Uncovering Greenwich’s Northern Soul secrets

Wednesday’s news of singer Dobie Gray’s death reminded me to ask a question I’d meant to ask a long while ago. What did happen to the Northern Soul club in Greenwich? Confused? Read on…

Every month, my chum Ian Watson runs Great Big Kiss, a Northern Soul/ Motown/ sixties girl groups night* at the Buffalo Bar, up at Highbury Corner. It’s a damn good night if you like that kind of thing, and should you ever be free on the second Friday of each month (like tonight) and don’t have to get up the next day, I suggest you head north and drop in. A few months back, I remarked to Ian that I’d just come from the Pelton Arms in Greenwich, where Glenn Tilbrook was playing some of his occasional shows.

“I remember going to a Northern Soul night in Greenwich once,” Ian told me, and rummaged around in his box. He pulled out a CD marked “Greenwich Northern”, full of tracks he heard that night. As well as, mysteriously, Five Get Over-Excited By The Housemartins. Neither of us could explain that one.

Anyway, here’s seven of those songs – and the Housemartins – on a Spotify playlist.

So what about this Greenwich Northern Soul night? Well, I certainly remember one happening a few years back, but never visiting it. All I know is that it was downstairs at the William IV on Trafalgar Road, but that’s about it.

I saw no flyers or any other promotion for it, although the old pub’s reputation – it was a tip – pretty much stopped me from investigating further. If I’d known when it was on in the first place, that is.

I also remember seeing a night advertised upstairs at the Spanish Galleon Tavern by the market, although with it ending at midnight it hardly seemed worth the bother. I’d also heard the club had cropped up at the venerable Greenwich Town Social Club on Blackwall Lane – a venue I’d only visited on a couple of boozy bank holiday Sundays to be hushed down by bingo lovers.

But that was where my trail had gone dead. So what had happened to Greenwich’s Northern Soul nights?

A gentle Googling later, it turned out that the Greenwich Town Social is still SE10’s own version of the Wigan Casino. The London Dossier (where “fans of vintage black music can discover London’s nightlife”) lists Boogaloo Soul as happening from 9pm-1am this Saturday**. A little bit more digging, and they’ve got a YouTube page – and yup, that is the Town Social…

It doesn’t look like the Boogaloo Soul nights are every month, but now I know Greenwich still has its Northern nights, I’m going to have to pop in some time. Here’s a Facebook page with more info.

It’s definitely not the only night of its kind in south-east London – I’ve heard of clubs at the Wickham Arms in Brockley and the Alma at Crystal Palace – but I’m amazed this has gone on under my nose with me barely noticing it, bearing in mind Greenwich has had some of the direst nightlife in inner London for as long as I can remember. If you’ve been, I’d love to hear more.

Still, between Great Big Kiss in Islington, Boogaloo Soul in Greenwich and the great Nitty Gritty in Camden*** on Sunday, if you like your old soul music, you’re spoilt for choice this weekend. Who’s in with the in crowd?

*Great Big Kiss, Buffalo Bar, Upper Street N1 1RU (next to Highbury & Islington tube/rail) tonight (Dec 9) and every second Friday of each month from 9pm-3am. £6 non-members/advance, £4 members.

**Boogaloo Soul, Greenwich Town Social, Blackwall Lane SE10 0AN (Maze Hill rail) tomorrow (Dec 10) and on these dates in 2012: January 7, April 7, June 2, September 1 and December 1. 9pm-1am. £5 on the door.

***The Nitty Gritty, The Constitution, St Pancras Way NW1 0QT (Camden Road rail/ Camden Town tube), this Sunday (Dec 11) and the second Sunday of each month from February. 4.30-10.30pm, £5 on the door.

4 comments

  1. I remember going to the night at the Spanish Galleon but I don’t remember it closing at midnight though but may well have. Also have very fond memories of Michael’s Cained at the Paradise Bar (now the Royal Albert) in Deptford. I think I’m correct in saying it was very late nineties when it was in full swing. Think I still have an old flyer somewhere.

  2. Hiya Boogaloosoul is still up and running. We’re now at Greenwich Town Social Club. You can view our dates on our Facebook group – “Boogaloo Soul” Next do is on 11th July 2015

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