Friday 20th Mar 15
Our very own Emma Noble talks about her love of the Nothern music movement
27 - but I am as wise as a 100 year-old war veteran
Where do you live?
Streatham Hill - cracking value for money
What first attracted you to the Northern Soul movement?
I’ve always loved the music from the 60’s and 70’s since I was young but have a special love and appreciation for Soul and Motown.
A couple of my brothers had amazing record collections when we were growing up and I would hear all sorts of music coming from their bedrooms which I guess is what made me aware of it all and initially gave me the taste for it.
My parents also played a lot of Motown - then my brother Bob who is also a soul fan was introduced to this thing called ‘Northern Soul’ through a friend of his, Bob started sending me some of the tunes he had found and then it just carried on from there…I just kept finding more and more songs that were incredible.
I then went and found out about these nights that were on in London dedicated to Northern Soul, but at this stage I loved the music but couldn’t do the dancing that goes with it.
What do you like about the music?
Just everything about it is right. The music arrangement and craftsmanship in the songs is incredible, in particular the stuff with strings and brass - it sounds so powerful when it all kicks in. It’s like an uptempo version of Motown, with this repetitive heavy beat and drive which makes you just want to dance.
Then you get the slower paced ones which are just as powerful but they have this haunting kind of sound to them. A lot of the songs have quite meaningful lyrics and messages, delivered in these amazing soulful voices, but they still maintain this really uplifting feel to them, which gives me that amazing feeling you get when you listen to an incredible bit of music.
It’s also the fact that there is this bank of amazing American soul music which didn’t make it into the mainstream music scene - it’s like finding a pot of gold, it’s exciting discovering it.
It’s nice to know that the music eventually got the recognition and appreciation it deserves through the Northern Soul scene. Something that good can’t just go unnoticed!
Northern Soul clearly exists outside of the north of England. Where’s good to go for a Northern Soul night?
There are do’s all over the country all the time, one of the biggest and most authentic weekends is in Stoke at a place called Kings Hall, but London wise…. there is the 6Ts all-nighter at The 100 club every month or so, there is ‘The New Untouchables’ events called Crossfire, Mousetrap & Le Beat Bespoke, and there is also the ‘Dome all-dayers’ in a lovely old hall at the Boston Arms in Tufnell Park.
However there are other nights which aren’t just pure Northern Soul - they are a bit more of a crossover so as well as soul they also they play music like, funk, disco, boogaloo, R’n’B, ska, reggae and they are great too.
One of the best nights for this was ‘The Good Foot’ and ‘Lost and Found’ nights at Madamme JoJos but that’s been shut down now which is a real shame. But there is also the nights that ‘The Black Cat DJs’ put on which are good.
How did you become involved in the film Northern Soul?
I was already into the music but like I said I didn’t really do the dancing side of it properly, then whilst on the internet one day looking for and listening to music I stumbled across some stuff about the film and that they were looking for young people to be dancers in the film.
I was relatively new to London and thought why not - it will be good chance to meet like-minded people and get better at the dancing and it also sounded like an exciting project to get involved with. So I started going every month to these sessions where we would just get immersed in the music and dance our hearts out and try and learn new steps and acrobatics being guided by some of the original Wigan Casino goers like Keb Darge, Fran Fanklin and Paul Sadot. (I can’t do the acrobatics though).
Month-by-month more and more young people from all over the country who were into the scene started turning up and it became a really special thing to be involved with. It was great fun and damn good exercise too!
What was filming like?
Probably one of the best things I have ever done…..We (the dancers) did two separate long weekends of filming. There were about 20ish of us dancers from London who were on this coach on our way up North to start filming then there were a load more young dancers from up North…and I don’t think any of us realised how special it was going to be, how much we would laugh and all the new friendships we would make.
We would start early and basically just dance solidly all day whilst they filmed the big dance scenes, it was a bit knackering but it was amazing and it felt like we had actually gone back in time to the 70’s.
When we were doing the big ‘Wigan Casino’ scene I remember looking round at everyone dancing and then seeing the camera really high up in the air looking down on all of us and I got shivers thinking about how amazing that shot was going to look. We would finish filming then go straight to the pub, and then wake up in the morning and do it all again.
You model too, how did that come about?
Only a little bit…..but funnily enough through Northern Soul! A photographer called Dean Chalkley was doing a short film and photoshoot for a project called ‘Young Souls’ about young people who are into the Northern Soul scene, which I ended up being featured in.
Everyone was lovely and I met some great new people - I didn’t realise it at the time but it turned out that Dean was quite a well established photographer and his partner Amanda runs an model agency and does a lot of casting work and so off the back of this Dean used me for a few more jobs and Amanda gets me the odd job here and there. Most of it has just been a matter of being in the right place at the right time!
How important is the clothing in relation to Northern Soul music?
I find people who are into the scene generally have an appreciation the 60’s and 70’s in general so quite a lot of people wear vintage. There is also quite a strong link between northern soul and the mod movement so there are elements of that in there too.
However, when it comes to actually dancing there are some key bits you often see - big baggy trousers known as ‘slacks’ which allows them to move about freely and usually just a shirt, and the girls sometimes where big flowing skirts which flare out when they do spins so it becomes quite theatrical, and you must have a decent pair of shoes - ones with leather soles are best as they have less grip so you can spin easier. But then some people will just wear tracksuits and T-shirt just so they are comfortable.
What is your personal style?
I love everything about the 60’s and 70’s so I am influenced by the fashion from those eras a lot. I’m also interested in the mod movement, so I often look there for inspiration too. And my barnet is inspired by the fro’s from the 70s! Great set of barnets back then!
Where’s the best place to shop for your look?
For things like jeans and basic clothes I shop in Zara & H&M, but for everything else I go to vintage shops (Blackout in Covent Garden is the best). I also wear a lot of Fred Perry & I love the old Adidas originals stuff.
Give us your top five Northern Soul tracks that those unfamiliar must listen to?
These are good first listens to ease you in for anyone who hasn’t heard Northern before….
1) The MVPs - Turnin’ my heartbeat up
2) Shirley Ellis - Soul Time
3) Nat Turner, Venetta Fields & The Mirettes - Rap, Run It On Down
4) Dee Edwards - Why Can’t There Be Love
5) The Flirtations - Nothing but a Heartache
Can you throw some amazing dance moves?
No not really…I can do the basic steps but I can’t do all the flips and acrobatics! I am an amateur compared to most!
If you could be anything other than a designer, what would it be?
Either a musician or David Attenborough’s PA so I could travel the world and see all the amazing things with him, Then go to the pub after a hard days work in the Amazon jungle and get drunk with him.