‘Keep the Faith’ The slogan of the Northern Soul Tribe. A world institution born in Wigan Lancashire. What a community and how powerful the message. I’m not entering into an accurate history of Northern Soul most of you know the basics of the Tribe. Here’s the potted history:

Northern Soul is a music and dance movement that emerged in Northern England and the English Midlands in the late 1960s. Derived from the British mod scene, based on a particular style of black American soul music, especially from the mid-1960s, with a heavy beat and fast tempo (100 bpm and above)or American soul music from northern cities such as Detroit, Chicago and others.

If you haven’t watched the film ‘Northern Soul’ I’d guide you to spend time to seek it out and enjoy the abrasive story. It tells the story of two young Lancashire teenagers, Matt and John, whose lives are changed forever by the discovery of American soul music and the dance culture that grew up around it in Britain. There is a magical ‘against all odd’s’ love affair, crazed drug addicts, betrayal, and everything else in between. It’s sandpaper abrasive and captivating. The dancing and music is, well just, foot-tapping Soul.

Ian has a close friend who is a record dealer specialising in Northern Soul: Paul; has run the gauntlet of following and working in a world he loves. No matter what life has thrown his way: he has always ‘Kept the Faith’. Paul has always been a music nut. Ian, tell’s me of his friend’s Punk rock exploits. Goodness, many would be envious to live such a brave life following the faith. One aspect is simply fantastic: for all the years in clubs and pubs and concerts: Paul has never once been tempted to take drugs. Not a once: ‘The music, the friends, the atmosphere are all the drugs any man could need’ is Paul’s answer to the question ‘Why no drugs?’

Imagine the power of being bonded by a shared love. The tunes are different, Paul love’s one tune and, Ian cannot stand it, and this is the way of the faith. One common purpose, passion, the focus of attention and a million and one opinions without an argument. That is pure and beautiful magic. It is the reason Northern Soul has survived: the reason it is still alive and ready for a new generation to follow and enjoy. The reality is: the Tribe is almost hidden, but at the same time worldwide and massive. Last year: Paul visited Detroit and sat in studio One at Tamla Motown Studios: a place where many of his favourite singers sang the songs he spins on his DJ decks and buys and sells around the world. What did he think about the experience? ‘No words, chuck, how can you consider the magic made in a 20X30 ft room? It’s a temple of music, which produced the spells capable of changing lives and saving souls’. Paul’s answer is full of sheer love and happiness, and hold’s a special message.

Last weekend: Ian, Barrie and I spent some hours talking about the future of the organisation. As you know, Barrie has tasked us to run his Pure Spirit Markets (Yes we have made many sacrifices to make the event possible) and during the meeting, we suddenly realised something was happening. The conversations had little reference to money and profit: the central focus was similar to my post of last week: we have to work for the wellbeing of the Community. 

It’s like the Northern Soul circuit: there are hundreds of thoughts and millions of opinions. But the point is there is now a consensus of direction: it is non-negotiable: we have to follow our right beliefs and realise together we’ll become more significant and more robust than the past.

Our opinion is simple: we do not believe the old methods of high table costs and using a one-off success as evidence of the whole success’ is viable. Getting Visitors to return to events will be difficult. And do not think promises will persuade them. We have evidence that what we say we will do, and build on event after event. Our opinion is Community Members will be attracted to lower stand costs: because this will provide more significant opportunity to cover their expenses. This is not a game of chance: we have to organise for the survival of those who are stunned from the crisis, and uncertain if they wish to continue. I’ll repeat time and again ‘There will be no immediate return to the same format of last years events’. The only way to get reasonable numbers of Community and Visitors into a Well Being Market is great purpose-built venues that allow for two metre plus social distancing guidelines: this is what the Visitors ask for and indeed will demand.

Paul informs ‘Northern Soul survived because everything was kept close: we worked with the best organisers and promoted their events by word of mouth and through our network: this is a small tribe, which nearly became extinct. Today we thrive because of our dedication to a solid foundation. We keep the faith in Northern Soul. At an ‘all-nighter,’ there will be people who don’t like each other. After all, they have been involved in the Tribe for years. Relationships and marriages resulting from meeting at the events sometimes fail, but the people involved still come back to the events. One sure thing is: they may have fallen out forever. But they will defend their Northern Soul together and without question.’

I believe we have learned many lessons from The Northern Soul Tribe – ‘Keeping the Faith’. They are a small group of people, dedicated to a unique genre. Does this ring a bell? I hope so: For us to thrive: We’ll have to ‘Keep the Faith’.

See You Soon

Liz Clark
MD – LizianEvents Ltd

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  1. A great article, and great music too ( check out Dobie Gray’s “Out on the Floor”).

    I think that you are wise to look at how, and when, visitors will return in numbers to shows. What we as exhibitors think and believe is secondary to what the customer thinks. Much focus has been put on those who break the Coronavirus restriction rules, not enough on those who are keeping to them, the vast majority. Their concerns are entrenched.

    As exhibitors we have two huge issues to deal with. Firstly health concerns of attending ( hopefully) busy shows. Secondly, increasing unemployment reducing the spending power of those without jobs, and creating a fear of job losses such that those with money don’t spend it.

    There are opportunities, not least that in times of trouble people traditionally look to the religious and spiritual to guide them

    There is also an earthquake ahead, when the international demands of the pandemic medically, and the global economic issues financially, crash against an essentially inward looking Brexit. None of us can be sure how that will play out.

    But the MBS community is about people, we will survive, and prosper, just probably in different ways to before.

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