Saturday, 19 March 2011
Today there are regular northern soul events in various parts of the United Kingdom, such as The Nightshift Club all-nighters at the Bisley Pavilion in Surrey and the Prestatyn Weekender in North Wales. In an article entitled The Return Of Northern Soul in The Times in August 2008, broadcaster Terry Christian argued that northern soul was undergoing a distinct revival in the late 2000s. Christian cited the popularity of regular revivals of Twisted Wheel soul all-nighters at the original venue (in Whitworth Street, Manchester) plus the Beat Boutique northern soul all-nighters at the Ruby Lounge and MMUnion in Manchester. Many of those who ceased their involvement in the late 1970s have now returned to the scene and regularly participate in such events. As of 2009, Paul O'Grady has included a Northern Soul Triple in his weekly BBC Radio 2 show. He plays three northern soul hits, often at the request of his listeners.
Northern Soul has inspired a movie, Soulboy (2010), directed by Hawa Essuman and Shimmy Marcus, and at least one novel: Do I Love You? (2008) by Paul McDonald[
Although Wigan Casino is now the most well known, the best attended northern soul all-night venue at the beginning of the decade was the Golden Torch, where regular Friday night soul "all-nighters" began in late 1970. Chris Burton, the owner, stated that in 1972, the club had a membership of 12,500, and 62,000 separate customer visits. Despite its popularity, the club closed down due to licensing problems in March, 1972 and attention switched to soul nights at Blackpool Mecca's Highland Room, which had started hosting rare soul nights in late 1971.
Commemorative sew-on patch similar to those designed by Russ Winstanley and sold at the Wigan Casino.
Wigan Casino began its weekly soul all-nighters in September 1973. Wigan Casino had a much larger capacity than many competing venues and ran its events from 2am until 8am. There was a regular roster of DJs, including the promoter Russ Winstanley. By 1976, the club boasted a membership of 100,000 people, and in 1978, was voted the world's number one discotheque by the American magazine Billboard. This was during the heyday of the Studio 54 nightclub in New York City. By the late 1970s, the club had its own spin-off record label, Casino Classics.
By this time, Wigan Casino was coming under criticism from many soul fans. Contemporary black American soul was changing with the advent of funk, disco and jazz-funk, and the supply of recordings with the fast-paced northern soul sound began to dwindle rapidly. Wigan Casino DJs resorted to playing any kind of record that matched the correct tempo. Also, the club was subjected to heavy media coverage and began to attract many otherwise uninterested people whom the soul purists did not approve of.
Blackpool Mecca was popular throughout the 1970s, although the venue never hosted all-nighters. The regular Saturday night events began at 8pm and finished at 2am, and initially, some dancers would begin their evenings at Blackpool Mecca and then transfer to Wigan Casino. In 1974, the music policy at Blackpool Mecca sharply diverged from Wigan Casino's, with the regular DJs Ian Levine and Colin Curtis including newly released US soul in their sets. Whilst the tempo was similar to the earlier Motown Records-style recordings, this shift in emphasis heralded a slightly different style of northern soul dancing and dress styles at Blackpool Mecca and created a schism in the northern soul movement between Wigan Casino's traditionalists and Blackpool Mecca's wider approach, which accepted the more contemporary sounds of Philly soul, early disco and funk.