Monthly Archives: May 2017

Higham Ferrers, Northants

Higham Ferrers WMC
6-8 Westfield Terrace
Higham Ferrers
Rushden
Northamptonshire
NN10 8BB

Higham Ferrers is an interesting club in that when I went there it had an enthusiastic group of dancers who go regularly to what is a very small venue.   To cope with the numbers lessons were help in the round rather than in rows and it was tough to find space on the dance floor.

But clearly the people who go there like it, and it seems to be as much as social event as anything else.

As such it can be a little hard to get dances unless you are willing to push yourself forward and ask, ask and ask again.  You won’t get asked much because everyone is there meeting their friends, which of course is fair enough.

The venue is a traditional Working Men’s Club of the old variety, and there is no car parking so you have to drive around the local roads looking for a space.

  • Air conditioning:  3 out of 5.  It got warm when I was there but never too hot for comfort.
  • Atmosphere: 3 out of 5.   The problem is that there are so many regulars that as an outsider you can be ignored not through hostility but because people are there to meet their friends..
  • Do ladies ask men: 2 out of 5.   Again it is the problem out of having so many regulars – people know who they are dancing with.
  • Facilities: 2 out of 5.  It’s a traditional working men’s club.
  • Free water: Yes
  • Friendliness: 3 out of 5.  It isn’t unfriendly, it’s just that the regulars have no need to ask outsiders and so no one makes the effort.
  • Location: 2 out of 5.  It’s in the side street of a small town, without particularly brilliant street lighting.
  • Music: 2 out of 5.  It seemed to me to be pretty much standard Ceroc fare from about five years ago.
  • Parking: 1 out of 5
  • Space: 1 out of 5.  On occasions it can get very crowded indeed.
  • Venue overall: 2 out of 5 but declining. There is not too much that can be done because of the nature of the building – it is what it is – a working men’s club of the traditional sort.

The Saints, Northampton

Franklins Gardens, Weedon Road, Northampton NN5 5BG

The Saints consists of rooms under one of the stands at Northampton Rugby Club in the town of Northampton.  The venue is modern with plenty of on-site parking for a dance event.

The venue has been used on a number of occasions over the years by Ceroc, as an alternative to the Cripps Building at Northampton General Hospital.

The Saints is a building in much better condition than the Cripps, although there are suggestions that the Cripps building is being upgraded in 2017, hence the move away from the building in the spring of 2017 by Ceroc.  No information that I could find was readily available as to what the long term plans were.

The only problem with the Saints is that being a room under a stand, it has supporting pillars within the dance area.   There is a bar along one of the long sides of the room, while the DJ operates from a table opposite.  There are seating areas at each end of the oblong dance floor.   A second room opens off the first.

2017 is the second time I’ve known Ceroc move to the Saints from the Cripps, and on the occasion I went there the numbers were tiny.  Arriving at around 8.20pm for a saturday evening dance I found half a dozen people sitting around with no one dancing.   By 8.30 a few more had arrived but then they all vanished into a side room for a lesson, meaning that the freestyle didn’t get going until gone 9pm.

Even when it did there was still only around 30 people in the room.

From my perspective (and of course this might be just me) part of the problem can be summed up by the fact that even with these small numbers the room did start to get warm, and although there were fans none of them were switched on.   I went to the lady on the door (the only person present “in authority” as it were) and asked for the fans to be switched on but she said, “I don’t do the fans.  Ask the DJ”.   I did and he said, “why on earth did she tell you to ask me?”   The fans stayed off, and we got hot.

It is symptomatic of Ceroc in this region.  Once, after three or four years regular attendance every week on Monday and Thursday at Ceroc in Wellingborough and Kettering I managed to arrive without my wallet.   I was of course well known to the lady on the door and explained my error, but despite having admitted me to the venues maybe 150 times by then, she utterly refused to allow me in with a promise that I would make good in a couple of days.   It’s that sort of franchise.

On another occasion I arrived and found the franchisee and the lady on the door having a discussion.  I stood ready to hand over my cash, and they just continued to talk to each other and ignore me.

  • Air conditioning: 2 out of 5.  As noted above, it needed fans on, but no one knew how to do it!
  • Atmosphere: 0 out of 5 – you can’t get an atmosphere in a big room like this with such a tiny number and such an attitude.
  • Do ladies ask men: 3 out of 5.  The handful of us who were there were desperate to get any sort of dance so certainly some did.
  • Facilities: 5 out of 5.  It’s got a smart large modern bar.   The bar staff must have been bemused having nothing to do all evening.
  • Free water: Yes.
  • Friendliness: 0 out of 5.  See notes above
  • Location: 5 out of 5 – it is a little way out of the town centre but easy to find off a main road, and the car parking is within the rugby club’s environs.
  • Music: 5 out of 5
  • Parking: 5 out of 5 – lots of it and always enough even when I went many years ago with a much larger crowd.
  • Space: 4 out of 5 – obviously with such a tiny crowd, there is no shortage.
  • Venue overall: 4 out of 5

Spondon Village Hall, Derbyshire

Spondon is a small club held in a village hall.  It’s still quite a new venue on the dance scene (as of 2017) and so on the different occasions I have been the number of dancers has varied quite considerably.

One thing to notice is that it does close at 11.15, rather than the usual 11.30pm, when holiday a dance night at the weekend.

Normally however there is a good number of dancers for the size of the venue.  Like most village halls it doesn’t have a bar, although I believe there are some drinks on sale.  The water is free.

It’s a modern venue, with tables and chairs on both sides and at the far end, so if number did rise they could always increase space by stacking up the tables and just having chairs along each side.

The car park is behind the village hall, and although I am sure it is adequate for village hall business I have found it pretty well full by the time I have got there.  Always managed to sneak in, as I often arrive quite early, but it could ultimately be an issue.

The music is always excellent and varied – none of this hanging on to the same old set of jive standards that some venues do.

  • Air conditioning: 5 out of 5.  I am not sure there is air con, but I’ve never over heated.
  • Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 – like so many of these small dance clubs based in village halls people who go tend to be committed to the club so they turn up early, and are really welcoming to friends.
  • Do ladies ask men: 3 out of 5.  Not totally, but there are always some who will.
  • Facilities: 5 out of 5.  It’s got a small bar and if you go there for a drink they may well not have your tipple, but otherwise its spacious, modern, clean.
  • Free water: Yes.
  • Friendliness: 4 out of 5.  Because it is a small club, and they want new members, newcomers are noticed and welcomed and asked for a dance if not getting one.
  • Location: 3 out of 5 – it is out of the way unless of course you are a native of the area.  But the satellite found the way, so I was ok.
  • Music: 5 out of 5
  • Parking: 3 out of 5
  • Space: 4 out of 5 – it is a modest sized venue, but I have never found it over crowded.
  • Venue overall: 4 out of 5

Cambourne, Cambs

Venue: Cambourne Village College

Address: Sheepfold Lane Cambourne Cambridgeshire CB23 6FR

The problem with this venue at the time of writing is the difficulty about finding the Ceroc site that covers this venue.  The site has changed, but the new one is not linked to the main Ceroc site, nor to UK Jive, and Google doesn’t seem to know about it either.

I have reported this fact but it still doesn’t seem to be resolved.

Which is a shame because this venue used to be a great Friday or Saturday night dance outing, often packed with good dancers.

I went back for the first time in several years in 2017 and walked in at 8.15pm to find… I was the only person there.  A few more turned up and at 8.30pm I got my first dance.

Again this is a shame because the venue is nice, the sound system is much improved from the old days, and there is free water, free food and a small bar laid on.

The location is outside of the town, and takes a bit of finding – head down Sheepfol Lane out into the countryside, over the bumps, turn left and you find this gigantic modern secondary school situated in a field.  A nice place to dance, and when I went back in early 2017 some great dancers – when they turned up.

So why are the numbers right down?  Well, in part because of the web site problem, which has now been going on for a couple of months – although of course maybe by the time you come to look that will be resolved.

  • Air conditioning: 3 out of 5.  It used to get very hot but last time I was there with a much smaller number it was ok.
  • Atmosphere: 4 out of 5 – once people turned up they danced with enthusiasm, and generated their own atmosphere.
  • Do ladies ask men: 5 out of 5.  Maybe I was lucky but I got asked all the time.
  • Facilities: 5 out of 5.  It’s got a small bar and if you go there for a drink they may well not have your tipple, but otherwise its spacious, modern, clean and with a big car park.
  • Free water: Yes.
  • Friendliness: 4 out of 5 once the numbers started going up
  • Location: 3 out of 5 – it is out of the way and a bit hard to find in the dark the first time you go.  Just keep driving along the road.
  • Music: 4 out of 5
  • Parking: 5 out of 5
  • Space: 4 out of 5 – it used to get crowded but now its great with loads of space.
  • Venue overall: 4 out of 5

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.

 

Daventry

Daventry did at one time exist as a regular Ceroc venue with classes, and also occasional  dances catering for people from the area and club members, in a rather fine room suitable for the numbers.

That has all gone now and we are left with the four times a year Daventry Balls, which are huge occasions and attract many dancers from across the country.

These events themselves used to be bigger, with the large sports hall that is used decked out with decorations to make it look less like a big sports hall.  But following a dispute with the owners of the venue (I presume Daventry District Council) this has stopped.

Numbers seem to have declined in the last couple of years but for most of us this is a good thing, since it does mean there is more space to dance and it was getting just too crowded for comfort.

So, to the details.

What you get are three rooms – the gigantic main sports hall, a fair size blues room and a tango room.   The blues room is always well populated (in some locations only a few people go in and dance the blues, here that is not the case – many head straight for it).   Most events have a theme or colour for the evening.  At one event recently about 80% of the people there were dressed in red as per instructions – the ones who really stood out were the people who deliberately went in different colours.

The main room has seats and tables on three sides, the fourth side contains the stage.  Many people go in groups, and that can be a bit intimidating for those who come alone and maybe don’t have anyone to latch onto.  But of course everyone is there to dance, so walking around the tables and asking for dances will keep you going for as long as you like – normally speaking that means 2am or 3am.

The big problem has been that the venue has attracted a number of couples who come along with the prime intent of showing how wonderful they are on the dance floor.  These couples tend to dance right in front of the tables and chairs, and utterly give way to no one so that they can show off,.  This gets very boring, makes them look thoroughly prattish, and makes it hard to walk around the edge of the dance floor to get to and from one’s own table, or to look for dancers to invite to dance.

The DJs change regularly, which is good, and so the music can be varied although in the main room it never gets very far away from Ceroc mainstream.

There is a bar within the blues room, and a coffee bar in the large reception area between the three dance rooms.   Because of the size of the event, many do gather there to take a break and have natter.

There has on occasion been quite an aggressive policy against bringing one’s own drinks in, which is understandable for alcohol but ludicrous when it comes to people who have brought in their own bottle of water.  If you do take a bottle of water in, keep it in your dance bag.

You don’t have to be a great dancer to have fun here, but I suspect anyone with under 6 months of jive dancing experience would find it intimidating.  But really you are going to get the most out of it by tagging along with a group of friends and sharing their table.   And incidentally tables can all be taken quite quickly so it is worth getting there within the first hour or so.

There is usually a break around 10.30pm when a cabaret comes on.  This is made up of dance couples or companies doing their routine, so dancing in the main hall stops for about 20 minutes.   Some of the performances are quite stunning, others look what one might call “under-rehearsed”.  I don’t think dancers are paid to do the gig, so I suspect occasionally there are last minute cancellations, replaced by a local teacher and partner. Not everyone watches – many do, but many others stay in the blues room, or use this as a time to get some free food (snacks are provided), coffee etc in the reception area.

Booking in advance is possible, and usually cheaper, but I’ve never known it sold out.  However it is a very popular venue, and so most people seem to book in advance.  Be prepared to queue to get in.

  • Air conditioning: 5 out of 5 – it is a huge venue so the heat rises and seems to dissipate.  Never felt over heated at the venue.
  • Atmosphere: 4 out of 5.  The hall isn’t designed for atmosphere but after half an hour there, one easily forgets that.  In many ways the sheer number of people can make it wonderful, but if you go alone and don’t know people or have problems with the “look at us” types at the edges, that takes the shine off.
  • Do ladies ask men: 4 out of 5.  Yes they do, but again outsiders can suffer.  If you have not gone before and you are going alone, be prepared to have to ask for dances all the time.
  • Facilities: 4 out of 5 – it is a huge sports hall with no decorations (although they used to put a lot of effort into that).  Good toilets facilities, it is modern, there are even lockers where you can store clothes etc (as you would expect in a sports venue).  Take a £1 coin.
  • Free water:   Yes, but they have a silly habit of only supplying very tiny plastic cups.
  • Friendliness: 2 out of 5.  For the complete outsider, no it isn’t friendly.  But that is because this is one of the big gigs of the year and many people go in groups.  It is a place where old friends who have not seen each other in months meet by chance.
  • Location: 3 out of 5.  It’s on the outskirts of Daventry, Northants.  Not too far from the M1 if you are travelling from north or south.  From the east use the A14, go on to junction 1 of the M6, double back and follow the M1 south – unless of course you know your way through the villages.  But Daventry is a place that is near nowhere.
  • Music: 4 out of 5.  None of the DJs are that adventurous, but they are varied so if you get one you don’t like, they will be moved on anon.
  • Parking: 1 out of 5.  This is the problem.  There is a  car park a few minutes walk away, but it gets absolutely full within the first hour, and after that it is a case of driving around and taking your chance, or parking illegally.   I have found a residential street nearby and walked – but even these places get very full very quickly.
  • Space: 4 out of 5 – at the moment it seems fine – around 2013 it just felt too crowded and anyone who wanted to dance expressively was either forced into one corner, or basically unable to dance as they wished.  But if we stay at the levels seen in 2017 it is ok.
  • Venue overall: 4 out of 5

 

Uxbridge

The Middlesex Suite
Uxbridge Civic Centre
High Street,  Uxbridge, Middlesex.  UB8 1UW
I have no doubt in saying that my visit to Ceroc at Uxbridge was one of the worst dance events I have ever been to.   Indeed the few locations that I can think of that were worse have now been shut down.
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I went as a total outsider, on my own, and found people sitting all the way around the dance areas in little groups, mostly chatting, few dancing.   I thought I might give it a few more minutes so went to the bar and bought a glass of wine.
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Back at my table, I took a sip (it was pretty revolting) and then thought the only way I am going to get a dance is by asking.
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I got turned down two out of three dances, the implication, as far as I could work out was that the people on that table only wanted to dance with each other, but for now were quite happy talking, thank you very much.
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Eventually I got a couple of dances, and after each I returned to my lonesome seat.  But the second time I came back I found my glass of wine empty, with remnants of the red wine spilled across the table.
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Quite how anyone could have “accidentally” knocked it over, given that the table was right out of the way, and no one would have had to squeeze by to get to their seat.  I looked around for anyone who might come forward and volunteer that they had done the deed, but no one wanted to.
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I continued to ask for dances, but in the end there are only so many rejections one can take.  I gave up.
  • Air conditioning:   No idea – I didn’t get enough dances to get hot.
  • Atmosphere: 0 out of 5
  • Do ladies ask men: 0 out of 5. No they don’t.
  • Facilities: 3 out of 5.  It is a modern centre in the heart of Uxbridge.
  • Free water:    The bar is, I believe, now closed, and free water is now provided.
  • Friendliness:  Minus 10 out of 5
  • Location: 2 out of 5.  Difficult to find if you don’t know the area at all.
  • Music: 2 out of 5
  • Parking: 2 out of 5.
  • Space: 3 out of 5.  OK for the numbers there on the night I attended
  • Venue overall: 0 out of 5

Some of the ratings are above 0, but when an outsider is treated as fundamentally unwelcome, nothing can redeem the venue.

Chiswick Town Hall

Chiswick Town Hall
Heathfield Terrace
Chiswick
London
W4 4JN

The 2017 advert on the regional Ceroc site calls this “A majestic building, an fabulous venue with a dance floor to die for” and notes a little later “Also one of Ceroc Londons prestigious weekend freestyle venues hosting our very special monthly Saturday night social party nights.”

I have only been there once, and it was a few years back, but my recollection of the event was not like that at all.  The evening started with a easy intermediate lesson and then went into freestyle.  The number of people was modest – about 60 or so I’d guess.

Friendliness was in short supply largely because most of the people who went, turned up as couples.  So yes they would swap partners, but the men half of the couple seemed decidedly miffed to see a solo male try to pinch the lady – even if it was for only one dance.

As for the venue – it is a traditional Town Hall with the central room used as a dance floor.  It was perfectly fine, but not that special

  • Air conditioning: Can’t say.   The number of people there was modest so the chances of getting too hot were limited.
  • Atmosphere: 1 out of 5.  The hall isn’t designed for atmosphere sadly.   It’s not bad but it is not brilliant.
  • Do ladies ask men:  0 out of 5.  I didn’t get asked once, and had to ask all the way through the night – and got turned down quite a few times.
  • Facilities: 2 out of 5 – it is an old town hall.
  • Free water:  Yes
  • Friendliness: 0 out of 5.  I was there right at the start, but no one came up to say “hi, haven’t seen you here before.”  Not the organiser, not the early arrivers, not no one.
  • Location: 3 out of 5.  Just off the main road and I found parking in a side street.  But I was there early.  I am not sure where else one would park.
  • Music: 3 out of 5
  • Parking:  See location.
  • Space: 5 out of 5 – what is needed is more people there not more space.
  • Venue overall: 2 out of 5

Hucknall known as “Temptation”

John Godber Centre, Ogle Street, Hucknall, NG15 7FQ

This venue is run by Ceroc Heaven, but watch out – it is not listed as Hucknall on their Diary Page on the website.  Rather it is just “Temptation”.  Nothing wrong with calling an event something – except for old timers like me who are easily confused and expect a venue to be named after, well, the venue.

Anyway, Temptation it is.

Hucknall town centre is a building site at the moment (2017) so beware the road closures, but Ogle Street has remained open throughout.  There is parking in Ogle Street itself and there is a car park on the corner before you come into Ogle Street, plus a raised car park just beyond.  (Drive past the venue with the venue on your left and then turn left up the ramp).

The venue is on the first floor and perfectly adequate for the size of the crowd with chairs along two sides and tables and chairs at one end.  There’s a standard type stage at the other end.  Off the dance area there is a separate room with the bar and places to sit and chat, which is rather nice.   There is always a free array of food as well.

I have always enjoyed this venue because there’s never a shortage of dances to be had.  I’m asked, and there are always ladies to ask – it works well.  On one occasion they did run a blues class on a dance night at 8.30pm, which meant that just as the dance floor was getting going, so then people left the dance and went to the class, which I felt interrupted the whole flow of the evening, but maybe that was just me wanting to dance.

 

  • Air conditioning: Never seems to get too hot. No problem.
  • Atmosphere: 5 out of 5.  It is just a regular room but it really works – not least because people who want to drop out for a while, have the room by the bar to do so in.
  • Do ladies ask men: 4 out of 5.  Maybe I got lucky but I got requests to dance from beginners to advanced dancers.  All the time – in fact.
  • Facilities: 5 out of 5.  What else do you want at a dance?
  • Free water: Yes
  • Friendliness: 5 out of 5.  Totally warm and welcoming.
  • Location: 4 out of 5.  It is along a side street and the first time I was there I wondered where the venue was, but really it’s not too hard to find not least because it is the only place in Ogle Street that looks like a club.
  • Music: 5 out of 5 – nothing I couldn’t dance to and plenty that are a challenge
  • Parking: 5 out of 5: the street and two car parks.
  • Space: 4 out of 5 – just beware if it becomes more and more popular.
  • Venue overall: 5 out of 5 – but getting close to 5.

 

Kelham Hall, Newark

Kelham Hall, Kelham, Newark
Nottinghamshire NG23 5QX
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According to its web site “Kelham Hall is a beautiful stately home located in the Trent valley.  The Hall provides a stunning backdrop for weddings, events and family days out.”  And for jive dances.

Ceroc Heaven, just about the most vibrant Ceroc franchise I know, holds dances there regularly and it is certainly a magnificent place to have the event.  It is on the fringe of a village, and to get to the car park you drive through the grounds, and then walk into the ancestral home (for such I imagine it was – designed by the chap who designed the original St Pancras Hotel).

The bar is spacious, and it is fun dancing under the dome.  Yes it can get a bit crowded and the seating is not ideal, unless you get there early, but having to walk the edges of the dance floor to get offered a dance is not the worst thing in the world.

But not only is it a fun place to dance, it also attracts a very good gathering of dancers.  Everyone asks everyone, and by and large everyone is very friendly.   I certainly try not to miss it.

However, be aware: sometimes you need to book in advance.  At one Christmas/New Year event I found some people walking disconsolately away having turned up without a ticket to an event that had sold out.  Check the website for the latest news.

  • Air conditioning: 4 out of 5 – reasonable air con and they have fans going which was fine.  Helped by the very high roof so the hot air moves up and out of the way.
  • Atmosphere: 5 out of 5.  Vibrant and fun every time I have been.
  • Do ladies ask men: 5 out of 5.  If you want to sit down, go and hide.  If you are standing at the end of the dance floor the chances are you will be asked.
  • Facilities: 5 out of 5 – there’s always a good free buffet, the bar is long and well stocked, there is plenty of car parking space.
  • Free water: Yes – help yourself at the bar.  How nice to see a bar that not only knows the Licensing Act but works in the spirit of the Act
  • Friendliness: 5 out of 5.  Some people do gather in their groups, and sit and watch, but if you want a dance just walk around and be asked, or ask.  Everyone is always very friendly, and some stay on the dance floor for hours.
  • Location: 3 out of 5.  It is right out in the countryside so unless you are very lucky you are going to have to travel a distance.  But this one is worth it.   You’ll need sat nav or a good map to find the village, but once there, there are signs indicating where you turn off the main road.  Just look for the country park.
  • Music: 5 out of 5.  Excellent always.  Music changes after 11pm to give some more interesting and imaginative pieces.
  • Parking: 4 out of 5.  I love the place so get there early, but I suspect the car parks get fairly full, and you might have to park on the roadside within the grounds.
  • Space: 5 out of 5 – these people are sensible, they only set the tickets up to a number that will make the venue exciting but not dangerously full.
  • Venue overall: 5 out of 5.   To jive in a stately home – even just once – must be worth a visit.

Derby – Rolls Royce Centre

The Rolls Royce Pavilion
Moor Lane
Derby
Derbyshire
DE24 9HY

 

This is a nice dance area with a bar and raised seating section and a dance floor below with the DJ behind.   The problem was that the night I visited there was a small number of people and no atmosphere.

The small number made it very hard to get dances as an outsider – there seemed to be a resistance to a man turning up on his own, and quite a few of the couples simply danced together and were not there to dance with any others.

Despite the very low numbers neither the lady who was on the door nor the DJ actually joined in to help get things along, so we were left there to make the best of it.   A number of outsiders who were not there to dance, but knew the bar staff, were at a table chatting away through much of the evening.

What was interesting was that the event was advertised as being at a really good environment, which the club was lucky to be able to get.  Maybe so, but without a good crowd of dancers it doesn’t work.

In effect it is up to the people running the event to work on getting a crowd, but I saw no incentives to get people in, and certainly my attitude having been there once was not to go again.

  • Air conditioning:  I imagine so – there was no overheating problem.
  • Atmosphere: 0 out of 5.  It is a modern hall, so none of the coldness of the old halls from the 1960s.   But you need a crowd of enthusiastic dancers to make a venue built like this work.
  • Do ladies ask men: 0 out of 5.  No one asked me to dance until I had worked the whole room and found a couple of women who liked dancing with me and later asked for a second.
  • Facilities: 4 out of 5.  It is all there – a good bar, modern facilities, plenty of places to sit.
  • Free water: Yes
  • Friendliness: 0 out of 5.  That’s probably unfair, because of the numbers, but if no one welcome you as an outsider what else can you say.
  • Location: 4 out of 5.  I found it ok with sat nav until the very last moment when I was off the feeder road and simply parked and waked around to what turned out to be the venue.  There seemed to be no signs at that point, but it was hard to miss.
  • Music: 3 out of 5 – very average.
  • Parking: 4 out of 5 car park right outside but hard to judge given the small crowd on the night I attended.
  • Space: 3 out of 5 – just beware if it becomes more and more popular.
  • Venue overall: 1 out of 5 – it could be fine if only the organisers worked on making the place a venue everyone wanted to go to.

Mapperly Plains Social Club

Plains Rd, Nottingham NG3 5RH

This club is currently used by the group that runs Pirate Jive and undertakes very successful events at the Shed in Nottingham.

The Mapperly Plains Social Club is a smaller venue, and a traditional working men’s club with several bars, meeting rooms and a function room, which the dance uses.

The first time I tried to go there I couldn’t find the venue, and if you are seeking it out for the first time these thoughts might help.

The venue doesn’t appear to have a road number and Plains Road is  very long and Google Maps not particularly helpful in this regard.  The key point is that it is right next to the Nuffield Sports Centre and close to where Plains Road intersects with Arnold Lane.  (That is apparently the road that gave rise to the Pink Floyd song “Arnold Layne” if you like your old music).

The room is a classic function room – a high stage with dance floor that has seating on three sides.   There is a bar that is on one side, but this has two disadvantages – the bar staff sometimes went for a wander, and they charge for water.

Otherwise it is perfectly fine venue which has air con devised for a seated audience (rather than a dancing audience) but with fans going it stays cool.

  • Air conditioning: 4 out of 5 – reasonable air con and they had two fans going which was fine.
  • Atmosphere: 2 out of 5.  It looks and feels like a function room rather than a dance club.   But to be fair if you are having a great dance it doesn’t matter, but I suspect if one went alone for the first time it would be a bit off putting.
  • Do ladies ask men: 0 out of 5.  I can’t recall the last time I went to a dance and didn’t get asked for a single dance.  Of course I danced all night because I went looking, but it was a bit sad.  My dance friend, however, was asked all evening – I hardly saw her except at the very start and the very end!
  • Facilities: 4 out of 5 – it’s a basic club hall, there is plenty of car parking space and they have a bar right by the dance area.  All those are positives, but it doesn’t seem to have a pazzazz yet.  That is not due to size because Keyworth (to give one example) is smaller and has a plain village hall, and yet the people there really make it buzz.
  • Free water: No – they charge and there is a sliding scale depending on whether you want a pint or a half!!!!
  • Friendliness: 2 out of 5.  There may not be actual cliques, but people did seem to be in little groups, and there was a general level of retiring to one’s seats after a dance rather than go looking for the next dance.
  • Location: 3 out of 5.  It is to the north of Nottingham, and if coming from the south of the city the options are either to go around the city via the M1 or A1 and then head across or battle through the city centre (which can be a bit confusing even with a satellite system.   Also as noted above Plains Road is long and the venue doesn’t seem to have a street number which means you need to find it by reference to other streets.
  • Music: 3 out of 5.  On the night I was there the music didn’t have the vitality and variance of a Pirate Jive evening at the Shed.  Maybe the organisers just felt they had to play safe with a less vibrant audience.
  • Parking: 5 out of 5.  There is a large open air car park outside which I can’t imagine ever getting full up on a dance night.
  • Space: 5 out of 5 – what is needed is more people there not more space.
  • Venue overall: 3 out of 5.   Charging for water is a pain, and the refusal of ladies to ask men is also a problem, plus the lack of atmosphere.  But if you go with some friends who are going to share the dances with you, that will help you, although not help make the club that much better.

 

The Fleet, Peterborough

 

The Fleet, Fleet Way, Peterborough

 PE2 8DL

This club is currently used by both Ceroc and DanceXcess for weekend dances, but as far as I know, no mid-week classes are held here.

 

  • Air conditioning: 5 out of 5 – I am not sure if there is air con, but either way I have never got overheated dancing here.
  • Atmosphere: 3 out of 5.  Somehow the atmosphere doesn’t quite work, but I can’t quite see why.  It might be the layout of tables along one side of the room whereby people sit in groups of four.  That makes it hard to break up a group by asking just one of the four people to dance.   If only the tables could be got rid of then the chairs would face the dance floor, and people wouldn’t get into their little groups chattering to each other, rather than looking for a dance.
  • Do ladies ask men: 2 out of 5.  Not much.  I have been asked a few times, but it is a rare occurance.
  • Facilities: 5 out of 5 – they do food on freestyle nights organised by DanceXcess, although we’ve not been there for the Ceroc nights, with a pause for blues music for half an hour.  Personally I carried on dancing and my partner and I had great fun meandering around the almost empty floor.
  • Free water: Yes.
  • Friendliness: 2 out of 5.  There may not be actual cliques, but the arrangement of chairs means that people huddle in groups which are hard to break up.  Women who want a dance seem more inclined to sit in their little groups rather than get up and look for dances
  • Location: 3 out of 5.  A bit out of the way – if you are not familiar with the city, don’t try and find this without a sat nav.
  • Music: 5 out of 5 normally, but I have been there once when a guest DJ played an hour’s worth of utterly undanceable music.
  • Parking: 4 out of 5.  There is a large open air car park outside.  I guess it might not be enough if the place became very popular but it certainly was satisfactory when I have been there.
  • Space: 5 out of 5 – what is needed is more people there not more space.
  • Venue overall: 3 out of 5.  Change the chair arrangements to make it better.

 

The Chimneys, Willington, Derbyshire

 

By Tony Attwood

The Chimneys Social Club, Twyford Road, Willington, County Durham, DE65 6PP

The first thing to say about Willington is that although the village is easy enough to find,  I found the locating the club more difficult.

It shouldn’t have been like that: after all it is called the Chimneys, and it is right by three gigantic cooling towers from what was a power station.  The problem I had was that I didn’t think of them as chimneys.  I thought of them as cooling towers.   So I was looking for thinner objects and drove straight past the club.

If you are approaching from the east the club is on your right before you get right into the village. There is a map here.

The club has got two function rooms and a bar, and I think I saw an Indian takeaway there as well.  It is a place for burgers, rock n roll and car boot sales.

The room is spacious, certainly spacious enough for dancing on the night I was there, and the bar was at the other end with plenty of seating.   The only problem was I had to ask for the fans to be turned on, and it was done.

It was a fine place to go, and people were friendly, but somehow it lacks a magical atmosphere.  Maybe because a lot of people seemed to be there to have a natter with friends and have a few dances in between, so each time I asked a lady to dance I felt I was interrupting the conversation

  • Air conditioning: 3 out of 5 – it didn’t get particularly hot, but I suspect it could do it if was really full up.
  • Atmosphere: 2 out of 5.  The hall isn’t designed for atmosphere sadly.   It’s not bad but it is not brilliant because it is seated at one end and a dance floor at the other.
  • Do ladies ask men: 2 out of 5. I was a stranger there – and in some places a stranger is always asked because he or she is a challenge.  I was only asked for a dance twice in the course of the whole evening.
  • Facilities: 2 out of 5 – parking was a problem.  It was dark and the whole area out the back (the only place free by the time I found it) was just a mud patch.  I didn’t know if I was going to sink or be on solid ground.
  • Free water:   Yes
  • Friendliness: 4 out of 5.  Despite my comments above when I asked, people were friendly.  Perhaps they are just not used to single guys who they have never seen before, turning up on their own.
  • Location: 2 out of 5.    It seemed to me a long way from anywhere, down a lot of country lanes.
  • Music: 5 out of 5.  The best thing – and the fact that all the ladies were happy to dance when asked.
  • Parking:  See facilities above
  • Space: 5 out of 5 – what is needed is more people there not more space.
  • Venue overall: 3 out of 5.  Not the fault of the organisers of the dance – it simply is a hard venue to make something special, especially if strangers are treated as people to be looked at rather than asked for a dance.