To close out the Brit Awards back in February, Pharrell Williams and Chic's Nile Rodgers performed Happy as part of a three-song medley. Suddenly the o2 Arena became the Wigan Casino as the stage filled with swirly-skirted dancers, but without the reek of Brut, sweat and cigarettes.
Broadcaster Paul Mason put it best: the first law of sociology is that all youth subcultures eventually come back. First it was a post-punk revival in the mid-noughties, then nu-rave later in the decade and lately we've been reminiscing the nineties. Is it now Northern Soul's turn for a revival?
Based on the heavy beat and fast tempo of American soul, NS was a music and dance movement that gave birth up north in the sixties from the mod scene. It was the biggest youth movement in Britain with the Wigan Casino regarded as the mecca of the scene and was voted the best discotheque in the world in 1978 by Billboard magazine ahead of Studio 54. And it didn't even have a bar.
But now, Northern Soul isn't for 50-somethings wearing vests. In a small hall in Wigan, the Spotify generation is wearing wide pants, performing backdrops and spins to vinyl, all synonymous to the scene.
They call themselves the Wigan Young Souls, of which Lauren Fitzpatrick, 20 is a founding member. They're a bunch of 16-30 year olds that travel across the country DJing and dancing at soul nights. Running the Highfield Soul Club on the last Saturday of every month, it was set up to meet and dance with other soulies.
"Northern Soul appeals to me so much with the dancing, the music, the clothes and the people." Lauren says. "My favourite part of the scene is the dancing. It's so energetic and incredible."
What today's youth in Wigan share in common with those from back in the day is that they're skint in an economic slump amidst a popular culture that they couldn't give two shits for.
Levanna McClean, 17, uploaded a video of herself dancing on Staple Hill High Street in Bristol to Happy by Pharrell Williams and the Northern Soul track by Velvet Hammer. It inspired Williams to go with a NS theme at the ceremony when his team saw the video and asked her to get involved. Levanna caught soul fever from her mum after being introduced to the original of Amy Winehouse's Our Day Will Come by Ruby and The Romantics.
"I saw Northern Soul as something new and exciting in contrast to the electronic music that our generation seems to love." She says. There is something about a Northern Soul record that cuts deep into your emotions and that is what made me latch onto it so quickly."
On top of that, photographer Elaine Constantine releases her debut film later this year entitled Northern Soul. It's set in the 70s and tells the tale of two young lads who discover the music that transforms their worlds. The film aims to reach out to this generation and relate to a youth culture from forty years ago.
Northern Soul matters in 2014 because hipsters could do worse than being a part of something with the sense of belonging and togetherness abundant in Northern Soul. Plus two-minute songs on crackly vinyl that encapsulate our own experiences of love and heartbreak will never go out of fashion. Unlike wide pants.Suggest a correction