Recorded Soul

Introducing young people to a whole subculture they are unaware of and evoking the memories of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Songs once recorded to vinyl are now being remixed for a headphone wearing generation and local young people had been enjoying Northern Soul music without even realising it.

Recorded Soul developed into a two part project to celebrate a British subculture and find commonality between younger and older generations. Northern Soul emerged from the British mod scene in the north of England during the late 1960s and has been undergoing something of a revival in recent years. It is a music and dance movement based on Motown and Motown-Influenced music. Over the course of the Recorded Soul project culture was shared, barriers between generations were broken down, and memories were treasured by local people .[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Part One: Shift (2012 – 13)

While doing some research into the Northern Soul subculture, William Titley made an interesting discovery. In a conversation with local Northern Soul dance legend Roy Stewart, it emerged that some young Street dancers we were working with at the time had actually been listening to a Northern Soul song without knowing it – albeit a remix of the original. From this began a project to introduce these young dancers to Lancashire’s Northern Soul scene.


Over a 12 month period, the group attended weekly dance classes from a professional tutor in Huddersfield (courtesy of Danceology). They also spent time with Roy himself to learn about the dance steps, clothing styles and historical context of the 1960/70s Soul Scene in the UK. This culminated in taking the dance group to compete in The World Northern Soul Dance Championships at Blackpool Tower in November 2012 and they were wonderful!


The process was filmed to capture a developing knowledge and understanding of the Northern Soul scene. This was produced into a short film called Shift which documents their progress and was released on DVD in the autumn of 2013.

Part Two: Recorded Soul (2014 – 15)

​The 12 month process of teaching the young dance group about Northern Soul produced many valuable artifacts. We filmed video interviews with the soul community, and collected photographs of memorabilia such records, cassette tapes and tickets from historical venues. We decided to create the Recorded Soul archive as a way to preserve these memories.


The Recorded Soul project grew and developed rapidly from just a handful of digital photographs. The artifacts are now housed in a bespoke case  storage case inspired by the 1970s, which contains a fully interactive digital database of nearly 3000 images. The archive also includes filmed memories, personal music collections and ephemera from the 1960/70s soul era.

In May 2014, we collaborated with Victoria Baths in Manchester to organize an authentic 12 hour all-nighter Northern Soul dance event. It was a night of live music featuring top DJs from the Twisted Wheel, Blackpool Mecca and Wigan Young Souls, as well as the band The Soultrain. The Recorded Soul Archive was showcased and attendees were encouraged to bring along their own memorabilia to contribute to the collection. We raised the profile of the project and raised money to contribute to the restoration project at Victoria Baths.


A wonderful and unexpected outcome of the all-nighter event was a contemporary art audio piece which was recorded from underneath the dance floor during the 12 hours. Limited edition 12” LP and 7” singles on authentic vinyl are available to buy from us at the Library. Funds raised will go towards supporting In-Situ projects.

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