Post Pic: 1991

Bristol, England: Grassy in her groove

English UK fashion 1991 early ninetees - club culture x-static Papillons Bristol

Bristol, England: 1991

I moved from Newcastle to Bristol in 1991. Although 320 miles might not sound a large distance; in England that takes you from pretty far in the North to way down into the South West. Psychologically it was a big move.  I had never been to Bristol before I moved there. I basically hired a car (one-way) threw all my stuff into the back and drove. A few weeks later, people from my previous life up North began to filter down for visits. This was one of them. Grassy.

I landed a job as a barman at one of Bristol’s big city centre nightclubs. Papillons. It was pretty grim stuff. Serving meatheads pints of cider or bottles of Diamond Blush to the girls.  A cattle market. It wasn’t the clubbing days I’d known up in Newcastle since 1988 when Acid House and the whole rave scene exploded through the nights there.  But then something really amazing happened at Papillons.

The Xstatic nights kicked off. Thursdays. Right through til four o’clock in the morning. Carl Cox, Seduction,  SL2, Eazy Groove, Ellis Dee, Top Buzz and Donovan Smith.

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I used to arrange my barman shifts so that I could clock-off at midnight, get changed and then hit the floor – limbs slicing the sweaty air in a trance-like state to the thud of repetitive beats, a chorus of high-pitch tones building, falling, rising again into an ecstasy of sound, knowing smiles shared between those around you.  It was epic.  And a weighty precursor to the true glory days of the Bristol clubbing scene, when Lakota held dominion for a handful of years through the 1990s.

Grassy was a former girlfriend and big pin in the Newcastle social hub, she was also dialled-in into my meta geek set: the whole Jesmond Village Experience.  Her visit coincided with my recent escape from the Horror House of Horfield – think Barton Fink’s creepy place with spongy wallpaper and you’re only a small fraction there. I was now living in Hotwells, which back then was still isolated from the nearby city centre by a sprawling tangle of shattered industrial ruins, some of them Victorian in origin, others from the early 20th century; all of them destroyed during bombing raids in World War 2. The Harbour Walk that I use so much these days didn’t exist; but the big old sandstone wall (starting point for my first novel God Seed) certainly did.

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