Remembering Dreamers, the tiny indie club above a curry house in Oldham

First you had to get past the fearsome bouncer in a dickie bow.

Then you had to navigate the narrow, rickety staircase – no mean feat if you’d had a few.

But if you managed that you were almost certainly in for a good night.

If you were a New Romantic, a punk or an indie kid in Oldham anytime from the late 70s to the late 90s chances are you went to Dreamers.

Housed in a run-down Victorian building, above a curry house in Mumps, it was the town’s only indie club.

Owned by Len Withey, the club was infamous for its sticky carpets, tiny dancefloor and its smartly dressed doorman, former professional boxer Tommy Heffron.

And since its closure in 2000 it’s become the stuff of local legend.

It was, in the words of playwright and former Dreamers regular Cathy Crabb, ‘the kind of place you were warned about, then went and found it was brilliant’.

A sign inside Dreamers telling customers to ‘have a nice night or else’
(Image: Oldham Coliseum)

Cathy was a regular at the club in the late 80s and early 90s, heading straight there with her pal Elizabeth after their shifts at the Boar’s Head in Middleton.

In 2015 Dreamers, a musical about the club Cathy co-wrote with her friend Lindsay Williams, was shown at Oldham Coliseum.

Cathy said: “It was like a little old carpeted funhouse I guess, all steps up and down everywhere, tiny corridor, little hole in the wall and a woman surrounded by everyone’s coats.

“It was a dark place, with red seating and carpets, I think they were red, you would stick to the floor.

“If you had 10 people dancing, it would be full.

“It was a place to dance and get off with people. The music was good. Not always indie, not always anything. Just good, sing-along. It was a small town disco with good music.”

The cast of Dreamers the musical in rehearsal

Graham Anderson DJed at the club from 1978 to 1986.

In an interview for the Dreamers musical programme he said: “When I started at the club it used to be straight forward disco. I used to play mostly Motown, but gradually lads started coming in asking for Roxy and Bowie.

“That’s when we started getting minibuses coming in from Rochdale and Leeds.

“People would come from all over, because they knew what they wanted, and we gave it to them better than the other clubs nearby. People would tell me about a record they liked, and the following week I’d have it for them.

Dreamers was infamous for its tiny dancefloor and sticky carpets
(Image: Oldham Coliseum)

“The punters made the place special.

“My closing record every night was Lou Reed’s Perfect Day.

“That became an anthem there. ‘Oh it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you’, was how everybody felt.

“There used to be a record shop called Golden Disc up in the town centre, and the owner, Maggie, had to get dozens of copies in at a time, because everyone wanted to own that song!”

Like many small clubs over the last 20 years Dreamers closed in 2000 and the building was demolished in 2015.

Looking back now Cathy says clubs like Dreamers were the ‘beating heart of small towns’, a place where teenagers can find friends, find love and find themselves.

She said: “I don’t think they exist in the last decade like they used to.

“You can ask anyone from anywhere and their town had one.

“It’s funny, because it’s the kind of place you’d be warned about, then go and find it was brilliant.

“That kind of place that isn’t a trek and a fortune.

“The kind of place that when you are young, you pretended you never went to and then when you are older, you really miss.”

Manchester Evening News – Oldham

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