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.
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:
Hey 90s kids, if you love like Indie, 90s and YA, you’ll love my book A Future Somewhere.
You can read the first chapter here ! Check out the coolest book trailer in the world below and then READ THE BOOK!
Many thanks to Gideon S Fields for the trailer – you can check out more of his work here.