Apologies for my usual tardiness in posting but this show in particular really deserves to be congratulated.
Earlier in the year we were fortunate enough to have the very talented Kizcean do one of his stunning light shows for us. I decided that these light and particle shows really need to have their own dedicated location in order to fully enhance the effects so I have built a special dome set in which hopefully we can hold many more such shows in the future.
I placed recliner seats all around the outer circumference of the set so that folks could just lie back and be fully immersed in the beautiful sounds and sights being created.
The tunes were a selection of very mellow ambient music specially selected by Kiz to compliment his lights.
And here, courtesy of our ever-helpful videographer, Sword, is a small taste of the amazing show.
The show was a huge success and many visitors confessed to being deeply moved by the immersion of gentle music and magical swirling lights.
I’ll make sure to keep you all posted if we hold any similar shows in the future.
The tunes in June will be mostly about the moon. OK – so it’s not June, but September didn’t rhyme
I was going to call this week’s set The Universe, but there are so darned many songs just about the moon alone that I’ve decided to make this a 3-part theme. The Moon, The Sun, and The Planets.
This week we start with all things Lunar. So check your calendar to make sure it’s not that time of the month when you turn hairy and start howling because there’s gonna be a full moon for sure!
Usual time at Marcel’s Bistro – 3pm SLT (11pm GMT) for about an hour-ish.
Well our homage to the late great Wigan Casino All-Nighter event went brilliantly last night, if I do say so myself.
I kicked off the evening playing some tunes from early rock bands who cut their teeth playing at this venue back in the late 70’s – such as Canned Heat, with their awesome track ‘On the Road Again’, through The Stranglers, Budgie, Nazareth, Judas Priest, the Edgar Broughton Band and Motorhead.
I’d never heard of the Edgar Broughton Band. Never saw or heard of them again and then in the 80’s I was stand-in bassist for a while in band from Barnet call Sheriff Jack, went into the studio with them and it was owned by none other than EBB drummer Steve Broughton. I ended up playing in a short lived 18 piece band called Soul Tax that he put together (we played our first gig the day after the Poll Tax Riots in London and didn’t have a name) – small world eh?
The atmosphere was fabulous and I had filled the room with loads of phantom ‘dancers’ in order to give the same feeling of crowded movement as was at the original venue. In fact, anyone who had actually been at the Casino in their youth might even have recognised some of the cut-outs as I had used screen-grabs from the TV documentary which was filmed in the 70’s!
Now, as I wasn’t old enough to be properly into clubbing in those days, and I didn’t live ‘up North’ where the Northern Soul phenomenon was born, I relied on my lovely Lord Andy to be artistic director on this project. My whole reason for creating these themed sets is to make people happy, and if I can accurately recreate a place well enough that it can take someone back to a time to enjoy fond memories, then I feel that I’ve done a good job. I have been reliably informed by his Lordship that I managed to capture the atmosphere to the point where he felt like he had gone back in time and was in his late teens again.
After the first hour of rock, we did as they did back during the days of the Casino and switched over to the Northern Soul set. Andy tells me that there was a distinct divide between the rockers and the ‘soulies’ and never the twain shall meet. All the rock fans would pile out of the club as the soul dudes would be arriving for their ‘all-nighter’. But as Andy and his mates were far more musically open-minded, they would pop into the loos to change out of their rock gear and slip into their wide-legged pants and vest tops and then sneak back into the club to enjoy the second half of the evening.
Our Northern Soul part of the evening was DJ’d by our very own Gerrard ‘G-Winz’ Wistanley, who followed in the footsteps of his RL namesake, the original Wigan Casino DJ, Russ Winstanley.
A little Wiki history on Northern Soul, for those of you not familiar with the term:
Northern soul is a music and dance movement that emerged independently in Northern England, in the late 1960s from the British mod scene. Northern soul mainly consists of a particular style of black American soul music based on the heavy beat and fast tempo of the mid-1960s Tamla Motown sound.
The northern soul movement, however, generally eschews Motown or Motown-influenced music that has had significant mainstream commercial success. The recordings most prized by enthusiasts of the genre are usually by lesser-known artists, released only in limited numbers, often by small regional American labels such as Ric-Tic and Golden World Records (Detroit), Mirwood (Los Angeles) and Shout and Okeh (New York/Chicago).
Northern soul is associated with particular dance styles and fashions that grew out of the underground rhythm & soul scene of the late 1960s at venues such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester. This scene and the associated dances and fashions quickly spread to other UK dancehalls and nightclubs like the Chateau Impney (Droitwich), Catacombs (Wolverhampton), the Highland Rooms at Blackpool Mecca, Golden Torch (Stoke-on-Trent) and Wigan Casino.
As the favoured beat became more uptempo and frantic, by the early 1970s, northern soul dancing became more athletic, somewhat resembling the later dance styles of disco and break dancing. Featuring spins, flips, karate kicks and backdrops, club dancing styles were often inspired by the stage performances of touring American soul acts such as Little Anthony & The Imperials and Jackie Wilson.
So even though the whole ethos of true Northern Soul was ‘the less well known the music, the more popular’, it didn’t matter to our evening as it still had that wonderful Motown beat that you just can’t help bopping along to. I can easily see how these evenings would have been so popular, as I would most certainly have been a regular had I been around in those days. And of course, although it’s true that the more unknown and obscure the track, the more it was liked, it was inevitable that the movement would adopt some tracks to be their keynote anthems, the original recording of Tainted Love by Gloria Jones being the primary example.
And I wanted to post this bit of video as well as although the sound quality is pretty bad as it’s a live recording from the club, it shows perfectly the very specific dance style that was Northern Soul. Lots of leg-work but keeping within your own space, because of how crowded the venue used to be. It’s really interesting to see just how almost regimented the dancing was.
And finally, a little montage of photos from our own Wigan Casino..
As the evening was such a success, we’re going to try and run a regular monthly Wigan Casino night, so keep an eye open on the Caffeine Nights group events notification either in-world, or on our Facebook page:
Northern Soul at the Wigan Casino – a Caffeine Nights themed show production – Saturday 17th September – 2 – 4pm SLT
CALLING ALL BRITS! ANYONE OF A CERTAIN GENERATION REMEMBER VISITING THE WIGAN CASINO BETWEEN THE LATE 70’s AND EARLY 80’s?
Due to popular demand (well, 2 people), I have lovingly re-created the inner club of the Wigan Casino nightclub, hopefully capturing the authentic ambiance of sweat, cigarette smoke and excitement (thank you, Lord Andy, for the technical input as artistic director on this one – me being far too young to remember ).
For those of you not au fait with such a specifically regional venue and historical gem, here’s an introduction from our Lord Andy, a regular of the club in his day…
|For a brief period in the mid 1970s the flame of popular music burnt brightly at in a small industrial town in north west England.
Between 1973 and 1981 a run down dance hall, The Casino Club, was the home of a musical phenomenon that went by the name of Northern Soul.
Although it’s famous for its Soul All Nighter the Casino wasn’t just the home of Saturday night soul music. Earlier in the evening it played host to a night of live rock. This was where I cut my heavy metal teeth.
So tonight we bring you a selection of sounds from those early days of metal, spun by the lovely Anouk, before our very own Mr Gerrard Winstanley steps up to the decks of his namesake Russ to take you on a trip through the sounds of Northern Soul.
Starting at 2pm SLT until midnight.
Yet again, I have been horrifically lax in updating with shows and events so this is the last big themed show we did, back in the summer of 2015.
I thought it would be nice to do a show where I combined the key elements of a typical English summer, so the set ended up being a 4 part creation to encompass the main elements that sum up summer in England for me.
Part 1: Cricket on the village green
What is more English than the sound of birds singing in the trees, the gentle murmur of voices enjoying the warm sunshine, the distant chime of a church bell and the thud of leather on willow (and no, that’s not some kinky BDSM reference! It refers to a cricket ball being hit by a cricket bat!)
The guests arrived at the set by landing on the edge of a typical village green, beside the duckpond to the tune of Mungo Jerry’s ‘In the Summertime’.
They strolled around the green, making sure not to get too close to the cricketers, and enjoyed a cool glass of bubbly at the picnic blanket whilst we treated them to a selection of sunny feelgood tunes.
And what can be more English than watching tennis at Wimbledon? The guests wandered through the churchyard, leaving the cricketers behind, and arrived at Wimbledon just in time to catch the beginning of a high-powered match.
But of course, this is England. And what is even more typical for an English summer than tennis, and strawberries and cream? You got it…
Fortunately, it turned out that there was a rather special spectator in the crowd who got up and led everyone in a singsong (with a little help from yours truly – any excuse to get in shot) until the shower passed over…
Part 3: Croquet and afternoon tea
After all the excitement of the tennis and Sir Cliff, I figured our guests could use a little break, so our next stop was for tea and cake. But not just any old tea and cake. Oh no. I led the guests to drop down a rabbit hole from the tennis court and they landed on a soft bouncy pile of leaves in none other than Alice in Wonderland’s garden.
We danced on the croquet lawn, much to certain people’s disgust, and had Early Grey tea from fancy china.
Part 4: The Seaside
No English summer would be complete without a trip to the seaside. The guests were led down the along the lawn and across a footbridge leading over the little river at the bottom of the garden. As the came to the end of the footbridge, they came out through a lovely Victorian bandstand at the end of the pier…
There were heated discussions about who won the sandcastle building contest, whilst others just enjoyed paddling in the water or lazing on the sand.
Marcel shuffled into the cafe and started a fresh fire in the potbelly stove before settling into his rocking chair. He was having a hard night: the violent storm outside caused his joints to ache and brought to mind too many harrowing nights at sea. Getting out of bed was not a good idea, he thought, but he couldn’t stay there, tossing and turning the rest of the night, feeling age and loss too deeply to rest.
Watching the lightning flashes, he was startled when Badass leaped onto his lap and lifted his front legs to rest on Marcel’s chest. As Badass rubbed his muzzle against Marcel’s jaw, the old man smiled and stroked the cat from neck to tail. After several purrs, Badass curled up and went back to sleep. The heat pumped out from the stove, as well as the furry body on his lap was absorbed into Marcel’s very bones. Slowly, he relaxed, eyes drooping, and a long-ago memory came to mind …
It took more than ten years for Marcel to scrimp and save for the Marie-Jeanne II, a sturdy little tugboat that had seen better days under worse owners, and a couple of years to restore her from engine to hull. Two months after the last coat of paint went on and the last bolt was screwed on, the damned Nazis commandeered her. When he protested, the German officer looked down at his paperwork, then gave him a hard look.
“Your father, Monsieur, was last seen in one of de Gaulle’s divisions in Africa. Technically, that would mark your family as traitors to the government of France. However, the use of your boat will balance things out. And you can focus on keeping your mother and sisters healthy and in the home. Unless you think you can help them more by serving at the front? Your mother is expecting another mouth to feed very soon, according to our files.”
Marcel walked away from the officer, his anger and pride forming lumps in his chest that made it hard to breathe. But he immediately got a job at the docks to keep an eye on the Marie-Jeanne, watching as the Germans turned the vibrant port into a locked-down base for its U-boat fleet.
Marcel noticed the young woman hanging around near the entry of the port for several days in a row. She was dressed drably, only a hint of hair seen beneath her scarf. But he detected a steely deliberateness in her movements – she moved with alertness and purpose, even when she tried to look aimless. The impulse to approach her warred with the desire to keep his head down and stay out of trouble.
But she approached him before he made up his mind, just after Marcel finished work and had left the restricted area. Her smile was bright, as if she recognized him. “Walk with me, please?” After a beat, Marcel held out his arm and she took it. At first, they strolled towards the central square, but she steered him onto a quiet side-street.
“I am not sure I can help you, Mademoiselle. Regardless of what you request.” His heart thumped so painfully in his chest, he was surprised the sound did not drown out his voice. The local Resistance knew his sympathies, but had given up recruiting him. Was this a Vichy honey trap, testing his loyalty?
She squeezed his arm, then laid her head on his shoulder, making him slow down. In a very low tone, she replied, “Monsieur Rabbe at the machinist’s shop said that you would be the one to talk to.”
Monsieur Rabbe was part of the local Resistance. But this could still be a trap. Marcel tried to pull away, but the woman held onto his arm with a fierce grip. “Please, let me have my say,” she whispered. “Neither of us want attention.”
He nodded, and she started walking again, pulling him further into the shadows. After several minutes, she broke the silence. “The Americans are coming soon.”
Marcel stopped cold and gripped her hand. “When? Where?”
“If I knew, I could not tell you – and I am limited in what I know. All I know is that they are coming. They will need the port. And to take the port, they will need more information.” Even in the shadows, he could tell when she lifted her face to meet his gaze. “You can help.”
“Or I can call for the authorities.”
“But you will not. You are not one of them.” The ‘them’ was practically spat out, despite the softness of her voice.
“My family cannot be punished for my actions.”
“My colleagues cannot guarantee anyone’s safety. But your assistance will not be forgotten.”
They both froze at the sound of footsteps. She recovered first, whirled him against a nearby wall, pulled his head down as she rose on her tiptoes, and kissed him. Marcel was still frozen as the footsteps came closer. Against his mouth, the woman murmured, “Push down my scarf and muss my hair.”
Marcel wrapped one arm around her waist, drawing her close, as he pushed back her scarf and ran his fingers through her hair. He realized that her dull, shapeless raincoat hid a trim but curvaceous body. She moaned, nuzzling his lips apart for an open kiss. Lust took the edge off of Marcel’s fear, but did not significantly ease it; nonetheless, he followed her lead, stroking her hip just as someone coughed a few feet away.
They flew apart at the interruption. A policemen shined a light into his face, then hers. Her face was flushed, lips swollen and red. For a brief time, she looked genuinely flustered, even to Marcel. “Good evening, sir,” she said as she reached into her coat, brought out a small bundle of papers and handed them to the stranger. The beam of the flashlight bounced between the woman’s face, Marcel’s and the papers in the policeman’s hand.
Marcel moved slower, but handed over his documents, too. The beam stopped over both sets of documents.
“Monsieur, you are local, but not you, Mademoiselle. What are you doing in Brest?”
“My aunt was ill, and my family sent me to take care of her.”
“She has no relatives closer than Paris?”
“No. Her sons served the Armistice Army.”
“One is dead, the other permanently invalided.”
“Sympathies, Mademoiselle. Will you stay long?”
“No, Monsieur. My aunt is improving and I will be leaving in a couple of weeks.”
The beam of light settled on Marcel’s face again. “And you waste your time with him? You should save yourself for one of our brave soldiers.”
Marcel bit the inside of his cheek to keep from reacting, but his hands curled into fists before he was conscious of it. The woman laughed softly. “Do not worry, Monsieur, I am a good girl and he treats me well.”
The policeman returned their documents. “Remember, there is a curfew. Good night and stay out of trouble.” He turned off his flashlight and strolled away.
Marcel offered his arm once more to his companion. She placed her arm against his and they walked on. He put the fingers of his other hand along her wrist and felt the flutter of her pulse, listened to the shallowness of her breathing.
“I have two questions, Mademoiselle. What is your name and what do you need me to do?”
“I am Clothide. And I need you to get me as close to the U-boat base as you can.”
Marcel whistled. “You are asking a lot, Clothide. But, yes.”
After several weeks of building tension and trial runs, Marcel helped Clothide get into the offices at the port. He never learned how she managed to get into locked drawers and safes, and she never showed him everything she kept in that shapeless raincoat. Later that night, she also took him to bed. After their intimacies, she told him a bit about her life before the war and he talked about his boat.
She drew lazy eights through the hair on his chest. “It may be safer if you left before …” He waited for her to finish the sentence but she fell silent. In response, he placed a kiss on the top of her head. “Brest is my family’s home, my home. My father will come back here – leaving would separate us permanently.”
She sat up and stared at him, then leaned over and kissed him hard, beginning another round of lovemaking until they collapsed, sated and exhausted.
In the morning, Marcel woke up alone. A scrap of paper was placed in his right shoe, merely saying, “Thank you and goodbye.” Two weeks later, he received a letter from Clothide, apologizing profusely and confessing that she was due to get married to her long-term fiancé on June 6th, in the North. He waited, making arrangements for his family to go underground once the invasion started.
After a long, arduous battle that destroyed far too much of Brest, the Americans finally took the port. And after destroying the German U-boats … the Americans took the Marie-Jeanne II. But at least they paid him – a little for the use, and more when the boat was scrapped just before the end of the war. When his father returned to civilian life, with a vicious scar down his chest, a medal and a pension, Marcel went to sea on a merchant vessel to save up for a Marie-Jeanne III. But when he finally got his next ship, she was known as The Clothide.
Marcel awoke to his shoulder being jostled by his nephew Sword. “Uncle, did you spend the night in that chair?”
The old man blinked. The sky had lightened but was still gray. The patter of rain on the cobblestones outside but no howling winds or thunder could be heard. Marcel grumped, “The cat does not like lightning. I came to keep him company.” He heaved himself out of the chair and stretched, waving off Sword’s assistance. “I am going to head home and have breakfast. Do you need me here?”
Sword took a couple of steps, grabbed the cane next to the doorway and handed it to Marcel. “Take care, Uncle, it is still slippery out there.”
Marcel harrumphed, waving his left hand as the right clutched the cane closer towards the middle than the hook at the top, wielding it more like a baton. “I’ll be fine. Tell your mother to expect me for Sunday dinner.”
The younger man hid the smile on his face, just in case his uncle turned around, but Marcel did not interrupt his walk out the door and to the dock, looking out at the sea for a long moment before heading home at a brisk pace.
Story by Magda Kamenev; photos by Anouk
This wonderful new chapter of Uncle Marcel’s story was kindly written for us by the lovely Magda Kamenev, who has really given Marcel some interesting history. If you would like to be part of Marcel’s story, please send your chapter via the Contact Us email – we’d love to have everyone contribute to Uncle’s biography!