I love to club….and my friends just love to dance!

Posted on March 6, 2015 by Eleanor McKenzie
People dancing in a nightclub

My first real experience of clubbing was on a visit to Manchester in the mid 70s. Before that the discos I’d been to in Northern Ireland were just that; they didn’t have a particular musical style and Mud rubbed shoulders with Marc Bolan and Rod Stewart. Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold” stands out in my mind as a favourite towards the end of the night tune. But, the Manchester club scene in the 70s was the home of Northern Soul and that night I encountered George McCrae and “Rock Your Baby,” which remains one of the tunes I turn on when I need an instant lift.

In the 80s I went to Club for Heroes and Blitz, which produced the New Romantic movement and admired Boy George’s makeup. I went to the Café de Paris and Limelight dressed like Madonna. Towards the end of that decade I went to the Roof Gardens in Kensington in search of a more sophisticated club scene. At the start of the 90s I became a mother and I became a stranger to the club scene. But now I’m in my 50s and child free, I have the opportunity to return to clubbing, and there are other like-minded people of a similar age who want the same thing; we’re not ready for a tea dance yet.

The Manchester scene

A recent BBC Breakfast report revealed that pensioners have strong feelings about their right to keep on clubbing. In Manchester, 69-year-old Joyce Gill has turned club promoter. This city, once dubbed “Madchester” has long been a leader of the UK club scene. That hasn’t changed it seems. Joyce saw a gap in the market for over 50s club nights and approached club owners across Manchester. Eventually, the owner of Roadhouse said, “Yes!” Joyce’s customers can’t get enough evenings out to dance the night away: one woman complained: “There’s not enough for our age group,” while another said: “In your head you’re still 18.” Clearly, there’s a demand in Manchester; so what about down south?

London’s ethnic clubs welcome baby boomers

I returned to my former ‘social and cultural London bible’ Time Out and discovered that there’s a burgeoning club scene for the over 40s in the metropolis. The revered guide to going out received a query from a 50+ southwest Londoner wanting to know where people his age could go to dance without “feeling like a fish out of water in a sea of 20-year-olds.”

The magazine’s former editor Dave Swindells, who is obviously of my era as he also went to Blitz and Club for Heroes, commented that this 45+ generation of clubbers, and the late 80s ravers (I do miss a good warehouse party on an industrial estate with only flyers and rumour to guide you to it) didn’t just go to a nightclub for entertainment; clubbing was a way of life.

Don’t go for dubstep

If you’re looking for a club night out that may have more 50+ people at it, then don’t go to any that mention drum ‘n’ bass or dubstep, unless you want to be among the teens and 20 somethings. Latin, reggae and world music events tend to cater for a wider age range because these musical genres originate in cultures that actively welcome multi-generational people to parties. Vintage themed nights also have potential: I recently went to a rockabilly club night because my friend wanted to get her 50s dress and petticoats out and give them a twirl. And, indeed, the clubbers were a mixed age bunch.

Haven’t stopped dancing yet

If you can’t find a club night near you, why not follow Nikki Spencer’s example and start your own in a local church hall, or similar venue. She wanted to cater for people her age that didn’t want to journey into the city to go clubbing. Her “Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” nights attract around 150 people to the church hall in Hither Green and similar suburban clubs are springing up around the larger cities.

From New York to Ibiza and from Glasgow to Miami there is a growing club scene for the over 50s. If you’re on your own, try this handy online social tool called Meetup Group, which has Social Dancing Meetup Groups in 49 countries and 791 cities. It’s something of a revelation to this former club fan that still likes to have a dance. I might struggle to dance all night at Pacha in Ibiza – although I’ll give it a go – but I know I can still leap to my feet when I hear “Rock Your Baby.”

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.