Dancing the night away – Memories, mementoes and music from Tony’s Empress Ballroom, Blackburn sought by musician and producer Martyn Ware for Art in Manufacturing
Throughout the eighties and into the nineties Tony’s Empress Ballroom, Blackburn was a cornerstone of the Northern Soul scene and stood as a vibrant outpost for the rave revolution, delighting thousands of eager nocturnal dancers. Over three decades after the ballroom’s heyday, synth-pop pioneer, Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, is calling out for memories, mementoes and music for a new art experience that leads right back to where it all began.
One of the artists working with Lancashire manufacturers as part of The Art In Manufacturing project, Ware is developing an immersive sound installation evoking Lancashire’s working and social heritage, to be unveiled in Blackburn town centre during The National Festival of Making, on Sat 12 – Sun 13 May 2018. Looking into the long-standing traditions of workers retiring to ballrooms, working men’s clubs and other places to let off steam after a hard day’s work, Ware visits Lancashire as an artist with his own Illustrious Company, set up over 15 years ago to deliver bespoke journeys into sound.
A legendary home of the ‘all-nighter’, thousands of clubbers passed through the doors of Tony’s before hanging up their dancing shoes, discovering friendships, partners, unforgettable music, impressive new moves and, perhaps, keeping artefacts that still bring the era rushing back to life. No contribution is too small as Ware seeks out details of the marriages that resulted from a meeting on Tony’s dancefloor, flyers stuffed into dusty shoe boxes and photos showing the fun that happened along the way.
Ware says: “Lancashire was the home of the Northern Soul All-Nighter and, after the fire at Wigan Casino, Tony’s Empress Ballroom was one of the places that kept the tradition alive. When the rave scene hit North West England in the late-80s, it was commonplace for hundreds of people to drive into towns like Blackburn looking for a party, with many taking place at Tony’s during that exciting period. Ever since the Industrial Revolution, from rock and roll to jazz, brass bands to punk, music has been an outlet for workers and provided a meeting place for communities. By asking people to get in touch and contribute to this project, focused on Lancashire’s rich heritage, I am aiming to create an experience that’s evocative of the real, working lives that found, and still find fun and freedom through getting together to enjoy music.”
To be involved in the project, sending details of personal memories, artefacts, photographs, favourite records played or anything else related to Tony’s Empress Ballroom, people are asked to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org by Fri 27 April 2018.