‘New Century Rare Soul All Nighter at Queens Hall, Stoke On Trent’
Pastel on Canson paper 75cm x 55cm. 2005
I remember being invited by the promoter Chris Waterman to this event, some time in 2005. This was my second visit to a New Century Promotions event at Queens Hall, and on that occasion Chris Waterman bought the ‘live’ drawing I made on the night.
This time I travelled up with a bunch of mates on the train from London. Transporting an easel, A1-size drawing board, and drawing equipment is a cumbersome task on British Rail, but the kindness and support of aforesaid mates made it light work (thanks Dom and Jason).
I set up the easel on the stage, next to the DJ decks, and from this vantage point I got a panoramic view of the dance floor. Even so, I found myself adapting the composition and distorting the perspective of the hall so that I could observe and include the elements of the evening which interested me most. This included the very grand balcony and architecture. Its very different to the cramped, claustrophobic little basement clubs of Soho, to which I had become accustomed.
Like many favourite northern soul venues in Northern England this was an early 20th Century Ballroom, designed more for Waltzes and Tea Dances, than stomping, floor shaking northern soul. And yet this architecture with spacious, sprung wooden dance floors is precisely what brings the magic and particular atmosphere to Northern Soul Events up North, and even suits the kinds of ‘under-produced’ 60’s Soul which is mostly played.
This type of music has a way of resonating and echoing in these huge spaces that makes everything ‘hyper-real’ and sounding even more vivid and exciting, especially in those records with brassy horn breaks or string arrangements underpinned by stomping bass and off-beat, clipped, (Motown-style) rhythm guitars. A Led Zeppelin guitar solo would be very out of place here, as would a thudding Techno sound. If you are not cogniscant of Northern Soul, just think of the opposite of those last two, and you are in the right direction!
I included myself in the picture, drawing the picture, I guess making the point that I was actually there, not only observing, but part of the event as it went on “I was there and I saw and felt this’.