Q is for queue


As I was mulling over words to inspire my contribution for the letter ‘q’ I kept being transported back to a very particular place. To a queue I stood in for hours and hours on end on many, many Saturday nights. Well, afternoons really: we were waiting for Whirl-Y-Gig to open, a club I frequented in my teenage years which at the time was held in Shoreditch Town Hall. It kept the rather unusual hours of eight until midnight – handy for sneaking out as a sixteen year old, and a party which people were keen to extend by whichever means they could.

The queue started to form in the middle of the afternoon. Often when we made it there by four or five it would already be snaking down Old Street – people chatting, banging drums, excited about what the night would bring. On the night this photo was taken I’m pretty sure we’d arrived early and made it to the steps of the town hall itself. This was the most coveted spot, the place you’d find the most hardened regulars, where you could look down over the pavement as the queue and the anticipation began to build. I vaguely remember dancing to The Prodigy’s ‘Out Of Space’ as it blasted out of someone’s battered ghetto blaster.

Once we were inside it really was as if we’d been taken to another dimension. Colours and music and lights and rhythm, dancing at the front of the stage as if our lives depended on it. Everyone was so friendly, their hugs and smiles quickly replacing the grey hostility of the London streets we’d left behind.

The streets around Shoreditch Town Hall were very different then. There was The Blue Note in Hoxton Square, the Comedy Cafe and a couple of pubs on Curtain Road, but nothing like the teeming mass of bars and restaurants and wannabe hipsters you find there now. There are even hotdog stalls on Old Street on the weekends, peddling their questionable wares to drunken tourists. A long, long way from how it used to be.

We took less photos then of course. It took me ages to dig this one out, trawling through boxes of old prints, and even then the picture I found was clearer in my imagination than in reality. Not that it wasn’t fun: there’s something quite different about holding physical photographs in your hands rather than just scrolling through images on a screen. I’m still friends with the core group of people I hung out with twenty (!) years ago, and it was pretty awesome to see us as we were then – at parties and festivals, in gardens and parks, cooking and laughing and getting up to no good.

We’re scattered across the globe now, from London to LA to Osaka, but there’s a bond that was formed by adventures like standing in line for hours on a grimy street in East London that I don’t think will ever be broken.

Q is for queue.


Joining in with The Alphabet Photography Project over at PODcast.  

9 thoughts on “Q is for queue

  1. Anon

    Fabulous memories, and ones I can so gladly relate too. We were there and we part of the hard core supporters that would also be on those exact stairs queueing many hours before with the tingles of anticipation and excitement knowing full well that there was a fantastically awesome evening/night ahead.

    And the dilemma was always where to go next! Especially given we had commuted down from Oxford Poly for a night out.

    There are many a tune that totally are Whirly-Gig memories, and so too locations. Every time i pass through Shoreditch, it is with a big grin on my face!


    1. sophieblovett Post author

      Happy times indeed. My favourite ‘after parties’ normally involved walking in to Trafalgar Square for bongo jams and statue climbing! Not sure we’d get away with that now…

  2. helenbcn

    Wonderful memories, and love this: “The picture I found was clearer in my imagination than in reality”. How different it is nowadays when we remember things via the pictures we took and posted on social media rather than the things we actually saw.

  3. Sara (@mumturnedmom)

    Love this post, it transported me back to my early twenties in London queuing to get into The Church (the epic weekly Antipodean ‘event’ behind Kings Cross, not one of the religious variety…!) on a Sunday morning… Hadn’t thought about that in years 🙂


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