Cripps, Northampton

Cripps Centre, Northampton General Hospital

Ceroc Passion have tried a number of venues for Northampton, and all of them sadly have some problems probably because of the desire of Ceroc to keep their venue fees to a minimum.

The Cripps Centre is part of Northampton General Hospital – built as a social environment for staff at the hospital by the Cripps foundation – a charitable trust that also built a local school.

Today however the Centre is a sad affair, desperately in need of an upgrade.  Queuing to get in can often involve standing on a staircase, (very unsafe), the bar service can be slow, although cheery, and although there are tables and chairs down one side, they are packed in so tightly it is hard to squeeze in to take a seat.

But despite all this the attendance in recent years has been good to high, perhaps because there is no problem with parking – one of the huge hospital carparks is available to dancers free of charge.  (They used to have a young man standing on the gate handing out tickets to dancers, but that is now abandoned.   The car park at night is empty, so why bother?  But do make sure you choose the car park by the Cripps.  In the other car parks you’ll end up paying.  And sign posting to the car park you need is dodgy to say the least.)

Also part of the explanation for the large numbers might be that the lessons do appeal to many, with more advanced classes being offered alongside the standard beginners and intermediate sessions.   However some of the intermediate sessions themselves can  be  phenomenally complicated when compared with that which happens in most other venues, and this can be a problem for many dancers.  (It all depends on who takes the lesson).

Typically dances are held on Saturdays round about once a month, and sometimes paraded as the Cripps Labyrinth – which just means that there are several corridors with odd rooms in them playing different types of music – often to tiny groups of dancers.  It sounds good, but really its just the one room.

In terms of modernity the Saints venue at Jimmy’s End (a room within the Northampton Rugby Club ground) is much more modern, but suffers from posts in the middle of the dance floor.

  • Air conditioning:  2 out of 5 – just big fans, and in desperation they might open the doors to the fire exits.
  • Atmosphere: 3 out of 5.  Somehow it never really seems to take off.
  • Do ladies ask men: 2 out of 5.  As you enter there is a long row of chairs directly facing the dance floor on the left.  A lot of ladies seem to sit here and just wait.  I’ve no idea why they don’t get up, but basically they don’t.
  • Facilities: 2 out of 5.
  • Free water: No – usually 20p
  • Friendliness: 3 out of 5.  However freestyles can suffer from an influx of couples who always dance together and who dance near the edge just to show off their routines.  They take up space and concede that space to no man, or woman.
  • Location: 4 out of 5.  It’s close to the town centre, but still quite a walk through the hospital if you don’t have a car.
  • Music: 4 out of 5
  • Parking: 5 out of 5
  • Space: 3 out of 5.  On occasions it can get very crowded indeed.
  • Venue overall: 3 out of 5 but declining. It desperately needs a face lift.