Kettering Corn Exchange

Kettering Corn Exchange is the latest in a series of venues that Ceroc has tried in the town.   It started at the spacious Wicksteed Park, moved on to the Athletics Club, moved across to a venue in Wellingboro, and then eventually got to the Corn Exchange.

It’s a modern building with a very large free car park attached, so it is a matter of just a few yards walk from the car.  Access is easy – it is on a main road that comes into the town from the A14.

The problem with jive at Kettering is that is seems to have been in terminal decline for years as it has shuffled from venue to venue and it is not to hard to see what puts people off.  The issues are all quite small, and by and large would be ignored if it was a venue that attracted a lot of decent dancers.  But it doesn’t because of the issues.

There is a Ceroc club night once a week (Thursdays) and occasional dances at the venue (usually two room affairs with a blues room along the corridor, although it is not widely used, and on poorly attended nights tends to reduce the number of dancers on the main floor still further).  Some free snacks are provided too.

The main dance room is good – it is modern, and there is air conditioning.   There is a bar (not open on club nights but open for weekend dances) at one end,  and chairs along two sides (no tables).  The floor is good, and the place feels modern and like a nice place to dance.  But…

I think the issues are actually quite small, but added together they seem to put people off.  Certainly if you turn up and the numbers are small that can be dispiriting.  Also there is often to be found a group (I have heard them called a clique) who sit together in one corner.

These are actually charming people of the younger variety, and several of the ladies in the group are exquisite dancers.  And of course they have every right to sit with their mates, but when the numbers are small, you need to be fairly confident of yourself to go and ask them to dance.  I have done it and never been turned down, and indeed always had a good dance, but you can see why they might put others off.

Then there are the little details.  Like the fact that the class nights finish at 10.30pm rather than the normal 10.45pm.  Or the fact that although there is air conditioning, it sometimes isn’t switched on.  Or the fact that the fans aren’t there because someone forgot them.  Or a door which could be opened to reduce the heat is not opened.  Or the fact that it is not at all uncommon for a request to be made for a song to be played, and for that never to happen.

Or indeed that one night when I turned up for the last hour I found eight people on the dance floor and 12 people in the kitchen area having a natter.  Of course everyone can do what they want, but it is just so off-putting to arrive and find that sort of situation.  In the end I walked into the kitchen and said “would anyone like a dance?”  No one took me up on the request.  And really, I’m not that bad a dancer.

Actually to go back a step, that issue of not playing a track is interesting.  This isn’t the only club where it happens, but there are some places that will find your track within a trice, and others who just nod, as if it will happen and it won’t.  It’s just frustrating.

Class nights when I have been have been small – maybe 30 or fewer.  Weekend dances might have 50 or more.  It’s not huge, and you might have to work to find your dances, but if you can do that, it’s fine.

  • Air conditioning:  5 out of 5 – when it is turned on in good time.
  • Atmosphere: 2 out of 5.  There isn’t really much of a way to make a good atmosphere, except by the dancers, and the existence of a clique is a bit off putting.  .
  • Do ladies ask men:  4 out of 5.  Yes they do, but because the numbers can be small, this means that the gender balance can go either way, and then make it hard to get a dance if you don’t know people.
  • Facilities: 5 out of 5.   It is a modern venue with modern facilities throughout.
  • Free water:  Yes
  • Friendliness: 2 out of 5.  Because of the clique who occupy one corner (who as I say are thoroughly nice people but because they always gather together and dance primarily with each other, give a feeling of being less than friendly) other people start to do the same.  Go on your own and it can feel anything but friendly.
  • Location: 5 out of 5.  It’s close to the town centre, on a main road, and with a huge carpark.  Perfect.
  • Music: 2 out of 5.  It seems to me very much the standard norm Ceroc type.  Nothing particularly adventurous or exciting.
  • Parking: 5 out of 5.  Right by the venue entrance, free and very large.
  • Space: 3 out of 5.  It is a small venue.  It could get very crowded if the numbers suddenly lift, but for now, it is ok.
  • Venue overall: 3 out of 5.  It could be five out of five, but isn’t.