Plenty of great Portsmouth nightclubs may be gone, but we certainly haven’t forgotten them
Whether you were a sixties swinger, an eighties glam metal head or a nineties britpopper, you probably spent some time strutting your stuff on dancefloors across Portsmouth in your youth.
Join us in a trip down memory lane as we pay tribute to some of our favourite former Pompey nightclubs that we’ve loved and lost over the years.
— Lee Freeman (@leefreeman75) October 29, 2014
Serious rewind time – Nero’s in Southsea opened its doors in the old Savoy Buildings back in 1971. This Roman themed disco was a much classier affair than today’s nightclubs, with columns, statues and a chariot adorning the dancefloor. Think Las Vegas casino meets Only Fools and Horses. Charging only 60p per person entry fee (equivalent of about £6.50 today) Nero’s was a bit of a bargain, and punters went all out for their fancy dress and themed nights. The venue became 5th Avenue in the ’80s and Time before it was demolished.
Now predominantly a ’90s club, Popworld on King Henry I Street was originally called Flares before it became Babylon in the mid-2000s. The place was the kind of sticky, sweaty dive that all students hold dear in their memories, but quickly grow out of after a few too many drunken first year nights. Partygoers of a certain age might recall spending Monday nights dancing to cheesy pop on the light up dancefloor or zebra print carpet, cringing at the DJ and paying just £1.50 per pint and the same for a shot. Actually, on second thought, you might not recall that at all…
Known these days as The Astoria (and once upon a time as Uropa and Route 66), Pure nightclub on Guildhall Walk was once famous for its super cheap beverages – just £1 a go on Tuesdays – and was located inside a former cinema. Despite a huge renovation when the place changed from Pure to The Astoria, the inside doesn’t seem to have changed much – you’ll still get confused by the many staircases inside, and be able to indulge in a spontaneous swing on the club’s unexplained dancing pole. You stay classy, Portsmouth clubbers.
Opened in 1973 in Southsea, Joanna’s was sometimes known by its slightly more old-school name of the Royal Navy School of Dancing. One of the club’s biggest talking points was the papier mache in the middle of the dancefloor, which plenty of patrons either attempted to climb or, erm, ‘water’ rather than take a trip to the toilets. The sticky, booze-soaked carpets were also fondly remembered by the 400 or so people who turned up to Joanna’s closing night in 2004. Many of them were couples who had first met or gone on dates at the legendary nightclub. Joanna’s was bought by footballer Harry Redknapp, but consequenly burnt down and demolished in 2011.
CO2 and Lux
Despite protests from around 150 students at the time, University of Portsmouth Student Union clubs, CO2 and Lux, were shut down in the summer of 2009. Once holding 2,000 revellers and voted the best union in country by NME in 2004, the loss of the clubs was a blow to both the student body and staff members. The smaller of the two clubs, Lux, was considered a ‘chill out bar’, while the larger CO2 had enough space for plenty of drunken dancing and mayhem. The decision to remove alcohol from the equation and turn the clubs into adaptable study spaces was a blow for us all.
The likes of Rod Stewart, Ike and Tina Turner, The Small Faces and Little Richard performed live at one of Portsmouth’s most fondly remembered clubs, The Birdcage, after it opened in Eastney in 1965. As times moved on, iconic bands such as Cream and Pink Floyd graced the venue’s stage, but the club’s regulars didn’t like the change and The Birdcage closed down just two years after its opening. Despite attempts to re-brand and re-open the club under a new name, it never again reached the heady heights of its swinging ’60s success. There was a fire in the building in the mid-1970s and, sadly, today there’s nothing left of The Birdcage.
Once one of the city’s most popular gay clubs, Martha’s on Commercial Road closed its doors and boarded its windows suddenly in 2011. Popular on Monday nights, but sometimes quiet at other times by the end, the place was nonetheless an important venue for Portsmouth’s LGBT community. First opening in 1985, Martha’s became popular with gay clubbers in the mid-1990s and is still sadly missed by those who enjoyed some outrageous nights out there.
Facebook / Highlight Portsmouth
In 2012 it was announced that Highlight (a huge and popular club on Gunwharf Quays) had been bought over by Grosvenor Casino and would be closing soon. As you’ll know if you were in Pompey at the time, the greatest lost was the club’s infamous student-friendly Purple Wednesdays where everyone from societies to sports teams would always find themselves on a weekly basis. Nearby Tiger Tiger graciously took the Purple Wednesday torch for a while, although these days Popworld is the place to go for a ‘purple’ night out.
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Main image: Facebook / Highlight Portsmouth