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Nightclubs… relics of a bygone era or is there a future for them?

The times, they say, are a-changing. But are they changing too fast and is it too late to go back?

With news this week that another nightclub has been earmarked for an alternative use, we ask what became of that thriving scene?

The nightclub in question is at Perry Street, in Dungannon, proposed to become studio apartments, although the Station Bar and Gasworks remain unchanged.

It comes a matter of weeks after proposals for retail units and apartments were confirmed for Scotch Street, with plans to demolish the old Fort Bar and Salt Nightclub in the town.

The ABC borough and beyond were once positively packed with nightclubs week after week.

But the years have not been kind to the club scene and one after another the greats of our younger years have fallen.

Since Armagh I first started back in 2012, we have reported on many grand names of the dancefloor days simply fading away. Surplus to requirements, alternative uses, the victims, it would seem, of those ‘a-changing’ times.

Drumsill Hotel – demolished! The Met/Arena boarded up and derelict. Spiders Nightclub at Scotch Street in Armagh. Boarded up, now to be converted into a church. Also ‘converted’ for religious purposes, that granddaddy of them all, The Coach in Banbridge. Who remembers Wednesdays and Saturday nights there?

Gosford House Hotel in Markethill – some great nights. Gone. Parkers, at the Inn on the Park in Dungannon. Gone. Hotel, like Drumsill, demolished. Caesars. Gone. Chesters, in Moira. Gone too.

There are too many to mention. Too many good nights…

Who remembers downing a few in Banisters in Armagh or the Northern Bar, a wee carry-out and then out to the Arena? Or hopping on a bus at Moy Road and off to Cookstown. In time for ‘Blast-Off’ – that most fabulous of light shows – at Clubland’s Pink Pussycat on Molesworth Street. Sadly, the last of said Pussycat’s nine lives expired just nine years ago.

Don’t get us wrong. There are some still some great venues and some superb live music to be enjoyed.

But where has that social scene that we thought would last forever gone to? Why did it happen?

It is technology? Were we bored? Nothing else to do? Or did it just seem like better times?

Care-free, nights spent on the dance floor, drinks with mates, often too many, it must be said. We lived for the weekend which often stretched beyond two days. And given the popularity and simple ‘supply-and-demand’, many threw open their doors mid-week too, like the Coach already mentioned.

The crowd was there, the craic was there, nothing could bring us down.

And then it did. Slowly, but surely, the tunes that we enjoyed stopped, the social aspect disappeared. We changed. ‘Social’ media put the ‘anti’ into social lives. We no longer had to go out. Very often we could not afford to.

How many people met their first loves, or their husbands, wives or partners of today, in such club venues? Tales to tell the children, the grandchildren… But again technology can even plug that gap, with online dating and apps aplenty to fill the void.

That said, nostalgia will never die. Retro rocks. Old is bold. We are seeing the resurgence of vinyl records. Of cassette tapes even. Fashion is fleeting and fast to return.

Is there – or could there ever be – a return for the club scene?

We’d give a week’s wages to go back, just for one night, to relive those magic moments now only memories.

Yes technology has changed and yes young people, it can be argued, have it so much better now.

Yet we cannot help feeling that they have missed out – are missing out – on an entire culture that was vibrant, daring, relentless…

We all have those special tunes which, when heard today, bring moments gone bubbling afresh to the surface. Perhaps of a particular place, friendships forged, that long summer. We grew up but we never gave up. We yearn for those years, we pine for the people, we dream of those days.

What happened? Was it the music? Society? Us? What changed? We just don’t know. But something did.

And now all we can think is how special it would be to go back there one last time…

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