I came to appreciate music rather late in life. The Beatles and Stones passed me by, and I didn’t really take an interest until the era of triple gatefold LPs with covers by Roger Dean were all the rage. Then came the art school rock of the likes of Roxy Music and the excitement of punk until any further personal musical development was arrested by my discovery of The Fall. One genre that passed me by was Northern Soul. I vaguely remember Wigan’s Chosen Few appearing on top of the pops and hearing tales of all-nighters at Wigan Casino, but that’s about all. There is an exhibition of punk memorabilia coming up at the V&A soon, and having seen some video clips of Wigan Casino in the town’s museum recently, I assumed that Northern Soul had been packaged, sanitised and consigned to history in a similar way. However, a recent visit to the Social Club in Runcton Holme proved me wrong. We went out there to drop off the latest copy of the local CAMRA newsletter and as it was a Monday evening we half expected the place to be closed, but we were pleased to see that it was packed. Monday is darts and domino night and there were seven games of pairs occupying all the available tables in addition to the tussles going on at the oche. As I ordered my excellent pint of Daleside’s Pride of England, I remarked to the steward about how busy the place seemed and he told me that it was often like that, with one of the highlights being the Northern Soul nights. ‘We get people from all over – Norwich, the Midlands, everywhere’, he told me. He went on to explain that at the last event there were DJs down from Manchester and Hull who brought friends with them.
It seems that this love for Northern Soul is not confined to Runcton Holme. A quick glance at the promotions notices in the club showed all kinds of events taking place locally, with the King’s Lynn No 1 Soul Club organising an event at the Blue and Gold club at the football ground in April and a big event coming up at the Adrian Flux arena in September featuring DJs from Whittlesea, Runcton Holme and Hull. If you are not worn out by that, in November there is a soul weekend up at Searles in Hunstanton which features a Northern Soul room alongside the Motown and Funk. If you fancy dusting off the scooter you can head off to Norwich or Hemsby later in the year. Possibly because it was in my mind, I noticed a Northern Soul logo in one of the shop windows in town and began to wonder if somehow King’s Lynn has become the epicentre of this musical genre. Perhaps it should be renamed Eastern Soul, in the same way the Ousebeats once rivalled the Merseybeats.
In the past it has been suggested that some of the participants had a touch of pharmaceutical help to maintain the high energy needed to dance all night, but as we are all older and wiser, I am sure that this is no longer the case. So what beer should these events serve? As it happens, Blakemere Brewery of Nantwich in Cheshire produce a couple of themed beers, Soul Time and Soul Rider with its very collectible (i.e. frequently stolen) pump clip. So next time I am down at Runcton Holme on Soul Night you can pull the moves on the dance floor, whilst I down the Soul Rider. Keep the faith.