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What can you say about Wigan Casino that has not been said before? Nothing, so I am not going to try…. it was dirty, it was hot and sweaty, it was brilliant!
As you fought your way into the building the queue had to reduce from 5 wide to 2 and you were usually taken in by your bag, if you had the strength to hang on to it. The record bar was the place to be for me and it was easy to sell your wares in here. Day trippers (I am trying to be polite here) wanted to take home a memento and would pay over the odds, while the serious dealers would be haggling for the really rare stuff.
There was a distinctive sound created by the huge venue, which I have never really experienced anywhere else. I think the excitement of the night out and the great atmosphere meant that almost anything could be played and was, to the extent that the piss was taken a bit towards the end with some really dire records finding their way on to the decks. Pity we have to remember it for that and the drug element. Better to remember it being voted as the best disco in the world by Billboard magazine. No, we would never forgive them for calling it a disco, I know, but they did not know any better. It was our secret underground cult and we were very protective of it.
You may notice that I am not mentioning many DJ's in these pages because most have a big enough ego as it is but you cannot help but admire the likes of Searling, Winstanley and Minshull for the sounds that they unearthed, remember Soul Sam now there is a guy who has stayed loyal to the scene and I saw him recently still enjoying spinning the sounds, doing his little hand dance routine behind the decks.
Anyone who went will have some wonderful memories of a place that could never be really matched by any other club. Oh yes, they all had good points and people had favorites because they were local to them, but they travelled from all over the country to Wigan every week. I know, I did, as often as possible and sometimes twice a week if there was an oldies night on a Friday.
They used to run a bus from Skegness with characters such as Bogey on board, picking up along the way I remember them getting 16 people from a small town which only has a population of 5,000 such was the interest in the Casino. I have been reminded of our adventures on the way to Wigan by Dave Raistrick who used to run the buses, often you could hear the bus before it came round the corner by the banging of the big ends in the engine, we went on a wing and a prayer and often broke down on the way sometimes arriving just as the day trippers were leaving, we even got the bus windows shot out once by some idiots but we soldiered on in the freezing conditions.
Wigan Casino's final All-nighter took place on October 2nd 1981. Long-time Northern Soul DJ Dave Evison played the venue's final record - I'm On My Way by Dean Parrish.
The local Council had shut it down. A few months later in a freak accident the Casino caught fire and was razed to the ground. The powers that be had eventually got their way, the mind boggles as to what they were thinking. How can a car park be of more use to the nation.
A good book to read is the Soul Survivors by Russ Winstanley which gives you a good insight into what went on behind the scenes at Wigan Casino.
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