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Wigan Casino– The temple of Northern Soul at 50 years.

Wigan, Lancashire, September 1973.

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Wigan Casino hosting its first Northern Soul all-nighter, making itself the centre of the booming Northern Soul scene.

From September 1973 until 1981, Wigan Casinos Saturday “all-nighters” drew Soulies primarily from northern England, but also from other parts of the country.

The origins of Northern Soul.

To understand the significance of Wigan Casino, one must first delve into the origins of Northern Soul. Northern Soul, a term coined in the mid-1960s, refers to the distinctly northern English interpretation of American soul music it was characterised by heavy beat, fast tempo and emotionally charged vocals. This unique blend of soul captured the hearts of a dedicated subculture drawing its inspiration from the Motown sound but embracing lesser-known gems.

DJs and collectors, especially from the North of England, started to dig deeper into the treasure trove of forgotten soul and R&B music, unearthing rare and forgotten tracks that never gained mainstream attention. The high energy soul tracks – many that were recorded by black American artists- were more often than not, tracks that had flopped on their launch or were obscure B-sides. The great Northern Soul DJs such as Richard Searling travelled to the US to rummage through the Record stores that specialised in Soul, to find rare gems that they could bring back to the north of England.

Northern Soul wasn’t just about music, it was also a lifestyle. The fashion was distinctive, and Soulies adorned themselves in sharp stylish attire with high waisted pleated trousers, button down shirts, and polished leather shoes, with girls sporting bold colours, circle skirts, oxford bag trousers and polos. But what truly defined the fashion of Northern Soul with the patches, badges, and emblems Soulies displayed, patches from the club so frequent it and it records a cherished. These patches were badge of honour representing a shared passion for the music and the scene.


One of the most remarkable aspects of Northern Soul scene at Wigan Casino was a sense of community and inclusivity it fostered. It was a subculture that transcended race, class, and age, and inside the Casino, everyone was equal on the dancefloor. It was a place where people could escape the daily lives and lose themselves in the soul music


So, what about Wigan Casino?


Wigan is situated in the North of England, a former cotton mill town, situated between Liverpool and Manchester. The town had suffered through the decline of the industry and found itself in the 1970s in austere times. The casino was a former ballroom called the Empress and with its vast sprung wooden floor it provided a great dancefloor for the northern soul flips, turns, and moves. It was a place to throw off the worries of life in this gritty working-class town.


Two local DJs, Brian Rigby, and Alan Caine, set up all- nighters and were assisted by Ross Winstanley another local DJ (pictured below). The first Allnighter went ahead starting at 2 am on Sunday 23rd of September 1973 with three DJs on the ticket including Winstanley, Ian Fishwick and Kev Roberts. The first night attracted 600 to the floor

The all-nighter became the defining feature of the Casino. Every Saturday night the club would open its two huge doors at 2 am and welcome in the queues that had formed in the small streets in the centre of Wigan. The 3 am dancefloor ritual was a particular highlight. As the clock struck three and a hushed anticipation would sweep across the floor, the lights would dim, and the DJ would put on the record known as “The Snake” by Al Wilson. This track with its hypnotic beat and captivating melody had become an anthem of sorts for the Casino faithful. It marked the midpoint of the night, a moment of unity and shared passion that bound the crowd together.

Then, at most all-nighters, just before the closing time at 8 am, there was a feature called the “3 before 8”.  “Time will pass you by” by Tobi Legend,” Long after tonight is all over “by Jimmy Radcliffe and “I’m on my way “by Dean Parrish were played consecutively before the crowd were let loose into a Sunday morning.

Much like the other Northern Soul clubs such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, Catacombs in Wolverhampton, and the Golden Torch in Stoke-on-Trent there were very often convoys of cars coming from the towns and cities in the north, making this a communal event, and a forerunner, surely, for the rave scene in the 1990s.

And the music?

DJ Richard Searling ran a record shop in Wigan and together with the other DJs they would search out shops, label vaults and warehouses in the US looking for the tracks that they could play out on a Saturday night. One of the most famous discoveries by ceiling was tainted Love by Gloria Jones which he found on a visit to a Philadelphia warehouse that stored return stock and deleted vinyl. It was, itself a B-side of a failed single, and was not only a northern soul hit but was also covered by Soft Cell, going to number one in the charts in 1981

Along with the DJs there were also performances from Soul stars such as Jackie Wilson, Edwin Starr, and Junior Walker.

We’ve put together a top 20 of northern soul tracks and you can check those out at the end of the article.

The last track

The Casino held its 500th all-nighter on Saturday, 16 May 1981 starting at midnight and closing off at 8 am. The building itself was owned by Wigan Council who want to develop the Civic Centre. The development never went ahead, and the club closed on 6 December 1981. Any chance of a revival was ended when the casino burnt down in 1982. During the years, the Casino boasted more than 100,000 members (with only a capacity for 1200), and it is reputed that over 1 million Soulies passed through the doors to the Casino during its life. This final track played at the Wigan Casino went on to be one of the most famous Northern soul songs of all time, Frank Wilson‘s “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)

Although the casino closed the Legacy lives on. The Northern Soul scene help nurture has left an indelible mark on popular culture the distinctive dance moves and most importantly the music continues to inspire new generations. Northern Soul’s influence can be heard in contemporary music genres like House, techno, and hip-hop. The dedication to finding rare record gems still drives collectors and DJs worldwide.


Importantly the genre is enjoying renewed life. Very often subcultures can have revivals, that tend to be retrospective and revivalist, very often being the swansong or last gasp of a dying genre. The Northern Soul scene does thankfully have its adherence who are the original dancers from Wigan, Stoke and Wolverhampton, but as the famous Northern Soul motto proclaims, Keep the Faith, and through the years there have been new adherent to the scene. Levanna McLean famously lit the torch for Northern Soul with her videos that brought the genre to a new generation.

There are many clubs around the UK and most notably is the Deptford Northern Soul Club, that has been bringing the music and genre to a new generation. Far from being revivalist, DNSC are putting a completely new spin on Northern Soul and bring it back into the conversation of modern dance music. Other clubs around the country include, The Leeds Central Soul Club, Bristol Northern Soul Club, Boston Soul Survivors and Wells Soul City, and the Northern Soul scene is alive with a new generation in Japan at club nights such as Nude Restaurant in Kobe


Of course, if you know about any other clubs, let us know and we’ll be happy to put them out on our social media.

And those top twenty tracks

‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’ by Frank Wilson

‘Out on the Floor’ by Dobie Gray

‘You Didn’t Say a Word’ by Yvonne Baker

‘The Snake’ by Al Wilson

‘Long After Tonight Is All Over’ by Jimmy Radcliffe

‘Seven Day Lover’ by James Fountain

‘You Don’t Love Me’ by Epitome of Sound

‘Looking for You’ by Garnet Mimms

‘If That’s What You Wanted’ by Frankie Beverly & the Butlers

‘Seven Days Too Long’ by Chuck Wood

‘The Right Track’ by Billy Butler

‘Stick by Me Baby’ by Salvadors

‘I Really Love You’ by Tomangoes

‘Time Will Pass You By’ by Tobi Legend

‘Landslide’ by Tony Clarke

‘Too Late’ by Larry Williams & Johnny “Guitar” Watson

‘You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies’ by Dana Valery

‘Walking Up a One Way Street’ by Willie Tee

‘If You Ever Walk Out of My Life’ by Dena Barnes

‘There’s Ghost in My House’ by R. Dean Taylor

 ‘Just loving you’  by Ruby Andrews

‘Little darlin’ by Marvin Gaye

‘The Night’ -Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons –

‘Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy’ The Tams


Here is an easy guide to find some Northern Soul events in the UK

Allnighter Guide – Northern Soul Music Events & Clubs | Source (

And finally, you can catch the great photography of Francesco Mellina on display in Wigan. The  exhibition features photography from the last night of the Casino, taken by Francesco who had been dispatched there by the NME. It is on until 21st of October 2023. It is situated on Standishgate in the town centre.That’s Francesco in the photo below.

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