In the words of Betty Wright ‘Tonight is the night.’ It has been a long road to get to this point but tonight the ‘Build A School With Oldskool’ charity event rocks Warrington.
The event is the brainchild of promoter Jamie Allen, and before the big night I caught up with the man himself to chat about the event, his love of all things oldskool and plenty more in between.
Before we go any further I wanted to take things back to the very beginning. Did the underground dance scene find Allen or did he find it? “I got into the scene by accident, Allan explains. A few mates took me to a warehouse in a battered old ford escort xr3i in the North East and I was mesmerised by the music, it was late 89 and the acid house influence was still strong and I just knew that it was for me.”
It might be over 20 years ago but the memories are as still as fresh as ever for the self-described 40 something based in Liverpool as he recalls those halcyon days.
“My best memories of the scene were the parties during the summer of love and the acid house scene. I was living in Newcastle at the time and there were loads of great nights like club Havana and the Butter Loggie nights, then came the Rezerection nights where we were treated to upcoming acts like Shades Of Rhythm and the Prodigy. We never realised what we were creating at the time with this scene but in hindsight we were born at the perfect time, it was like planets aligned and I was meant to be there, hippies had Woodstock, and we had our moment too, it was a great era.
I’ve seen so many great DJs from back in the day like Slipmatt, Carl Cox, Ratty, Jumping Jack Frost, DJ Rap, Joey Beltram and many many more, but for me one guy stands out head and shoulders above everyone and that’s DJ Tosh, the resident DJ at a club in Newcastle with about 400 capacity. The guy just knew his audience and held them in the palm of his hand for 2 hours, it was almost like he was a snake charmer and he played the tunes that kept them in a trance; pure genius.”
Skip forward to today and the oldskool revival is well underway but the promotor remains convinced that the old days were the best days.
“The resurgence of the scene started a few years back but I genuinely believe that our generation of 1970s kids had the best time. The dance scene was interesting and the piano, acid, breakbeat and hardcore days gave us the best tunes and nothing’s come close since. So why would you want to stop celebrating that era, I just think some of us had to take time out in the noughties after all that excess!”
Over the last few years Allen has set up the ‘Oldskool Members Club’ on Facebook which has thousands of members and set up his own weekend radio show. Much like his introduction to the scene back in 89 the Facebook group started out as nothing and grew into something huge.
“Me and a few other oldskool fans started the group to allow us to share the stuff we loved like pictures, tracks and other DJs mixes. It was all a bit of a laugh. We made it a secret group and you can only join by invite from another member, but in 6 months the group had 3000 members and we thought hang on, we could be onto something here…”
While his radio also continues to go from strength to strength. “We have had some amazing DJs play from back in the day and we have some great stuff coming up, in fact we’ve just got JimShaft Ryan from Miss Moneypennys in Birmingham confirm to do a slot so that looks positive.”
The ‘Build A school…’ event however, is Allen’s biggest project to date. Never a man to shy away from a challenge he had an idea, saw an opportunity to do something positive and took the plunge.
“I was promoting in 2011/12 and was putting on proper quality acts like Altern8 and Together/Hardcore uproar. I’ve always loved the buzz of putting nights on and it was just a coincidence that the company that I work for had chosen to work with the Memusi Foundation as their chosen charity, and I was really impressed with what it stood for.
There are a lot of causes out there, but this one does an amazing job building schools in Africa and helping kids to have a direction and make a real difference. These kids don’t have a school to go to unless charities like Memusi get involved. Africa is still a million years behind the western world and there are still children who are being forced into marriages in their tribes when they should be learning that they can make choices for themselves.
Memusi brings that opportunity by working with elders of the tribe and buying land to build these schools and making dreams become reality. It’s really cool, so I thought yes, it’s time to do something positive, and I do love a challenge!”
As for the line-up, once the ball was rolling that was the easy bit. “The line-up kind of just came about. I put the idea onto Facebook and then I got the likes of Steve Proctor and Joe Nebula approach me; both were really positive and said “we’re playing” without hesitation.
‘Jon the Dentist’ (Who is also a teacher) came forward and told me it was a no brainer, and soon that after Slipmatt came on-board. I’ve always been a massive fan of his since the SL2 days and seeing him entertain 25000 people at Fantazia summertime (Great days indeed) and before you knew it we had the nucleus for a night.
I also brought in guys who I’ve been pals with for a while, some of these guys who don’t have the same billing as the likes of Slipmatt but are the kind of guys I’d have as residents on a club night because of their ability to read a crowd.”I can’t possibly explain how much I want this night to succeed. Allen’s enthusiasm and love for the scene and everything in it is there for all to see and you can’t help but want to get behind him. It’s a fantastic cause and it’s a brilliant idea. No matter your taste in music it’s impossible to argue against the sense of community which it creates and how powerful it is.
The event will take place at MIXBAR in Warrington (WA1 1HG) kicking off at 7pm and running all the way until 4am but I’ll let the man who made it all possible have the final word.
“Don’t think just act, make a change for those who have no choices, and just come and rave hard with us for the common good!!
I don’t think you will ever recreate 1988 to 1994 but we will give it a good try this Saturday at build a school with OLDSKOOL, so get down and party like its 25 years ago!”