I’m a bit late doing my Best of the Year lists, so I’ve decided to extend 2019 and add in the last three months of 2018.
It’s not just about the numbers
In the last fifteen months, I’ve been to thirteen Weekenders. That’s almost one a month. I remember when the only weekenders I did were the three Ceroc Southport Weekenders in February, June and September. But that was before I retired and decided to spend my time writing about his wonderful dance scene. In the last year, I’ve not only done weekenders in Britain but I ventured over to Ireland and Spain too.
I did all three of the Ceroc Pontin Weekenders – Southport, Camber and Brean Sands, with their attendance figures anywhere between one and two thousand people, but I also did some of the more intimate events with just one to two hundred people. If numbers were all that mattered, the summer Ceroc Weekenders at Southport and Camber Sands would claim the top two spots but I decided that there was more to a weekender than just attendance figures.
It’s about being with like-minded people too
Weekenders, no matter what their size, are primarily about the people you meet, the friendships you make and the fun you have on the dance floor with like-minded people. Doing the Funky Chicken on the prom at Benidorm has an appeal as much being part of the atmosphere in a packed Thunderball Room at Southport.
The music plays a big part too and when deciding on my Top 5, I was very mindful of the music variety I got to dance to, and the Speciality Hours that were included in the programmes. Quite a few times I got to dance to my favourite Motown and Soul music. These sessions proved very popular and as a result, the atmosphere on the dance floor was at times quite overwhelming.
Five very different Weekenders
In this listing, I also wanted to try to explain the different ingredients that make a standout weekender. When I settled on my Top 5 I was pleased that they all had their own unique selling points that appeal to different people. Just as we all like different music and different styles of dancing, so we look for different things from our weekender experience.
I just love the excitement of walking into the Thunderball Room at Southport on the Friday night and feeling the energy of four hundred people dancing to an uptempo track. But I know some people can find this pumped-up atmosphere a little intimidating and they prefer the weekenders with a more intimate feel. In my listing, there are five very different weekenders of varying sizes. All of them have their fans and I found it easy to justify their placing in this Best of the Year Listing.
All are worthy of a pilgrimage
I can’t recommend these five weekenders enough and every one of them is worthy of a pilgrimage. But you will need to be on the ball when trying to get tickets as the ladies ones sell out very quickly and one of my picks sells out even before last years event has finished.
This listing only gives a brief description of the five venues I’ve chosen. To read the full review, including Tel Jenkin’s videos for two of the venues, please follow the links provided.
5: Benidorm Jive: Melia Hotel, Benidorm (Oct 2019)
A weekender for the Costa Blanca dancers
Of course, there are many Ceroc and Modern Jive week-long holidays in the Med, but there are also a few shorter weekender breaks. Benidorm Jive is a weekender that has, in just a few short years, built itself a reputation as an intimate and very friendly weekender. This 4-day event has its origins in a desire by Wendy Brown and Matthew Brooke to bring the weekender experience to the Modern Jive community on the Costa Blanca, but it now also attracts dancers from all over the UK.
Back in April last year I was invited by Maxine Goodie to experience the place that her Modern Jive club, Paso a Paso, has in the lives of the ex-pats who live on the Costa Blanca (see link below). During this week of dancing and socialising, I made many new friends who kept mentioning Benidorm Jive.
For me, one of the attractions of Benidorm Jive was the chance to meet up with these friends from my previous visit to the Costa Blanca. As I’ve talked with people about their weekender experiences, I’m constantly told how they are an opportunity to meet up with friends they would not see at any other time. This catching up and enjoying time together was a big feature of Benidorm Jive.
One special sunny dance session
The great appeal of Benidorm is its wonderful weather and in Mid-October we were treated to the best it has to offer. On the Sunday afternoon, DJ Maxine Goodie set up the decks outside by the pool and played a set of top chill-out music. Dancing outside is one of the joys of my trips to Southport but sadly it is so weather dependant and is never a given. This al fresco dance session, with Maxine’s wonderful music, was to prove the best of all my weekender out-door dancing experiences.
The sun would play another part in this fabulous weekender. On the Sunday afternoon, everyone went down to the promenade dressed in white and did a line dance choreographed by co-organiser Lisa Graydon. This line dance would include a move that Lisa described as the Funky Chicken, which photographer Terry Hawes captured in the photo above. It’s always great fun watching the locals marvelling at the fun everyone had performing the routine – another wonderful highlight, of this weekender in the sun.
A chance to win a medal
One of the unique attractions of Benidorm Jive is the programme of competitions. While everyone is encouraged to join in, the different categories attract a high standard of dancing. Myself and Maxine entered the Veterans. Okay, we didn’t make the next round but we had a blast, and I loved that people who wouldn’t normally consider entering a competition back in the UK gave it a go like myself and Maxine. Happily, I would make the final of the Lucky Dip competition and you can find out how I did in my review.
There was one other unique feature of this weekender. After the dancing finished we would all go across the road to the Tropicana Bar. Here we would dance to classic ’70s and ’80s disco floor fillers. The Benidorm Jive dancers created a fabulous atmosphere on the dance floor and I had some of my most joyous dances of the whole weekend here with my new found friends.
4: Ceroc Swish: Potters Resort, Norfolk (Feb 2019)
A 5 Star setting and relaxed atmosphere
Swish, the Ceroc Weekender that takes over the Potters resort near Great Yarmouth, is described as A weekender like no other, and without any doubt it is. Its enviable reputation has a lot to do with the 5 Star facilities of the resort itself. The Cabaret shows in the Apollo theatre are of West End quality and were packed out every one of the three nights.
Swish has one other wonderful feature – a wonderful relaxed atmosphere that is created by some careful planning by Paul and Glen Brooks and their fellow organiser Karen Toko. This is not a go to bed at silly o’clock weekender and the fact that everybody is up for breakfast and sits down together for dinner gives the event a total social feel.
It’s all about the music
But we should remember that Swish, like any weekender, is primarily about the dancing and there is a full programme. Everything centres around two rooms. The very large main room for upbeat music and a smaller second one for chill-out dancing. What was impressive was the DJ line up. Over the past two years, I have respectively voted Tony Riccardi and Paul Brooks‘ DJ sets as my best of the year. What was great for me was seeing both their names on the DJ list. They would not disappoint.
I would also get to appreciate the music of a whole group of DJs I had never had the chance to dance before and they showed the same ability to create a great vibe on the floor like Tony and Paul. One of these was Denise Jacques who did some fabulous sets in the second chill-out room. For me, one of the highlights was DJ Kieran Moore‘s two-hour Soul & Motown slot. Many weekenders will give you an hour of this uplifting genre of dance music but I loved that I could get a two-hour fix of ’60s and ’70s floor fillers.
Tel shows his videoing craft
I was lucky to be accompanied by my great friend and associate Tel Jenkins, who produced a superbly crafted video record of this fabulous event. You’ll find the video in the review below and it tells its own story of a weekender that lived up to its billing as being like no other. I should also mention the comprehensive list of classes and workshops including an outstanding Beginners Programme run by Jo and Tery Deacon.
So popular is this event that the tickets sell out even before last years event is over. People at the venue are given a chance to rebook before the tickets go on general sale. It might be an idea to ask someone who is going to see if they can book you a ticket.
3: Ceroc Scorch Southport: Pontins Ainsdale (June 2019)
Southport just pips Jamfest and Breeze
I would go to five of the Ceroc mega weekenders over my fifteen months, covering all three of the Pontins sites at Ainsdale (Southport) Camber Sands and Brean Sands, and one of them was always going to make this listing. While I loved every minute of my trips to Jamfest at Camber and Breeze at Brean, Southport remains my favourite venues. The layout of the camp itself and the way the three dance areas are configured wins it for Southport.
There is another reason why the Southport June event wins. I was lucky enough to be included in a dance gang with three particular wonderful people at his event. I’ve always felt that the chalets at Southport lend themselves to wonderful laughter-filled late-night after-parties. Many Ceroc franchises also put on afternoon and evening chalet parties for their groups and these all add to the fun of these weekenders.
Speciality Hours rock The Boudoir
All three of the Pontin’s holiday camps have their large main halls which Ceroc brand as the Thunderball Room. I have to say that the atmosphere generated in the Thunderball Room at Southport is the most exhilarating I have experienced anywhere on my travels. As I said above, the intensity of the Thunderball Room vibe is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like being in a room with five hundred like minded people losing themselves to the very best mix of uptempo music then the Thunderball Room at Southport is a must-dance-at venue.
Southport also has the best selection of Speciality Hours that rock the Boudoir areas. The Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired Swinger’s Hour, the Motown & Soul Hour with it’s Northern Soul dancers and Vince Silva’s legendary Funk Hour are all unmissable. Recently, Vince’s alter-ego Whisperin’ Vinnie’s has introduced a Country Hour which gets more popular each time round. Add to this Tim-Sant Turners outrageous late-night Camp Attack party with its joyous gay anthems and you have a music mix with something for everyone to lose themselves in.
Cooling down and dressing up
The Boudoir is also branded for much of the weekend as the SILC Zone. By June of last year, I had finally gained the confidence to ask people to dance in the SILC Zone to the wonderful selection of chill-out music. What I love about Southport is that you can work up a sweat in the Thunderball Room and then go through double doors and be immediately in the chill-out room. Rub yourself down, stand in front of a fan and then cool down to some delicious contemporary music, served up by a top line up of chill-out DJs.
On Sunday night the Thunderball Room is taken over by people dressing up in fancy dress. We’ll see later, that fancy dress is a major feature of the very best weekenders, but Southport to its credit has a great fancy dress tradition. I should give a mention to my home town dancers of Ceroc Heaven who in June had an In the Pink theme.
2: Ceroc Thrill: Jury’s Inn, Aberdeen Airport (Nov 2019)
Nicola pays attention to every detail
In this list I’ve tried to represent a cross-section of venues and Thrill is a great example of how a smaller more intimate weekender can create an experience that is as memorable as any of its bigger brothers. One of the things that impressed me about Benidorm Jive (No 5) was that it was born out of a desire to bring the weekender experience to the dancers on the Costa Blanca. Thrill also had its origins in a desire to take a similar experience to the Aberdeen dancers, a group of people who are always going to find it hard to travel the long distances to the venues that many of us take for granted.
Another reason that I picked this weekender out was the great thought and detail that was put into its planning. Thrill was put on by Nicola di Folco, who runs the Aberdeen, Perth and Stirling Ceroc franchises, and the dedicated team she has built around her.
Over the past two years, I’ve been to several of Nicola’s weekenders and freestyles and I’ve always been impressed by the attention to detail. No surprise then, that I voted her Stirling Summer Ball my No 1 freestyle of last year (see link below). Thrill was no exception and so many of the people I spoke to flagged up how well the event was put together and the little details that made it run so smoothly.
The main room music mix had it all
Like many weekenders, this venue had a second chill-out room and while the programme didn’t have space for Speciality Hours, the main room DJs made sure that they covered all bases and put together a fabulous mix of current favourite, Ceroc classics and their own top tunes. Nicola always puts together a great DJ line up for her events. This time she was joined on the decks in the main room by Ashley Davis, Kerry Slater and Sheena Assiph, who ensured there was a great vibe on the floor for the Friday and Saturday dance sessions.
My own favourite part of the whole weekend was the chill-out event on Sunday afternoon. The music put together by DJs Tim Sant-Turner, Ben Davies, Calum Martindale and Sheena Assiph was top draw and I just didn’t want it to end. So good was the music during this last session that I’ll be featuring one of the DJ sets when I put together my Top 5 DJ playlists.
Great dancers and something unexpected
No matter how good the music is, what you would ask of any weekender is that you get to dance with some fabulous dancers. It seems that through her dance classes, Nicola has raised the bar in Scotland and I have to say that the standard of dancing both in the main room and chill-out room added to my enjoyment of this weekender.
There was one other feature of this event that ensured it had to make my Top 5. What I love about my travels is that every so often I get to experience something I wasn’t expecting. Thrill would provide everyone with a non-dancing memory that will go down in Ceroc Scotland folklore – the singing of The 12 Days of Christmas at the sit-down meal on Saturday night. I won’t try to explain the laughter that was created by the rendition of this seasonal song, as it is explained in great detail in the review below. There is also a video of the fun and laughter that was created during the singing.
1: MJRoc Warmwell: near Weymouth, Dorset (Nov 2018)
A perfect Weekender setting
I can’t imagine that anyone who has been to this fabulous weekender will disagree with me making it No 1. Its scores ten out of ten on so many levels. The lodges with their parkland setting are the best accommodation of any of the weekenders I’ve attended, and its location in a corner of rural Dorset is perfect for an afternoon trip out to a very interesting part of the coast. Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door, Chesil Beach, Portland Bill and the seaside resort of Weymouth are all within easy reach.
I’ve been twice now and each time I’ve shared a lodge with five other people. It’s made for some wonderful socialising. Eating breakfast together and then later taking it in turns to prepare some freshly cooked food was the perfect build up to another night of dancing fun. And then, having an after-party each night around a big dining table makes for great laughter as we share our stories from the dance floor. Not all the lodges accommodate so many people but everyone talks about the high standard of the accommodation.
The music is just the best
Then there is the music mix – it’s the very best. The DJ line up is top draw. The main room is in the hands of DJs Billy Cullen, Kane Jenner and Colin Shaul, who runs the event along with Gazza Forge. These are three top DJs. I’ve already written exemplary reviews about all three of these guys’ music. Kane provided the music for the Modern Jive World Championships that I reviewed last year, Billy’s music featured in this and last year’s Top 5 freestyle listing and I recognised Colin’s Tylney Hall freestyle as the best in my first year of blogging.
Warmwell has it’s speciality slots too. In the ‘Busters’ Room there is Rock’n’ Roll and Gazza puts on a fabulous Motown and Soul session. In this room too, DJ John Dunlop, known for his Rhapsody Modern Blues events at Minstead is in charge of a packed late-night Blues Lounge.
Several of DJs who run the chill-out room have also been recognised in my reviews and year lists. Cliff Dean and Amanda Saunders were guest DJs when LeRoc Surrey’s Tylney Hall freestyle was voted the best of 2016/17 and their Ener Jive freestyle at Bordon last week made my Top 5 Freestyle list. Chill-out DJ Kevin Hyde was on duty when the Ceroc Live & Dance Tea Dance at Kington Langley was recognised as the best of my Tea Dance Tour and Nick Stephens is the DJ who’s music has made Devon Velvet the much-loved Blues and Chill-out event it is.
A party like finale
But what marks Warmwell out well ahead of its rivals, is its Fancy Dress Parade and party inspired climax on Sunday night. As I mentioned with Southport, fancy dress plays a big part in this dance scene but no one does it like the people who attend Warmwell. In my review below there is a link to the video made by Tel Jenkins. In it, he captures the extravagance of the fancy dress parade. Some people must plan their costumes for months in advance as the themes and costumes are so well thought out and the results create a spectacle.
Tel’s video also captures the joy and excitement of the finale with its party anthems. It kicks off with New York, New York by way of Always look on the bright side of life and ends with House of Pain’s Jump around. I’ve had some wonderful moments on the dance floor during my travels over this last fifteen months but jumping up and down to House of Pain’s party anthem with three hundred other like-minded people is one of the best.
My Top 5 DJ Playlists