It would be easy to see a newfound interest in Northern Soul to be a shallow indulgence in retro fashion and the quaintness of northern living. The look is easily achieved if you shop at Fred Perry, get a few badges and shuffle about to a Four Tops record. It could be construed at cultural appropriation, or an intrusion into a rather closed circle. But this curiosity in the Northern Soul phenomenon, and the desire to imitate or participate in it, is not without good reason.
It’s one of the most important youth sub-cultures this country has ever seen, one tied up with serious sociopolitical issues that was bookended by the hippie movement of the 60s and the acid house movement during Thatcher’s reign. On a very basic level, it is dance music. It’s a key part of the grand narrative of club music as a parent to Disco, and great grandparent to Detroit Techno. It has warranted a few great documentaries, and a brilliant recently released film (cleverly entitled Northern Soul) that, in spite of its romantic dramatisation, captures some of the recurring themes and feelings of the scene: escapism, adolescence, drug use and fierce competition.
This competition between DJs in the 70s, when they would endeavour to get their paws on the hottest records from America, has been transfigured into friendliness in the modern day. Communities of Northern Soulers continue to keep the faith all over the country. One of these groups is the Leeds Central Soul Club who, for the first time in 35 years, will be doing an all nighter.
All nighters, famously executed by the night owls at Wigan’s Casino Club, were a chance for the youth to lose themselves in the music for hours on end, doing splits, kicks and spins until the sun came up. It’s a familiar scene in 2015; club nights normally extend to the early hours (only without such acrobatics). But this is a practice pioneered by the Northern Soul crowd. The event on 18 July, is sure to chime with both a new and old generation. The venue, HiFi, was formerly known as The Leeds Central, before a new breed stepped in. But the classic formula achieved during the Northern Soul era remains. After a 35 year wait (and four years of trying), the Central Soul Club will employ this format once again in its rawest guise.
From 11pm to 7am, you’ll hear music from the soul club’s seasoned selectors: Paul Rowan, Twink, Swish, Stewart & Sammy, Mike Eastwood, Keith Atkinson and Steve Luigi.
Tickets are available here for £8 each.