Southport Weekender - Electronic Music & UK Rave Culture

Simon Donnelly Photographers
The longest-running UK dance music weekender

Southport Weekender. Tens of thousands of clubbers including myself, occasionaly with my camera, have attended and adored this event, which is well over 30 years old. 

Southport Weekender

The event began in 1987 in Berwick upon Tweed, moved to Blackpool for three editions, Morecambe for one, and finally settled at the Pontins location in Southport. The genius behind the event is Up North Promoter Alex Lowes.

The more soulful side of house music had already begun to find its spot there. The event gained the most notoriety for this type of music, releasing more than 10 compilation CDs mixed by artists like Joey Negro, Miguel Migs, DJ Spinna, and Mr. Scruff.

Dj & Stage Manager Jonathon

Midway through the 1990s, soulful house reached its zenith in terms of popularity, and Southport Weekender rose to prominence as the world's leading purveyors of the genre. 

As a result, when the Pontins group was sold and the festival was compelled to relocate to Butlins in Minehead in 2009, it kept the Southport Weekender moniker. The event was so well-liked that it began having two editions a year at its height in the middle of the 1990s.

The festival gained a reputation for outstanding production values and mind-blowing live performances, and it frequently sold out all available tickets before announcing its lineup.

Masters @ Work

As a result, it was almost unmatched in the festival calendar.

India, De La Soul, Teddy Riley, Soul II Soul, Gangstarr, Roxanne Shante, A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul. Among those who gave live performances at the event were Arie, Jazzy Jeff, The Pharcyde, Jill Scott, Alexander O'Neal, Mr. Fingers, Reese Project, Terry Callier, Angie Stone, Ten City, and Raphael Saadiq. 2014's celebration of the event's 50th birthday featured performances by Chaka Khan, Faith Evans, and Brazilian legend Marcos Valle.

Theo Parrish, Derrick Carter, Benji B, Francois K, Frankie Knuckles, Tony Humphries, Ron Trent, Masters At Work Mr. Scruff, Gilles Peterson, Kerri Chandler, and Floating Points were among the regular DJs. Later on, Joy Orbison, Omar S, Floating Points, and Kyle Hall also played.

DJ Tony Humphries

"It was a stunning production"

When you finally arrived at the throng of dancers in the main room of the Southport Weekender, The Powerhouse, you would look up in shock after keeping your eyes glued to the floor to navigate the sea of empty water bottles and plastic pint glasses that frequently carpeted the quieter, outer reaches of the dancefloor.

The Powerhouse

The indoor event's production values had a wow factor unlike any other because they were vividly unique each and every time. Huge mirrorballs, drapes that resembled whale parachutes, video screens, stunning lighting, and lazers illuminated a floor that was teeming with happy, sweat-covered dancers, some of whom were standing on podiums. Also included was a faultless audio system that caressed your innermost organs. a striking appearance and striking sound.

Louie Vega

"the unique live performances"

Each performer at Southport Weekender seemed to reach their full potential there. Visitors to the event were undoubtedly inspired by the ferocious enthusiasm of the event's very vocal audience, as evidenced by the wildly jubilant Chaka Khan at the 50th anniversary celebration the previous year and Peven Everett truly letting loose at one of his very first UK performances in the early 2000s.

Two performances in particular stood out in recent years: one by Gregory Porter, a rising star, and the other by Marcos Valle, a Brazilian legend who was visibly moved by a raucous crowd that insisted on three encores from him in 2014. The event's renownedly international audience that night included several sizable groups from Portugal, who screamed in Valle's native tongue.

"interacting with new people in a diverse, international setting"

Often, making new friends at a festival or rave is the best part. If every attendee is a white, middle-class student from southern England with an obsession with Radiohead, that experience may be very constrained. That never happened at Southport Weekender. Numerous crews from London, Birmingham, as well as Manchester, Bristol, and Liverpool attended, giving it the distinction of having the highest proportion of black British attendees of any festival in the UK.

Fans of that sound traveled great distances to attend as it became synonymous with the soulful side of house music, with the best representation coming from the USA, China, Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Belgium, and Italy. The fact that a large portion of the music in its Beat Bar had Brazilian or African influences only heightened the atmosphere's global vibe.

"developing lifelong friendships"

In the 1990s, music fans from all over the nation and abroad would congregate in Southport once a year or twice a year to catch up with friends they had made at earlier events. The fact that it was frequently the only time they would see these friends added to the celebration. However, these relationships sometimes developed into much closer bonds with testimonials about wonderful memories and people explaining how the event inspired their marriage or child's birth. The event is not known as The UK's Friendliest Party for nothing. One or two divorces may have also resulted from it though!

"that distinct, spiritual vibe"

It didn't feel like a typical dance music event because the event's roots were in soul music and it was the UK's best large-scale platform for soulful house. Any raver who had never been to a soul night before was in for a pleasant surprise when they entered the Connoissuers Corner room for the first time.

This was a place where emotions were shown without inhibition, arms raised, open hands reaching for the lights as the vocals were played. 

Sounds Of Blackness By Simon Donnelly Photographer

Soulful house, gospel-infused soul music, and some of the performances that were heard there left a deeply moving impression. Two examples include Sounds of Blackness' performance of "Optimistic" and Jasper Street Company's multiple occasions of leading the crowd to church. It made no difference that the majority of the crowd was probably not religious and was probably quite inebriated; it was a spiritual experience to be swept up in.

Louie Vega Photographer Simon Donnelly

"hedonistic lifestyle"

Southport Weekender

Even the hardest of rave goers can sometimes feel the effects of a three-night party, but Southport Weekender was typically a happy place, no matter what kind of mood you were in. Over the course of its 28-year existence, the event attracted many devoted followers who attended the majority of the weekenders. For many young, first-time attendees, however, seeing all these people, some of whom might have been their parents' age, getting trolleyed alongside them was frequently startling.

Music Weekender Photography

"the education in music"

The music was without a doubt the most important component of Southport Weekender, with its four main dancefloors, guest DJs, and resident DJs serving as a constant source of motivation and knowledge. 

tony humphries by simon donnelly photographer

Professional and amateur DJs from all over the world were part of its audience and its long-running internet forum. Theo Parrish, Rahaan, Kon and Amir, and Mr. Scruff were among the deep-divers who cherished performing there because it allowed them to test the audience by performing from the very limits of their collections.

by simon donnelly photographer birmingham

"the gatherings at the chalet"

louie vega by simon donnelly photographer birmingham

At a rave, no one likes to be told when to go to bed, even if the final official DJ finishes up at a respectable 7am. The Southport Weekender crowd was lively, so it was inevitable that post-parties would start in the Pontins complex of chalets. These would expand yearly. For such events, some enthusiasts first began bringing their own decks. Later, they began bringing full on rigs, and after the official music had ended and dancers had spilled into the sunshine, hundreds would be drawn to illegal sound systems set up on the lawns between uncomfortable accommodations. 

Southport dunes by photographer simon donnelly

These grew to such a size that, eventually, venue security would be called to shut them down after several hours. Ever resourceful, sound system operators simply outmanoeuvred them and, just a few years ago, took a full rig onto Minehead's beach and held a full-on rave on the sands, much to the distress of early-morning locals and to the dismay of the event and Butlins, who were hauled before the local council on account of the incident

Change your Event practises today, CALL OR TEXT: +44 (0)7836 337293 

Email: [email protected] or see more useful content here

Event Photographers in Birmingham