History & Culture

Club Afrika opens 1989

Somewhere New to Play

Club Afrika was opened in the Autumn of 1989. It was initially intended to be a Club catering for the city’s African community. It also had an African restaurant on the ground floor at first, which promptly seemed to go bust shortly after opening.

Original Club Afrika membership card.

Fight The Power

This was just as the city was in the process of first going bananas for House Music, but here we rocked a totally different musical vibe. We did all the tunes there from the very start & the first record we ever played there on it's opening night was Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’.

'1989 remember, another Summer' - was Autumn by the time Afrika got open.

We were just back from our Scottish episode, so we were really feeling Public Enemy 100%. It was great to finally have weekend Club nights to play, where you weren’t in a realistic, mortal danger of being stamped to death, disembowelled & then hung.

The Afrika building had previously been Marlborough Motors, a 2nd hand car showroom.

Clock the Crescent

This was the exact same building that our original WHQ eventually came to be in a few years later, on Marlborough Crescent. It was years more before the area opposite, was developed, with the Centre for Life & Times Square as you may know them today.

Club Afrika and the original WHQ building
Once the car place had folded, the building became derelict.

There was no development around there at all back in 89. It was still a really run down area, on the edge of the Gay scene & its highlight was the old derelict bus station opposite & not much else.

The old Marlborough Crescent Bus Station was exactly where Times Square & the Centre for Life sit today - Afrika was stage left, just out of the shot.

As the the rest of the city was now headed smack on course for the impending early 90’s House music & drug frenzy, Afrika was (initially) a nice counterpoint to all that & was an immediate success.

Clare, Miranda & chum (embarrassed that her name escapes us) after hours, back in the Afrika days.

Hate the Layout

This was despite that fact it was a hard place to play, due to its rubbish layout. Afrika was really small, it was on the first floor & the bar was stuck over in a corner, at the edge of the room.

Stevie, Kath & chums, sat at the corner bar in Afrika after hours, way back.

The Dj booth & dance floor were at the top of the entrance stairs, so once you got the crowd rocking, no one arriving could get to the bar.

Tommy in the DJ booth before doors open - strangely positioned, with a load of mad lights.

It was a weird one for sure & a really terrible & awkward layout for a Club space.

Club in 1989
A layout so poor it often seemed rammed, even when only half full.

It's the only Club layout we have ever worked in, that had no features we could incorporate when we were planning Curtis Mayfield House. Everywhere else we ever worked, contributed design ideas we integrated into the WHQ Club you see today – but not Afrika.

Deborah shouting (really...?) in Club Afrika 1989.

It had crazy 70’s style flashing disco lights too, that whirred, buzzed & creaked to absolute buggery if you ever tried to turn them on – so you never did.

Club Afrika 1989
Club Afrika 1989 with its ludicrous lighting system.

Love the Vibes

It did have one plus though, playing here gave us a chance to turn away from the madness, of that rapidly emerging House scene for a moment. Rockers was crazy around then & doing both venues every week was a nice vibe & we got the best of both worlds.

Selecting tunes in Club Afrika, back in 89.

We used the chance there to spin Old Skool Black music again, this time with weekend slots & at first the crowd was very cool & mixed. We played the Friday & Saturdays for a long while & it was really, really good.

Some of the Housey crowd from Rockers followed us down, but mainly it was a Soulful, Funky, Disco & Afro groove that we represented there.

Afrika - New Year's Eve 1989, as the snow starts kicking in.

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