Southport is more than just a non-stop dance fest

It’s not long before Ceroc’s Southport again.  I suspect that most people will have sorted out their bookings, but others may be still wondering whether to go.  If you’ve been to a Southport Weekender before, you don’t need me to tell you how fantastic it is.

You’ll know already that it’s a lot more than just a non stop dance fest, but if you still have to go and experience the joy for yourself, I hope this list of twenty-five things we love about Southport will give you an idea of what to expect.

This is the Edited Version

After the Southport Weekender in September I wrote a review, based on what people told me what they loved about it.  I spoke to a lot of people and it was really interesting to see their own take on it.  They loved things about Southport that I would never have thought about, and so I came away with a lot of material to write about.

Over the next two week I slowly built up my review.  Not wanting to miss any one’s comments out, the article was on the way to becoming a lengthy tome to challenge War and Peace  – not the bite size reads expected of bloggers.  With this in mind I thought I’d do a much cut down version.  So here is my much edited ’25 Things we Love about Southport’.

1:  We ❤️meeting up with old friends

Because Southport brings together people from all parts of the UK, it is an opportunity to meet up with friends from areas you may have moved away from.  It’s also a chance to meet up with friends you’ve made at previous Southports, who may live a long distance from your regular dance haunts.

I moved up North recently, and I love that I get to meet up with friends I made when I danced in London and the South Coast.  Lottie from Leeds

That Southport is over three days, means that when old friends meet up, there’s plenty of time to catch up and perhaps relive some of those great times from the past. It’s also an opportunity to have more great times together – something to talk about at future weekenders.

2:  We ❤️ making new friends

It seems that everyone loves making new friends, and Southport gives us all plenty of opportunities. Whether it’s in the lines of classes (like the one below) or being asked to dance by someone new, there are so many different ways to interact with people. Partner dancing is the best ice-breaker ever, and I have no doubt that many new friendships are made over the weekend.

3:  We ❤️ Southport’s friendly vibe

I was told many times how friendly Southport is.  You can understand class nights being as friendly as they are, because people meet up every week.  Many start out as beginners together, and many learn and practice their moves with the more experienced dancers.  Local freestyles too get their friendly vibe from the fact many people know each other.

When you’ve been to Southport a few times it’s amazing how many people you recognise, but there are still hundreds of dancers you’ve never seen, least of all danced with.  First timers will probably know a few people from their local dance scene, but it must be quit daunting to see the Thunderball Room on the first night packed with hundreds of new faces.

Yet I was surprised how many first timers commented on the friendliness they experienced across the whole weekend.  One reason for the friendliness is that everyone is engaged in an activity that is a whole lot of fun – people are so much more likely to be friendly when they are having a good time.  Let’s face it, Southport is fun from the minute you get here.

Of course the normal social conventions of making friends still apply, but because there are so many people (there were over two thousand people this time), you’ll always be meeting some that you have a lot in common with, other than your shared love of dancing.

4:  We ❤️ going in groups

In the past I’ve been to Southport on my own and still had a good time.  Now I go with a group who share three adjacent chalets. We meet up for a light meal before we go out and again when the night’s dancing is over. It goes without saying that I have enjoyed Southport so much more since I’ve been going with my ‘Dance Gang’ friends.

Many people go in groups organised by their local Ceroc venue.  In September I met Sammy Francis who brought along a group from the Ceroc Groove class night in Walsall (pictured).  I spotted them all sitting together in their red Ceroc Groove shirts, at the edge of The Thunderball Room dance floor.  I was pleased to see that Sammy had brought along a number of first timers, and ensured they all had a great time.

5:  Women ❤️ the variety of dance partners

The one big difference between Southport and even the best attended freestyles, is the number of potential dance partners.  For the women that means they’ll get a great variety of dances, and that’s something they love about Southport.  Here are two responses that were  typical of many of the women I spoke to:

I just love the fact that I know I’ll have a lot of different dances with lots of different partners.  That means I’ll get lots of wonderful dances.  Tricia from Berwick on Tweed

I love all my dancing, but I know I’ll get perhaps as many as fifty of what I call great dances over the whole weekend.  Ruth from Halifax

6:  Beginners ❤️ it too

I’d been dancing for about two years before I made my first trip to Southport, so I’m always amazed to see so many beginners every time I come.  What I particularly love seeing is there is always a full programme of beginners lessons.  In September they were run by Ruth Adamson and a strong team of Taxi dancers.

I’ve only been dancing for six months and I loved that there was a programme of lessons for beginners.  I started off with a double session in The Cyclone Room on Friday evening and it was a great way to start off my first ever Southport.  Liz from Nottingham

It helps that venue managers like Sammy Francis are on hand to look after the beginners from their own class nights, but it’s also testament to Southport’s friendly vibe that the beginners have such a great time.

7:  We ❤️ Swinger’s Hour

One of the great traditions of Southport is the Swingers Hour sessions on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.  This is sixty minutes of dancing to 1940s Swing and 1950s Rock ‘n’Roll music.  It’s not just the music that we all love, but it’s also the retro dress style that many people come attired in.

There are guys dressed in ’40s US Army uniforms and ladies in war time factory work wear.  Then there’s the ’50s Teddy Boys and so many ladies in beautiful swirly Rock ‘n Roll style dresses.

8:  More and more ❤️ Alan’s Pier Party

After Swingers Hour a growing number of people set of in to Southport itself and meet up at The Marine Lake Café below Southport Pier for Alan Longstaff’s Pier Dance Party.  Since this started two years ago I’ve heard the odd thing about it, but when Rachel told me it was her favourite bit of Southport I really took note:

This was my first time at Southport and it really helped that I was surrounded by my dance friends from Ceroc Heaven.  It was through these friends that I got an invite to Alan’s Pier party.  I have to say that it was my favourite part of the whole weekend.

Alan had arranged for a Soul Singer to provide live music and I don’t think she could quite believe the way we all danced.  In fact we had quite an audience as people gathered on the pier to watch us.  Rachel from Brinsley

It must have been quite a spectacle as many of the ladies and guys were still in their Swingers Hour ’40s and ’50s outfits.  So popular has this Pier Party become that I keep promising Alan that I’ll write an article for the blog – hopefully soon Alan.

9:  We ❤️ The Funk Hour

Vince Silva’s Funk Hour on Saturday afternoon is another well loved Southport themed hour. It’s a ‘Must do for me’ and in February I wrote a review of Vince’s fabulous music (see link below).  Of course I’m not the only one who loves this hour of ’70s funk and disco.

There are a lot of people at Southport, who pack out The Boudoir and Queen Vic, who remember dancing to these tracks back in the day.  The funk of the ’70s runs through the veins of much of modern day dance music, and so it’s appeal is universal.  Here’s another much younger fan:

I love funky music, and I’d never miss the Funk Hour.  I have to dance to every single track.  I find the music so energetic and uplifting.  Anna from Derby

Here’s one of the standout tracks from Vince’s set.  It’s one I hadn’t heard before but I loved dancing to its raw funky groove.

10:  We ❤️ the chilled music in The SILC Zone

When it comes to dancing I’m a Main Room kind of guy.  I’m not comfortable with the close-hold Blues stuff, but I will try a bit of SILC or Smooth Jive in The Boudoir, but you’ll find me mainly in The Thunderball Room.

Of course our dance music tastes are different so, I knew that I’d come across people who would spend a lot of time in the so called SILC Zone, but what surprised me was that some people never really left it.  I’d thought that everyone moved between the different areas, but it seems I was wrong.

I hardly ever dance in the main room.  It’s too warm in there.  The Boudoir is a much more comfortable place to dance, and I love the chilled out music, and that’s where you’ll find me day or night.  Holly from Leicester

Here’s a chilled out track that got a lot of plays in the SILC Zone this last time.  I heard it day and night.  It’s the acoustic version of Charlie Puth’s monster dance track Attention.

11:  We ❤️ dancing outside

Another reason that Holly loved the SILC Zone was the opportunity it gave her to dance on the veranda outside The Queen Vic Pub.  In September the weather over the weekend was very kind to us, and it was only really Sunday afternoon and early evening that rain prevented people from dancing outside.

Dancing outside, particularly on a warm evening under moonlight, is something very special, but let me tell what someone else told me about dancing outside.

Saturday was particularly sunny and as the sun went down, the outside area of the SILC Zone was very busy.  I got to dance with one of the ladies enjoying the late afternoon music.  After our dance we chatted a little, and like Holly, she told me that she never danced in the main Thunderball Room:

I love The SILC Zone, love the smooth chilled music, and it’s the only place I’ll dance.  I love dancing outside, but what I love the most is dancing as the sun goes down.  Sian from Sandbach

I looked over my shoulder and sure enough the sky was changing colour. Dancing will be forever associated with romance and dancing in the moonlight (wasn’t there a song called that) must be one of the best times to look in to your lovers eyes.

I suspect dancing with a Turner-esque sunset over your shoulder is just as idyllic for those with romantic ambitions.  As I thanked Sian for sharing her own personal love of Southport I took this photo with my iPhone.

 12:  We ❤️ The Thunderball Room DJs

It goes with out saying that for most people the main Thunderball Room is the star attraction of Southport.  I remember walking in to the room on my first visit and being overwhelmed by the atmosphere.  It’s here that the DJs play the most familiar music – all the current and recent chart hits and the Ceroc Classics that we love.  They mix all this up with their own choice of hi-octane tracks to create an atmosphere that a times might be likened to a rave.

It’s in this room that some of the best DJs in the land get to show off their talents as masters of the decks.  It’s here that Tony Riccardi performed a set that I would chose as my best of the year (see link below).  It’s in the Thunderball Room that three out of my Top Ten tracks for 2016-17 were played (see link below).  Edwin Starr’s Contact played by Caroline Houlton and Tiggerbabe, Tina Turner’s Disco Inferno by Roy Blewitt and DIMMI’s Dizzy by Tony Riccardi.

In September one of my dance friends insisted I give a special mention to DJ Hayley Epps:

I love Hayley’s music, and on Saturday she played one of the best sets of the night.  Not only does she play some great music, I love the way she also gets on to the higher teaching stage and dances while conducting the dancers on the floor to follow her.  It all adds to the atmosphere.  Ian from Nottingham

All the Main Room DJ’s seem to have quite a following, and not surprisingly there was also a lot of admiration for Tim Sant’s Thunderball Room sets:

I do most of my dancing in The SILC Zone, but I was in the Thunderball Room on Saturday night, and would like to pick out Tim’s set for praise.  I love his chilled out sets in the SILC Zone but he also knows how to set the floor on fire in the main room.  Leila, Peterborough

13:  The DJs ❤️ playing for everyone

It must be quite an honour to be asked to play a set at Southport, and in my conversations with the DJs they all said how much they loved playing for everyone.  Here are two comments that I hope will be of interest.

Myself and Marc love playing The Blues Lounge, in The Cyclone Room.  It’s great that we have a long set (on Saturday night they do five hours!) as it takes a while to really get in to it.  It also means we get to play so much of ours and the dancers favourite music.

The best thing about our sessions in the Cyclone Room is seeing the people interpreting our music out on the floor.  There’s West Coast Swing, SILC and Smooth Jive. There’s every style you can think of, and everyone’s just lovin’ the music.  Rachel Pears

On Sunday night I got an opportunity to chat with one of the DJs while they did their Sunday night set in The Thunderball Room.

I love it when I get a Sunday Night slot.  The people are really up for it and it shows.  They’ve been dancing for three nights and they just don’t want to stop, and it’s great to see the joy on people faces from the stage.  Caroline Houlton

Here’s the view I see from behind the decks as I chat with Caroline.

14:  The Soul Boys and Girls ❤️ one of Tim’s picks

There are a lot of Soul Boys and Girls, like myself, who found their passion for dancing during the Northern Soul era.  There are a surprising number of us at Southport, and in his Sunday night, set Tim Sant played a Northern Soul classic that everyone of us loves.

The song has a very recognisable intro, and as soon as I heard it I rushed to find a partner.  I found myself asking a lady young enough to be my daughter to join me on the dance floor.

We had a great dance, and so thrilled was I that I had actually danced to this track, I asked her if she knew what it was. Not surprisingly she shook her head.

It’s Billy Butler’s ‘Right Track’ I enthused.  ‘Oh yes I remember my dad plays it.’ Enough said!

15:  We ❤️ improving our dancing

We are all on a journey to be better dancers. Some of us just want to master a few more moves, others want to be able to link the moves up more fluently and improve their styling.

There are also those who want to learn completely new ways of dancing.  Ceroc have made sure that, where ever we are on our dance journey, there are lessons at Southport to challenge us and motivate us to keep on improving our dancing.

I loved that I got a chance to try out some new styles of dancing.  I had a go at both SILC and Blues.  Something I wouldn’t get a chance to do back home.  Linda from Ilkeston

In fact Linda wasn’t the only one to try new things, and the SILC and Blues classes proved very popular.  Even Tim Sants Advanced Developmental SILC class was packed out, and the Introduction to Blues class, taken by Mark Forster and Rachel Pears in The Cyclone Room, proved so popular that people were spilling off the dance floor on to the carpeted areas.

One of my favourite lessons was Lyndsey Bennet’s Get ready for Swinger Hour class where she and her demo Ben taught a few moves that would work with the faster paced Rock ‘n’ Roll music (see link below).  As the picture shows the room was packed again.

16:  The teachers ❤️ seeing everyone improve

All these lessons wouldn’t be possible without a large team of teachers, and Southport attracts some of the very best.  It must be quite hard work for these guys so I was pleased to see many of them enjoying the dancing in the evening sessions.  I also got a chance to talk to a couple of them about what they loved about Southport:

I’ve only recently qualified as a Ceroc teacher, but there were quite a few people from my class here.  What I loved, was seeing just how much they had improved and how much they were enjoying their dancing.  It makes it all so worthwhile.  Chris Whitehead, Ceroc Groove, Walsall

This was my first Southport as a teacher with my partner Victoria.  I loved that we got a chance to teach our style of dancing, but more importantly that we got an opportunity to interact with the people who attended our classes over the weekend.  This gave myself and Victoria a chance to see how people responded to our style of teaching and it acted like an extension to the lessons.  Matt Blain, who teaches with Victoria Pollard   

Can I take this opportunity to thank all the teachers for their efforts over the weekend.  What I love seeing is their enthusiasm and commitment to help us all improve our dancing. 

17:  We ❤️ The Cabaret

Lots of people mentioned that they loved the Cabaret, with its open-to-all dance competition, and fantastic displays of different dancing styles.

I loved seeing the teachers perform in the Cabaret.  I did quite a few of the lessons and I found it really interesting to watch those teachers showcase their skills.  It was great to see everyone show their appreciation too.  Linda from Ilkeston  

Below are a couple of pictures taken during the Cabaret.  The first shows Chris Whitehead, the new teacher from Walsall, dancing with Debbie Attwood.  The second  shows Lyndsey Bennett with demo Ben, doing some very energetic Rock ‘n’ Roll.

18:  We ❤️ being inspired by other dancers

Most of us are on a journey longing to improve our dancing skills.  Southport, with all its classes is great for this.  But there’s something else about Southport that helps inspires us to keep wanting to improve our dancing – that is watching other people grace the dance floor.  I remember my first ever Southport being almost transfixed by the dancing I saw, particularly in The Blues Room.

Many people told me how they loved to watch other people dancing, and how inspiring it was at times.  I still get inspired, and on the last night I was fortunate to catch Lottie and Matt Blain dancing in a late night session in the SILC Zone.  What followed was a master class in dancing to chilled music, in a bluesy slotted style.  May be one day I’ll get it.

18: We ❤️ the beach at Ainsdale

There is a lovely beach just a two minute walk from the holiday camp entrance, which is correctly referred to as Ainsdale Beach.  Southport Beach is actually a few miles further up the coast. The weather on Saturday was quite summery, and for those wanting to take a break from the dancing, the beach was the best place to be.

Rachel from Brinsley was one of many to enjoy a stroll along the beach on Saturday, and took this lovely picture below of golden sand against a blue sky. There was something that a few others loved about the beach – a yoga class.

I went along to Nora Draganova’s Yoga class, and because it was such a lovely day, she suggested we do it on the beach.  What a great idea,  It’s a lovely beach and the lesson was the perfect way to re-balance the body after all the dancing.  I loved it.  Rachel from Buckingham 

19:  We ❤️ Sunday night fancy dress

Fancy dress on Sunday night is one of Southport’s most loved traditions.  Every year I’m amazed at the lengths that people go to with their costumes, but this September was one of the best.

What I love about Southport is that I have a chance to be silly. The weekend is an opportunity for us all to escape from the routine of our normal lives, and fancy dress gives us an opportunity to indulge in some much needed silliness.  Catherine from  Dronfield

Catherine was part of the Ceroc Heaven crowd who chose Morris Men as their theme this time.  The picture below shows Mark O’Reilly doing his Thunderball DJ set in full Morris Men outfit, along side Catherine and Matt dancing to his music.

20:  We ❤️ Chalet Parties

As I mentioned above people love getting together with their friends, and Chalet Parties are a great opportunity to do that, and have some fun at the same time.

Many of the Ceroc franchises that bring people to Southport organise Chalet Parties for their members, and these are a great opportunity to have some fun and games too.  As well as offering copious amounts of food and alcohol these parties are famous for their silly games.

The best team game involved a roll of toilet paper held between the knees, and a sink plunger held between the legs of a fellow team member.  The idea was to put the sink plunger in to the toilet roll.  Sadly we’d all had a little too much to drink and the game  soon descended in to hilarity.  Well that’s all I’m prepared to admit too.  Annonymous

21:  We ❤️ dancing under the moonlight

I mentioned above that people love dancing outside, and you can’t beat doing it under moonlight, at long past your bedtime, to a gorgeous chilled out track.  The photo below was taken during DJ Ashley Davis’ Sunday night SILC set.  It was Ashley’s debut as a Southport SILC Zone DJ and myself and my dance partner Jo had gone to support him.

Sunday had been a bit of a wash out, but by midnight it had cleared up and it wasn’t long before the outside dance area filled up.  It seems that everyone loves the opportunity to dance to chilled out music under the stars.

22:  We ❤️ dancing until 6 in the morning

I’m very proud that I can tell my two daughters that, while they are tucked up in bed, their father is dancing until three in the morning. Seems I’m a light weight though:

What we really love is dancing until six in the morning.  It’s what we do back home of a weekend.  We don’t tend to get out of our chalet until gone midnight and love dancing until the rooms close down.  Johnny from Leeds & Steve from Essex

They are not alone of course, and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, I understand some people dance in The SILC Zone beyond six o’clock.  I’ve never been around to verify this, but it is borne out by the Survivors photo traditionally taken in The SILC Zone at 6.30 on Monday morning.

The picture shows DJ Marc Forster who has the honour of doing the last music set, and there on the front row is Johnny, with Steve just behind.

23:  We ❤️ being part of a dance community

I often write about Ceroc being a wonderful community.  In this digital age there is a danger that we exist with less real people and replace them with virtual ones.  The human spirit did not evolve to be sat alone in front of a computer screen and that is why groups and communities based around dance clubs are thriving.

Come to a weekender and you immediately feel part of a very wide dance community. Once you are unpacked and settled in to your chalet, you can go and interact with hundreds of like minded people, and that’s why we love Southport so much.  But let’s not forget that this weekender community owes it’s very existence to the local Ceroc dance groups, and many independent ones too, all over the UK.

24:  We ❤️ looking forward to next time

As I write this article it is just short of eight weeks to go until the next Southport Weekender.  It won’t be long now until Sue O’Reilly at Ceroc Heaven starts counting down the sleeps on her notice board, and she will be announcing the Fancy Dress theme.  My friends are just beginning to talk about it and in a few weeks time we will talk about nothing else.

If you’ve never been before I hope that this article has given you a taste of the wonderful time that awaits you at Southport.  Perhaps it might even make your mind up to go.  I’ve been on the Ceroc Escape Website (see link below) and as of the beginning of January there is still plenty of accommodation, though ladies you may have to pair up with some guys.

25:  We ❤️ doing it all over again

No matter how many times myself and my Dance Gang friends have been to Southport, we love the idea that come the end of February we will be doing it all over again.  Perhaps we’ll see you there.

Follow the links for the postings mentioned above

The full length version of ‘What we love about Southport’

Review of Swingers Hour

Vince Silva’s Funk Hour

Tony Riccardi’s Thunderball Room Set

My Top 5 DJ Sets 2016-17

My Top 10 Dance tracks 2016-17

Get Ready for Swingers Hour class

Ceroc Escape Website to book for February