The Final Farewell at the Carleton was like being back in the early 1990s as GREG LAMBERT reports.
Flourescent green lights criss-crossing the ceiling, a thumping bass, DJs rolling back the years to the age of house and techno, a packed dancefloor of ravers waving glow sticks and on podiums ‘throwing shapes’, MCs on the stage yelling “make some noise” and a euphoric crowd who were happy to oblige as they danced with wild abandon, hands in the air, to the ‘choons’ of their youth.
As organiser Rob Denwood said later, this was a nostalgic night.
Doors opened at the Carleton at 9pm on Saturday. I turned up just after 11. And they were still queueing down Lancashire Street beneath the ‘30/1/16: Rave in Peace’ sign above the door. Shivering but buzzing to get inside that club one more time.
This was literally the hottest ticket in town. Rob said he’d heard tickets were changing hands for as much as £270 and some fakes were doing the rounds. Such was the desperation to be part of this night.
I spoke to a woman in the queue who used to go to Lancaster University. She spent much of her youth in the Carleton, especially the famous student Wednesdays of foam parties and cheese.
There were many like her, ex-students and townies who had dispersed all over the world since the club’s halcyon days.
All back for one last dance as the West End club reopened for one night only before shutting for good, to be converted into flats.
Rob said he knew someone who had to catch a flight back to Spain afterwards. There was even a guy there from Bucharest, Romania.
And he said, there were three generations of women - a grandmother, her daughter and her grandaughter - all dancing together, all having an amazing time.
Margaret Pattison, a city and town councillor, came out of the front door as I was going in.
“It’s fantastic!” she said. Rob would later praise ‘Mags’ for all her help navigating the licensing minefield to make The Final Farewell a reality.
This was a daunting event for promoter, dance music fan and Morecambe lad Rob, who in his day job works on a building site.
But he pulled it off, to the point that the 1,300-strong crowd was chanting his name in celebration by the night’s end.
“It was humbling,” said Rob, who was overwhelmed by the adulation.
Beforehand, there had been questions asked about the idea a one-off gig, of this size and type, in the West End.
Will there be trouble? Will there be issues with drugs?
But afterwards, Rob said there were only four minor problems on the night, nothing drug-related, two of which were people found trying to smuggle in their own drink.
And the police reported no incidents at all.
There was great praise for the CB Security team, who were a calm presence on the door.
Dave Clough posted on Facebook: “I’d like to compliment the very polite, helpful and professional door and security staff who worked the Carleton last night.
“They dealt with the masses of people and queues with calm aplomb, and I saw them defuse a situation quickly and quietly before it got out of hand, probably by paying attention properly.
“This should be the standard everywhere.”
There was some lost property, and a mix-up over coats left in the cloakroom. But most people were able to return to the club on Monday and collect their belongings.
Other than these minor snags, the event was a massive success.
Facebook was awash with cameraphone videos, photos and comments from people raving about it, if you excuse the pun.
Matthew Bunn said: “That was epic! I will never forget that night.”
Graham Milner said: “An absolute cracking night by all! People come from far and wide to enjoy this last night to dance!”
And Jade Colgan said: “What a wicked night! Should seriously keep doing this! Had a blast... didn’t stop dancing!”
Rob, who had virtually lost his voice by the end, said: “I’m very happy. The crowd was phenomenal. Our staff were bang on.
“Morecambe needed Saturday night. It put Morecambe back on the map.”
As a promoter, he now has the taste for a follow-up.
“I want to do a big festival at the Dome site. We’re doing a gig with DJ Fagan at the Winter Gardens in September. That’s locked in.”
It seems that the rave generation of Morecambe and beyond will get another chance to dance after all.
But it won’t be at the Carleton. That really was ‘The Final Farewell’ for ravers.
“To do another night at the Carleton would make a liar out of me,” said Rob.
“That’s definitely it. No more.”
But that doesn’t mean to say that the club won’t reopen for something else.
A local boxing promoter and some of Morecambe’s veteran pop music DJs have also shown interest in hiring the venue, one last time.
Owner Ian Bond recently bought the Alhambra building off the O’Brien family and is planning the flats conversion of the Carleton long-term.
But Mr Bond, a developer also working on a flats conversion at the former Battery, said he had no immediate plans to start ripping out the old club’s fixtures and fittings.
He was at the Final Farewell on Saturday and will not rule out another one-off Carleton comeback during the next year.
“If I can rent it out once a quarter I would be delighted,” he said.
“I would love to see it used a few more times. It was such a good night.”
Maybe it’s not quite the end of the Carleton era after all. Watch this space.