More than just a nostalgic nod to the past

This was posted on Stevie G’s Blog yesterday ahead of the opening. We post it here today cause we thought it was so great. Thanks Stevie   Tonight the Sir Henry’s Exhibition opens at UCC Library. Everyone is welcome and it kicks off at 6pm, plus it will be running all summer. I’ve helped curate this exhibition but in truth Martin and Eileen of UCC did nearly all of the work. The support from Cronan and all at the Library and UCC has been unbelievable and it’s great to see that they look at the whole thing as an important part of Cork’s social history.  When initially asked to get involved I was very reluctant as it was just after Shane and Greg had marked the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Sweat with some big nights and a very good exhibition in the Pav. Like us all I was nostalgia’d out, and could not see much point in further doing what the Sweat and Go Deep duo had done so well. The UCC library one though took a different direction, and it soon became apparent that it was gonna delve into territory that even long time gig goers & clubbers like myself had little idea about. I wasn’t about in the 80s when many of the great gigs in Henry’s took place, and I was fascinated to learn more about the different bands that I had heard so much about growing up. The stories from those involved were amazing and I soon realised that if we didn’t document this now an opportunity would pass forever. The Lucey family, Jack Lyons, and a cast of hundreds, had material to submit and stories to tell, and the exhibition gathered amazing momentum on facebook and twitter where people often forgotten about suddenly surfaced.   I knew pretty much everyone on the dance side of things as I had been there through most of that era and DJ’d there for nearly ten years, but the opportunity to present a snapshot of both dance and rock elements was too good to ignore, and I hope people enjoy checking it out. I have been previously frustrated with one or two of the attempts to document things that were important to me 20 years ago, and even valiant efforts such as the 120 BPM documentary didn’t capture the magic of the place for me. It hardly mentioned the music which was always the key and the key people such as Greg and Shane were relegated to tiny roles.   In recent years, Ray Scannell, a good friend of mine and a Henry’s regular in its later years, put some great research into his one man show called “Deep”, which remains a must see and which will return to Cork later this year. This UCC Exhibition in a relatively small space is not gonna answer every question, cover every band or acknowledge all of the DJ’s and people who made those years special, but in truth that was gonna be impossible. I repeat that it is a snapshot that has been created by and large by those people who have been very forthcoming and helpful in supplying material and memories.   My biggest fear was that more nostalgia would hold things back, especially seeing as I personally think Cork has never been more exciting for young people and “medium to young” people like myself! The amount of great bands in Cork now is unreal. The Altered Hours, The Careers, Shaker Hymn, Elastic Sleep, Laurie Shaw and others have got me really excited, and the massive wave of DJ’s from the 90s has been replaced by a bunch of producers and electronic acts who are doing their own thing too. I’ve just started my own record label releasing soul music, and it’s quite significant that many of the DJ’s from that era are all living firmly in the present and looking to the future.   Greg and Shane are at the cutting edge of house with Go Deep and Fishgodeep and they have led by example by only rarely looking back once a year. Marq Walsh has his own label too, while my former Back bar protege Colm K is a highly respected producer with international releases as well. There’s tons more too. Many of the Henry’s regulars of the 90’s such as John Daly have taken things to the next level too as producers, while those who DJ’d there and run nights, like Joe Kelly, Hungry, Eddie K and Fork, to name a few, are still actively involved in the Cork music scene in 2014. I’m more excited about now and though I appreciate that as people get older many romanticise their youth, I can honestly say that things are better with more opportunities now. But the lack of choice elsewhere was one of the key reasons why Henry’s was so good too at the time.

We’ve worked with some kids from Gurranabraher who have created a piece inspired by a place they never experienced, and that will be on display in UCC too. Another youngster, Tuathla Lucey is the granddaughter of Jerry, who opened the building and whose vision shaped the place, and she has been actively involved in documenting its history by interviewing many of those involved. The exhibition will hopefully inspire creativity from our young people, I know that that era shaped everything I’ve ever done subsequently, and it was the same for many more. I’d love to hear their thoughts on this exhibition too.   Donkeyman jpegI don’t think it was the actual bricks and rock of the building itself that made it so special I wasn’t even slightly bothered when it got knocked in 2003. Many of us had left and never returned in 2001, and it was clear that things were over. I certainly did not want to look back back then. It was the music and the people that made everything special, and hopefully the exhibition will celebrate this. There were many other special places too, and many of these are now also gone. Such is life. To my own eternal embarrassment, I forgot to mention many places when submitting a list of these for the exhibition, and I’d like to acknowledge Lebowskis right now, which was a great pub during the last few years of Henrys and was often a feeder bar for the venue that often captured the atmosphere of the club inside too! Nights like Immramma, the Funk Shop with DJ Fork, Joe Kelly’s Friday nights, Revelation Sound, Bastardo Electro, Free la Funk and tons more have had little mention, and some of the DJ’s I worked with and influenced me, such as Gina Johnson, should have got more coverage too. I’ve been thinking about some great gigs with bands like Collapse, who were ahead of the game mixing electronica and rock. But it’s a tiny exhibition and it was about more than all of these great DJ’s and acts, I guess.   Fashion Shoot jpegI’m sure many other people and DJ’s and bands and places will have been not mentioned, but the exhibition is also very much a rolling effort where social media and blogs like this will shape how we look at Sir Henrys. Originally, we also wanted it to be much more than Henry’s, which was not everything, but time and space meant that it was important to keep the focus relatively limited. Maybe someone might try and dig deeper into the history of the Arcadia now, or go further back that the 70s and 80s with another exhibition?  Books have been written and admirable attempts have been made, but this is our social history and there’s scope for more. The single most exciting thing about this for me is that UCC are keeping much of this material in a permanent archive, that will survive long after you and me are gone. While we are here it’s imperative that the people who knew about this venue are the ones telling others about it, before it’s too late. I studied up in UCC 20 years ago and started DJing up there in the old bar on Friday afternoons with Colm O’Riordain, Brian Power and company. We were the alternative and I’m suprised we got away with it back then. I used go upstairs and listen to my newly bought records on the music departments Technics (still there!) on the top floor of the very building that will today house this exhibition. UCC jpegI’ve spent more time in that library in the last few weeks than I ever did studying English and History but i’ll always remember the head of the history department Joe Lee shaking my hand when i got my degree and telling me to pursue what I was really interested in. He knew that was music. It’s funny how things come around and I’m delighted that a small fragment of Cork’s social history is now on show in one of the most beautiful places in our wonderful city.                      

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