Tucked away in a venue in Manchester you will find me and approximately 40 plus people feverishly following a 30-something year old guy in very wide trousers around the room. Sounds like an episode of Dr Who? Not really it’s just a Northern Soul night and the guy in question is dance tutor Tobin Lochrie.
He’s raring to go, his boyish exuberance is clear and the music is fantastic. There’s something about soul music, what it evokes in you that can’t be taught, but some movements can be and that’s where the classes came in for me. What started this re-emerging love of Northern Soul and the urge to learn some moves came about a year ago when the film Northern Soul was released in October 2014. Little did the creator, Elaine Constantine realise how popular it would become and resonate with people.
It was originally expected to only open in six to fourteen screens nationally but the film far exceeded expectations by opening in 89 screens on its opening night thus propelling it into the top 10 box office and in October this year was even screened at Toronto Film Festival expressing its popularity. I was in Toronto about two days later and found an independent record store advertising a poster for the film so of course had to take a photo!** The film has resonated with generations new and old. Like the strapline echoes: “If you were there you’ll know, if you weren’t you’ll wish you had been”. The passion and creativity of the film really shone through for me as John the shy, slightly geeky protagonist teenager is pushed into going to the local youth club by his mum (“People think you’re becoming a weirdo”) and meets up with fledgling DJ Matt who is “allowed” some free time on the decks at the local youth club. A northern soul track is played and that’s it: John’s world explodes and is changed forever.
The excitement for the music is unmistakable as Matt discovers a whole new world open up to him of amazing northern soul classics (Gone With the Wind Is My Love – Rita and the Tiaras), all-nighters at Wigan Casino and a kinship with Matt – he finds his fire. Having always been a music lover, for me, watching the film sparked a desire to take up the above dance classes and I found some run by Tobin. I must have been like a woodpecker tapping at his head to the refrain of “Play The Night” (The Night – Franki Valli) which he did with aplomb.
What Northern Soul (the film) reminded me of and struck a chord with was that this wasn’t just about a genre of music, no indeed. It was about youth, life and energy and how music can come into your life and change it for the good and for the better. Over time, that flame can dim and sometimes you need a film like this to kick you up the proverbial to remind you that the spark is still in there which it does: with bells on! So I’m off to put on Edwin Starr’s Time and give it some soul!
(By the way Tobin’s classes were found on Facebook under Northern Soul Dance School).