Daily Archives: May 24, 2017

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