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Farewell Clubland, the disco where we fell in love with the other side


Hazy memories: Clubland’s disco has bitten the dustas

Hazy memories: Clubland’s disco has bitten the dustas

Hazy memories: Clubland’s disco has bitten the dustas

Long before the ominous strains of "O Fortuna" were familiar to viewers of the X Factor, it was the anthem for a different generation. It stirs a smile in my generation of once-young revellers who had never heard of reality television and who instead spent their Saturday nights not in front of the box, but dancing the night away in a nightclub called the Pink Pussycat.

Saturday nights at Clubland - as the Pink Pussycat was better known to those of us who misspent countless nights of our youth on its dancefloor - are no more. The legendary Cookstown venue closed the doors on its weekly disco at the weekend, ending 40 years of entertainment for thousands upon thousands of patrons who flocked there to mosh, grunge, headbang, rave, punk, disco-dance or throw some shapes to whatever was making the charts at that time.

If you've ever been to Clubland, you'll know how you first became familiar with O Fortuna (from Carmina Burana) before it was hijacked by the X Factor as the dramatic masterpiece that the judges emerge on stage to.

At Clubland, its opening bars were the signal that a unique feature called Blast Off was under way. At exactly 10.30pm every Saturday, the heaving dancefloor was cleared by bouncers so O Fortuna could sing out while everyone gathered round the edges for the trippy experience of watching a huge spaceship-like light descend from the ceiling and spin.

No sooner had it arrived than the music morphed into This Is a Journey Into Sound by Eric B and Rakim, the sign that we would soon be allowed to race back onto the dancefloor as the light disappeared back up after a minute or so.

More than 20 years after I first saw Blast Off, I still have no idea what its point was other than to declare the night had really started.

My Clubland days coincided with its heyday of the mid to late-90s. It was a rite of passage for any young person growing up within a 30-mile radius of Cookstown. From late evening, buses from all over began ferrying clubbers to queue through the tunnel leading off Molesworth Street and pray you weren't asked for ID.

My first night there was on January 4, 1994. I know this because of the triumphant diary entry the teenage me made declaring that I had finally been given permission from my parents to go. It lived up to every expectation and became my haunt for several years after.

At a time when we all went to segregated schools against the backdrop of the Troubles, Clubland did more for cross-community romances and friendships than any official government programme. I went every Saturday night throughout my GCSE and A Level years.

When I should really have been studying soil samples and Shakespeare, I was living out my own disco dramas at the Pink Pussycat.

In a kind of alternative education, I learned how drinking green absinthe is not a good idea, nor is missing the bus home to Maghera, 17 miles away, when it's minus five outside (and there's no such thing as mass ownership of mobile phones) and how moshing to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit will always end with a foot injury.

Clubland's owners say it is not dead and will continue to host various functions. But the legendary Saturday night disco and its Blast Off is gone.

Like the traditional end of every night at Clubland, I hope the last was signed off with a drunken rendition of I Ain't Got Nobody from those who failed to pull. Farewell, Clubland. Thanks for the (hazy) memories.

Twitter trolls shift into gear for Sue

It’s been a bad week for those on the receiving end of vitriol from Twitter trolls. It seems that social media and abuse go hand-in-hand these days, particularly if you’re a high-profile figure.

It’s hard to see an election candidate, like the SDLP’s John Coyle upset after he was targeted with vicious comments following a television debate. And then came the decision by Sue Perkins to take a break from Twitter after she was threatened (including one person saying she should be burned to death) over rumours she was taking over presenting Top Gear from Jeremy Clarkson. Trolls should remember that the word “perspective” takes up much less than 140 characters.

Deck chair set to fetch Titanic sum

You’ve heard the saying about moving deck chairs around on the Titanic as a way of highlighting how pointless something is.

A deck chair salvaged after the mighty Belfast ship sank (103 years ago yesterday) is attracting significant interest as it’s about to be auctioned off.

The Nantucket wooden chair cannot be sat on, but has been verified as one of just a handful which survived the 1912 disaster.

It was picked up from the Atlantic by rescue crews and given to the captain of a ship.

Its current private owners can expect to earn up to £80,000 when it goes under the hammer in Wiltshire.

Not pointless at all, then.

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