Blackpool – The Mecca of Northern Soul

Northern Soul by Richard Jon Photography
Could Northern Soul be set for a cultural revival? Judging by the gratifyingly packed film and dance event held last week at the Winter Gardens here in Blackpool, it just may be.

For the uninitiated, Northern Soul was a unique music and dance phenomenon that ignited in the North of England (and also the Midlands, Scotland and Wales) and rapidly turned into a subculture, spanning much of the seventies at its very peak. It emerged from the UK mod scene in the late sixties and its style is very much based on the fast-paced, heavy beats of Tamla Motown sounds from the mid-sixties. Curiously, the more popular the song in the mainstream, the more likely it was to be eschewed by the Northern Soul scene, it was always the rarer tunes by lesser-known artists that were adopted by the culture.

Blackpool itself had one of the most famous Northern Soul venues in the world, Blackpool Mecca. It enjoyed great success from ’71 to ’79, when the popularity of the scene began to wane due to the uprising of other music genres such as disco and punk.

To this day we host two large Northern Soul events annually in Blackpool, at Blackpool Tower and the Winter Gardens, so it was quite fitting that the film, Northern Soul, was screened here too, in the very place which makes up such a large part of its history.

The story centres on a lonely young working-class man from the North (John) who meets a new friend. Matt introduces him to the heady world of Northern Soul and the story details their lives as they immerse themselves in the culture. Dazzled by the thrill of the lifestyle, they decide to relocate to America, but we all know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men.

The film was directed by photographer Elaine Constantine and is her feature debut. Amazingly, the film landed in the top ten movie releases last weekend, despite only being released on 83 screens and grossed a very impressive £279,000. So with trends seemingly coming around ever more quickly, are we ready for a resurgence of Northern Soul? This writer would certainly relish the prospect.
Photography courtesy of Richard Jon Photography.
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