55

The Northern Soul issue

25.11.2011

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Today’s Young Soulies

This week we celebrate the wonderful Northern Soul scene with something a bit different. We’ve got the ultimate Northern Soul playlist; an interview about the scene with group of young Soulies and details of an exciting new Northern Soul scene from acclaimed photographer and director Elaine Constantine.


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Telling the Northern Soul Story

To many the Northern Soul scene that blew up across towns and cities across the North West and midlands in the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s; was one of the biggest youth movements in British culture. For those who were there and part of the scene, it literally changed their lives. However despite this, to the uninitiated, those that weren’t fortunate to experience it, or know someone who was there, it’s a significant cultural movement that remains, on the whole, an untold and uncelebrated story. Especially compared against other influential British youth movements - punk, rock ‘n’ roll, the rise of acid house – ‘soulies’ were busting out dance moves till 6am 20 years before their counterparts - ‘ravers’ did in the 1988 ‘second summer of

 

love’ raves. Fortunately, it’s a story that is going to be celebrated and told for us all to enjoy with a new and exciting film - Northern Soul the Film. Being created by the award winning director and photographer Elaine Constantine; along with her production team, Stubborn Heart; it will tell the tale of two Northern boys whose worlds are changed forever when they discover black American soul music.

Elaine was one of a number of many of the young people who discovered the scene and experienced it first hand. ‘When the northern soul phenomenon exploded it touched lives in a way nothing had done before, it was spell binding to witness; young lads, who never expressed themselves, were suddenly dancing with passion to this new sound’, she says. ‘High kicks, fast spins and neck-breaking acrobatics were part of this unique new dance style. As a young teenager, dancing to this music gave me an overwhelming feeling of belonging and euphoria’.

The film will go into production in early 2012 - here is a very short film that was inspired by the cast of Northern Soul, for more about the film and the project visit their website.

A Northern Soul playlist

The Northern Soul sound that was made up of rare soul records created by artists from the ghetto’s of black America. Released on independent labels they were imported by a group of savvy British DJ’s as rarities. It would be these DJ’s, long before the birth of the superstar DJ of the 1990’s, that would become the famous faces of the scene, being invited to play the scene’s most famous clubs at the time - The Twisted Wheel in Manchester, Torch in Stoke on Trent and even London’s 100 Club (which is still going strong today). Often they’d be asked to play simply because they were the only person to own that particular popular record of that time.

Those regular to the Northern Soul scene back then, and those who have recently discovered the scene, will tell you that Northern Soul was primarily about the quest for exclusive vinyl and secondly, for followers to… break free, let loose and express themselves on the dance floor well into the early hours. And so with nights often made up of 8 to 10 hours of dancing, trying to get those involved in the scene to pinpoint their favourite Northern Soul track is a tough task.

But with a bit of persuasion and a long debate, we managed to pin down Elaine and the eleven young stars of the film, to come up with their top ten Northern Soul records. They’re in no particular order and each track comes with a YouTube link – so go get your groove on.

They’ll Never Know Why, Freddie Chavez

 

Eleven young Soulies, five questions on Northern Soul

For three years now, Elaine and her team have been hosting monthly Northern Soul dance sessions, to get a troop of young dancers ready for the high-energy dance scenes of Northern Soul the Film.

We attended one of the sessions and dragged some of the dancers away from the dance floor, and asked them each about what they like about Northern Soul, and what it’s like to be part of today’s generation of ‘soulies’.

Here is what they told us.

1. What did you think when you first saw other people dancing to northern soul music before you became involved?

Sam Benjamin
‘I watched a clip on YouTube on people dancing at the Wigan Casino just before I went to audition for the project. Growing up on Merseyside myself, I was totally shocked seeing so many white Northerners dancing with such style and rhythm; and that so many Northerners had taste in quality Black American music. Initially I saw a lot of parallels with break-dancing, with all the acrobatics and quick footwork. When I set off to the audition for Northern Soul the Film, I was excited about diving into this world of Northern Soul, but at the same time I was a bit scared by the standard I was going to have to show I could hit on the floor!’

Rob Baker Ashton
‘The first time I saw people dancing to Northern Soul music I was amazingly intrigued. I remember very clearly, a woman on the dance floor in what can only be described as a trance. She had her eyes closed as she glided around the floor in an effortless way, feeling every beat & lyric as if it was the only thing that mattered in life, like this is what her life was for, to be transported to another level by this music. I wanted to know how she found this part of herself - as it was obvious this was a very special scene to be a part of.’

Claire Garvey
‘I remember watching the quick steps and the spins and being amazed by how effortless they were making it look. Everything seemed so quick, controlled and passionate. It was the passion that drew me in. I wanted to be where they were, feel what it was that they were feeling just for a second!’

2. What is it that you love about Northern Soul music?

Elliot Langridge
‘It's old music forgotten by America and rediscovered by teens in the north of England, each song feels like a hidden treasure, and any one of the songs could have been the next big thing if they had only been promoted in their time.

Beth Kingston
‘Northern soul music is so deep and emotional compared to many other genres, which almost appear superficial in comparison. You can really feel the pain
 

and anguish in the voices of the singers, which I feel is often lost in popular music these days. People can relate to so many of the lyrics and are able to escape from the monotony of everyday life through the music. But it is so special because of what it means to so many people, in the experiences they have shared and the ones that will be shared because of it in the future!’

Durrassie Kiangangu
‘It's the fact that this music brings people together. And for a night it doesn't really matter who you are or where you have come from to be at this one place. Once the tunes are on, be it your favourite tune or just one you dig, it's like everything past the dance-floor and outside the walls don't matter or even exist. The beauty of Northern Soul music is the fact that there is a mutual understanding between the followers and listeners. It resonates with their lives. It's as if the voice from the speakers are singing to them, you and me. And to find something like that in contemporary music or music-genres is getting more and more rare.’

3. Tell us about the feeling you get when you’re dancing to Northern Soul.

Joseph Marshall
‘It is exciting to be dancing many acrobatic moves but we do it, often with little space. And so for this reason, the dance floor itself breathes. Spaces appear during breaks for people to perform their floor moves, there's like an understanding between everyone - an awareness - everyone in their own moment, but everyone as one dance floor. It's very beautiful.’

Kirsten Varley
‘The dance floor is an ace place - there's no fucking around. When your favourite song is on, no one will come and start talking to you - I hate that. On a Northern Soul dance floor people are there to dance. ‘

Josh Whitehouse
‘There is an indescribable sense of being at one with every other person who's dancing. Like an army; if you are up then you are in it with all your energy, and not one person there is saying any different.’

Beth Kingston
‘When a record is playing, everyone is so individually captivated by the music, but at the same time, they appear to be moving as one-sensing those around them and feeding off one another’s love and passion for the record. It is such an amazing feeling when the rhythm of the floor is pounding in time with the music; the energy radiating from the dance floor is just electric!’

4. What does it feel like to be part of the Northern Soul scene?

Anna Murray
‘I feel I am now 'living' the Northern Soul experience. Having now been with the rest of the dance team for 2 1/2 years, I have learnt so much! The songs are on my ipod, not just for practising but because the lyrics have now moved me so much, that I generally enjoy the style of music so. I feel free and just love the atmosphere we have managed to create when we dance together. At times I feel like I am in Wigan at the Soul club, as we all get into our breaks in the music to do our tricks. NO ACTING, SIMPLY LIVING. ‘

Sam Benjamin
‘Northern Soul allows me to be myself with complete confidence. It gives me an invincibility and pride that can't be broken. Whilst it's a completely personal experience, where I feel like I'm totally on my own and independent, there's a feeling of unrelenting support from everyone around you. It gives you an instant connection to someone else.’

5. Why did you personally get involved in the film? And now you have the experience of Northern Soul music & dancing, are your reasons for staying involved different in anyway?

Rob Baker Ashton
‘I never realised how much it would take over our lives. Never being much of a dancer, (I grew up in mosh pits where the only footwork needed was to try & keep standing) I have never been comfortable on the dance floor until now. I now look forward to getting on it, and when that special song comes on, it's a feeling of pure joy. And so my reasons for being involved are now very different than they were at the beginning. I feel like we have found something very special; great music I can relate to & really enjoy; a group of people I consider to be very close friends who I look forward to spending my time with; and a project I will gladly do anything to help become the massive success that we all know it will be.’

Joshua Whitehouse
‘My involvement in the film developed very naturally, and though acting and dancing is something which I had never even considered before hand, I am a person who believes we all have it in us to accomplish anything we put our minds to, despite any levels of self doubt and its important to try your best at whatever comes your way. And now I am knee deep, wading in soul, dancing and; all the people involved. I don't know what my reasons for continuing are exactly but I know for sure I can't let go. I want to give everything I can to help make this an incredible film.’

Danny Ormerod
‘You have to know the premise inside out and back to front. You have to learn every song, every dance move, every bit of history. Meet the people who were there and hear their stories. I wouldn't say my reasons have changed for being involved in the project for a long time. There is still a lot more for all of us to learn. All I will say is there is no way of getting out now. It’s an addiction. It’s gone from being a job to being a personal passion. We choose to go to northern gigs, and listen to the music. Some of the team have been involved for nearly three years now and no one makes you stay. We stay because we love every time that phone goes and we have to do something for the film - and I know when it comes to filming, it will by far be the best film I probably ever make.’