Britain’s small-town nightclubs: did they deserve to die?
Nightclub teletubbies

It’s not looking good for the UK clubbing scene right now.

The number of nightclubs currently in operation in the UK has almost halved in the space of a decade and nightclub entry fees have even become such an alien idea, they’ve been removed from the UK’s inflation basket by economists.

Whilst many of may be currently shedding a tear at the demise of the local nightclub, it may be time to consider that it’s not all down to cereal cafés, gentrification or bad government policy – maybe, a lot of these nightclubs were just a bit shoddy?

We put this question to the team here, which produced a collection of memories from around two decades of nightclubs, which might provide some clues into why many shut the doors.

Got your own clubbing memories? Let us know on Twitter at @WOW247 or comment on our Facebook page.

‘Il Lavatore’

“Let me tell you a bit about The Trav, or ‘Il Trovatore’, to give it the full, proper, and slightly pretentious moniker that no one ever used.

“Forget those delusions of grandeur. To punters, it was, is, and shall forever be affectionately known as ‘Il Lavatore’, ‘The Lav’, or ‘The Trav’.

“Situated on the corner of a main road in the otherwise posh spa town of Ilkley, this seedy, long-running little pocket of debauchery, shame and occasional violence was a sweaty loft-space packed to the rafters every Friday and Saturday night with under-age opportunists, cheapskates, lairy bruisers, and sleazy types with wandering hands.”

Unwanted awards

“The floors were sticky. The bouncers loved a fight. It sold vomit-inducing cheese toasties, and played the hammiest of dance music into the wee small hours. Occasionally one might glimpse a Bradford City footballer on the dancefloor – or the 13-year-old brother of a friend, making the most of the hilariously lax door policy.

“Rumour has it that it was once named the worst nightclub in Europe. But all who attended held a certain, bizarre affection for the place, in spite of its flaws.”

New beginnings

“After closing several years ago, the place became a derelict shell. But finally, in keeping with the wider gentrified boom occurring throughout the area of late, the building got a shiny new makeover and reopened late last year – now housing a charming boutique cinema instead.

“Keeping The Trav’s dubious memory alive even so, the old opening times sign remains at the foot of the cinema stairs to greet visitors – keeping the fire burning just a little. Though thankfully, the sticky floors, and distinctive stink, are now completely gone.”

Disco inferno

“Leven, a small town in Fife, is not known as a night-life destination to rival Ibiza, but we did have Justice (formerly known as Subway, Manhattan and probably countless other naff names before that) as our one and only small-town nightclub – until it burned down suspiciously in 2006, as most nightclubs do.”

‘Old Joe’

“Highlights of a night out included 2-for-1 deals on double vodkas in the off-chance you got there before 11pm (usually because you’d been refused entry somewhere else), a septuagenarian regular called ‘Old Joe’ who became a legend in his own right, and a DJ who would interrupt the music by shouting “make some f***ing noise” every five minutes.”

Boy racers

“There was also always a fleet of boy racers parked in their lowered Vauxhall Novas and Renault Clios outside, like some kind of unofficial and highly dubious taxi service. Glory days indeed.”

The mid-to-late 90s

“People dancing hunched over, staring at the floor, waving around the place, being Ian Brown – that was indie music in nightclubs.”

The first taste of hip-hop

“Comedy dancing and dance-floor awkwardness, as people tried to come to terms to with hip-hop.”

Disco inferno (again)

“It was like being back in the ’70s again as nightclubs seemed to play a ridiculous amount of disco, stimulated by Boogie Nights and Pulp Fiction.”

Energy drinks

“The introduction of Red Bull, oh dear…the effect that had on people and the amount of time they could dance for.”

The next generation

“You were under-age and had no fake ID, but it didn’t matter. The bouncer would just ask you to state your date of birth and they’d take your word for it.”

Fish bowls

“You had long vodkas in the local pub before you went out. Then it was fish bowls for a few quid.

“I cant remember exactly how much they were – I was too p***ed…”

Essential wear

These belts were a must-have”

When the drugs took hold

“Drug-use in nightclubs since the turn of the Millennium seems to have dropped off. Maybe the ‘Just Say No’ campaigns adverts worked, or maybe it was because (in Coventry anyway) the thought of waking up your Mum at 4am whilst off your head on MDMA was enough to send any trip bad

“It would explain why nightclub culture has completely collapsed in the past decade, it’s hard to dance to the early hours fuelled solely on Mickey Finns. Although I did hear once of a friend of a friend in a dingy underground rock bar on LSD, who could be found ducking for cover every five minutes – to avoid being swooped at by birds.”

You looked better on MySpace

“Getting into certain nightclubs would become a right of passage before you were 18, changing your MySpace profile picture to an image of you pouring VKs into your eyes – to let everyone know you were legit.

“You’d spend the weeks after then telling everyone on MSN Messenger that they had to come along next time – like you were the gate-keeper for under-agers attempting to brush past a bouncer unnoticed.”

Rise of the ‘Super Club’

“Maybe there once was a bit of choice or variety in your small-town night out. But that’s long gone

“You would go to the club where you knew the most people, there was a chart-filled main room and a indie disco at the side for those you used to go somewhere else. Eventually, these clubs consumed all their competitors and left them with a clientèle who wouldn’t get in elsewhere.

“It was like an inner-city Death Star with a disco ball, flattening the competition. Then, when you got bored of the same old faces – you realised there was nowhere else left worth going to.”

Got your own clubbing memories? Let us know on Twitter at @WOW247 or comment on our Facebook page


12 things we miss about clubbing in Manchester in the 90s

Main image: CC / Flickr / Matt Preston