending the recent Hideaway special at the Sink in Liverpool, I resolved to make the effort this time around. I knew it was held on the first floor above the Waldorf and that the dance floor was small, but that was about it.

I got there about 9:15 and the place was already packed. Beyond the bar was a room with seating and beyond that a small dance area. What struck me initially was how hot and busy it was - apparently, the proprietors were not allowed to open the windows after complaints from nearby hotel residents!:-(

After getting served with a drink I wandered into the main room, lots of faces I recognised from various venues, such as The Wheel and the Oakfield, plus a load of unfamiliar faces. Within seconds, the sweat was pouring off me and all I was doing was carrying my drink! Although I acclimatised to the heat a bit, I didn't venture onto the dance floor, it was too hot for me. There wasn't that much seating, what there was had already been taken (the moral must be to get there early), so I spent the rest of the night standing, talking with friends.

I couldn't fault the music, pretty much early sixties R&B, but was disappointed by not being able to dance, although in fairness there were a number of people dancing regularly. My impression was that it was very much a place to meet friends and have a natter, unlike the Sink and the Wheel where there was a lot more dancing.

I had an early engagement lined up for the following day so left early, around 12:30.

28 Apr 2006 Soul at the Birchfield, Birchfield Park Sports and Social Club, Widnes

I originally came here twice last year, in the summer and autumn, so was really looking forward to making a return visit. The venue date (4th Friday monthly) normally clashes with the Twisted Wheel (last Friday), so my only possibilities to visit are when there are 5 Fridays in the month. What I loved about my previous visits were not just the friendliness of the venue but the music - although it is an "across the board" policy, both times unusual out of the ordinary tracks were played, particularly from the early soul and R&B era, always a hit with me!

Karen and Julie accompanied me there and we were soon joined by Tom (making a welcome return after a period of illness) and Paul (Doddy). We were among the first to arrive and it seemed to take a while for the punters to come in. Even by the end of the evening, numbers seemed down on my previous two visits, maybe it was because folks had gone away for the Bank Holiday weekend. The lack of numbers attending did inhibit proceedings at the start, but as the place filled up, the floor got busier and it stayed busy for most of the evening, quietening down after midnight. The buzz that had been present at my previous forays here came back.

From the outset, the tracks played very much reflected the stated policy with some lovely, generally unheard oldies - for example, a 1961 Baby Washington track from her ABC Paramount days prior to her better known tenure at Sue. When I commended the DJ on the track and asked him for details, he added that their philosophy was to play those "forgotten oldies". A number of times in the evening I found myself going to the DJs asking for details of a track played, something which doesn't happen so much these days. Apart from being helpful and friendly, the DJs were very responsive, playing to the floor and willingly playing a number of requests - their stated policy is "if we have it, we will play it" and they were true to their word.

It was a lovely evening, meeting existing pals such as Ann and Tony, Susan and Paul, as well as making new friends. Although the evening was a bit slow to get started, that was nothing to do with the promoters, it was purely the slow manner in which the punters filled the venue. Once the numbers filled up the place buzzed, as usual, with great music throughout. The place warmed up certainly, in more ways than one, thank heavens when the side doors were opened to let in fresh air. A lovely venue and one to which I'll be returning, when I get the opportunity. Thanks guys!

22 Apr 2006 King Georgeís Hall, Blackburn

The King George's in Blackburn is always a special night for me, as it was the first Northern soul venue I ever attended, in November 2003. Charlie and I made good time going over to Blackburn and I was first in the queue. As usual, get up the stairs and secure a good ringside seat by the edge of the floor. First on the dance floor too, what a far cry from those early days when I was reticent going onto the floor, let alone being the only one dancing! Soon after, I was met by Dave and Stu from Leyland and their guest, Sue, whom I had originally met at the Norbreck Blackpool weekender last September.

Numbers were dramatically down on the usual, someone told me that only 1500 of the 2000 tickets had been sold - I don't know if that was true, but it was evident by the number of tables (or lack of them) taken in the Northern room. The good news is that there weren't quite as many handbaggers evident as this venue sometimes attracts. The music was great throughout, as you would expect from the likes of top DJs Terry Davies, Ginger Taylor and Neil Jones with a busy floor most of the evening. The place only started to slow down after about 1:30, with a load of people leaving.

I enjoyed myself dancing (14688 steps by the end of the night), chatting with friends old and new and taking pictures, nearly 250 in all. First to arrive, virtually last to leave. A good night, which I'd enjoyed, but I think I would have enjoyed it more had there been a larger turnout on the night.

21 Apr 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

I'm always excited when a night at Brighouse beckons and this night was no exception, as it had been two months since my last visit, the gap being caused by the Prestatyn Weekender. The excitement probably starts a couple of days beforehand and is certainly heightened on the night, waiting in the queue to be let in!

This night I was introducing these joys to my good friend from work, Michele, and her soulie pal, Val, who was over from Belfast. The ladies had followed me over the Pennines and we parked up about 10 minutes before kickoff time and joined Karen and Sue in the queue - Julie was absent, as she was working over the weekend and Charlie was working lates. Already a fair number of people in the queue , including lots of the usual familiar faces. Karen is animated, as am I - I'm shuffling in anticipation of a great night's dancing. As Michele said to Val "oh, he's like a little kid" - dead right gal, I don't know of many things in life that evoke those feelings, but this place is one, Stoke is another - maybe it's the process of waiting in a queue, it's certainly knowing you're going to have a great night.

The doors open bang on 8:30 and we're soon in, making a beeline for a table on the edge of the dancefloor. Time to get a drink and within minutes, get on the floor! This is how it should be! By 9, all the tables are taken and it's clear this is going to be a busy night. Within minutes Val is on the floor too - her face tells the story "it's been far too long", she's loving it!

My neck is finally getting sorted out, a bit of stiffness but not on the scale of the last few weeks. As a result, I am able to get some great dancing in, accompanied by some superb music. The floor is pretty packed for most of the evening, wow! this place certainly has a great buzz about it! My guests are delighted and comment on the atmosphere.

I take the opportunity to meet pals, old and new over the evening - it's such a warm friendly place, you can't help doing anything else - and take some piccies, not quite as many as I'd like, unfortunately suffering with some camera gremlins (I think I've finally tracked this down to a memory card that's playing up). Lovely, incidentally to see Dave "Snapper" Leedham up and about after a period of illness recently!

All too soon the evening has come to a close, far too early - now, it's time for all the goodbyes, polish off my coke, gather my belongings and off to the car. In the car park, continue chatting with some nice folks who have come over from Middlesborough - they've had a great night and we talk about the various places to go to in Manchester. What a brill night, I've missed this place so much this last two months, can't wait to be back next month. As I'd temporarily mislaid my pedometer at home, I dunno what the count was for the evening, but my feet told me it had been a superb night. All soul nights should be as good as this! Yay!;-)

16 Apr 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

Another Allnighter at the Twisted Wheel, just a couple of weeks after the last one, this time on a Sunday. I'd been delayed and arrived about a quarter of an hour late, but the place didn't seem as busy as usual. Whether people had gone away for the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, or whether it was too close to the last allnighter or whether it was because it wasn't a normal Wheel night, I don't know.

My neck was in some discomfort from the previous night's dancing, so I took my time getting out on the floor. John and Pete opened up proceedings, ably assisted by guest DJs Carl Lloyd, Pete Everett and Clarence - the music was never anything other than first rate and that's what eventually coaxed me onto the floor. As the evening progressed, the punters gradually filled the place.

After a slightly slowish start, the floor was full with dancers, enjoying themselves and the music. I wasn't in a photography mood, so, for a change, I didn't take any piccies. I finally bailed out after around 4:30am, having had a brilliant night. The pedometer count was over 19,500 by the end of the evening, which rather surprised me, considering I'd been late onto the floor.

15 Apr 2006 The Sink, Liverpool

This was my first visit to the Sink back at the original premises it had occupied during the 60s. I had originally made my way there one Sunday night in July 2005 only to find co-promoters Stan and Pat frantically phoning anyone they had numbers for, to let them know the place was closed that night. They had arrived to find the premises padlocked, apparently there had been a problem with the drinks licence application but the owners had not bothered to inform Stan and Pat.

In the months that followed, the Sink struggled on valiantly in alternative premises, initially above Hannah's Bar further along Hardman Street, then at Casa, round the corner on Hope Street - I had paid one visit to each venue and been very disappointed with the venues, which both lacked atmosphere. It seemed I was doomed never to experience the special atmosphere that everyone talked about when describing the Sink.

A few months ago, I was delighted to hear that the Sink was to return to its original location at 45 Hardman Street, Liverpool on the site of the Magnet cafe/bar - and on a Saturday too! The night was billed as a "Hideaway Special" featuring guest DJs Paul Welsby and Mike Warburton (from the Hideaway Club, Manchester), Steve Cato (Cooloff Club, Manchester) and fellow Pole 'Grutch' (R&B Maestro from Oldham) as well as Resident DJ's, Stan Evans, Patrick Costigan and Pete Everett. The "mod" billing of the "Hideaway" night meant there would be a very heavy emphasis on R&B. I must admit I was having slight misgivings about the night. Although I do like R&B, Stan is uncompromisingly hardcore about it, he openly says he hates "Northern Soul", (whereas my tastes run from the Doo Wop of the 50s through to mid 70s smooth Philly) - so how would I take to a whole evening of R&B? Would the venue live up to the hype?

I arrived around 8:45pm, about 15 minutes after the start of the night and was lucky enough to find a parking spot opposite the Philharmonic Hall, just round the corner, and made my way down the stairs. What can I say? I found myself back in a 60s timewarp, the cellar setting certainly evoking the feel of the clubs of the time. A bar behind you to the right as you came down the stairs, a chillout room to the right with an aquarium! Alcoves with various nautical displays, as befits a place with Liverpool's maritime history. Turning left, leading to more seating, a lowered dance floor with raised DJ booth in front, then a bit more seating beyond.

First impressions were very favourable, the place certainly had the atmosphere everyone had talked about, although seating was as restricted as at the nearest competitor, the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. Drinks were cheap too, my pint of Diet Coke only costing £1.60. And what about the music? Well, no problems there, all very very danceable indeed whether it was the Hideaway crowd or the residents spinning the platters. The floor wasn't the easiest to dance on, being hard concrete, as at the Wheel - talc was banned that night, as another party would be taking over after the end of the night at 2:30am.

A few faces I recognised from the Wheel - among others, Pete Everett's wife Suzie, Dave from Rotherham, Barry Tasker and his wife, Bram and Kath, Linda, Brenda, Pat's mum, Sheila and her sister, just to name a few. Found somewhere to park my rucksack and got on the floor for hours of superb dancing. I loved it! Much of the Hideaway "mod" music was totally unknown to me, but as I said before, very very danceable. The music played by the Resident DJs was known to a large degree as they have all guested at the Wheel, so no surprises there.

About a couple of hundred turned up for a great night and thoroughly enjoyed themselves, I hope both the promoters and the owners of the club were pleased with the turnout. Nice to see my pal from Mary Fox's Radio Stoke soul show, Goldie, putting in an appearance during the evening. By around 2, the number started to dwindle as folks began to take their leave and the younger crowd were coming in for their 2:30 am start. I had a brilliant night, took lots of photos and will certainly be coming back, the next date here is on Saturday 1st July. Only one question, this one for the bar staff, why was I charged £1.60 three times for a diet coke and then the same bar man tried to charge me £2.00 on the next two occasions?

Even though my neck was still giving me problems that didn't inhibit my dancing, as evidenced by a pedometer count of over 17,900 by the end of the night. Brill! I'm still buzzing!

14 Apr 2006 Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Ramsbottom

Second time at this venue, first time being in January - from this month, it will now be a regular venue on the second Friday of each month. This place reminds me a lot of the Oakfield, similar size and similar across-the-board music policy. Got there soon after 8 with Karen and Julie and met up with Leyland Dave and his friend, Val. On the way in, met the two Alans with wives, Kim and Anne. Later on, Pete, Wendy and Debbie joined us.

The evening was a little slow getting started. Initially, the punters didn't seem to be coming in and I wondered whether the break in February and March had affected the audience figures, but I need not have worried as the crowds gradually started to come in - in the end, there weren't quite as many as in January, but bearing in mind this was a Bank Holiday weekend (and some folks would have gone away for the weekend), the numbers were pretty respectable and certainly past that critical mass needed to give the place some atmosphere. And atmosphere it certainly did have, a very friendly place indeed.

The music was also a bit slow initially, with modern being played for the first 45 minutes or so. Once the DJs started playing Northern, I became the first on the floor and pretty soon the floor started to fill up and that's how it was for much of the evening. A good across the board mix, with some traditional Northern, R&B and 70s crossover.

On a personal note, as I was still struggling with my neck injury, I didn't dance quite as much as I would have liked - there is a limit to the pain you can put up with! I wasn't in the mood to take any piccies, either, so the camera shutter got some rest!

The only gripes of the evening related to the bar service. Firstly, as a diabetic, I just couldn't believe that they had no diet drinks, so I was on water all night. Secondly, there were only two bar staff serving and service was a bit slow, especially coming up to last orders.

Those criticisms are, of course, nothing to do with the promoters of the venue - what did touch me was that the promoters had heard about me not being able to get diet drinks, apologised for this and vowed to make sure this did not happen again. Very much appreciated, guys - clearly they care about running a successful venue and want to make sure that folks enjoy themselves.

The unanimous verdict from the gang was that this had been a really enjoyable night. I think that, now this is going to be a regular fixture on the second Friday of each month, the promoters have a good base to build up a successful venue.

8 Apr 2006 For Dancers Only, St James Social Centre, Orrell, near Wigan

My third visit here was eventful with a tremendous hailstorm on the way to the venue, but nothing could have prepared me for the event itself - quite simply, incredible! Now the bad news, we're going to have to wait until July for the next one (although Pete and Liz are trying to put something on during the next few months to fill the gap)!

I must admit that right now, Sunday lunchtime, as I'm writing up this review, I'm still buzzing from the experience which is how it should be. The journey to Orrell took longer than normal because of the weather conditions so by the time I got there about 8:15pm, there were already quite a few people there and they kept coming - these were the best attendance numbers at this venue so far, word is clearly spreading that this is THE venue to come to, if you're serious about your dancing.

Soon after I got there, Rosa arrived, followed by Pat, then Dave and Tony and Ann plus lots of the regulars, Chippy, Paula, Mark, Jeff, Carole, plus for the first time here, daughter, Laura. Carl and the Mansfield crew made the journey, always a great marker of the evening to come. A bit later on, Anne and Trevor trekked over from Flint to see what was happening. The interesting thing now is that the regulars are coming back and bringing or introducing new faces to the venue. Such as Dave and Lynn Sharples. Such as the Wigan girls, Lisa, Lynn and Sharon and their partners - Lisa was quite knocked out with the place and that was the reaction of everyone there.

The placed just rocked from start to finish with storming stompers non-stop. The music was incredible with regulars and guest DJs alike producing the goods. There was an even better buzz about the place due to the numbers attending and the dance floor was full virtually all evening, with not a handbagger in sight (well there were 3 but they just sat in a corner open-mouthed at what they saw and left early!!). The quality of the dancing was absolutely stunning and the respect levels about as high as you could get anywhere - genuine soulies, through and through, all of them. I was never lucky enough to go to Wigan Casino, but it struck me that the frenetic pace and the atmosphere must have felt like this, albeit on a smaller scale (from the point of view of the venue).

The music finished at 1am, the evening having flown by far too fast. I'd totally forgotten about my injured neck and just danced my little cotton socks off. The quality of the dancing was such that I filled two memory cards on my camera and went nearly half way through the third, taking over 360 shots in the evening, quite unheard of for an evening such as this. And what an evening! As I said earlier, there won't be another "For dancers only" at this venue until July (on the 8th not 10th as it says on the flyers), but do come back and check out this website regularly - look at the Upcoming venues and Orrell venue pages - for details of a special that Pete and Liz are hoping to put on, which will fill the gap between now and then - and take it from me, until the next time, there will be a gap in my calendar!

7 Apr 2006 TSOP (The Sounds of Prestwich), Longfield Suite, Prestwich

The previous month's Prestwich had been badly hit by a blizzard and, this month, it seemed as though the punters were deliberately trying to make up for lost time. By the time our full carload with Julie, Karen and Charlie had arrived at 8:15, there were already quite a few people there. By 9ish it was already looking like a lockout was on the cards, as the crowds streamed in. During the evening we were joined by Pete and Wendy and Debbie. Most of the regulars were there, including Sully and Trish, Tommy, Ronnie, Doddy, etc. Sixties retro chick Sandra was there too, sporting a new style and very nice too, with her sister-in-law Jane!

At the start of the evening, my neck injury from the previous week was cramping my style - it was still very sore and I was nervous about doing much dancing in case I damaged it further. After a while, I tentatively made my way on the floor, unable to resist the music any further - blow it, tomorrow is another day!

Both Terry and Ginger did a double spot, never a problem in my books as these guys know how to play to the floor. Between them and the guest DJs, the floor was pretty much packed most of the time, a typically great Prestwich evening with good music throughout.

It was a bitter sweet occasion as regular soulie John Clucas had died a few days earlier, at the age of 41. His funeral had been held that day and the mourners had gone onto the Longfield Suite, as that is where he would have been. The announcement from the stage brought a termendous cheer from the crowd, honouring one of their own, taken far too early.

The photography of dancers and punters alike continued, a great way of meeting even more new friends! Took around 150 shots in all. During the night. my dancing increased, not that the neck was any easier, it's just a case of how do you sit still when great music like this is being played? Even with my holding back, I still managed a perfectly respectable 13,696 step count during the nite.

1 Apr 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

Full car tonight, with Charlie, who'd had a birthday the day before and the girls, Julie, Karen and Sue. Compared to the previous time, a week earlier, this already felt different when we arrived about 8:10pm - quite a few people were already there and the place seemed to fill up pretty rapidly. It didn't take long to get the floor going either - by about 9, the floor was pretty much packed and that's how it stayed for the next 4 hours, only quietening down after 1am when the bar shut. In the meantime that Monaco buzz was there - it's amazing what a difference it makes having the numbers there. The music, as always, was top notch. The only gripe of the evening was that the bar service seemed to be much slower than the usual pretty slick efficient stuff we expect from the Monaco - not sure what the problem was but it seemed to get sorted as the evening wore on.

During the night, our little party was extended when Ronnie arrived, then Pete and Wendy and Eilish, so we ended up with a really nice table of friends, enjoying the music and each others company.

I spent some time chatting with some friends, old and new, in between dancing and taking pictures. Unfortunately, I'd done something to my neck during the day - not sure whether I had pulled a muscle but I was finding it more and more uncomfortable turning my head. Turning it left was fine, but the other way caused me more and more discomfort and I found, as the evening went on, dancing turned the discomfort into sheer pain - yeah, I know, I'm a pain in the neck!;-) In the end, it started to affect my dancing and I increasingly sat out more and more dances - it was so frustrating because the music was superb.

The evening came to a close just after 2am, we all said our goodbyes and trundled off home after another cracking Monaco night. The pedometer count of 14,079 would have been much higher had it not been for my neck problems, which are still there, so it's off to A&E for me!:-(

31 Mar 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

An Allnighter at the Twisted Wheel is always something to look forward to and this month was rather special. A number of us had made contact through the Mary Fox "Northern Soul and Motown" show on BBC Radio Stoke and had agreed to meet up for the Allnighter. There was Goldie from Liverpool, Joe and Sylvia Dean from Barnstaple in Devon and Deb from Wolves. I'd got a call from Joe and Sylvia earlier in the evening to say they had arrived safely in Manchester and had gone round the Northern Soul exhibition at Salford Museum. Two down and two to go!

I met up with Joe and Sylvia at Monroes a quarter of an hour or so before the 10pm kick off time for the allnighter. A lovely couple sharing the same passion for the music (after all, what else would drive you to make a round trip of over 500 miles) and making their first visit to the Wheel since about 1969!

Just after we piled through the doors, I met up with Paul, originally from Wakefield, now living in Newquay - he had contacted me by e-mail following last month's session at the Wheel and was doing his first allnighter at the Wheel in over 35 years! One of the great joys of this scene is meeting new people and introducing mutual friends, Joe meet Paul, Joe meet Pete Roberts, and so on! Sylvia wasted no time in getting on the floor dancing, you could tell that the time teleporter had transported her back to the 60s and she was enjoying every minute of it, as was Joe! There were quite a few people making their first visit in years - one of the regulars on the Northern scene, Jean from Blackpool was there with her hubby Brian - she was another who hadn't been there since 1969!

Pretty early on in the evening it was evident this was going to be a cracking session, a great buzz in the air and the crowds were just piling through the door. The dancefloor got very busy right from the start of proceedings and that's how it stayed for the majority of the night - heaving on the floor and equally so, in the bar. It soon got extremely hot on the dancefloor and I witnessed a first, the firedoors being opened to cool things down! I have checked the photograph so I know I wasn't imagining it!;-)

Most of the regular suspects were there and I wouldn't even attempt to name all of them. It was especially nice to speak to some folks for the first time - I met the delightful Sandra, whom I'd photographed on many occasions but never chatted to. She was there with her lovely friend, Sheila and had heard from friends that her piccies were on the net - she saw me and uttered the now familiar words "it's the photographer"! This is such a lovely scene for getting to know people and we were soon chatting away, as if we'd been pals for yonks.

Musically, the Wheel was its usual predictable top-notch self - it's never disappointed me - with regulars Pete Roberts and John Green being ably supplemented by guests, Barry Tasker, Albert "Jock" Heron and Stan Evans.

I didn't quite get in as much dancing as usual, it seemed to be a night to chat and get to know people. At about 12:45 am, the dancing was interrupted by the very welcome sight for the first time of Goldie! I had listened to him live on Mary Fox's show earlier in the evening and here he was, with his friend, having dropped in on umpteen places before the Wheel. No sooner had I introduced him to Joe and Sylvia, than a lady came up to me to ask if I was Alan. It was Deb from Wolves, with her friend, making her first visit ever to the Wheel - another round of introductions followed, followed by the inevitable round of photos!

By 4:45am, I was tired and wanted to to keep something in reserve for the Saturday night at the Monaco, so I bade my farewells and exited. Finally hit the sack around 6, my mind still buzzing at what had been another tremendous night - my sincere thanks to all, old friends and new, who made it so special. The pedometer count of 18,613 reflected the time spent chatting. The good news is that in two weeks' time we get to do it all again! Yay!

25 Mar 2006 Jackie Ross and Syl Johnson, Frobisher, Wakefield

I first heard of Jackie Ross, listening to Radio Caroline in the summer of 1964, when she was 18 and I was just a 15 year old kid. The record was "Selfish One" and what struck me at the time was her unusual voice, high in register, with a haunting quality. The track just failed to hit the US Top 10, peaking at number 11. I don't recall her follow-up, "I've Got The Skill", which barely dented the US charts in November 1964, spending just a few weeks and only hitting number 89. Neither do I remember "Haste Makes Waste" which didn't hit the charts at all.

The next time I remember her name was early in 1965 with "Jerk and Twine" which peaked at 85 - the unusual title stuck in my mind - as America went through the various dance crazes of the time, the Jerk being one of them (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles had recorded "Come On Do The Jerk" and the Contours "Can You Jerk Like Me" in late 64) and the Twine was another (Alvin Cash and the Crawlers had charted in early 65 with what was to become a Twisted Wheel classic, the wonderful instrumental, "It's Twine Time"). She subsequently went on to record "Take Me For A Little While" in 1965, originally recorded by Evie Sands and made into a US hit in 1967 by Patti LaBelle and the Emblems and for Vanilla Fudge the year after - the number was also recorded as an album track by the dear Dusty Springfield. Then she seemed to disappear from sight.

Fast forward to autumn 2005 and I am driving to a Northern Soul gig one Saturday night - I'm listening to Richard Searling on smooth-fm and through the airwaves comes this awesome sound which sets the hairs up on the back of my neck. I'm totally blown away by the track and Richard back-announces it as "Trust In Me" by Jackie Ross. When I get back home, I edit the recording I'd made of Richard's show and play the track solidly for days on end. Richard announces it's on a forthcoming CD due to be released the following month - I can't wait that long and find that it's available on a long deleted Chess CD "In Bloom", itself a re-release of the original vinyl album,but with a couple of bonus tracks, one being "Trust".

I set off in pursuit of the album and, through the internet, finally track down a copy of the CD in the States. I pay 3 times the original list price for the album and await its delivery. When it arrives, I reacquaint myself with Jackie's early "A" and "B" sides recorded for Chess - I'm totally blown away by the bonus tracks, "I Dig His Style" and, of course, "Trust In Me". Hardly a day has passed since then, without me playing one or the other of those stunning tracks.

Then, a few weeks later, I hear Jackie is to appear in the UK for the first time in over 41 years, in concert with Syl Johnson and backed by Snake Davis and the Suspicions. I just cannot believe the news and book my ticket. In contrast, my knowledge of Syl Johnson is next to non-existant, I've heard the name but cannot place any tracks by him. I'm familiar, however, with Snake Davis and the Suspicions from their excellent performances at Cala Gran.

Months later, the night finally arrives and Charlie and I make our way along the M62 to Frobishers, the venue for the night. It's a horrible journey across the Pennines, with driving rain and wind, it seems to take ages to get there, as it's that much further than I normally drive. The venue is easy to find and we actually get there in good time, arriving just before 9pm - we join the queue and are among the first to be let in. It's very much a corporate hospitality suite, but very pleasant nonetheless, with a fair bit of character. The music coming through the superb PA is a mix of Northern and Modern.

Just after 10:30pm, Snake Davis and the Suspicions come on, but minus Snake himself. Doreen launches into a fabulous rendition of KIm Weston's "You hit me right where it hurt me" - that girl most certainly has soul! The outfit do a mix of soul vocals and instrumentals (including a great version of Booker T's "Green Onions") in a spot lasting about 30 minutes, then announce they will be back later with the main part of the show. As the evening unfolds, it becomes apparent that Snake has a solo engagement at Barnsley and we're waiting for him to come from that venue.

Eventually, the band comes on and do some instrumental material. Then promoter Dave Box comes onstage. He tells us the background to the night - he, Johnny Moore, Syl Johnson and Jackie Ross had all known each other for quite some time. A visit had been planned but Johnny had died, bringing the plans to an abrupt end. Then his wife, Val, decided it would make a lovely 60th birthday present for him to bring Jackie and Syl over. So here we are, Dave is obviously very moved that the meeting is a reality - by this time Jackie has joined him onstage, wearing a gorgeous dress, she looks absolutely stunning.

Before we know it, the band launches into the unmistakeable introduction to "Selfish One" - a shiver goes down my spine. I couldn't have envisaged nearly 42 years earlier that I would be standing less than 2 yards from Jackie watching her perform her first hit! She is clearly very emotional at being here and getting such a tremendous reception. Her voice doesn't reach the upper registers of 1964, but that doesn't matter, we are here listening to an under-appreciated Soul legend, a lady with tremendous ability and class. I'm overcome at seeing and hearing her - tracks such as "Take me for a little while" and "Keep your chin up" follow. She comes out into the audience and sings a song to Dave and Val, basically about what they mean to her. Dave is barely able to hold it together. I'm standing next to Val, she has tears streaming down her face, so do I! There is no doubting Jackie's sincerity.

Nearly three quarters of an hour passes so quickly, then I recognise instantly the introduction to "Trust In Me". Wow, incredible! I go wild in anticipation. By then the whole audience is with her, clapping and singing along with her, none so more than me! I've not kept still throughout her set, just doing a gentle shuffle in between taking copious photos. Then she says she has to sing this for someone in the audience, comes off the stage - I think she is going towards Dave, but she stops in front of me, pulls me out in front of the audience and asks me to sing and dance with her - I don't really take in what she's saying but I think the gist of it was her seeing my reaction to "Trust In Me" made her want to sing the song over for me. I'm totally choked and stunned, but oblige willingly, looking into her face as she sings her song, singing along with her. Time just seems to freeze for me.

Her spot ends amid great applause and appreciation from the audience and on comes Syl Johnson. He is clearly a past master at working the crowd and very soon has them eating out of the palm of his hand. What comes over is a man with a great self-depracating sense of humour. No mean guitarist either, as he accompanies himself on an electric. He did an excellent spot with numbers such as "Do You Know What Love Is", "Is It Because I'm Black" (urging Snake Davis to "play it "white boy""), "Any Way The Wind Blows", "Twilight and Twinight", "We Did It" and Al Green's "Take Me To The River" - I love the music, it has that wonderful Stax feel of the late 60s/early 70s. He had us in stitches most of the time, telling us stories, dropping his notes, just generally being a high-spirited individual. I fell in love with the man and his music and have spent this afternoon looking through the allmusic.com site, examining his discography - I definitely will be buying his material as I cannot believe that, until now, this great individual talent has passed me by.

Back to the concert, he calls Jackie onto stage and they duet, with him clowning around, all in great humour. Before I know it, the concert has ended - I look at my watch, it's nearly 4 am, the clocks have moved forward for Summer Time. We've had two solid hours of great performances and superb music, from some of the most talented soul performers on the planet, all in the very intimate atmosphere of Frobishers.

Then it's time to get Jackie to sign my copy of the "Full Bloom" CD and her new album "Take The Weight Off Me". I have a few minutes with her, with Val obliging by taking some photos - Jackie is an absolute doll! I thank Dave and Val for a very special evening, such lovely people, very modest and unassuming, helpful throughout.

Charlie and I drive home, I'm completely stunned by the night, with memories that I will treasure forever.

24 Mar 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

This had secretly been billed as a surprise party for Steve Whittle on his forthcoming retirement from the Northern scene. Unfortunately, a few days earlier, his wife had been taken ill and hospitalised. Then followed a whole series of "the event's off"/"no, it's still on" rumours, leaving many in great uncertainty as to what was actually happening.

I was on my own as the girls had opted for another venue - I arrived before 8, as a big crowd had been expected, to find the front door locked. Monetary panic, as I rang Bob to get confirmation that my journey hadn't been wasted. A minute or two later Bob opened the door to let me in! Steve was not going to be present but the event was continuing as a free charity do. Relief all round!

I was first of the punters in through the door and enjoyed the luxury of having the whole dance floor to myself for a little while. The evening was very slow indeed to get going, as it became evident that the cancellation rumours had taken their toll. Numbers were significantly down on what was expected. Nevertheless, the company (the two Alans, Ann, Paula, Mark and Chippy, among others) was good, as was the music - the DJs did a good job, special mention to Dave Peet who really got things moving, always a tough task when numbers are down. Lots of regulars were present and, although the floor wasn't as packed as when there is a full house, there was still a great buzz about the place.

As always, took some photos including some good ones of Chippy in action. The event finished at 2 and when I got home, looked at the pedometer and the reading of 17,363 confirmed that I'd had a great night's dancing. It's only a week till the next event here, looking forward to it already!

16 Mar 2006
to
20 Mar 2006
Prestatyn Northern and Modern Soul Weekender 2006, Prestatyn Sands Holiday Centre, Prestatyn, North Wales

Wow! Absolutely awesome! Those are the initial words that spring to mind, thinking back to this incredible weekender. None of the comments made by my friends regarding the Prestatyn weekenders really prepared me for this amazing experience.

THURSDAY 16th MARCH 2006
This year, the Thursday night party had been opened up to all visitors, so I decided to go a day earlier than originally planned. I had taken the day as annual leave, to enable me to do my shopping in the morning. The plan had been to drive down during the afternoon, but, true to form, I faffed around most of the day, so didn't set off till after 5, thereby hitting the rush hour traffic, which I had originally hoped to avoid. Got there after 6:30pm and queued about 20 minutes to check in. Finally got the key to chalet 223 - I had opted for a middle of the range chalet, the Classic - and then off in the car to find the place. At the very far end of the campsite! Sh*t!

The place was in darkness, no power on in the chalet - with the Classic, you pay for your electricity, but bedding is supplied - so back to the car to find a torch, retrieve the starter "leccy" token supplied in the welcome pack and feed the meter. Well, now we have light but, boy, oh boy! the place is FREEZING! There's an icy biting wind outside (you could still see some snow on the hillsides on the drive over to Prestatyn) and it didn't feel that the brick walls of the chalet block gave any protection from the elements. You've heard of "Soul in the Sun" - Pat from Liverpool christened this "Soul in the Snow"! I put the heating on in the lounge and bedroom, then off to the main block to get some more leccy tokens. Fed the meter and watched the dial spinning round like a whirling dervish! Ouch, gonna be a pricey one, this! Got to get warm, top priority! Start unpacking the clothes and food and guess what? I've forgotten the tea, coffee and soups I'd set to one side at home! B*gger!

Back in the car to drive offsite and find a convenience store, as the onsite supermarket is closed (nearly 8pm by now). The guy on the security gate told me there was one just a few minutes away on the main road and sure enough there it was, easy to find. Got stocked up and back to the chalet. "Boy! does that wind cut through you" was my reaction going to the chalet from the car. Kettle on, cuppa tea, then another, rapidly followed by soup. "Ah! that's a bit better. OK, now let's get some food on the go". Made one of my chicken and bacon, pasta-pesto specials. "Yum! Place doesn't seem to be warming up that much, is there a hole in the ceiling releasing the heat?" I'm still in my coat - I'd originally taken my shoes off but the floor was too cold to walk on in just your socks, so back on went the shoes!! Finished unpacking and time for a shower - it's a weird feeling being freezing cold, yet sweating profusely through humping luggage from the car (parked about 150 yards from the chalet). The shower was lukewarm as I hadn't had the water heater on long enough. Anyway, now freshened up and ready to face the world! By now it is coming up to 10pm! "Just hope this weekend is worth the endurance, I am still cold!" Off I strolled to the main block, thinking it would be a bit quiet, as the party was only unofficial and not really part of the proceedings. Wrong!!!!! Got into the main Arena 1 (the Northern Room) and the place was more than a bit busy!!!!

Now, dear reader, those of you as ancient as I am will recall the famous Allan Sherman comedy track from the early 60s "Hello muddah, hello faddah" that used to be played on Steam Radio, otherwise known as the BBC Light Programme (pre-Radios 1 and 2). It's a letter from a youngster to his parents - he's been sent off to summer camp and is having a pretty miserable time, the weather is horrible, no-one is playing, he is missing home. Suddenly, the rain stops and the sun breaks through - and everything changes! "Muddah, faddah, kindly disregard this letter" is his closing line! Well, that's how it all changed for me. Big dance floor, some great music being played. Hey guys! let's party!!

Saw some of my local crowd, including Alan and Kim, by the edge of the dancefloor, warm friendly greeting as always. Lovely spacious floor with arena style seating at the far end from the stage. Seating and tables around the sides of the floor. Dumped my rucksack, off came the coat and onto the floor I went. "Yep, that will do me nicely! The weekend and party starts right here!!!!" I fell in love with the place at that moment and knew I was in for a brilliant weekend!

After a while, curiosity got the better of me and I started to explore the building to see what was where. Next door to the main Arena, I found Arena 5 which was playing some Modern (well smooth 70s stuff anyway) - must be ill, I hung around and enjoyed some tracks and even asked the DJ for the artist and title of one of them! ;-) Strewth! Next door to that was Arena 4, the Redemption Room - hey, some brill stuff being played here, early 60s - rarities, early soul, R&B, some bordering on Rock 'n' Roll. There were only a few people there but that didn't stop me going onto the floor and dancing. Kept pestering the DJ "what's that artist? what's that track?" Steve Tubbs was the guy playing those brill sounds, hitting the nail on the head for me, a lot of unknown stuff, although I did know a few of the tracks. I ended up spending most of the night flitting between the Northern room and the Redemption room, happy as a pig in muck. Never found the Modern room that night, but hey! I wasn't even looking! Called proceedings to a close just before 3 am as things were winding down for the night. Pedometer count of 13,924 for a night starting at 10pm - the count tallies with how I feel!! Purdy good! Back to the chalet, still cold! Ouch!

FRIDAY 17th MARCH 2006
Woke up Friday, around noon, the place was still cold. No use! After breakfast, I decide to go out and get a heater and some bits and bobs. So off to Rhyl, got the bits and bobs ok but the heater was looking tricky. I was recommended to go to a local retail park where there was a Currys and B&Q. Missed a vital road turning and ended up back at Prestatyn! Erhumm, turn around and start again. Still, there is one advantage to getting lost - the car heater is thawing me out nicely! Found the retail park, but despite going into the Currys, Comet and B&Q stores, nothing doing - seemingly, March is classed as Spring so they no longer carry stock such as electric fan heaters and the cold spell the previous week or two back had wiped out any stock they did have. Fortunately, a helpful guy at B&Q suggested Argos were likely to carry heaters all year round. Back into town, park up and hey! success! One heater in the bag!

While on my trek, got a call from my son, Simon, who was due to join me that evening - he tells me he had succumbed to a stomach bug doing the rounds at school, had hardly slept a wink all night and had been sent home early from school. He says he hopes to make it on the Saturday, but I can't see it - I have this feeling he just isn't going to be well enough in time!

Back on site, plug the fire in. Leccy meter is whizzing round really, really fast, but who cares? I get calls from the girls and from Pete and Wendy, they've all arrived, so I zoom over to the Queen Victoria pub where everyone is. I order a brandy and a big glass of red wine. Everyone nearly collapses - they've never seen me drink booze before!;-) Well, a guy's gotta warm up somehow! By 6pm, starting to feel hungry, so back to the chalet, get some food on the go, then after a shower, it's off to the main Arena for 8pm with Dave and Stu. The place is significantly busier than the previous night, as folks have started their weekend, but it's not that busy that you cannot move - there's bags of space around the place. Meet Eilish on the edge of the dance floor, find a table, then hit the floor!

A change of DJ means a change of music, so time for a wander round. Found the Modern room - well, it's handy to know which room to avoid, innit?;-) Down the corridor to the Redemption Room... well... I've found heaven! And what a contrast to the previous night, when there had only been a few people there. This time it is packed to the gills. Like Chuck Berry said "the joint was jumpin' - going round and round"!!!!!! Tiny dance floor but just enough space to get on, mostly people dancing in lines, that way no encroaching on others' space. It's so hot in there, with the bodies and the action. Sheesh, gonna need a pacemaker, but wow, wow, what wonderful music and superb dancing, even on the cr*p floor - the panels keep parting but hey! dedication to the art takes over and you learn to avoid the cracks!! Must make special mention of Brian Rae, who did an absolutely blistering spot a la Twisted Wheel.

Spent the evening bobbing between the main hall and Redemption room - as the main arena was patchy - very up and down - with the majority of the time spent in the Redemption room. Lots of people coming and going and a great opportunity to catch up with old friends. What a party! Came into the main Arena at the back end of the Dancing competition, just as the results were being announced - ah, well, maybe my timing will be better next year! Took lots of piccies all round. I was set to hit the sack by about 4:15, with toes hurting like hell, passed the main arena and they're playing brill sounds, can't go to bed without dancing to those tracks!! Finally got back to the chalet around 5, the place is much warmer now. Copied over the piccies from my memory cards onto my portable hard drive. Looked at the pedometer which showed a count of 17,393 proving it was a great night. Joined the land of nod with my toes hurting even more than the previous night! Those last 93 steps must have made all the difference, hahahaha!

SATURDAY 18th MARCH 2006
Set the alarm for 11:20 so I could join the queue to book Club accommodation for next year's Prestatyn weekender (the accommodation is on offer to the general public a few days later, giving the current visitors the home advantage, essential if you want to go Club class). Pulled my trousers and coat over my nightclothes and made my way to the main block to find that some people had been queueing for 2 hours. Anyway, a shorter wait for me, just about 30 minutes and Club class was booked for next year. Got back to bed about 12:45/1pm and, apart from a few interruptions with the mobile spewing forth the odd text or two (including one from Si saying he wouldn't be able to make it at all) I finally came to around 4pm, breaky time, hahahaha! Then dinner around 7 and it's "hit the floor" time again at 8pm.

Another busy night. Even more crowded as folks had come to see the live acts around midnight. After reserving a seat or two, soon moved over to the Redemption room, where the music was as good as the night before. Same sort of routine to the night but this time around 11-ish came back to the main Arena in readiness for the live acts. I didn't make any real effort to get to the front of the hall to be by the stage, I was content being part way down the hall.

Before we knew it, it was just after 11:30pm, the Midnight Hour band had come on and launched into "Bari track" but without the bari sax! Odd, but still! :-( Then on came the artists, one by one, to do their individual spots - I don't propose to do a list of who performed what, I can't remember exactly anyway, I just want to concentrate on the highlights for me. Lou Ragland first, after him, it was the turn of Donni Burdick - particularly moving in his slot and proving white guys can have soul was his very emotionally charged rendition of Edwin Starr's "I have faith in you". I wiped away a tear or two. Then Dean Courtney, followed by Nolan (NF) Porter - I loved "Keep On Keepin' On", although I would have preferred the backing band to have had a bit more punch with this number. For me the high spot was the Precisions, they were superb - I couldn't help thinking about what a lottery is this thing called showbusiness.The two singers who switched leads between each other during their set had exquisite voices and I remarked to Eilish's friend, Berni, how sad that they had slipped through the net regarding success - still, we were there giving them their long overdue acclaim. Following them it was the Masqueraders and then back on stage for everyone to do the ensemble finale and that was it, after around 90 minutes of live music, the acts were all over for another year, all professionally executed in front of an appreciative audience.

Then it was back to business, dancing, talking, taking piccies and more dancing. The words of the old Elvis hit, "What a night" summed up my thoughts on the evening. Called it quits shortly before 6 am with a pedometer count of 26,704 - ouch! Those toes were hurting even more!

SUNDAY 19th MARCH 2006
Got up early, 3pm! ;-) As I'd missed the previous daytime sessions, I thought I really ought to remedy this, so around 4:30pm made my way into the main Arena. Brenda Holloway's "When I'm Gone" was the cue to drop the rucksack and get on the floor - never before have I danced immediately after breakfast and to Brenda too! Woohoo! Got an hour's dancing in (very energetic at just over 4,100 steps), then had to go offsite for some non-soulie stuff.

Back into the main building at around 9:30pm, raring to go. This time, the main arena was the better place for me, as a lot of music played in the Redemption room seemed to be a bit too early/obscure for my liking. Certainly Arena 1 had a tremendous party atmosphere feel to it, all evening. I was fine dancing till about 1/1:30am when I finally hit the wall. The weekend's dancing had finally caught up with me and I was totally souled out. For the last hour, I sat in the gallery just content to be listening to the music and watching the dancing. Then it was coming up to 3am and the end of the weekender, so quickly onto the floor to join everyone for the last couple of dances and now it was all over! The lights came on and everyone spent the next half an hour or so, saying their goodbyes to friends old and new, looking back at the this wonderful event and looking forward to the next time we hope to meet. Finally hit the sack around 4:30 having clocked up just over 10,000 steps in the evening session alone, bringing the day's total to just over 14,000.

MONDAY 20th MARCH 2006
Set the alarm for 8:20am so that I could have breakfast and pack, hopefully to hit the required departure of 10am! Ouch! Tiredness at only a few hours sleep but no hangover, thank heavens, as I only had a couple of drinks on the Friday! Finally got packed up and on my way about 10:30ish, not before checking my booking for the Motown Legends Weekender for October. Got home, around noon, having taken it easy on the way, tired but happy.

A LOOK BACK
Well, this weekender was a wonderful, awesome experience from start to finish. It seemed that just about everyone I had met on the scene over the last couple of years was there, in the one place! Incredible. It's deservedly touted as *THE* soul weekender of the year. This year, some 3200 people attended the venue, which has grown year by year in the five years since the first one in 2001. For me, it was a wonderful way of renewing my friendships with pals I'd met at previous venues and of making many new friends. The photography was a superb ice-breaker for me in talking to new people - on countless occasions, people would come up to introduce themselves, tell me they'd recognised me from the website and how much they enjoyed the contents, from the piccies to the honest reviews of the venues - thank you one and all! The whole weekend had a great feeling of togetherness, everyone united by their love of the soul music and of dancing. I wouldn't want to single out anyone in particular - I just want to thank everyone for their love and affection, I loved sharing time with you all. I loved the venue, the music, the dancing, the people, the lot!

For me, the Redemption room produced the output that appealed to me most, but it didn't stop me from switching between there and the main arena. Redemption didn't just come up with the old faves, but also plenty of tracks new to me that appealed. The main arena was patchy, depending on the DJ's tastes but, as there was a choice of rooms at all times, then it didn't matter. Certainly the main arena housed a magnificent dance floor that never needed talc and the gallery seating provided a superb view of the action on the floor. The bar staff were top notch, you never had to wait any length of time to get served. The whole venue was busy but never seemed so packed you couldn't get on the floor. It was good seeing the acts perform live and the house band did an excellent job. The only thing I would say to the organisers is that surely the Redemption room deserves more space than was allocated.

Even though I was souled out right at the end, time passed so quickly throughout the whole weekend. I wished I could have had more time with my pals - I suppose vital sleep took precedence. What would have I done differently? Well, for a starter, I would have taken my fan heater with me - essential to top up the heating in the chalet during what can be (and was) a cold time of the year. Secondly, to go Club class (which I am doing for 2007) - that includes all electricity in the price, well worth it and probably no more expensive than going Classic and factoring in the cost of the leccy meter - but the chances of getting Club accommodation are slim if you are a first time visitor. If you've never been to the Prestatyn weekender, why not? You're seriously missing out on one heck of a soul weekender - THE weekender! See you guys there next year between 16th and 19th March 2007!

14 Mar 2006 Everything Is Tuesday, RMI Social Club, Horwich

The usual monthly chillout session at the RMI, unfortunately the lousy weather meant that only one of the Bolton crew, John, made it. Les, Christine, Lera and I were only other visitors that night, so it meant that Gordon played quite a few tracks with me in mind - I was in pre-Prestatyn warm-up mood, champing at the bit to get some good dancing in and I wasn't disappointed. Gordon is such a lovely easy going guy, so eager to please - I do wish more would come along to these sessions. Anyway, it's always a nice opportunity to have a natter and catch up on things since the last time we all met. For me, the usual criteria don't apply to this venue, it's just a nice chillout session.

11 Mar 2006 For Dancers Only, St James Social Centre, Orrell, near Wigan

My second visit here and after the lack of quality dancing at Blackpool the previous night, boy! was I in need of a corrective injection!! For me, the great thing about coming here is that you KNOW you're going to get some great dancing in - the superb music and respectful dancers provide an extremely positive backdrop.

I was on my own and got there about 8:15 pm - already a few people there, including Alan and Kim from Irlam, with more coming through the door gradually. Quite a number of fresh faces too. Got a few dances in, no awkwardness about going on the floor here, even if you're the only one at the time, which I wasn't. Soon after, Rosa and Jackie, whom I'd met last time here, came in and I joined them and their pal from Rotherham - why am I so cr*p at remembering names?:-( Initially spent a bit of time just nattering to catch up on things, even though the music was superb, no reflection on what was being played.

Then it was onto the floor to make up for lost ground last night. Certainly did that, no problems. The floor was busy all evening with superb, highly danceable music being played throughout. Although Carl and the Mansfield crew had sent their apologies, there were still enough stunning dancers present, guys and gals. A great opportunity to use the camera to get some nice shots in. I thought back to the previous night and wondered what the handbaggers at Blackpool would have made of it all - I suspect they would have thought they'd landed on another planet, but that don't bother me, this is where I'd rather be, anytime! Dancing to my heart's content, surrounded by genuine soulies, with respect all round.

One of the things that strikes me here is how co-promoters Pete and Liz are anxious to make sure they cater for the needs of their punters, asking them what they think, etc. Pete was saying he doesn't want to attract the local crowd out for the Saturday night, he wanted people who were prepared to try something different. I would agree wholeheartedly with this objective. Apparently, some dancers had come all the way from Carlisle on the night, I do hope they weren't disappointed - I certainly wasn't!

This time around the music was not quite as unfamiliar as last month - I think it's early days and the venue is still honing down its music policy. Those who know me will know I'm very much an oldies man and I like my favourites a lot, but let's be honest, there are enough venues doing that already. Now I don't subscribe to the pretentious "connoissuers" stance of some venues - in my opinion, that is just elitist mumbo-jumbo to make people think that the obscure music they're playing is something special. Just because something is rare doesn't mean it's automatically good music - I've been to some places that have gone down this route and the music has just left me totally cold. Now, a couple of years back when I first came onto the scene, a lot of the music I was hearing was obscure to me at the time - what was different was that it didn't matter, I still wanted to dance to it. Whereas, some of the stuff peddled as being for connoisseurs hasn't done a thing for me. Surely soul music is all about music that touches you, touches the soul, or should I say "soles"!;-) It's stuff that should have you tapping your feet, at least! Pete, you don't have anything to worry about - you are keen on playing tracks that maybe haven't been aired as much and which instill the desire to get on the floor and dance your little cotton socks off!

There are enough venues doing much the same, there's no point in fighting on their terrain - in selling you need a USP (Unique Selling Proposition), something that makes you stand out, something different. The Twisted Wheel has it, you have it too. I think that there is a market for what you're doing. Go for it! I'll be back next month, try and keep me away!

10 Mar 2006 Kim Weston - Blackpool Football Ground, Blackpool

Met up with my pals from Leyland, Dave and Stu, in a local bar that Dave had recommended, the Soul Suite. It was early, just gone 5 pm when I got there, very nice place, no riff-raff. Lots of pictures and posters of soul artists on the walls and the background music through the hour or so we were there was good quality Motown - a lovely treat. For those interested, the place is located on the promenade, just a few minutes from the North Pier, on a street corner opposite the Metropole Hotel. Unfortunately, by the time we were ready for food, we found they had stopped serving the daytime "soul" menu and were getting ready to open up the restaurant upstairs. We decided to seek out an alternative venue and found a pleasant pub nearby doing food. An hour or so later, we'd finished and were ready to move onto the Football ground. Dave and Stu got confused with directions somewhere along the line and we lost our way for a while but eventually found the place and parked up.

Making our way into the building, we found ourselves in a corporate hospitality suite. Lots of guys in suits, women in evening gear complete with high heels - the absence of ladies wearing "flats" was worrying, we felt undressed, not a true Northern Nite this! A small dance floor (reminiscent of Cala Gran), a goldfish bowl feel that clearly inhibited people dancing, including myself. The music was very varied, from some brilliant Northern, to general soul, some modern and jazz-funk. We had to remind ourselves we were there to see Kim live.

Around 11pm, on she came, ably assisted by a 4 piece band - keyboards, guitar, bass and drums - launching into her extensive back catalogue. She seemed to struggle vocally for the first couple or so numbers - it sounded as if she had a sore throat - but when she warmed up, she really let rip and let us know why she's still around on the scene, 40 years on. A lovely lady with a great stage presence and a superb voice. I had previously seen her in October at the 2005 Motown Legends Weekender in Great Yarmouth and while she had put in an absolutely scorching performance at that venue, this was nothing to complain about, this time. There were similarities in the set, but this time, she went back to her gospel roots and provided a few tracks from those days, as well as some blues numbers - while the gospel tracks weren't particularly to my taste, it reminded us just what a versatile artist she is. She finished off with "It Takes Two", duetting with a volunteer (Dave?) from the audience, coming back for an encore of "Dancing In the Streets", telling us the track was written for her but someone else had the hit. The hour or so she was on seemed to go far too quickly and she was gone. I was glad I'd seen her again, even though it wasn't quite the barn storming performance I'd seen 5 months earlier.

Back to the dance floor and the multitude of handbaggers. Venues like this are just not my scene, but like I said earlier, we'd gone to witness a soul legend live. The evening finished around 2am - back down the motorway, dropping off Dave and Stu near to home and thence back to Manchester and to bed.

P.S. It's Sunday night - just remembered something else I was going to say. Standing right at the front, by the stage, I was astonished that I could hear people having loud conversations not more than a few yards away from Kim while she was singing. I think it summed up my views on the lack of respect all round from some sectors in the audience!

9 Mar 2006 Launch party for "Dancin all nite" at Salford Museum and Art Gallery

A soul nite with a difference - in a Museum! At long last, a chance to see the exhibition. I had first heard about it, while it was still in the planning stages about 6 or so weeks earlier when a colleague at work had alerted me to it. The organiser, Charlotte Derry, was looking for help with soulies involved on the scene, now and in the glory days of the 60s and 70s. Although she was taking the exhibition previously held at the Wigan Pier Heritage Centre, she wanted to overlay a local Salford component into the proceedings.

I had attended a session a month back with about half a dozen local soulies - we had talked about our experiences, which were recorded for the Salford Sound Archive - clips were then to be used for the exhibition. A number of my friends on the scene lent various items of memorabilia, such as the clothing of the period. I had helped with some of the publicity side as a volunteer, with some contacts and provided lots of my photographs to help illustrate the current scene. I had also interviewed Fred Fielder, a BBC Radio Manchester presenter and someone actively involved in the 60s and 70s scene. I also found that one of clients through work, Lynda, had visited the Twisted Wheel as a young teenager in the early days in the 60s, while the Wheel was still at its Brazennose Street premises - later on she had gone on to Wigan Casino. Lynda had a wealth of great anecdotes to recount and these too were recorded for the Sound Archive and for the exhibition.

As Lynda's contribution was being used as part of the exhibition, I wanted to surprise her, so on the evening, I picked her up from her home and we made our way to the Museum - true to form, we were the first to arrive, the staff hadn't yet finished making the final touches to various exhibits!

We made our way to the gallery upstairs and started to make our way around the exhibition. Lots of great memorabilia there - Pete Roberts from the Wheel had loaned his Lambretta and the original Twisted Wheel sign which had hung over the door. There was a lot on display - records, posters, clothes, you name it, all from the halcyon days of the 60s and 70s. It was a fascinating trip down memory lane.

I was delighted that the Museum had used 7 of my photos (3 of Laura and 4 of Chippy), so that was a nice surprise - many thanks to both of you for being such brilliant subjects for the photos. I know that Laura, who was there on the night, was tickled pink at being featured.

I had secured a number of invites for the gala night, so it was like a normal soul nite, with my guests including Lynda, Tom, Paul, Julie, Karen, Sue, Pete and Wendy, Sully and Trish, Eilish and her friend Bernie and my good friend from work, Michele - unfortunately, Louise had had to cry off last minute. Also in attendance were lots of folks from the scene, far too numerous to mention.

But apart from the exhibition, we were there to do what soulies like to do most - dance! One of the gallery rooms had a spendid dance floor and at one end, there was a set of decks, an amp and some loudspeakers. All that was missing was some records and someone to spin them - enter DJs Steve Cato, Has Grundy from St Bernadettes, John Green from the Twisted Wheel and Russ Winstanley, the man who had first organised the famous All-nighters at Wigan Casino.

The dancing was a bit slow to get started but after a while, Tom got proceedings under way and bravely made his way onto the floor to be the first one dancing. It was a bit of a goldfish bowl atmosphere, with the visitors looking on, I don't know how many were genuine soulies - I suppose there must have been some interest for them to be there for the evening. The floor needed a bit of talc, so once I'd applied that, I found it much easier to dance. For the rest of the evening, there were a number of folks enjoying the music by dancing - it was a nice relaxed friendly atmosphere. Proceedings finally came to an end around 10:30 when the final track was played, then it was the usual goodbyes, till the next time on the floor, somewhere! To those who came for the evening, I hope you enjoyed yourselves!

Highlights of the night for me were seeing the look on Lynda's face as she relived her memories and seeing her enjoying a few dances on the floor, after a long, long break! Fittingly, we were last to leave!

I would urge any of you in the area in the next 10 weeks or so to visit the exhibition, details of which are given in the banner on my Upcoming Venues page.

5 Mar 2006 Charity Event - Lowton Civic Hall, Lowton

Arrived at the Charity Event gone 9pm. For those of you who know Billy the doorman (at Prestwich and Lowton), this was organised to raise funds for the Special Baby Care Unit at Arrow Park Hospital, following the tragic deaths of his grandchildren, Alicia and Alfie. This has to be a parent's worst nightmare and one of life's events you never expect. Maybe it's because soulies are so full of the joys of life that they turned out in droves during the day to support this fundraiser.

There was a real party atmosphere with lots of youngsters still there, notably Paula's delightful young daughter who at her tender years already has the moves and was dancing energetically. Like mother, like daughter, eh?;-) Lots of folks there that I knew, enjoying the music and the entertainment, Ann and Tony, Pat, Kate, Vonny and her sister, Anita, Paul, Ronnie, Mel from Hinckley and her boyfriend, oh the list goes on.....

As I arrived, Johnny Boy was doing a live spot and very good he was too. He was followed a short while later by Tommy Hunt, whom I'd never seen before. What a lovely man. He is 72 years young and told us how delighted he was to see that some of us older ones still had the moves and for us not to quit until we're done. He did a great spot, singing one of my fave songs, Jimmy Radcliffe's "Long After Tonight Is All Over".

A gentle night with a little bit of dancing, I'd more than done my bit on the previous two evenings. Just happy chillin' out!

4 Mar 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

In my diary, the first Friday of the month means another date at the Monaco. The girls had cried off, so it was just Charlie and me. It had been a cold day and I thought that might have affected the turnout on the night. How wrong I was! We got there bang on 8pm to find all the seats taken at the end of the floor furthest away from the stage, so we ended up sitting along the left hand side of the dancefloor. I'd forgotten it was the 7th anniversary of Monaco Northern Soul and Motown nights, but the regulars clearly hadn't, as they had turned up in force for this special event. What made it doubly special was that, in addition to the resident DJs, Steve Whittle and Brian Rae were guesting.

Although it was much busier than usual, hardly anyone seemd to dance for the first hour, even though the music was good. Then a few dancers made it onto the floor and that was the cue for the rest of us. We all piled onto the dance floor and for the majority of the night, that's how it was - a busy, packed floor, certainly up until around 1 am, when the numbers slowly started to dwindle as folks started leaving for home.

Birthday girl, Ann was there with hubby, Tony, and a group of her friends as were Anne and Trevor, from Flint - it was the second night in a row that we'd met. Lots of familiar Casino faces, all enjoying the music and the dancing, including an e-mail pal I was meeting for the first time, Paul from Shaw. Nice to meet Sue, whom I'd photo'd the night before at Prestwich and Barbara from Leyland.

I hadn't been that happy with some of the group photos I'd taken the previous month for the Monaco calendar. I generally don't like posed photos, usually preferring unposed snaps but I came to the conclusion that, for this task, they were the better bet, so I decided to do the job again. Started off by snapping the guest DJs, Steve and Brian and then did my rounds - I do enjoy meeting new people and, as I've said before, this is a lovely opportunity to do just that. Handed out lots of stickers for my website, so if you're one of the new people I spoke to, hope you enjoy seeing yourselves and your friends on these pages.

Even though I hadn't danced for the first hour and had spent some time talking to people when doing my photo rounds, my pedometer still recorded over 16000 steps for the night. The figures reflected an excellent night on the floor, dancing to great music. But then I'd expect nothing less from the Monaco, guaranteed to give you a great night of Northern. I'd only miss this with a doctor's note! Thanks guys, as always!

3 Mar 2006 TSOP (The Sounds of Prestwich), Longfield Suite, Prestwich

It's on nights like this that you really feel for the promoters of venues. A blizzard in the early evening had brought snow to the area and that must have prompted doubts in the minds of soulies planning to go to Prestwich that night, as to whether it was wise venturing out (although in the event, all main roads were actually fine). However, the fog then set in and with that, the temperatures plummeted. That, undoubtedly, must have put the tin lid on things and lead to a lot of people staying in. So the number of punters attending was down significantly on the previous month, which had been a lockout.

To those of you who stayed in, you missed another great night. Although it was a little slowish to get moving, the music certainly wasn't at fault. The guest DJs did a great job supplementing regulars Ginger Taylor and Terry Davies and from about 9pm, the floor was packed for most of the evening.

Our own gang was depeleted as Julie couldn't make it through illness, but most of the regular faces on the Manchester scene were in evidence, all having a good time. A particular mention, meeting the absolutely delightful Louise from Garstang, nice to put a face to a lady who's become a regular e-mailer. Also, it was such a nice surprise seeing Anne and Trevor who had braved the elements to come from Flint.

Those who know me locally, will know that I've been involved in some "behind the scenes" help for a Northern Soul exhibition due to commence at Salford Museum and Art Gallery next Friday 10th March. For my efforts, I was able to secure some tickets to a launch party to be held the night before, Thursday 9th March - I spent a bit of time distributing all the tickets to my friends who will join me on what promises to be a very interesting and enjoyable evening. But I digress, I also did a reasonable amount of photography, handing out labels with the website address in the process. Oh, and I danced a bit as well - the final pedometer count hitting just over 19,000 says something too!!!

I must admit that, by around 1:15, tiredness was setting in and I was starting to struggle a bit, so I increasingly sat it out during the final hour - but that was purely down to me, not what was happening around me!

Another superb evening, great music, great company, great dancing. No wonder this place is such a hit!

25 Feb 2006 Formby Hall. Atherton

A full carload again - with Julie, Karen, Sue and Charlie - we got to the venue just after kick-off at 8 pm. This was our first time at Formby Hall, so we didn't really know what to expect. I had heard good reports about the venue and knew the same team ran the night as the people who do the Monaco, so the pedigree was promising.

First reactions were of a sort of rustic village hall feel to the place, the main dance hall having great charm and character (although I never got round to popping my head round the door of the "modern" room). At that time, there were only one or two people in the place, but it was early days. As it was Wendy's birthday, the local gang was going to be extended so we needed about a dozen seats, which was no problem at that stage in the evening - one of the reasons I always like to arrive early.

The evening seemed a little bit slow to get started, as the punters came in gradually. Although it certainly didn't have that something special that the Monaco has, Formby Hall has a character all of its own. True to form the DJs delivered their side of the bargain from the outset and gradually, as the hall filled up, it came alive and soon there was a really nice feel to the place.

Our couple of tables soon filled up and within an hour or so, Debbie and Ged turned up, as did the birthday girl, Wendy with hubby Pete, then John and Martyn from Sale and last but not least, Sully and Trish.

As you'd expect there were a few faces from the Monaco present. During the evening, a number of regulars from the Manchester scene arrived, including Carole McCarthy and Paul "Deano" (doing some stunning dancing) and the "Talcum Queen" Susan!;-) On the other side of the room to us, there were some serious dancers in force - the two Alans who run the new venue at the JJB in Trafford Park, Kim, Jeff, Carol (nice to see her dancing without the crutches) and Laura. During the evening, it was lovely to talk for the first time with Chippy and Paula (who are pretty amazing dancers) and Mark - thanks guys for the warmth and friendliness extended to me - genuine soulies! And, of course, Ann and Tony, regulars on this side of town.

As always, the photography enabled me to make some new friendships, with me repeatedly being asked if I was Redeye from Manifesto - my newly printed batch of Able Labels with the website address soon put them right!

According to the pedometer, I got just over 13,900 steps in during the evening, despite my slightly late start to the dancing and, of course, the relatively early finish of 1 am - a pretty respectable score which reflected well the good music being played and the amount of dancing I got in. A lovely evening, surrounded by lovely pals - nice to see the look on Wendy's face when she was presented with a surprise birthday cake - and of course, against the backdrop of some cracking music, a charming venue and some brill dancing. Apparently, this was the first time the venue had been run since November, so it must have been an anxious time for the promoters - I hope they weren't disappointed, I certainly wasn't!

24 Feb 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

By 9 pm there was already a queue of more than a dozen eager fans waiting to be let in on this cold February evening. By about 9:30 it was evident this was going to be a very busy night, as the crowds continued to pile in. And that's how it turned out to be, a wonderful busy night with lots of good music and dancing, to boot! I've said this before, but it bears repeating, this place has a very special buzz about it.

Pete Roberts and John Green both did a couple of excellent spots, ably assisted by newcomer guest DJ, John Francis, who played some brilliant tracks. The guys at the Wheel know their audience and play superbly to the floor, eager to please and play the many requests they get during the evening.

The dancefloor was busy all night, at many times just heaving! Most of the regulars were there, plus quite a few new faces. Nice to see Carole McCarthy there and Paul, doing some stunning dancing, as always. A special hello to Geoff Rudd, there with his wife and friends, enjoying his 53rd birthday! A young 'un!;-) There were also a couple of young ladies from Liverpool John Moores University doing research for a dissertation on "Northern Soul" - what better place to come than to the birth of it all! Even though the regulars were mostly at least twice their age, it was clear the young 'uns enjoyed the night, probably also stunned to see what was going on!

Took lots of pictures (over 250) and spoke to lots of people. This time, I remembered the pedometer - the count of over 26,000 steps says it all! I had a ball! Looking forward already to the All-nighter next month!

18 Feb 2006 Soul @ Burtonwood, Burtonwood Community Centre, Burtonwood near Warrington

I had a choice of venues tonight and wanted to try something new. I'd seen Burtonwood advertised for a few months, so I thought I'd give it a go. Billed as a 7:30 start, I was first to arrive and, apart from the DJs, I was the only one there for over half an hour. The place was easy to find, a mile or so from the M62, near the IKEA/M&S turn-off. Pleasant community hall, amazingly cheap bar (£1.40 for a couple of diet cokes compared to the normal £2.00), seating for around 120, nice wooden (though not sprung) dance floor.

First music impressions were a bit disconcerting as the DJ put on a jazz-funk album for what seemed like an eternity while he sorted himself out! The crowd were very slow turning up and it was looking like it was going to be a long (in the wrong way) slow night. The music changed dramatically for the better from around 8:30 and was absolutely top-notch but even by 9 pm there were only about 2 dozen in the audience and no-one was dancing.

Dancing only really started in earnest about 10 pm and even then it was the same small handful on the floor (the most ever on the floor at any one time was around 20 for a few numbers but more typically it was about a dozen, if that). The final attendance number must have been around 50, which did not help the atmosphere in the place - because of that, the buzz you get from the crowd simply wasn't there. The place needs somewhere near double that to get that essential feel good factor.

A few familiar faces, including Graham and Julie from the Oakfield and Monaco (hey guys, you now have my e-mail for the piccies you have!) and their pal, Paul, not forgetting Margaret. Had a chat with Dave about the previous week's do at Orrell. It was also a lovely surprise to see Ann and Tony, who are regular faces on the scene, notably Monaco and also at Orrell.

From around 9 pm, I started to consider bailing out and going on to another venue. This indecision continued for a couple of hours, as I wondered whether I could do better elsewhere. I stayed, but that was probably more a lack of decision, rather than a positive choice. I finally got some good dancing in, but have to say that when I left the venue, I still wondered whether I would have enjoyed myself better elsewhere.

It's interesting comparing it to other venues, notably Birchfields, just down the M62 - very similar in size, just as good musically, but that gets packed and has a really exciting atmosphere. It's a shame, because the promoters and DJs weren't doing anything wrong, the music was certainly top notch. At the end of the day, it was the lack of crowd numbers and the reluctance to dance of those who did go (which can be a problem when there is a lowish attendance) that stopped the place having that all-essential buzz that I look for. For me, it was a journey of over half an hour, so not just down the road - I would certainly go again in a few months to see whether the venue is attracting more punters.

17 Feb 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

Another superb night at this brilliant venue - as I've said before, it never disappoints. A full carload - with Julie, Karen, Sue and Charlie - we arrived at about 8:20 and were lucky to secure one of the last parking places available. By opening time at 8:30, the queue outside was the longest I have seen since I started coming here early last year. The minibus next to us was the Chesterfield crowd, including Carl, an absolutely stunning dancer.

As we made our way inside, people were already dancing, as is the norm here. There was a great buzz from the outset, which continued all night. The floor was full for most of the evening, with literally only the odd quiet number, the rest of the time, the music was bringing folks onto the dancefloor in droves.

Nice to meet old friends - amongst them Billy Butler, Dave "Snapper" Leedham, Eric (from all-fm), his wife and his friends, Steve from Sheffield, Pete and Suzie making their first visit here in a couple of years, Kim and Alan and the other Alan, plus Kim's friend (whose name escapes me), Tommy, a stalwart of Northern nights and one of life's true gents and, of course, the Yorkshire crewe. Hi guys! - they're slowly learning, you don't talk to me while I'm on the floor dancing, alright?;-) New friends included Angela from Leeds and a couple of lasses from Bradford - hi ladies. Our good pals, Pete and Wendy made their first visit here, after yonks of me bending their ears - great to see you guys, as always, glad you enjoyed the night! While I remember - to Billy and Eric, thanks for the DVDs guys - you're gems - will be watching them over the weekend.

Filled the memory card with shots of the punters (it will be about 2 weeks before the piccies are uploaded), got to chat with lots of folks. A lovely night spent with great mates, no politics, no hidden agendas, just sharing our passion for our music, enjoying each others' company and dancing to the music. This is what life's about! Thanks to every one of you there!

Next month, Brighouse is on two consecutive Fridays, the usual 3rd Friday which clashes with Prestatyn and the following week, an extra session - five Fridays in March, yay! - as the Yanks would say, "missing you already!";-)

14 Feb 2006 Everything Is Tuesday, RMI Club, Horwich

A quiet low key Valentine's night, chillin' and chattin'. It's never the busiest venue, mid-week is always tricky to get the punters out. Met up with Lera and her pal, Deborah. Some of the Bolton and Monaco crowd were there, as were regulars Les and Sue. Nice to spend some time just relaxing, catching up with friends. Danced for a few numbers but it was mainly a relaxing night and nothing wrong with that. Always lovely to see host Gordon, even though the house style is more modern and northern!:-)

For those of us in our 50s, you always feel young here, as the main ballroom next door has the ballroom crowd dancing to their foxtrots, waltzes and so on. Some are probably not that much older than me but they might as well be from a different century!! Each to their own, I guess. Interestingly enough, when the ballroom dancers had finished quite a few popped their heads round the door of our room, rather intrigued by what we were dancing to!

11 Feb 2006 For Dancers Only, St James Social Centre, Orrell, near Wigan

My pal, Pat, from Liverpool told me about this venue. Organisers Pete and Liz had previously done "For Dancers Only" nights at Wigan Town Hall last year and started off this new venue last month. The night is designed to cater for serious dancers (not for those who want to get tanked up before getting on the dance floor) who like their music fast. "100 mph stuff", as Pat described it. I spoke with Pete at the previous week's Monaco and he said it was his ambition that "dancers went home in an ambulance", after an energetic night's dancing!! Sounded good to me!!

Margaret and I found the road of the venue easily but got lost trying to find the Centre itself. Eventually we stopped a couple on the road for help, and found they were making their way there, so we killed two birds with one stone by giving them a lift and getting directions there. For those needing help, the Centre is accessed by going in through the gates of St James Catholic Primary School, on the left at the end of the drive.

When we got in around 8:30, there were already quite a few folks there and the place was warming up nicely. Sally-Ann, from the Wheel, and her husband were present, as were Paul (Deano aka the"ace spinner") and Carol McCarthy, esconsed in a corner. Shortly after in came, Pat and her friends, Jacky and Rosa, then Kim and Alan, whom I'd met at a Salford Museum meeting (preparing for the exhibition on Northern Soul to be held in March-May) and Tony and Ann, from the Monaco. There were quite a few other faces I recognised from the local scene as top-notch dancers. A bit later on during the evening, Frank and Michelle from the Wheel also turned up. Liz was on the door with her son and told me that a minibus load of serious dancers were due from Mansfield, including Carl (probably one of the best dancers around).

How can I describe the evening? An absolutely blistering session, very much 100 mph stuff, some familiar tracks, some not. But that didn't matter, it was all very danceable stuff. When the crowd from Mansfield arrived, we were treated to an awesome display of dancing, but there was no snobbishness about them, there was room for all of us on the floor.

It was an absolutely brilliant evening and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone liking their dancing fast. It certainly is on my must-go list! I took lots of photos and got to meet and talk with a number of new people! The evening ended far too early at 1am, my spirit wanted to continue, although my legs didn't feel the same way - they were still aching the following morning! The evening more than made up for a disappointing Friday night!

10 Feb 2006 Aldwinians Rugby Club, Audenshaw

An extremely disappointing night. Arrived bang on 8 pm with Karen, Julie and her friend, Barbara to meet up with Sue and her friend, Mel. The place soon filled up and the music played was very good. Unfortunately, as it filled up, so air quality deteriorated becoming extremely smoky.

What made it worse was the high level of handbaggers there - it's always been a mixed audience at this venue but, this time, it just seemed to get on my nerves more. The small dance floor makes it imperative for dancers to show respect for the others on the floor, but time after time, this did not happen and I got increasingly frustrated as the night wore on. When the popular soul stuff was being played, it was a waste of time trying to get onto the packed floor. Sadly, it wasn't any better when the Northern stuff was being played - yes, the floor was quieter but some of the Northern dancers showed a lack of respect and floor etiquette - if only I could transport them to the King's Hall, Stoke and show them was respect is really all about!

Texting my best friend, Margaret, revealed that Lowton was buzzing and I realised that I couldn't let the evening end on such a miserable note at Aldwinians.Even though I haven't enjoyed Lowton on the two previous occasions I have been there, I resolved to go on there once Aldwinians ended. When the girls heard about me wanting to go on to Lowton, they persuaded me not to hang on and said it was fine for me to go immediately! Bless 'em!

So, a sad end to the Aldwinians part of the evening - I hate leaving a venue early, when the night hasn't materialised the way I would have hoped. I don't think I'll be coming back to Aldwinians in a long while. Anyway, it was on to Lowton!

Lowton Civic Hall, Lowton

Unfortunately, I missed the landmark petrol station on the corner of the East Lancs where you turn off for Lowton and ended up driving miles past the place - as I'd only been there a couple of times before, my memory of the landmarks was very sketchy. Anyway, half an hour later, finally ended up at Lowton at around 1:15 am to be warmly greeted by the welcome face of Margaret - the place certainly was buzzing. Loads of my pals were there - Sully, Trish, Pete and Wendy, Pat, Billy Butler, Vance to name a few - and it was great seeing them and they were glad to see me!

The place certainly was absolutely heaving and I very quickly started to make amends for the first part of the evening and got on with some serious dancing. However, within half an hour, the music had deteriorated to obscure stuff that I didn't know and, more importantly, didn't like. A change of DJ to Mick H at 2 am meant a continuation of the obscure stuff - just not my cup of tea and I found myself sitting down more and more and not dancing. It didn't improve much when Andy Dyson came on at 3 and by around 3:15 I was thinking it was time to cut my losses and go home, so, at that stage, Margaret and I both departed.

From what I gathered, the place had absolutely rocked earlier in the evening, with all DJs playing well and a sizzling set from my favourite DJ, Ginger Taylor. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived, the obscure stuff started to be played - I suspect I would have enjoyed myself more, had I come at the start of the evening. Although I didn't regret going on to Lowton, I have to say that the quality of the PA system irritated me intensely - the sound system clearly couldn't cope with the demands on it and was whacked up so high that it just continually distorted, so that listening to the music became an ordeal! I still don't like the venue much and cannot believe that a venue which was celebrating 10 years could have such a poor sound system.

A very disappointing evening with neither venue coming up to scratch, but I suppose you have to take the rough with the smooth.

4 Feb 2006 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

Another cracking night! I do love this venue so much. Great sprung dance floor, a lovely place to dance and the dancers have respect for the others on the floor. The DJs know their audience well and play to the floor. It was pretty quick to get going and the floor was busy most of the time, heaving at certain times when the faves were being played.

Gave a lift to Charlie and Margaret, apologies for absence were accepted from Julie and Karen!;-)

Met some old friends and made some new pals when going round taking piccies. I had quite a few folks coming up to me asking to have their piccies taken - took some group shots for the guys at the Monaco who want to use them in a calendar next year. Also took some shots of the dancers, including Kate from Hull, who has to be one of the best and most energetic dancers for miles around. Quite often though, the photo shoots had to be interrupted as yet another good track came on, which meant a quick move onto the dance floor, still clutching my camera! A lovely night, as always, I didn't want it to end! Another 19,000 on the pedometer!

3 Feb 2006 TSOP (The Sounds of Prestwich), Longfield Suite, Prestwich

Always a great night and tonight certainly didn't disappoint! Only downside is that the bar seems to open later and later, it didn't open till 8:30 on the night! Why? Anyway, by about 9 pm, it was evident it was going to be a very busy night and about an hour or so later, it became a lockout - Pete and Wendy from Hyde spent an hour in the cold waiting to get in!:-(

Prestwich is probably the most successful venue in the Manchester area and deservedly so, with quality DJs, such as Ginger Taylor and promoter Terry Davies, playing some great sounds to a packed floor most of the night. Unusually, Richard Searling did a spot in the Northern Room and had everyone dancing away non-stop for the whole of his spot.

A great fun evening spent in the company of our gang, Julie, Karen, Margaret, Charlie, first-timer Liz, and friends, Sully, Trish, Sue, Pete, Wendy, meeting Kate and Krisi from Tyneside, Chris and Janine from Yorkshire, plus countless others. Took quite a few shots, including promoters Terry and Lynne having a ball, as we all did! Pedometer count of over 17,000 says it all! Thanks guys!

28 Jan 2006 King Georgeís Hall, Blackburn

We waited for over 15 minutes in the biting cold to be let in - why? Anyway, the wait was well worth while. Rushed up the stairs to get a good seat on the edge of the dance floor in the fabulous Kathleen Ferrier room (the Northern Room). A little bit slow to get going but once it did, then the place rocked with the floor most of the time.

The gang were all there, Dave, Stu and Margaret from Leyland, Pete and Wendy, Debbie and Ged, plus our full car, Margaret, Julie, Karen and Charlie.

Had fun taking photos of the dancers, getting to know people, including the lads from Blackpool who were there in force. At one stage the floor was packed, so we used the aisles to dance away! Yay! Some handbaggers. as always, but they seemed to be more at the back of the hall, the place to be away from them was near the front. Pedometer counted over 17,000 steps! A superb night!

27 Jan 2006 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

First Wheel venue of the year with great spots from residents, Pete Roberts and John Green and guest, Ian "Nai" Dunning. People were dancing virtually from the off and this continued until proceedings were reluctantly brought to a close at 2:15 am. There was a capacity crowd in force on the night, giving the place a great buzz. I was reminded of the words "The joint was jumpin'" from Chuck Berry's song "Round and Around". Just non-stop action, the Wheel at its very best! The Wheel is a total one-off, it's where it all started and it never disappoints me!

Took lots of piccies of the crowd in action on the night. Regular friends, such as Tom Cooney, Pete and Suzie Everett were all there in force, making it the event of the month for me, as it always is. Forgot to take my pedometer!!

21 Jan 2006 Civic Hall, Ormskirk

A disappointing night. It was a bitterly cold night and Charlie and I found our way successfully to the venue, but had to park a bit down the road down a side street, due to the totally inadequate parking opposite the venue. Met Pat and her pal, Jackie, from Merseyside.

The Hall itself was pleasant with a reasonably sized dance floor, but the dance took a while getting going, even though the music was fine. The downside was that the place was infested with handbaggers who had no concept of respecting other dancers' floor space - there were a few drunken youngsters who kept bumping into dancers and not apologising and a few ladies dancing in twos disrupting the flow of the dance floor. I've seen far worse (Marine Hall at Fleetwood to name the worst offending venue I attended late last year) but I won't be rushing back. Pedometer was about 10,000. Sorry, guys! (Since writing this review, the promoter has advised me he has changed his marketing policy to attract Northern soulies only and not the handbag crew.)

20 Jan 2006 Ritz Ballroom, Brighouse

There was a queue outside and the car park was full when we (Julie, Karen, Sue, Charlie and I) arrived there at 8:30 pm, always a good sign of a great night ahead. Superb buzz about the place all night. It's very much one of favourite venues, I'm always excited at the prospect of going there and I've never been disappointed. As you go in through the door, there are folks already dancing, none of this "having to get tanked up before they dance on the floor" stuff. Ginger Taylor did the business, as he always does, ably assisted by the guest DJs on the night. The floor was pretty much packed all night, which is what you want. Why does such a great night have to end at 1 am?:-(

One of the soul mags carried a feature this month on the place - the Ritz has won countless awards for being the best dance floor in the North and deservedly so. It's not just the maple sprung dance floor, the decor is warm adding to that great atmosphere when you go in the place. Apparently the current owners have said they want to sell the place in a couple of years' time when they hit 55, so they are able to enjoy their retirement. They've owned it for around 20 years and would love to see it sold as a going concern so that dancing can carry on there, although it is said that various developers are sniffing around - a prime site as this would lend itself well to new apartment blocks. Let's hope the developers don't get their way and that the place continues as a dance venue. If my numbers came up on a Saturday night then I could not think of a more deserving Soul cause.

Verdict on the evening? Well, the pedometer count of 17,000 on a short night of 8:30 pm till 1 am tells its own story!

14 Jan 2006 Oakfield, Sale

A busy night, although not quite as good as the one in December. Greg Osbourne and Les Hare run a nice venue, although for most of last year it seemed to be in a bit of a decline, with attendances seemingly falling, plus the crowd taking longer and longer to get on the dancefloor. When I first started going there a couple of years ago, it would get going around 9 pm, with folks chillin' and chatting until then - over last year, that seemed to slip to 10 and even coming up to 11 pm before the dancing started in earnest, with only handful of (the same) people going out on the floor. I really don't know why, as the music has always been good, a nice across-the-board mix.

Met up with Margaret, Julie, Karen and Sue and it was so lovely to see Anne and Trevor (dedicated soulies I originally met at the Marine Hall in Fleetwood last year, then Prestwich and Monaco in close succession) make the journey from Flint. A nice friendly evening with some good dancing, although the guest DJ's music wasn't as on the nail as I would have liked. That and the late start meant a pedometer count of around 12,000.

13 Jan 2006 Ramsbottom Cricket Club, Ramsbottom

What a gem of a find and what a superb night! Sully recommended the venue as he knew some of the guys running it. The venue is comparable to the Oakfield in size and the floor is about the same size too. Margaret, Julie, Karen and I arrived soon after start-up time and met up with Sully and Trish, who were already there.

The place was pretty quick to get moving, with a nice range of music played, all the usual faves but some tracks I hadn't heard before and the dance floor was packed for most of the night. There was a lovely friendly atmosphere about the place and we met some lovely people. This venue will become regular (second Friday of the month) from April and I enjoyed it so much I cannot wait for the next time to come around. Consider it added to my must-go list! Well done, guys! Pedometer read 15,000 steps!

10 Jan 2006 Everything Is Tuesday, RMI Club, Horwich

A quiet night with less than a dozen attending, the DJs and friends outnumbered the punters! Having said that, some lovely music played during the night. Always nice to see our host, Gordon and to meet my pal, Lera and catch up with what's been happening in her life. That night, also met Dave Brierley, one of the promoters of the Monaco and had a great natter with him.

I suppose weekday venues are always bound to struggle and maybe the post-Christmas period is a tricky one with folks spent up. Gordon has also suffered with the RMI management changing tack over the day of his venue, switching in the autumn from the original second Tuesday in the month to a weekly Thursday night, then pulling the plug on that. Anyway, he's back in the usual monthly Tuesday slot. The guy does it for the love of the music - the policy is pretty much across the board and the guest DJs bring interesting variety to the night. If you want a nice relaxed chill out night, do support this venue.

7 Jan 2006 Middleton Civic Centre Allnighter, Middleton

Only my second time there and I was as under-impressed as I was first time around in late summer last year. I just cannot take to the venue and found most of the music played during the night to be obscure stuff, that I didn't know, didn't like and didn't want to dance to. This is a 3 room venue with a modern room and an R&B room - while I enjoyed some of the tracks in the latter, it wasn't enough for me. Margaret and I were bored most of the evening, the crowning glory (if you can call it that) when I came back to the table after being away at the bar, to find one of the punters sat at the same table rifling through a carrier bag (containing food) we had left on the table next to our drinks. This was the same person who put his coat on a chair, knocking off Margaret's coat onto the floor and couldn't be bothered to pick it up! Ignorant doesn't even begin the describe it!:-(

I hardly danced and we left around 1 am, because we'd had enough, normally you struggle to get me off the floor and I rarely leave an allnighter venue before 3 am (and I've only done that because I've been tired)!

The pedometer counted 8,000 steps which says it all! Unlike Arnie, I will NOT be back!:-(

6 Jan 2006 TSOP (The Sounds of Prestwich), Longfield Suite, Prestwich

A quieter night than usual, maybe folks were spent up after Christmas, certainly the smoothfm Modern Soul Weekender at Blackpool affected the turnout which was quite a bit down on the norm.

That was their loss, as it was the usual stonking good night with good sets from residents, Terry Davies and Ginger Taylor and the guest DJs. All the crowd were there, apart from Julie, recuperating after eye surgery. Nice to see Sully back, after a bout of illness that had kept him out of action for nearly a month. A great time had by all! 14,000 on the pedometer!

1 Jan 2006 Happy New Year, everybody!!

Got up at 4 pm and had breaky at 6 in the evening. Not done this in years!! Evening spent chilling out, what a brilliant Christmas and New Yearís break itís been!

31 Dec 2005 Kings Hall, Stoke-on-Trent

Day 8 of my 8-night Northern party over the Xmas period. Made it! Hehehehe! Charlie was back from hols after visiting his mum in Spain, so he joined Julie and Karen in the car. A minor problem with the offside windscreen wiper coming off a mile or so before our destination but the friendly RAC guy came in no time to sort us out, on a New Yearís Eve too! We were joined during the evening by our dear pals, Pete and Wendy and Debbie and her husband, Ged.

This is such a lovely venue, with brilliant music and a very respectful crowd of dancers. It never disappoints.

The place was just buzzing right from the start and carried on that way, more or less right through to the end, although it quietened down a bit towards the end of the night. Danced my little socks off all night, what better way to end the best year in about 15 years for me and usher in the new year, than with yer mates!! Oh and thanks for the food, Julie and Karen, that kept the energy levels going during the night. Downside was the bar closing at 1:30 am and Kev Roberts having problems getting the council staff to switch on the vending machines dispensing drinks! Shades of Victor Meldrew ďI donít believe itĒ! Fortunately that got sorted.

An awesome night in a beautiful venue! I looked at my pedometer at the end of the night and had done 24,000 steps!! Yay!!

30 Dec 2005 Twisted Wheel, Manchester

Day 7 of my 8-night Northern party over the Xmas period. Another awesome night at this superb venue with a capacity crowd determined to enjoy themselves and succeeding! Guest DJ Brian Walker and residents Pete and John just excelled themselves!

29 Dec 2005 Heywood Civic Centre, Heywood

Day 6 of my 8-night Northern party over the Xmas period. Julie, Karen and I made our way to the Civic, never a great favourite venue of mine, but hey! it's a night out! The place wasn't heaving but was busy enough. It was billed as a general Soul night but I was wondering what we were letting ourselves in for when the Jackson 5's "I want you back" wafted its way over the dance floor!!! Things continued in that vein with a poppy Motown feel to the evening - have I become a Northern Soul snob? However, later, Stan Evans from Liverpool's Sink came to the rescue with some great Northern, R&B and 60s club classics.

What was amusing was that the audience was in two camps - the handbaggers and the Northern soulies - and not much meeting of the two. When the handbaggers were on the floor, the soulies sat it out - when the Northern crowd came on, the general crowd sat back and watched our antics on the floor! Having said that, when the two factions did meet, they co-existed very well, unlike at some venues, with respect being shown both ways. All in all, a nice night.

28 Dec 2005 Preston Grasshoppers

Day 5 of my 8-night Northern party over the Xmas period. First time around for me at this venue, a favourite of Charlie's when he visits his mother in Garstang. When Margaret and I arrived, Dave, Margaret and Stu from Leyland were already there. Over the evening we saw a fair number of familiar local faces.

A great evening with a superb selection of music played by the various DJs, lovely dance floor and some great dancing that night. Only downside is the DJ, who loved the sound of his own voice and insisted on talking over the records, I don't need encouragement to dance and felt like telling him to "shut the f*ck up"! That apart, a brilliant night and I can understand why this is such a successful venue.

27 Dec 2005 Orwell, Wigan

Day 4 of my 8-night Northern party over the Xmas period. Another bitterly cold night. Margaret and I arrived at this event, billed as a "70s and Northern Night", around 8 pm. We joined Pat and Peter from Liverpool were already there. I enjoyed the first hour or so as the music was different, but after a while it all started to sound the same - there was no sight or sound of the promised "Northern", this was strictly Modern!:-(

I only danced twice during the whole evening and our boredom manifested itself by Margaret and I trying to work out how to send and receive piccies on our mobile phones! We left early around 1 am. Pat's description of the place "The Borewell" just summed it up, bang on the nail! Sorry guys, not my cuppa tea!

26 Dec 2005 Aldwinians Rugby Club, Audenshaw

Day 3 of my 8-night Northern party over the Xmas period. Lovely evening of Northern and Motown at this very friendly venue Ė my second time there. Gave a lift to Julie, Karen and Mags. Rather smoky tonight and a few dancers who hogged the floor, letís have some respect for the other dancers, guys! A nice evening, though.

25 Dec 2005 Night off Northern soul, hehehe!;-)

Lovely Christmas dinner at Julieís - thanks luv, you're a doll!

24 Dec 2005 Guild Hall, Stockport

Day 2 of my 8-night Northern party over the Xmas period. Gave a lift to Julie, Karen and Margaret. Disappointing night, the Northern room was quiet and lacked atmosphere, so spent a fair bit of time hopping between there and the en-suite Motown room, which was much better in atmosphere but got very hot.

Try as I may, I just cannot get into this venue. The Northern Room is distinctly shabby and in bad need of redecoration and the sound system is, well, cr*p to put it bluntly! The en-suite room has a much nicer feel to it, but badly need some air-conditioning! Ian Obeng, the promoter, is a great guy and Iíd love to support him but Iím really struggling with this venue. Much prefer Stockport Town Hall, but from what I hear, thatís expensive to hire. I'm struggling here, guys, sorry! :-(

23 Dec 2005 Monaco Ballroom, Hindley, Wigan

Day 1 of my 8-night Northern party over the Xmas period. Absolutely buzzing night with a brilliant atmosphere, as always with great music and superb dancing. This place never disappoints! Julie wasnít well so couldnít make it and Karen decided not to come. Gave a lift to Charlie and met up with Margaret. Karen later regretted not coming out to play!

The punters were up for a great party night - and they got it - with a packed floor the majority of the evening. I took a few piccies at the venue. Really enjoyed the night - this is Northern at its best - thanks guys!


E-mail: alan@soulman1949.com

All images are copyright © 2006, Alan Milewczyk (Al's Soul Shack)