Switch off your phone and dance – and put to shame by 60-year olds!

Kabal Where?house Party, 22nd March 2014, Dan’s Birthday Bash, 12th April 2014, Black Market, Warsop – sorry, another mammoth post!

At the end of last month, I went to a Kabal party, with my friend Angelina. We’ve known each other for ten years this year, which is a truly scary thought, and since we were twenty-somethings, we’ve worked together, and enjoyed wonderful experiences, holidays, meals and night out. Angelina has become an amazing dance teacher, and I now run my own writing business. We’ve come a long way together!

Hands in the air at Kabal

Hands in the air at Kabal

Eight years ago, we ended up at our first Kabal party, in an old chapel in Walkley, and loved the atmosphere of no-nonsense dance music in a friendly environment. We’ve made close friends there, and both fell in love with the music of the down-to-earth house music legend Winston Hazel, his infectious rhythms and dancing with his vinyl. The nights were sporadic, and in unlikely, secret locations – the old funeral parlour was a favourite of mine, the legendary Yellow Arch Studios, and the basement of the Ethiopian restaurant, with its candle-lit corners; upstairs rooms in pubs transformed into red-velvet lined boudoirs. At first, the parties were a closely-guarded secret, attended by older ravers and dance music enthusiasts, with enough space to enjoy ourselves. Toddla T, now absolutely massive, was originally one of the resident DJs, taken under the wing of Winston Hazel and Pipes. That’s when the parties started to get a bit out of hand, with students turning up in droves. to avoid becoming a victim of its own success, Kabal went underground again – open to everyone, but info is only given out via its email list, so you have to know someone to be “in the know”.

A few weeks ago, the Kabal night was held in the old Dog and Partridge pub in Attercliffe. A very strange coincidence, as I’ve been editing the memoirs of the ex-landlady of this infamous Sheffield landmark. In the 1950s, it was a busy pub in a booming district, but after the decline of the the steel industry, the “Dog” also fell on hard times and eventually became a strip club, and most recently, apparently, a cannabis-growing factory! The large upstairs rooms were dimly lit, and draped in the trademark Kabal red curtains. We got there quite early and made ourselves at home, dancing around with lots of space, as the venue started to fill up.

As more people arrived, we started to feel old! Lots of younger clubbers were in force, and the room glowed with the screens of many smartphones. We laughed to each other. Our phones had remained firmly in our handbags since we’d caught our taxi. What do they need a phone for, unless they’re giving directions to a friend lost en-route? Are they busy Tweeting each other about what a good time they’re having? Are they actually having a conversation via text, standing next to each other? Nobody was dancing with their ass (except us). Back in our day… But the music gradually took hold and people put their phones in their pockets, threw wilder shapes and partied like it was 1988 again (scarily, the younger ravers wouldn’t have even have been born then, and I suppose I can’t talk, I was about to start secondary school, and I actually liked Bros!) It was a great night, and a few of the old faithful were in force, but in the taxi home, we couldn’t help feeling a little sad at the rise of a new generation, feeling more tired than we used to do in the small hours of the morning.

But should we give up, and give ourselves over solely to dinner parties and talk of car insurance, interior decorating and cavity wall insulation? A few weeks later, I had the answer.

The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican - featuring special guest Justin Bieber!

The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican – featuring special guest Justin Bieber!

My friend Ben invited me to an all-day festival at the Black Market venue in Warsop, in deepest, darkest Nottinghamshire. A former working men’s club in the heart of the old Notts coalfield, it’s become the HQ of rapidly rising folk rock band Ferocious Dog, as the event was to celebrate fiddle player Dan’s birthday. It was an incredible line-up. I’ve known Ben since the first ever Bearded Theory festival in 2008, where we were next door neighbours, together with his friends Steve and Phil. Ben was in his early twenties then, and Steve and Phil were well into their fifties – and twins, who are still partying, even though they are now into their sixties.

I was dressed in my festival finery – psychedelic spandex leggings and a Levellers t-shirt. The horn beeped, and Ben and I stepped outside to see Steve, at the wheel of a huge VW camper van, resplendent in cheesecloth shirt, long curly beard and patchouli oil! We arrived in style.

We warmed up slowly, chatting, drinking real ale, and watching acoustic acts. It was reassuring that a a good proportion of the audience was older than me, old punks and hippies together. We chatted about festivals, and when the music on the main stage started, had a little dance to Brad Dear, a talented young songwriter, reminiscent of Frank Turner. A few pints in already, and we visited the excellent chip shop in Warsop, handily located opposite the venue, and sat eating them in the sunshine.

It might have been the beer, but I was highly entertained by a punk covers band Colon Zamboni (for an embarrassing moment from the bar, which is a long way away, I actually thought that their singer was Dave Vanian from the Damned!) And a brilliant set by the Bar-steward Sons of Val Doonican, one of the finest things to come out of Barnsley! I was looking forward to punk stalwarts Goldblade, but they didn’t get off to a good start, with singer John Robb losing his temper and storming off-stage because he didn’t think his microphone was working (it was!). A few minutes later, he was coaxed back on, and he invited several delighted hard-core fans to dance onstage with the band for most of the gig, increasing the feel-good factor quite a bit! A few songs in, and most of the audience had forgiven and forgotten the whole incident!

More hands in the air at Ferocious Dog!

More hands in the air at Ferocious Dog!

Ferocious Dog put on a great show. It was the first time I’d seen them, and I was really impressed by the combination of punk rock guitars, frantic fiddle and lyrics from the heart, several songs about the tragic suicide of singer Ken Bonsall’s son Lee i 2012, from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, following his time in the army, the song, The Glass, leaving Ken unable to sing and in tears. It was a moving moment, in a rowdy, emotion-filled gig. Ferocious Dog have built up a passionate following, nicknamed the Hellhounds. The band have been going for a long time, but they are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

After grabbing a chip butty (more chips, I know!), I returned to watch 3 Daft Monkeys, who have been a festival favourite of mine for almost ten years. I would have preferred to see them on the big stage, but playing on the smaller stage at the side of the hall, they gathered a good crowd, swaying along and waltzing each other around. They are a brilliant live band, always enjoyable and lots of fun.

I love Dreadzone, and I’ve loved them for nearly twenty years, but by this time, my feet and legs were screaming at me to let them sit down. Ben did sit down, blaming a dodgy knee, but I soldiered on, attempting to dance with my pint of cider, but eyeing the comfy chair by the side of the sound booth throughout their set! While we were struggling, veteran twins Steve and Phil were still at the front, bopping around for all they were worth.

It was a brilliant day, but my legs have got to do some work before they’re ready for festival season. Glastonbury will involve vast distances, and stewarding’s always hard work on the legs, even if it’s muddy. Enjoying yourself can be hard work, but it’s worth it, and getting older is no reason to stop. I might drink less than I used to do (honest!), and sometimes pace myself a bit more, but I hope that I’m out and having fun for as long as possible. One day, those eighteen year old clubbers will be older too. Approaching middle-age is no reason to stop having fun and sometimes behaving disgracefully!

(As long as we’re back home to pay the mortgage / weed the flowerbeds / clean the bathroom / bake some scones / grow some basil / look after the kids / cut our partners’ hair. One day we’ll take off into the sunset with that campervan, even if we’re in our seventies by that point!)

Still rockin' out! Tam o'shanter style!

Still rockin’ out! Tam o’shanter style!


Orchids, spring-cleaning and raving: Bring on the “Free Range” life!

The legendary Winston Hazel and friend at work

The legendary Winston Hazel and friend at work

I finished my full-time job on Friday. I hadn’t visualised what it was going to be like. Back in March, when I told my manager that I wanted to take the redundancy option, the end of April seemed a very long time away. That was the day before the big snow-storm and as you can tell from my other blog posts, a lot has happened. My notice period has gone remarkably quickly and I’ve found out a lot about myself and other people.

Firstly, I’ve been really pleased with the reaction of my colleagues at work. No one was negative about my decision. In fact, the comments were all along the lines of “well done”, “brave decision”, “go for it!”, “I wish I could escape too!” As this was a job I’d landed in “by accident” and I’d never worked for a large corporate company, I’d made lots of assumptions about my colleagues and their outlook and never felt like I “fitted in”. Of course, I was wrong. As I started to reveal my plans for my career change, I realised that many colleagues had fantastic hidden talents and interests. Here’s a small selection: one of my colleagues is a country music DJ and one of the founders of internet radio station http://www.2country.net/ The lady who is taking over most of my old responsibilities brought me gifts of amazing watercress, grown on her family’s farm. There are lots of talented musicians in the company too. One of the colleagues I’ve worked with  closely over the last five years, leads a sporty, sociable lifestyle and volunteers for charities while living with Epilepsy. And in my last half an hour, I had a great conversation with the IT guy I was talking to on the phone and he writes about science and technology in his own blog: http://hattix.co.uk/blog/. People are amazing.

My last day was lovely. I was in a great mood and got loads of loose ends tied up. I brought in a cake I’d made (chocolate fridge cake – see my Food page for the recipe), and I was presented with some lovely cards, an orchid and a lovely bottle of bubbly. My colleagues had even checked that it was suitable for vegans! It was great to leave my job with a smile on my face; with hugs and well-wishers. My manager gave me a lift home and we had a brilliant, philosophical chat. It might not have been the job I wanted to do for life, but it’s given me skills and the discipline I’m going to need to run a business.

Yesterday, I  started cleaning the house from top to bottom. I sorted out two bin-bags of clothes and took them to the charity shop. I’ve dropped at least one dress size since last year and I also wanted to get rid of the more boring items from my work wardrobe. Our bedroom was also suffocated by a thick layer of dust, so a determined vacuuming session was also needed. After I’d struggled up the hill with the bin-bags, I felt a sense of relief: I’m finally letting go of the baggage that’s dominated my life for the past few years. In the past few weeks, I’ve been putting myself forward for opportunities, giving myself chances and being determined to make my new “portfolio” career work. This has been combined with the total exhaustion of commuting 100 miles every day, so imagine what I can achieve with more time and energy! My diary for next week has already got some very interesting things in it, and I’ve got a long list of “things to do”.

And last night, after my partner had gone to bed, I headed out for a night of partying with Angelina, a friend I’ve known for 9 years, when we met at work. (She also teaches dance – see The Dance of Life” blog post!) We were meeting other friends and heading to a Kabal party. Kabal parties aren’t some kind of religious cult, just a very DIY style club-night, in the true spirit of the old warehouse parties, but all legal and “above board”. Since our first Kabal party, Angelina and I have always got in free, in return for taking photos of the festivities and sending them to the party organisers. This was the first Kabal party in over a year and we had a great time, dancing for hours in the dark womb of an old industrial building in Attercliffe, and being startled that dawn had arrived. Not bad going, considering that I’d nodded off at 10pm the previous night! I woke up this afternoon feeling tired, but alive and happy and raring to go!

Last night, we had a great time with the wonderful Kweku of Ghana, who I hope to do some work with in the future! Another example of my amazingly cheeky new attitude! http://www.kogmusic.co.uk/

Here’s an interview with legendary Sheffield DJ Winston Hazel, who is always the mainstay of Kabal parties. http://www.djhistory.com/forum/winston-hazel-forgemasters-interview


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