Ballroom memories music to the ears

Published Friday 20 April 2018 at 9:41

Synth pop pioneer Martyn Ware is appealing for people to share their memories and mementoes of the popular Blackburn nightclub Tony’s Empress Ballroom

Martyn, a founding member of both The Human League and Heaven 17, will use them to create a sound installation at the free National Festival of Making which takes place in the town centre on May 12 and 13.

Tony’s was a cornerstone of the Northern Soul scene in the 1980s and a home of the legendary “all-nighter”. It then became a popular rave venue.

Thousands of clubbers passed through its doors and Martyn wants to hear from couples who met on the dance floor and people who have flyers, photos and other mementos of the venue from the period tucked away.

He said:

Lancashire was the home of the Northern Soul all-nighter. After the fire at Wigan Casino, Tony’s Empress Ballroom was one of the places that kept the tradition alive.

When the rave scene hit the North West in the late 1980s, it was commonplace for hundreds of people to drive to towns like Blackburn looking for a party with many taking place at Tony’s during that exciting period.

The National Festival of Making is a celebration of creativity and will include family workshops, street theatre, markets, music, food and art.

Martyn added:

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, from rock and roll to jazz and brass bands to punk, music has been an outlet for workers and has provided a meeting place for communities.

By asking people to get in touch and contribute to this project focused on Lancashire’s rich heritage, I am aiming to create an experience that’s evocative of the real, working lives that found and still find fun and freedom through getting together to enjoy music.

 Elena Gifford, Co-Director of The National Festival of Making, said:

Martyn has worked all over the world as an artist, using all of his experience in music and sound to create remarkable experiences that offer a sense of time and place.

Contact Martyn at by April 27.

Watch a Granada News report about the Northern Soul scene at Tony’s

This site uses cookies. Find out more about this site’s cookies.