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The History of Wigan Casino and Northern Soul
Started by: tony g (295) Report abuse
Three wonderful stickys of music and now the history

At 2am in the early hours of Sunday September 23 1973 the doors of the Wigan Casino opened to a crowd of people from all parts of the UK. Northern soul had arrived on my doorstep and with me looking for a new venue after the closure of the Twisted wheel in Manchester and the Torch at Stoke I was more than happy. That night will forever live in my memory and hopefully after writing this article will forever live with you. The line of people waiting patiently to get in stretched almost to the last bus stop on station rd heading to Wigan town centre. It was hard to beleive it was 1.30am Sunday morning,any normal person would have been in bed, clubs very rarely opened past 2am apart from the odd one or two in Wigan. Usually this time of a morning you generally stumble out of a club drunk or half way their. Not for me sober as a judge thats if they stay sober these days. My shoulder bag packed with fresh cloths,shoes,talc, brut and the odd soul record on a black 45 vinyl. I lined up with the crowd, accents from as far north as Aberdeen and south of London. I sensed this was special,something different from the wheel and torch. At 2am Mike Walker god rest his soul opened the doors on Station rd, the crowd moved forward past the very hard faced dicky bowed bouncers and onto the staircase that would eventually take you to what I call the big doors of heaven, paid my quid and entered the atmosphere which anyone who remembers will testify was something I am sorry to say we will never experience again, it was bloody amazing, the smells of deodorant, the taste of sweat, the music thumping and finally the dancing. The Casino and Wigan had arrived on the world stage, well not just yet but nothing was going to stop this roller coaster, X factor, you must be fkin joking.

To be continued

Posted by: kenny (inactive) Report abuse
Nice one tony

Posted by: tonker (20103)   Report abuse
I wouldn't say 'world stage'. The only people to have heard of it, other than locals, were Soul fans.
Many times, on mentioning Wigan Casino, people have asked "how much have you won"? or "how much do you lose"?

Ask any non-soul-orientated person in Wigan "do you know of the Torch in Tunstall"? and they'll answer with "where's Tunstall"?

PS: I met a girl from Norton at the Casino and spent a while going down there. Her main local place at the time was the Top Rank Suite, in Hanley. I'd say the Midlands was more Soul orientated than here.

Posted by: baker boy (15005) Report abuse
tonker wheres tunstall,are you trying to belittle wigan, you trying to say wigan casino was,nt known world wide

Posted by: tonker (20103)   Report abuse
Tunstall is where 'The Torch' was.
No, I'm not trying to belittle Wigan, but a lot of people don't know where it is. Rather like you don't know where Tunstall is.
And yes, I am saying that Wigan Casino wasn't known worldwide.

Posted by: dodger (3414) Report abuse
Tunstall is in Staffordshire baker boy, tonker's girlfriend probably called him "mi duck"

Posted by: heritagelass (116) Report abuse
BBC Radio Manchester at noon today - John Stapleton's programme on Wigan. He included an item on Wigan Casino and
Northern Soul, speaking to Russ Winstanley. The soul scene
in Wigan was world-famous which you can hear about - listen
to the programme on BBC i-player!

Posted by: kenny (inactive) Report abuse

You should know what yon mons like by now mate

Posted by: joseph 1 (inactive) Report abuse
Tony your attention is needed here.

Posted by: dave whittle (245)   Report abuse
sorry to be a kill joy but in 1973 apart from a couple thousand soul fans in Britain, plus some rugby league fans in Australia nobody had any idea where Wigan was,you always had to say between Manchester and Liverpool when explaining where you came from.

Posted by: jem glover (1934)  Report abuse
Hey up Tony nice one.I also went to the Casino on the first Allnighter 29th Sep 1973 only I got let in a side door where a band where bringing there stuff out into a van they had been playing on the Saturday night.So I saw a lad I new who was a few years older than me,who was a bouncer. Sadly no longer with us died far to young. Eddie McCormic lived in Greatacre Whelley when he was a kid,lived near me as I lived in Longshoot just a couple of Streets away.So there you are another free un for Glover and his mate.This was just before the doors opened so I was one of the first in there,but the last to be made a member that night. Mrs Woods could'nt fathem how I had got past without already being made a member,it was a white card but I've not been able to find it gone missing.Always wondered if the membership book survived after the Casino Closed.Think the cost that first night to get in was 75p.Don't know how much that is in today's money something like a fiver.

Posted by: kenny (inactive) Report abuse

My mate was wondering why you have pulled out of the music link

Posted by: tony g (295) Report abuse
The History of Wigan Casino and Northern Soul

Part One

As weeks went by after the opening night I began to meet people from all over the UK and of course my own mates from Wigan. One particular lad I met was from Aldershot by the name of Meggy never knew his real name but he introduced himself by asking if I had any gear, I said no of course but knew where he was able to get it. About two hours later inside the casino I saw him on the dance floor, dance, he made the people on so you think you can dance look like prats, this boy had movement and dance rhythm down to a tee, he glided on the floor and would then just produce a routine of high kicks, back drops and a spin of the toes you thought he was on roller skates, I then realised I was a shit dancer and watched his moves for about 3 weeks went home and perfected them. Then one night I decided to try out my routine with a few moves of my own. I started at the front of the stage on the left near the toilets, at least if I made a twat of myself I could escape out of sight for a while and yes I did a few times but then everything clicked into place, the sounds of nothing can compare by the Velvet Satins helped me perfect my dance steps and to this day I have never lost it. When I go to the Northern soul events all over Australia, New Zealand and would you believe a few years ago Japan, (not famous, never heard of Wigan quote, Tonker) I love the people who relate to Wigan and the northern scene. For the casino the music got better week in week out, the DJs Russ and company just produced them out of that 45s box every week, god knows how they found them, mixed in with the sounds of the twisted wheel and Torch the place became a mecca for non commercial black music thrown in the rubbish by the US. Every Saturday afternoon I would go to Wigan Markets to Russ Winstanleys little stall outside the front of the main hall and browse through all these wonderful sounds on black vinyl. I would never miss a Saturday at that stall for a long time even if it was freezing or pissing down, Wigan had something special and I was a big part of it, life would never be the same.

Posted by: brianjgreen (492) Report abuse
I was sat with russ in his kitchen having a brew when the interveiw was on,yes it was voted the best venue in the world by the music press they even phoned from america and spoke to russ.But does all this realy matter so long as the people who went enjoyed themselves the music meeting other like minded people,they were not botherd if it was world famous it was the music thst made it for them and looking forward to the next allnighter.Keep The Faith

Posted by: jem glover (1934)  Report abuse
Good answer Brian,at the end of the day (it's night)only joking.It's the music that count's,people who have an interest in it (Soul Music) ie Northern Motown or R and B.and have something good to say about the music are most welcome to say it.When you get people that are not to bothered about this type of music and are giving negative comments that's when it begins to get up your nose.I know every one as their own views on all things in life,but this is a northern soul thread and should left to the people who love the music.

Posted by: kenny (inactive) Report abuse
He does it on every thread jem

Posted by: baker boy (15005) Report abuse
i,ve beeen driving around the uk delivering the dough for donkeys years,don,t know where tunstall is indeed,i say it again tonker wigan casino was known world wide

Posted by: tony g (295) Report abuse
The History of Wigan Casino and Northern Soul

Part 2

Not only did Wigan have something special just 45 minutes away along the M6 and everybodys favourite seasisde resort Blackpool Mecca and the highland room was playing its version of northern soul. Ian Levine was the brains behind what can only be described as a point of difference in northern soul music, the sounds where different more towards a modern day jazz func soul. I alway say you take music as it comes, some sounds are brilliant and some you disgard, Levines approach was to early, yes this music had something but northern soul was still banging out sounds from the 60s and early 70s and most hard core northern soul followers where not ready for this new version, it caused disturbance between DJs across the scene and the rift began, Wigan or Mecca. Well we all know which club won that contest but I for one enjoyed the mecca and the highland room especially the alldayers on Sunday. It went something like this Casino Sunday 2am to 8am, Wigan baths from 10am to 12pm and off to Blackpool and the mecca, not too sure what time it ended could never remember but Monday morning heading off to Horwich loco works was not my ideal cup of tea. Bolton also had a terrific northern soul venue called va vas and I must admit some of the best sounds still around today came out of that wonderful place. My routine never changed each weekend looking for venues playing what became an obsession of powerful mind blowing northern soul. How I ever finished my apprenticship without getting the sack I will never know to this day. Once I took a tape cassette player into the toolroom of Horwich loco works, even the old blokes got into it, its that kind of music, it makes you happy, sad, cry and love. Not only was the music a trend but the fashion what came with it. I must have spent a fortune on having suits, trousers, leather jackets, shirts and shoes all made to measure and do so to this very day. Their comes a point in your life when you have to move on, I wanted to but this obsession had a strangle hold and was taking its toll.

Posted by: upthetims (6507) Report abuse
Jem,I don't remember Edmund Mc Cormack being a bouncer,there was more meat on a dirty fork.I grew up with Edmund,he would have been 60 now,his sister Alice is having chemo at present,hoping she beats it.Edmund was same age as Frankie Gary,who along with his cousin Johnny Laithwaite I have not seen for years

Posted by: tony g (295) Report abuse
The History of Wigan Casino and Northern Soul

Part Three

The first anniversary came quickly at the casino and as you can guess it was full to the rafters, people where still lined up outside 3 hours after the doors opened at 2am that night or should I say morning, the dance floor was full on every northern soul record played, the walls covered in condensation and people covered in sweat from head to toe. I remember lying down under a table for a quick rest after doing a good hour stint on the dance floor all of a sudden water was driping off the ceiling onto my face, I thought someone was having a laugh and pouring water on me. This is what people experienced for the first time if they entered the place, a dump of a night club, sweaty, smelly toilets, condensation off the walls and ceiling, even the tear drops of cigarette smoke mixed in, the odours of bodies smelling of brut or some other cheap deodorant and guess what you would not want it any other way, it was brilliant. The gear was kicking in and life was magic for 6 hours untill after 8am when it was back onto station rd with a howling cold breeze blowing straight from across Scholes. I can still feel it now and it sends a cold shiver right through me, that was the worst time of the scene the morning after of what do I do now to kill time before we move onto the next venue. The northern soul scene was never glamorous or who,s who of the rich and famous, it was exactly the opposite most members all working class, hated their jobs because they had no choice in what job they did, their was no pick and choose so when you bring all these people together they are freinds for life, following the same music, fashion and lifestyle, they understood the words being blasted out by the likes of Edwin Starr, Jimmy Radcliffe and many others, we can relate to it, the hardship, the loss and the love of something or person you had but now gone. The northern soul scene was big and reality is the commercial world wanted a peice of it, did we want the world to know about something we had made secret underground for many years from the wheel, the torch, Wigan and many others.

Posted by: sydneylass (2346)  Report abuse
Tony could you please let me know next time there is a Northern Soul event on in Oz or where I can find the info. Thanks

Posted by: tony g (295) Report abuse
Hi Sydneylass,

Theirs one at the Polish club

Saturday, April 30 at 7:30pm at The Polish Club, 10 Marie Street, Milton QLD
7.30pm till 12.30am. Resident DJ's Steve and Gaz plus guests spinning Northern Soul, R'n'B and Motown from original vinyl...

And one the Friady 7th May at Kingscross Sydney, Darlinghurst rd the place is called Tatlers, 9am to 2pm,

Soul weeknder in Melbourne 27,28 and 29th May 11.

Posted by: tony g (295) Report abuse
The History of Wigan Casino and Northern Soul


One night outside the casino I noticed a tv crew from ITV (Granada), cameras filming the line up of soulies along staion rd waiting for the doors to open for the casino, a lot of us where shouting piss off to the crew and shove your cameras up your arse. That moment suddenly dawned on me that our wonderful underground scene excluding the local drug squad of course had exposed the northern soul scene this night to the rest of the UK and eventually the world. The cameras finally entered inside the club and paraded around filming the dancers on the floor and we all know what became of the documentary once ITV had finished with it, its not hard to find on youtube and anyone can view it with a flick of the mouse. Never too sure what if it did any harm but the product became a marketing tool for too bit so called soul singers mainly white, re-released records played on radio 1 etc and finally top of the pops with some of our very own Wigans chosen few. My opinion is the Casino began to die after this and most of the original members moved on to lessor well known venues with djs still playing the music of the early days plus some recent modern stuff which to me was refreshing. Occasionally I would still go to the casino say once a month and it still had a great atmosphere, I would still meet people from all over the UK who had become freinds over the years. In 1981 the year it finally closed its doors for the last time I finally made the move to Sydney Australia, not because the casino shut but Thatcher did a good job of putting everyone out of work and I thought a change as good as a rest. 12,000 miles away from Wigan its now 2011 and the northern soul in Australia is massive. Ex Brits, some in their late 40s, I call them the young uns, my lot in their 50s and would you beleive many in their 60,s dancing like it was yesterday. My good mate here said to me one night, you can take everything I own and I would not give a fuck but take my Northern soul away and my life will end. Life is magic with northern soul may it continue for ever. KTF

Posted by: ahcawntspeyk (5827) Report abuse
Posted by: tonker (9786)
I wouldn't say 'world stage'. The only people to have heard of it, other than locals, were Soul fans.
Many times, on mentioning Wigan Casino, people have asked "how much have you won"? or "how much do you lose"?

Thats why in 1978 Billboard magazine in America voted the Casino the best disco (although i would never have classed it as a disco but i suppose they included all music venues) in the world ahead of New York's studio54.

Posted by: chatty (7100)  Report abuse
How can the Midlands have been more soul orientated than here?
When the three biggest venues on the scene where in Manchester, Wigan and Blackpool?

Anyway many a time I heard people say they had lost 3 but won
three Black Bombers when talking about Wigan Casino

Posted by: dave whittle (245)   Report abuse
Tony q, you should have been a writer,sadly though only someone who lived through those times can truly understand your feelings,great music sometimes comes from depressing times,thanks for the memories

Posted by: rio caroni (5077)  Report abuse
Anybody go to the soul night at "The Hub" in King St last night

Posted by: pisolivadi (1812)  Report abuse
Great nostalgic stuff, Tonyg , well done pal.

I was there too at the very first Casino allnighter, proud and excited in me Oxford bags; from memory my membership card number was 555, but me mam washed it in the pocket of my jeans.

Unlike yourself, I preferred Colin Curtis' stuff at the Highland Room at the time;and used to love gettin the train for the atmosphere on fridays at the tiny Pendulum Soul Club at MSG ,a cockstride from Victoria Station, then hitch-hiking back at some ridiculous hour. But there's no doubting those venues got dwarfed by the success of the what was going on in Wigan.

What tickles me a bit - is how a large chunk of Wigan's 1970's Councillors bad-mouthed the Cas early years regularly in the Observer, and did their level best to get it closed down. Whereas the contemporary bunch herald it as a rich vein of our popular culture and heritage.

The Aussie Northern Soul Scene sounds and looks in rude health just as it still is here in venues across the North West and beyond; Keep spreading the faith. Over the last year or so in Wigan there's an incredibly popular monthly Sunday N Soul All-Afternooner at Swinley Club. Full to the rafters.

Also, did you hear of the Radio 4 fictitious plays about the Casino, broadcast a week or two ago? Only heard one of them myself, written by Laura Barton, a young Guardian features writer, who I think hails from Wigan originally.

Thanks again for the three posts.

Posted by: tony g (295) Report abuse
Hi Pisolivadi

yes I have been told about the Swinley on FB, looking forward to visiting the place when Im back in Sunny Wigan in September 11, not too sure about the plays though but would like to hear if possible


Posted by: aitch (5487)   Report abuse
It was really sad to see the old casino at the end, in this state

Posted by: baker boy (15005) Report abuse
smashed the casino/palais down to make the concrete monstrosity millgate hq,then only made it a sodding car park,council cretins,wanton megalamania

Posted by: tony g (295) Report abuse
Hard to believe for people like myself but this weekend coming marks the 38th anniversary of Wigan Casino. Its amazing that this place and the northern soul scene never leaves your mind. Its special and only the people who went in the first few years would know that. KTF.


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