For those of you who don’t know, I have been travelling to Birmingham monthly for almost the last eight years. This is a remarkable achievement for a Londoner who, for over half her life, the most north she had ever been was Northampton. I have always gravitated to London for gigs and theatre. After all I was born in London so it felt like a home from home, and it’s easy to travel to, plus I still have many family and friends in London so Birmingham wasn’t really on my radar.
However, just under eight years ago, I was invited by Martyn Ware to attend a live performance of Heaven 17. It was a small venue in central Birmingham, that holds only 200 people and was sold out but Martyn had kindly guest-listed us. The other exciting thing was there was gong to be an ‘artifact’ as Martyn put it. A limited edition pressing of Heaven 17 singing Only After Dark. A numbered limited edition of only 100 copies. It was an amazing night. Let’s be honest, Martyn and Glenn always give a fantastic performance and this was no exception. They sung Only After Dark, from their early Human League album which originally was a Mick Ronson track - it was a highlight of the evening as the club is called Only After Dark. The evening left such an impression on me that for the last eight years I have attended the Only After Dark nightclub, ever since. I travel 80 miles up to Birmingham by train and book a hotel to stay overnight every month. I think I have attended OAD more often than some Brummies. Only After Dark club is based on The Blitz and Rum Runner nightclubs of the 80’s, and its music takes you back in time. 70’s and 80’s full of goth, new wave, new romantic, glam rock and the odd surprise but rarely anything past 1983. And it’s all sprinkled with a good helping of Bowie. It’s a time capsule for post punks of a certain generation who want to dance to good music – and the music is fabulous! I dance such a lot. There are times I say to people ‘I’m sorry but I have to dance to this one’. How often do you say that anymore? I also dress up. Sometimes goth, sometimes punk, sometimes with style but always unique and me. It was a part of me that I had somehow forgotten until I discovered OAD.
Sometimes my husband DJ’s there. He had retired from DJing but still mixes from his studio in the garden. When he plays, I am obliged to dance – not as if that is a chore – I love the music. And in between the guest DJ’s we have TV screens showing us the videos of our favourite songs from the days when videos were king. Let me tell you about darklings. Regulars of OAD are known as darklings. I am a verified darkling. I love my fellow darklings. Many have become good friends over the years. We share a love of the same music and so much more. We often bump into each other at gigs...after all I now do gig in Birmingham too. And I have met people who love Bowie like me. Bowie people are a rarity where I live. It’s just wonderful to find somewhere I feel I belong.
Because of the virus, since March we have not been to Birmingham. The club has been closed. And I miss it. I miss the music. I miss dancing. I miss my fellow darklings. I miss the atmosphere you get in a big city and the variety of shops. I miss the hustle and bustle of life. I even miss the buskers and religious stands of people shouting at you as you walk past. I miss the excitement of travelling up by train knowing you are going to have a great weekend. I miss everything about it. If I say that I miss Birmingham, people might think me mad, but I miss socialising with no worry about how close you are to people. I miss dancing on a proper dance floor. I miss people. I miss hugging people. I miss chatting with people. I miss all the photos we used to take. I miss OAD.
So to all my Brummie friends – You are not forgotten. We will meet and dance once more… it may not be for many more months yet, but our time is not over. Once we have won the war on the virus we will have a darklings reunion. Love to you all.