Out on the floor with the dance scene which refuses to die off

Northen soul expert and author David Nowell (third left) at Wigan Casino in 1970s
Northen soul expert and author David Nowell (third left) at Wigan Casino in 1970s
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This year marks 30 years since the closure of Wigan’s famous Casino Club- the home of northern soul has long since been flattened but the scene it was home to refuses to die.

Over the past decade the movement has seen a resurgence with regular club nights and all-nighters being held across the region.

Former Guardian journalist David Nowell has been a devotee since his teens in the mid-70s and has just seen his second book on the scene updated.

The Story of Northern Soul chronicles the whole subculture around the music of Black America a sound which captured the 52-year-old’s imagination as a teenager in 1975.

David explains: “I was a former rock fan and Bowie fan and became intrigued by my fellow pupils who were all going on about northern soul and Wigan Casino.

“I hated soul music and found it all a bit twee - Stylistics, Three Degrees etc.

“I developed a soft spot though for Barry White, Detroit Emeralds etc.. and thought I had better delve into it a bit more.

“One night in 1975 aged 17, after begging my parents for months, I was dragged along to a Wigan Casino all-nighter.

“It literally changed my life - the music, the dancing, the atmosphere. The heat! The heat inside was incredible.

“I remember condensation running down the walls and I literally collapsed over a bottle skip at one point.

“That was it - from that moment on my young adult life was obsessed with collecting records, listening to records and waiting for the weekend all-nighter.”

David was brought up in Whittle-le-Woods and his dad Tom still lives in the area with step mum Sheila while he has moved to Horwich.

During the late seventies hey day of Wigan Casino he worked as a reporter at the Guardian.

He says: “I stuck with the Casino until it closed in 1981.

“A couple of years later with all my mates getting married, the scene breaking up etc I dropped out.

“Like many others, I got married, brought up a family and developed a career.”

In the early 90s the father-of-two approached legendary Casino DJ Russ Winstanley to do a feature on the 10th anniversary of the club closing.

The success of that book Soul Survivors, The Wigan Casino Story prompted him to write the first version of his latest book which was first published in 1999 under the title Too Darn Soulful.

Now it has been updated to cover the ongoing love affair thousands of soul fans have with the scene which has burgeoned over the past 12 years.

Dave says: “The reprint has been updated to include recent pictures from some of the current massive events.

“Around 3,500 people attend the twice-yearly soul weekenders at Pontins Prestatyn.

“The King’s Hall all-nighters in Stoke pull in more than 1,000 regularly.

“Blackpool and Bridlington have weekenders that pull in 2,000 plus.

“At the other end of the scale you have local events like the Preston Grasshoppers which has been running for more than 13 years.

“Many local radio stations have northern soul shows and together with dozens of CD compilations it has helped the continuing revival.

“It’s incredible that the scene is still going when most of us are in our 40s, 50s and even 60s but music like this gets under your skin and sticks with you.

“This is no passing fad.”

The Story of Northern Soul is published by Portico Books priced £9.99.