I had a catch up with an old friend the other day. I say “old” friend as it was only when we talked we realised just how long we’d known each other! That friend is Robert Winning and when we spoke we realised it must have been about 26 years ago when we first met.
It was 1991 and I’d been to see Morrissey at the Caird Hall in Dundee. The gig had finished early after around an hour as Morrissey was losing his voice. He was due to be playing the following night at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. Obviously there was a concern that it might not happen. I remember I was working close by the concert hall that day, so nipped out in my lunch hour to see what was happening. The number of despondent looking be-quaffed individuals sitting on the concert hall steps at the top of Buchanan Street, one of whom was Robert, told me all I needed to know. Sure enough, the gig was cancelled!
I don’t remember if that was exactly the first time we’d met. We did meet often in King Tuts and that had opened its doors the previous year, however, it is a day that remains in my memory.
The cancelled gig was rescheduled in the July of that year, and when it did go ahead, I seem to remember Frisbees, cigarettes and maybe even a red pullover, being thrown towards the stage during “Mute Witness” & “Our Frank” and also memorable for some brave soul jumping from the balcony onto the stage at one point!
However, Robert remembers the original cancelled date as being one he remembered for meeting “so many people that are still part of my life to this day”.
I wanted to ask Robert about his Strangeways Nights, how they had started and what led him to his latest venture – “There is a Night that Never Goes Out”.
Disclaimer – The following is taken from some notes I took during a telephone conversation with Robert. It is as accurate as I can decipher from my notes. I made a mental note to myself that if I’m going to make a success of this blog I need to get better at taking notes or record the conversations!
I asked Robert what made him start running the Strangeways nights and Facebook group?
“Probably the reason was that over a long period I had met a lot of people, become good friends with them and enjoyed their company. However, there had never really been anything that had brought everyone together. I had an idea of what I wanted to do in my head for so long. Then in 2010 got offered a night almost adhoc in The Flying Duck. There were a couple of bands playing and they wanted to do something different afterwards. I said we’d do it, a Smiths night and it was massive for us, set us up to do so many more nights over the next 8 years.”
The first “official” Strangeways Night followed the next year.
“I got talking to Dave (Ross), he was exceedingly supportive and always has been about good ideas for nights like Strangeways. He was running the Black Sparrow Pub and we used the basement which held about 80 people. We wanted to create a night that was special to the people that went to it – like Blow Up in London, Divine! In Glasgow, like Blitz was to the people who went there.”
“In 2013, the Strangeways Nights moved to Heavenly, a vegan café/bar owned by friends. Dave had left the Black Sparrow and we wanted the club night to stay with friends. The club had turned into a night with an increasing number punters wanting to pay and queue to get in!”
Ultimately, the night moved to the Admiral Bar (again – the Dave Ross factor), due to the popularity of the night and to accommodate the size it had become.
I’d been at a few of the nights myself, and I’d seen first-hand how popular they were, I also knew that people made a special effort to attend. I asked Robert about this….
“People come from all over to the nights, Manchester, London, all over England and Ireland too. People arranged weekends to come and see friends and specifically come to the nights. Probably at one point there were more people coming from outwith Glasgow than people that actually lived here”
“The furthest someone has come for a night is from Chile. Ok, they didn’t come just for Strangeways, but made sure that their trip to Glasgow coincided with the night!”
Having run the Strangeways club night and Facebook group for so long, I asked Robert if he had any memories that stood out.
“All the nights are special and it is always good to see folk there that keep coming back. There are a hardcore of about 30 people who are always there and are unwavering in their support – they know who they are”
“In terms of specific things that stick out, there are a few. In 2011, we hired a bus and did 5 dates on that Morrissey tour. It was a time I’ll always remember, touring around with people from all over the world to go and see Morrissey.”
“One Strangeways Night stands out for perhaps the wrong reasons. It was in Heavenly and they were selling White Russians for £2. However the bar staff didn’t really know how to make them and the measures were much larger than they should have been. It must have cost the pub a fortune as everyone ended up drinking them and everyone ended up hammered. It was messy!”
“The other thing that sticks in my memory is what we call the “Strangeways Chorus”. On every night we run, when it gets to around 11pm/ midnight, everyone starts singing along to the songs. You can turn the music off, and we do, and everyone continues to sing. That’s pretty amazing to see.”
“Of course, I couldn’t do the nights without the support of Hugh Haggerty and Carlo Zanotti. Carlo is the brains behind the operation, he designs all the posters and logos!”
After 8 years of running Strangeways nights, which have mainly focussed on the music of The Smiths and Morrissey, you’ve decided to “retire” these nights for the time being. What is the reason behind this?
“It was becoming harder and harder to be creative while doing the same thing, playing the same songs, and the more we did the less special they felt.
“When you are playing the same records all the time, the magic begins to wear off. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Morrissey & The Smiths but I’d like to think I have a fairly decent record collection that is more than just those records!”
“From my own personal perspective, I wanted to play more & different records. I want to keep it fresh”
Many thanks go out to Robert for taking the time out to talk to me. All the information you need to know for “There is a Night….” is below and obviously also on the Strangeways group Facebook page (which you’ll find a link to in the sidebar).
I’ll leave you with some some final comments from Robert:
“There are some great club nights in Glasgow, like Optimo & Divine, but I don’t think there is anyone that does a night like Strangeways/There is a Night, that has a real sense of community as well as just playing great music – plus Dave (Ross) always says we have the friendliest punters!”
So are Strangeways nights no more?
“If you notice the night is called Strangeways presents, so no we’ve not left it totally behind and we may have some special Strangeways nights in the future”
Watch this space!
There is a Night that Never Goes Out – 26th Aug 2017
“After a sell out and successful night in May the Team behind Strangeways are getting together to throw another “There is a night that never goes out …” party.
Saturday 26th of August at the Admiral Bar Glasgow
The focus on the night will be 80’s and early 90’s alternative music. Think of every cool 80s film and your half way there.
Guest DJ for the night will be Gavin (Camera Obscura/ Sunny Govan Radio) Dunbar
Expect to hear music from:
The Jam, Depeche Mode, The Specials , New Order, The Jesus and Mary Chain , OMD, Haircut 100, Orange Juice, The Cure, Joy Division, The Wedding Present, The Pastels, R.E.M., Echo and the Bunnymen, Duran Duran, The Pixies, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Violent Femmes, Simple Minds, The Go Betweens and many more.
The night is non profit, all money raised will be going to the Starter Packs charity. In addition all money raised will be matched by Barclays Bank.
Tickets available here …
We hope you enjoyed the last one and want to come back for more”