With a nod to John Peel’s genuinely legendary radio shows, if anything single-handedly brought about the idea of 41 Rooms it was the alternative / post punk / indie / new wave Wednesday nights at Winkles, between 1981 and 1986. Not the best of names for a club, I know, but the building had previously been a (fish) ‘restaurant/discotheque’, before morphing into purely a club. So, there you have it.
The photos above (credit: Kate Kinns) are (left) pre a birthday party of mine at the club in 1984 (Bungeur’s Unknown Pleasures adorned Hillman Avenger in the background) and (right) maybe later the same day/night, which certainly incorporated the Flamingos appearance, but the A4 ‘flyer’ below, for a 1992 reunion, encapsulates the above years best for me – locked in time, with the odd embarrassing turn of phrase, an’ all.
Let me know if I’ve missed anybody out but in roughly chronological order, shout outs to Ray Denton, Terry McQueen, Rob West, Tony Sullivan, Kev Bailey, Ian Johnson (RIP) and present torchbearer, Gareth Barber, the managers/owners who, collectively through the years, have brought Winkles, Limehaus and currently The Pad through some sort of continuous (record-breaking?) period of ‘indiedom’. On January 14, 1981 (just gone 35 years) I and a bunch of friends started Bedford’s first new wave/alternative night, and I bet there’s been an ‘alternative’ night of some description running every week in the building since then. In the last couple of decades (at least), the Saturday nights alone haven’t conformed to any mainstream clubbing, so weekenders looking for something different have been served well.
One line in the flyer jumps out at me – ‘In this constricted format it will never happen again’. If I had looked to DJ through the intervening years (hopefully it would have been in a setting like Winkles, where the dancefloor wasn’t the most crucial element), I certainly would have broadened the palette of sounds to pull from. 41 Rooms will do just that.
* A 41 Rooms t-shirt – if and when they’re commissioned – will be winged free of charge to the first person who identifies the 7″ single crammed unceremoniously into the front of that box in the above right hand side photo.
Below – Private party Dec ’83. Dancing at the bar. A few years later, one of these went on to front John Peel favourites, The Melons and another joined Nick Hobb’s post Shrubs outfit, Mecca. You’ll here both on 41 Rooms at some point. Who’ll notice they’re here first? My money’s on the Mecca bod.
Below – 7.4.81. One of the handmade posters briefly used in the clubs earliest months. Tippexed over – very punk. With limited space I probably had a conscious ‘and’ or ‘or’ (if you get my drift) decision to make over Joy Division/New Order. By April ’81 my head was seriously around the latter, but to the wider world it would still have been JD.
And we still had time to play some roots reggae, funk and burgeoning electro and goth tracks…
35 years ago tonight… Alan J’s opening hour set list. He’ll maybe be spinning the tunes up in the clouds even now.
And rescued from the skip when the club got remodelled and Winkles ceased to be… the porthole to the front door.