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90s Indie clubs – The Island Ilford. Part 1

In 1996, I spent a lot of my time thinking and obsessing about Friday nights at an indie club tucked around the back of Ilford.  A barely converted cinema, with two levels of alternative music and cheap drink.  It was a magical place where anything could happen.

I grew up in this weird little corner of the world where London meets Essex. My early clubbing experiences involved bright coloured mini skirts and getting off with boys in pastel coloured shirts and curtains. But in May of 96, a much cooler friend took me with her to Supersonic, an indie/rock night that changed my life.

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I was late to the party.   Before the bibity-bops of indie took over, the club belonged to ‘Alcatraz’ a heavier rock and grunge night.    I’m kind of glad I missed it.   Making the transition from dance to indie wasn’t easy, and Supersonic was just the right balance of kitsch, disco and heartache to make me feel at home.

The folk at The Island were special. When I was sixteen, kids at my school,  spent a lot of time trying to look like replicas of each other, but not there. Within those walls we knew no uniform, Doctor Martin’s , big (fake) fur coats, black lace, black T-shirts, 70s flares, Adidas tracksuits, lumberjack shirts, 60s miniskirts, you could be whoever you wanted to be.

Downstairs was indie poppy – your Blur/Oasis fare with an 11 o’clock party mega-mix normally including Abba, Madness and Dexy’s midnight runners (who didn’t loose their shit to ‘Come on Eileen’?) .

It was massive, there was a dance floor that went on for ever and a large bar that stretched the whole of the downstairs, serving cheap Jack Dee with Coke and Snakebite- purple fizz that made you feel like a child and an adult all at once.

Upstairs was for a different crowd. The smaller space thrust with metal and rock, hard kids with attitudes, their long hair flying and chains jangling, as they jumped in the air.

The stairs themselves were hideaways – you could get lost under them or fall in love or fall in sex or fall in whatever.

I fell in love countless times on a Friday night. The Island was a pick and mix of surfer dudes and grungers, brit-poppers and rockers.  My favourite was a boy with spiky black hair, a 70s shirt,   jeans with chains and eyeliner…he once played a Green Day song on his guitar down the phone to me.   I hope he never got old.

A night at The Island cost £10 tops.  We’d bus it there, walk it home, get drunk before we walked in.     They were the best times of my life.


As well as being the best 90s club, The Island was also a popular music venue and bands that performed there included:

Oasis

Babybird

Sleeper

Mansun

Genesis


News: On the 7th of September 2019, Supersonic will be hosting a REUNION, in ILFORD. If you want to dance the night away like your whole life is ahead of you, click here.

If you like Indie, 90s and YA you’ll love my book A Future SomewhereYou can read the first chapter here 

and its free on Kindle Unlimited or 0.99p


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90s Indie-girl influences – in movies

Whilst my tongue may be a little in cheek when writing the film briefs below, I never want to undermine the role of alternative women in 90s film. They inspired and included girls like me, who felt isolated by popular culture’s myth of beauty (think Baywatch).  However whilst reflecting on this blog, it irked me a little, that most girls on this list turned out to be dangerous, evil or psychotic.  These characters helped me explore my individuality, that I carried through to adulthood and explore in my own writing.    My generation are now creating more positive alternative role models for young women, and turning the world on its head.  Continue reading “90s Indie-girl influences – in movies”

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Girl Sour Girl Power

Copy of teen in the 90s (1).png“Claire, Claire! You’ve got to see this.” First year of 6th form, 1996. I’m at my friend Sunita’s house and she’s flipping out about some music video just starting on ‘The Box’.   My eyes leave my sociology homework and follow my mate’s. She looks like she’s about to burst into flames.  Bright colours, short skirts, massive heels,  “Claire they’re amazing, can you believe how good they are?”

And that was my introduction to the Spice Girls, the 90’s sensation that bewitched Sunita and the rest of the Just 17 readership, with their colourful boob tubes and platform heels, citing ‘Girl Power’ as their mantra;  heroines to generations of girls and woman who thought they’d never been heard before.

What the…?   These girls had obviously never been to The Island, Ilford on a Friday night.

Girls that went to rock clubs and indie nights, we knew where it was at.    The Spice Girls changed the face of pop-music, but they didn’t change my life.   Here’s to the girls that did….

Courtney Love

“And the sky was all amythest, and all the stars look just like little fish.” On the first listen this song tore out my insides and then stomped all over them, the next time I heard it, it sounded more like a lullaby.

“They get what they want and they never want it again.”   A lullaby for the girl who at 16 just wanted to be pretty and sweet, and everything she thought boys wanted.  Fed on a diet of Saved By The Bell and Beverly Hills 90210, I thought the secret to finding love was to look like an angel and act like a whore.   My heart broke a million times over and Courtney was with me screaming about it.

Skin

I used to dance around my bedroom crawling along the floor to this one.  Skin was the embodiment of strong and powerful, yet she sang a song called ‘Weak.’

What it means to me, is that you can be the strongest person in the world but you can be weak at the same time.  You can be strong, you can be weak, you can be strong you can be weak, different sides of the same coin.

“In this tainted soul, in this weak young heart am I too much for you?”

Bjork

Oh Bjork, you were cool at my school because no-one had a clue what you were going on about and we loved it.   I used to do my hair in those tiny twisty ponytails and people used to point at me.   I didn’t care Bjork.

Sidenote – Iceland is one of the coolest countries on the planet.  There are some cool Iceland facts here.

Gwen Stefani

When this song came on in the club,  it was proper lose your shit time.     I perfected a dance that centred around an aggressive side-nod with my hands held tightly behind my back, thrusting my chest forward.

Cerys Matthews

I’m a girl born and bred in that corner of the world where Essex meets East London, but I have the soul of a Welshman, and Cerys is its siren.

Sickly sweet, yet witty and bitter, its all in the juxtaposition.


To me, Girl Power was never about Union Jack dresses and platform shoes.  It was the strong and the weird and the hurt, it was the depraved and the mad and the angry and the weak.


If you like to read and YA’s your thing why not sign up to beta-read my debut novel, A Future Somewhere.

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Teen in the 90s

If there’s nothing worse than a nostalgic fool, then I’m the lowest of the low.   I left my heart in the 90s, along with my dress-sense, cultural references and music collection.

I’m currently working on my second novel, a YA emotional sweat-spinner set in 96, and for inspiration, I’ve sought out blogs, sites, playlists, TV shows- anything that takes me back to the decade of my teens.

But I have my own library of 90’s gems. Not being the kid who throws anything away, I’m sitting on a big-off collection of diaries, CDs, letters – all tainted with that sweet stink of a lost youth and broken heart.   This blog is to share both my momentos and love, for the decade that fucked me over and left me standing on a soho curb drenched in its marketable melancholy.

 

This blog piece is dedicated to the song POPULAR by Nada Surf, which I haven’t heard in 20 years and now can’t stop listening to, again and again and again.

Being attractive is the most important thing there is
If you wanna catch the biggest fish in your pond
You have to be as attractive as possible
Make sure to keep your hair spotless and clean
Wash it at least every two weeks
Once every two weeks!
And if you see Johnny football hero in the hall
Tell him he played a great game
Tell him you like his article in the newspaper – Popular Nada Surf