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This England - Wigan Casino

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This England - Wigan Casino

The Wigan Casino was a nightclub in Wigan, Lancashire, England. Operating between 1973 and 1981, it was known as a primary venue for northern soul music. It carried forward the legacy created by clubs such as the Twisted Wheel in Manchester and Golden Torch in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent. It remains one of the most famous clubs in Northern England.

This England, a TV documentary about the venue, was filmed in 1977. In 1978, the American music magazine Billboard voted Wigan Casino "The Best Disco in the World", ahead of New York City's Studio 54. Russ Winstanley and Dave Nowell wrote a history of the club, Soul Survivors, The Wigan Casino Story, which was published in 1996. A stage play by Urban Expansions, produced and directed by Paul Sadot about the Wigan Casino years, Once upon a time in Wigan, debuted in February 2003 at the Contact Theatre in Manchester, and has since toured nationally.

Wigan Casino was the name of the last incarnation of a Wigan ballroom called the Empress. Mike Walker recognised that at a local rugby club, Russ Winstanley had a similar evening that was more professionally operated than the one founded by Caine. Walker brought Winstanley from the rugby club to the Casino Club, and Wigan Casino opened in September 1973, with Winstanley as the DJ. Many famous soul performers performed there, including Jackie Wilson, Edwin Starr and Junior Walker.

Young people from all over the UK regularly made the trek to Wigan Casino to hear the latest northern soul artists and to dance. Queues to get in were sometimes five or six people deep, and stretched round the corner up into the town centre. The second dance floor, called Mr. M's, stayed open until 6am and played oldies songs from a variety of DJs. Every all-nighter traditionally ended with three songs that became known as the 3 before 8: "Time Will Pass You By" by Tobi Legend, "Long After Tonight Is Over" by Jimmy Radcliffe, and "I'm On My Way" by Dean Parrish. Parrish is still active on the northern soul circuit.

Amphetamine and other drug abuse, including even cough mixture, and a deterioration of the quality of the music being played, led to the downfall of the club. The drug abuse ensured a criminal element were ever present and some people were even mugged in the casino. Finally pressure from the police, falling attendances and the local authority forced it to close in 1981. The final night of Wigan Casino in its northern soul state was DJed by Winstanley, and the 3 before 8 were played three times consecutively at the end of the night. The crowd refused to leave, so according to Winstanley, to "break this spell of hysteria" he picked a 7" at random from his box and played that. This final Wigan Casino song became one of the most famous northern soul songs of all time, Frank Wilson's "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)". However many people remember that the casino continued to open even after that and it seems to be unrecorded when the last night at the casino actually was. The Wigan Casino building burned down a year after it closed.

The site, in 2009, is occupied by the Grand Arcade shopping centre.

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