The Bowgie

I was sitting in the sun with a friend, reminiscing about the “good old days” and he was amazed at how many of my old crew went on to greater things, so I thought I’d give it a bit of a write-up here, for those who may be interested.

I lived in Cornwall from the mid 80s to early 90s, and as there wasn’t much happening down there me and my friends would put on nights ourselves. The main focal point was a club called The Bowgie in Crantock, near Newquay. Although regular Saturday night club nights were launched by Mike Pickering, it was the late Paul Guntrip (a regular at The Wag in London) that had made it the place to be with his mix of Brooklyn and Chicago house and hip house.

But by 1990 us young pretenders were taking over.

Guntrip’s Heavy Duty night was fortnightly, and the alternate weeks were taken up by Aphex Twin and a chilled-out guy called PK with sets that were mainly techno and acid. It was the first time that many of us had heard Richard James’ own music (he’d drop in tracks played from cassette) and he blew pretty much everyone away. I’ve seen him DJ loads thoughout the years but for me those Bowgie nights were the best. The Belgian new beat track I’ve posted here (‘Something Scary’ by Zsa Zsa ‘La Boum’) is one that I’ll always associate with his nights there.

When Guntrip retired I started doing a night with Tom Middleton and Dan Parks (Middleton joined up with Mark Pritchard to form the Reload empire and Parks went on to do the illustration work for some of Aphex Twin’s early releases on Warp). Called Prophecy, it was purely a rave night and we’d play techno and breakbeat every Saturday fortnight. At its height in 1992 we had double capacity attendance, and I remember standing outside the club and literally seeing steam coming from the roof. That house was burning!

Aphex Twin’s night became monthly and the newly created monthly spot was filled by a night called Area 313, hosted by Grant Wilson-Claridge who went on to set up the Rephlex label; his set was more in the Guntrip spirit but with more emphasis on hip hop and techno, and he DJ’d with his then girlfriend Clair Poulton, who herself launched Clear records when she moved to London. Another member of our Cornwall posse was Marcus Scott; after leaving Rephlex, he moved to Warp where he’s now doing a&r, and is also helping to run Hyperdub.

One of the great things about The Bowgie was the layout. The main dancefloor was sunk into the ground, a couple of steps below the rest of the club. This meant that at the start of the night people would always stand around the perimeter, too scared to drop on to the dancefloor. But the moment would soon come and once the crowd got going it was just perfect. They had a string of tiny strobes all around the ceiling above the dancefloor which could be controlled by whoever was DJing. All these pulsing lights would create shifting shadows across the room, and when it was combined with thick smoke the flashing of the shadows surrounding you whilst you danced was amazing. For me that was one of the ultimate club set-ups.

There were a few other venues that we’d often go to and sometimes play at. The much missed Victor Drago’s in Falmouth (think Turnmills but friendly) was home on a Friday night to Out Of The Ordinary, again a mix of hip hop and house. (I seem to remember there were always people doing handbrake turns in the car park.) Luke Vibert had a night there too and he also played at Club International in the centre of town which had more of a student union vibe. Vibert also started a house and breakbeat night at The Bowgie called Nuke when Area 313 finished. Through those years you could definitely see the transition from Chicago house and Detroit techno, through to Brooklyn house and hardcore techno and on to rave and UK breakbeat. But no matter who was DJing, we would always go to each other’s nights.

There were of course many other people who helped make the scene what it was… an extended family of friends from Truro, Falmouth, St Austell, Redruth etc who all made an extra effort to make sure that Cornwall was not a black hole of boredom. Deserving a special mention are Andy & Pauline Pickles who ran The Bowgie in those days (my girlfriend at the time was one of their lovely daughters). But the story isn’t complete without giving credit to a friend called Maf*phew; he’d put on raves called Fizzbomb at a pub/barn called The Shire Horse, and “phase two” parties at the beach. His parties were great because they would give all of us an opportunity to DJ together.

Although we had all moved to London by the mid 90s, a few of the old crew are now back in Cornwall, no doubt recreating those pre-city nights. They are missed.

Posted by Manny Z

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