Bridlington Northern Soul Weekender June 2008.
Yorkshire’s own sea-side event
It is a little difficult to be un-biased about an event that you are co-promoting when asked to do a look back feature on that event, however after reading the revues and receiving great feedback I feel I can be objective.
When we started the Bridlington Weekender in 2007 it was after three years of planning and trying to find the perfect date and venue plus offering “Something new to do” away from the tried and tested DJ line ups. We were looking at the East Coast of England and then it struck us that there was a wealth of Soul Talent that was un-tapped and under exposed in Yorkshire and the counties that boarder it Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Rob Wicks had the original idea to promote the event in Scarborough as far back as 2004 but no matter how we tried we could not get date and venue together without clashing with other events. The breakthrough came whilst watching “Look North” and seeing The Spa at Bridlington closing for a multi-million pound refurbishment. A phone call between myself and Mr. Wicks lead us to investigate the venue and we quickly realized there was no “Soul” history in the town, apart from the annual scooter run in October.
Our first venture in 2007 was due to take place at The Spa, however with refurbishment over-running we held our first event as a “one roomer” in the wonderful Art Deco ballroom at the “3B’s”. Roll on 2008 and despite several postponements of the opening date from late 2007, then February and May 2008, things were looking good for our inaugural venture in to the The Spa.Our team were invited to visit the Spa site in February as guests of Bridlington council to view the refurbishment and were assured that the The Spa would indeed be open for business on time. It was during this visit we looked at the layout of the building and structured our plans for the rooms we could provide during the weekender.
Ticket sales passed the 1,000 mark at the end of April 2008 and continued to sell strongly in the lead up to the event, the rumour mill on the scene was fuelled by people who did not want this event to be successful and almost became comical as new rumours surfaced in an attempt to damage ticket sales! The East Coast Soul Collective Soul Club carried on with the last minute planning of the event and decided to add a third room into the mix, we also agreed that numbers should be capped at no more than 1,500 to allow for comfort and space within the venue. The date rapidly approached and things fell into place, the venue opened its doors to a massive concert by Yorkshire based band The Pigeon Detectives and other opening events themed around people and groups in the area who had contributed to The Spa’s refurbishment.
At last it was Friday 27th June and time for us to travel to Bridlington to start to set up the event for the weekend, we had already had reports from an advance party of Soul Sourcer’s that the venue was looking splendid! These hardy souls were intent on making a full weekend of it and had travelled up on the Thursday to start the party early at the South Cliff Hotel.On first entering The Spa from street level you are struck by a modern state of the art foyer which houses a reception desk and a cafe bar with a wonderful panoramic view overlooking the sea. There are stairs and a lift leading down to the lower level and the main entrance into the Royal hall, which is the main Ballroom, which has been faithfully renovated to keep all the 1930’s Art Deco features in place and exactly reproduced to the architects original drawings.
We spent the Friday afternoon arranging tables and making sure there was enough space to access the massive sprung dance floor, rumoured to be the largest in Europe, but providing enough comfortable seating for our guests.Stall holders began to arrive and set up around the perimeter wall of the dance hall and the sound technicians had already started to rig the massive hall and stage with lights and equipment ready to connect into the £1,000,000 sound system built into the building. A memorable moment came when Mick tested the system with The Casualers “Dance, Dance, Dance” and it boomed out with such clarity the hairs stood up on the back of my neck, it was like hearing the record for the first time! Everyone stopped what they were doing around the hall and were drawn on to the dance floor to stand and listen!
A quick check around, all things were in place, we retired to our digs and made ready for the Friday evenings 7.45pm start when everyone would officially arrive. A slight hitch occurred when the duty manager had changed and the replacement didn’t know how to set the venue lighting up as agreed in the afternoon meeting! Panic, a ballroom the size of the Titanic and lights full on, however after trial and error the problem was solved and Yocky cued up the first record at five minutes to 8 and the event got underway.
A thing that immediately struck home was the look on the people’s faces when entering the ballroom for the first time, gazing open mouthed at the sheer splendour of the place. Being on the Northern Scene for thirty odd years we are used to scruffy dancehalls, old welfare buildings and village halls that have already seen their best of days, the dance floor was all important. However this is something very special, walking into a dancehall in all its splendour, paint and fixtures gleaming, like brand new in a time warp, no yellow nicotine stained ceilings or walls. With the smoking ban in place, no one will ever even so much as light a cigarette inside this building! As they stood looking around then quickly realised they were on the magnificent dance floor, music playing, quick claim your dancing territory, get some drinks in and get dancing!
Over a thousand people came through the doors within the first hour, exchanging tickets for wristbands, picked up their weekender magazine and acquainted themselves with the new venue. As nine o’clock approached our two other rooms opened their doors and kicked into action. Kev Thomas opened up in the Modern/Crossover room with some kick ass modern, standing in for Kim Maddox who was laid up in bed with as seriously bad back. Meanwhile two of the scene’s most respected spinners Mick and Mo, travelling up from Skeggy especially at my request, (thanks again x), started their two hour set in the Rare & Underplayed room to an appreciative audience.
Back in the main ballroom the floor was rocking as the DJ s cranked up the massive sound system and the tunes, a mixture of rare, current floor-fillers and classic northern sounds, filled the room with an electric atmosphere. We billed the room as “Totally Northern Soul” each DJ added something unique into the mix to fulfill that remit.As the venue continued to fill up and late arrivals still kept coming, each venue found its own level, we kept to our Yorkshire theme on the Modern side of things, with the Modernism pairing of Martin “Cunnie” Dixon and Errol Green, followed by former Pitches anchor Andy “Tats” Taylor who all kept the sounds coming. Our secret weapon in the Modern room in the shape of token Lancastrian, John Kane, although he does insist he was born in Dublin! I have long been a personal fan of John’s style as a DJ and the way he puts his sets together, he is now rightly finding his place as amongst the best spinners in the country and it hasn’t gone to his head! John finished the night off perfectly with an hour and a half set that encompassed the full spectrum of Modern sounds and ensured a packed modern room was left wanting more.
In the third room, we had another secret weapon, Kent exile, John Alden who had made the 312 mile journey up from the “backend of beyond” to entertain us. Now to us Northern folk, we all know Kent is in London and was named after Ady Croasdel’s record label, but joking apart, there is a healthy scene on the South Coast and it throws up some interesting records that deserve more exposure. Long time collector John has great taste and has searched relentlessly for records to add to his collection, it was a pleasure to let him share some of these with us over several impressive spots during the weekend. The final hour in this room was given over to Vault of Soul’s Mark Etheridge again another dedicated collector who joined forces with John to provide some excellent tunes over three weekend spots.
Back in the main hall and as two o’clock arrived it was time to call it a night as the last records were played to the appreciative crowd, who stood applauding and wanting a few more sounds to finish the night off. A quick stagger across the road and we were in bed for a well earned sleep and looking forward to the rest of the weekend.
The sun rose on Saturday morning to a fabulous sunny day, our room had a balcony which overlooked the sea front and believe me there is no more better view than the fine Yorkshire seaside, in God’s own county on a glorious summer’s day.We had two sessions planned for Saturday and made our way across to the Spa for lunch and a couple of bottles of Col Stubb’s “Soul Rider” Ale which was on sale during the weekend. Saturday’s afternoon session was again split between the three rooms, giving the chance for DJs to play something quite different other than the more up-front or well know stuff. It was nice to welcome back Thorne’s Gary Welsh, after a slight layoff due to illness, back doing what he does best in the modern room. Over the other side of the building the Rare & underplayed side of things was going very nicely indeed, with Glynn Sissons given the chance to show what gems are hiding in the back of his record box.In the Main Hall, a selection of classic tunes from all era’s kept the punters happy with plenty of forgotten tunes making it to the decks. It was also time for people to have a wander around the merchandise stalls or to have a good search through the many records for sale during the weekend. The Spa also has excellent eating facilities which are very reasonably priced and provide real Yorkshire cuisine or “good snap” as they say in these parts!
So off for another break as the session ended and a quick 40 winks to prepare for the evening session and to introduce some new DJs into the mix, including ex-Casino DJ & co-promoter Pat Brady doing his first set of the weekend in the main hall. With new people arriving for the rest of the weekend the room quickly filled up and it’s fair to say that the main room took a little while to warm up and get a consistently full dance floor. However things soon got sorted and with over 1,200 people in the room the place was soon rocking away. Saturday nights Modern room session has been reported as one of the best ever in Yorkshire! The place was packed and the Ocean Bar provided the perfect setting for this type of event, not too big and not too small, with the room being ideally situated off the main ball room to allow for people to wander in for a dance easily. The same line up as Friday but with some tweaks in the times, John Kane was again outstanding as were all the DJs, the change around allowed Sean Hampsey to join his Pitches mate, Tats in the room for the Saturday night two hour finale and it was, hot, sweaty, dancing soul all the way till the close at 2.00 am.
One of the surprises of the weekend was the rare and underplayed session on Saturday night with John Parker and Tony Hatfield banging tune after tune on to the decks to a full and bouncing dance floor. Again this room was packed with appreciative souls, I had a complaint off a punter from Doncaster who had entered the room to buy a round of drinks a couple of hours earlier and just could not leave such was the quality of the music.
Once again the evening passed in the blink of an eye and left people wanting a lot more by the time the session ended, even an all-nighter! As organisers we will be making some changes to the times for 2009, but we have no plans for an all-night session just yet!
So that just left us to concentrate on the Sunday all-dayer and to finish the weekend off in style, another sunny afternoon broke and we were once again back over in The Spa. We had placed the accent on having some fun in these sessions and had planned the early part of the afternoon around raising funds for Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice which was our chosen Yorkshire charity. We sold off spare programmes and specially printed posters, stall holders donated items for auction and we sold “Loud shirts” to raise funds. A stall at the entrance helped with the fund raising and the collection bucket took care of any loose change our unsuspecting souls had.We can now say that with all of the above and a donation from the East Coast Soul Collective Soul Club we have presented a cheque for £1,000 to Bluebell Wood on behalf of your generous donations. They have already expressed their thanks to you all and will be doing so publically very soon as well.
Back to the event and several new faces to the weekender scene also had a chance to have a go during the early session.Dave “Night Nurse” Knight to the decks like a duck to water and his auctioneering skills would have done “Flog it” proud as well! A refreshing change came when Alex double-decked with Yocky, its nice to see the music being appreciated by a great kid and someone to watch for in the coming years. Also arriving for his first spot of the weekender was Nottingham’s Rob Smith, who had more or less completed the RAC Rally of England during the weekend, clocking up at least 1,200 miles to DJ around the Country at more than 6 events! His mammoth record bar was also well received with punters searching for many of the “Underplayed” tunes that had been heard over the weekend and being Rob they were all at bargain prices! I stood with Rob for part of his set and the sounds he produces out of plastic bags were incredible and filled the dance floor. Top marks to a true professional and on of the greatest guy’s on our scene as well.
As the day wore on and we approached our final session heading for the Midnight closing time the hall once again filled up with around 800 staying for the last hours. We were all feeling tired and looking forward to rest, but also on a “high” from the great comments we had received and looking forward to enjoying the last couple of hours and having some fun. Now I have to mention that our other co-promoter, Rob Wicks, had other ideas and lived up to his Soul Source name as “Naughty Boy”, when at around ten thirty pm on Sunday evening he was heading for the cardiac unit at Bridlington hospital in the back of an ambulance ! He gave us quite a fright, but the show must go on and I had the pleasure of joining Pat Brady on the decks for the last hour to say goodbye and thank you to everyone who had attended the event.
To be honest I can’t remember too much of what we played, the requests kept coming thick and fast and as midnight slipped by I played the final record Jimmy Ratcliff “Long after tonight is all over”. Now it’s becoming a bit of a tradition to let the Bridlington crowd sing themselves out, which after a bit of cajoling they did in fine form. We said our thanks again to rapturous cheers and the crowd were stamping and shouting for more, as we packed our records away, I saw “getting mighty crowded” and placed it on the decks and hit the play button, needless to say the place went wild!
So that was it for another great weekend away, there is a lot of planning in these events and many, many people contribute and help out in lots of ways to make these things run smoothly. We want everyone to have a great time and if there are any little niggles we listen and we will put them right.
Thanks to all once again who have help out, Rob Wicks continues his recovery to full health and will be back next year to play the last records! He thanks everyone for cards and best wishes he has received.We have our dates booked for next year and ticket sales already had passed the 500 mark as I write, tickets are now on sale at just £20 each for the full weekend and that price is held for advance purchases until the end of 2008.
Dates for the event are Friday 26th to Sunday 28th June 2009 and there are several things we are looking at that will be confirmed in the next couple of weeks that will add extra dimensions to the event. These will include some fresh faces on the DJ line up, as well as remain faithful to those who have worked hard in the build up to making this Yorkshire’s and indeed the UK’s most talked about and popular Weekender.
As always watch Soul Source for the latest news!
Rob & Karen for ECSCSC