This year’s Southport Weekender (SPW48) was a landmark event in more ways than one as it represented the 25th anniversary of the UK’s longest running soul and dance weekender. While this is a truly phenomenal achievement, given that it raises the bar each year its success should come as no surprise.
From a relatively humble beginning as the UpNorth Weekender in, of all places, Berwick-upon-Tweed, it has over the years been held in various locations including Blackpool and Morecambe, eventually settling in Southport.
Just to confuse matters, the Southport Weekender no longer takes place in Southport and this year’s event took place at Butlin’s in Minehead for the second consecutive year. To celebrate its silver jubilee the organisers pulled out all the stops, with world class acts such as Jill Scott, Patrice Rushen and Soul II Soul topping the bill alongside 56 of the most revered and respected DJs. It was clear that this was going to be something special and it didn’t disappoint!
Norfolk to Somerset is a journey of epic proportions. However, it was one that was immediately worth making when on Friday night we made The Powerhouse our first stop to witness Karizma dropping a nice bumping deep house set to get things started, followed by Mark Farina and a live PA from Kenny Bobien.
The standard set up at the Southport Weekender is the aforementioned Powerhouse playing mainly house music, The Connoisseurs Corner playing classics, The Beat Bar focusing on eclectic sounds and, last but not least, The Funkbase playing hip hop, soul and RnB.
One of the big draws of SPW48 was a live set from Soul II Soul featuring Caron Wheeler in The Funkbase. I’d love to be able to tell you how good this was but unfortunately the queue was too long to get in. All was not lost though and I made my way to the SuncéBeat Dome, a huge inflatable designed to promote the SuncéBeat event in Croatia.
This was a good move that provided one of the highlights of my weekend – hearing Keith Dalton and Soul Dynamic rocking the house. There was a really good vibe in this arena with a mixed crowd of young, old and multicultural people and I couldn’t stop dancing! The night finished with a chalet party where crazy partygoers dressed in PJs and with bottles of vodka in their hands looked set for a long night. For me, pacing myself was the key to getting the most out of SPW48, so I decided to retire.
When we got up on Saturday we were greeted with glorious sunshine and headed straight to The Sun & Moon pub to see Craig Bartlett, Soul Dynamic and Mark Stone UDM. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and before we knew it, it was time once again to get down to The Powerhouse.
Inside the atmosphere was electric, with amazing visuals to match and a Funktion-One sound system that took bass to a new dimension. First up was Sean McCabe – DJ and remixer of the moment – laying down a smooth set. This paved the way nicely for a true legend, Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez, one half of the legendary Masters At Work. Dropping classics from as far back as 2000 as well as new stuff he was followed by another dance music pioneer, Joey Negro, who played a vintage house and garage set.
Unlike Friday night there would be no ‘sensible’ amount of sleep and as the music carried on playing, so did I. Great at the time but Sunday was a complete blur! I only made it out for the final after party limited to 3,000 of the record breaking 6,500 revellers, where Terry Hunter provided the perfect end to the perfect weekender.
The success of the Southport Weekender is down to its ability to change with times while remaining true to its roots. I’m looking forward to next year already!
For more information see our Southport Weekender Guide.