BREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17

BREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17

Words by Charlotte Heap / Pics by Paul Stringer

Stepping into Birmingham Town Hall for the Big Birmingham Soul Night is like stepping back in time. Veterans of the Motown scene, clad in the classic wide-legged Oxford Bags, plimsolls and Ben Sherman polo shirts, dominate the giant wooden dance floor with their distinctive moves.

The spins, kicks; and shuffles (equally exhausting and joyful to watch) are tricky for a Northern Soul newbie to emulate but this doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of this all-nighter. The Night Owl, itself a relative newcomer to the scene, presents an impressive line up of DJs in an equally impressive venue. The listed splendour of the Town Hall and its sprung dance floor dovetails nicely with the nostalgia of original vinyl sounds. The bill, topped by legendary DJ Colin Curtis, kept the dance floor full throughout with famous 4-4 beats.

BREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17 / Paul Stringer - The Night OwlFor many of the dancers, this is clearly a relished opportunity to relive their youth and, truthfully, that’s what gives the evening its authenticity. There’s a cathartic, carefree atmosphere: a sense that these ageing Mods have been waiting for this very moment to unleash years of pent up rhythm. Strangely, it’s the younger attendees that seem almost peripheral to the action, imitating but never quite improving upon the confidence of the originators.

The music, both in the stunning main room and downstairs bar, ranges from the familiar to the rare – reflecting the original scene. DJs like Curtis hunted down American Soul 45s and brought them to the hungry masses in the North West where DJs and dancers alike tried to outdo each other with the hardest-to-come-by vinyl and the hardest-to-execute moves. Memorabilia and record stalls add to the sense that this is an event for the serious Soul fan.

The tiny downstairs bar proved to be the only real detraction: the valiant staff struggled to quench the thirst of the sweating crowd in good time. For the dedicated ‘Soulies’ this made little difference; for the more casual participant itBREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17 / Paul Stringer - The Night Owl was an annoying inconvenience. This could be easily rectified should the organisers decide to partner again, which they should.

(Ed’s note… after some post party exploration, we were told there had been another bar lurking at the back of the entrance level but most people didn’t know about it. BBSN organisers were already on the case, so next time… please drink responsibly.)

The Night Owl, recently voted Best New Venue by Birmingham Mail, has clearly filled a niche at its bar in Digbeth: it is the only dedicated Motown destination in the Midlands in decades. There’s an apparent appetite for Northern Soul and this partnership was an effective advert for the budding Birmingham Soul scene.

The issue for the organisers now is how to convert the nostalgia into real hunger for more. For the scene to thrive where previously it had withered and died, it will need to attract new, and, dare I say it, younger disciples.

For more from The Night Owl, visit

For more from the Town & Symphony Halls, visit

BPREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17

BPREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17

Words by Ed King / Pic by Jayne Billi

On Saturday 15th April, The Big Birmingham Soul Night comes to the Town Hall – presented by The Night Owl and THSH. Running from 9pm until the wee hours, DJing throughout the event will be Colin Curtis (Golden Torch Set), Ian ‘Pep’ Pereira (Catacombs/Wigan Casino), Sonny & Spare (Boogaloo).

Tickets are priced at £12 advance, £14 on the door. For direct event information, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

The Night Owl has been committed to Northern Soul since the moment they opened their small but secure back street Digbeth doors. Cosy and clandestine, they did it for the love. But the echoing footsteps from the floorboards of the Wigan Casino, Blackpool Mecca, Wolverhampton’s Catacombs and Stoke’s Golden Torch nightclubs are behind every Northern Soul night and it was, arguably, a matter of time before we saw the words ‘wooden dancefloor’ appear in print.

But to up the stakes of nostalgia, The Night Owl has managed to bag the Town Hall for their larger late night revel. Stick that in your Vesper tailpipe and smoke it. Plus they’ve booked one of the DJs behind the burgeoning Northern Soul scene of the 60’s and a previous resident of the famed/infamous Golden Torch all nighters – Colin Curtis.

And if you’re of a fresher faced age… staying up until dawn, hopped up on adult pills with childish names, dancing to music that will tear down the establishment is not the invention of the post millennials. Northern Soul was a powerhouse of a scene in the 60’s and 70’s, redefining the culture of UK clubland whilst streaming African American music into Britain’s tacitly segregated waters.

Plus the term ‘rave’ was first used in the British press (as a badge of debauched youth culture) to describe all night jazz events in and around Wardour Street. So pass the potatoes Gran, you’re looking a little off colour this Sunday lunch.BPREVIEW: The Big Birmingham Soul Night @ Town Hall 15.04.17 / Jayne Billi

But the chance to foot stamp in the Town Hall is almost too tempting to miss, and if Northern Soul is your thing then you’re almost obligated to go. Tribal loyalty: another thing that’s not new. But references and alteration aside, The Big Birmingham Soul Night is a bold move from a venue that has been steadily grafting away – plus the line up is a handpicked homage to Northern Soul’s phenomenal rising balloon.

“We are delighted to be working with Birmingham Town Hall,” says Mazzy Snape – promoter of The Night Owl, “with its huge wooden floor and iconic design it really fits with the ethos of the legendary Northern Soul all nighters of years gone by such as Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca.

It holds so much history with artists such as Buddy Holly and The Kinks having played in the 50s and 60s, the soul fans are going to love it! The Night Owl regulars will be happy as they’ll have more room to dance and there will be about 3 or 4 times as many people as we can normally fit in! If all goes well this could become THE Birmingham soul event”.

The Big Birmingham Soul Night comes to Birmingham Town Hall on Saturday 15th April, in conjunction with The Night Owl. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.

For more from The Night Owl, visit

For more from the Town & Symphony Halls, visit