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The 90s House Party

I took my 17 year old neighbour to a friend’s house party recently, he was all hyped about the night of debauchery that lay ahead of him and it got me thinking about my old debaucherous days back in the late 90s.

Invites

I had a LOT of parties in Herent Drive. My parents loved to go on holiday and I’m sure they’d have hated the thought of me on my own, so by inviting half of Gantshill back to my house after the pub, I was actually doing them a favour. You see we didn’t have mobile phones back then, a few of my richer, knobbier friends had pagers, but if you wanted to ensure your got a good turn-out to your shindig, you had to get out there and promote it and what better place to do that then the local Wetherspoon?

We’d start our Friday night drinking snakebite. There were even a few nights where we’d just purchase blackcurrant and soda for around 30p and add our own vodka. The crowd was full of Friday night faces all looking for somewhere to go after the last order bell rang.

Music

A sign of a great party is a huge pile of scratched up unboxed cds and empty cases strewn across a living room floor. There were no playlists back then, just long expensive albums. Our stereo had a 6 CD deck, which could ‘AUTO RANDOM’. Wow, this was an amazing technological advancement when you could figure out how to use it. Some kids, who liked to impose their music tastes on others, actually carried around CDS with them, and these were the ones you’d find sat by the stereo, frightening everyone else away.

Then came phone-in music channels such as ‘The Box’, oh my, they changed our Friday and Saturday nights. You could call a premium rate phone number, dial a three digit code and request any song you wanted. Trouble was, every drunk teenager with a television was doing exactly the same thing, so you could sometimes wait hours for your song. Once I requested McAlmont and Butler’s YES and it didn’t come on until 9am the next morning, but God, was I happy to see those guys!

Drink

The local off-licence used to sell us alcohol when we were wearing school uniform, so you’d think getting your hands on booze back then would be easy. WRONG, it was almost impossible. You see, parties wouldn’t start until after the pubs closed at 11, and what also happened at 11pm in the UK? Shops weren’t legally allowed to sell alcohol to ANYONE, they actually used to lock it away! So you needed to either forward plan and sort a stash beforehand, or you had to get a cab to one of the few shops that you knew would sell you cans of Fosters from under the counter at double the price. There were also a few kebab shops that would deliver beer after hours, but you had to make sure when you phoned you ended up speaking to the right person, you don’t want to piss-off your local take-away.

Atmosphere

To my life-long disappointment houseparties in Ilford were never like the parties I’d seen in American movies, growing up. We didn’t have massive houses, pools or cheerleaders, we were just groups of dirty looking kids drinking and smoking weed. There was rarely dancing, most people just sat around, there was always that one guy that showed up with his guitar. We’d piss the neighbours off, break things unintentially and laugh about all week at school.

Man those were the days.

Writing

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.

Untitled design

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.