For­mer night­club in movie spot­light

Sunday Sun - - News - By Chris Knight Re­porter [email protected]­

THEY were two of the North East’s most no­to­ri­ous clubs for a gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple across the re­gion and be­yond.

But Sun­der­land’s Blue Mon­key and New Mon­key venues were as con­tro­ver­sial with neigh­bours and Northum­bria Po­lice as they were pop­u­lar with ravers.

Now – years on from their clo­sure – two Uni­ver­sity of Sun­der­land stu­dents are mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary on the im­pact of the clubs, their mu­sic, and their rep­u­ta­tion on cul­tural life in the city.

Rob Kil­burn and Lewis Dodds, third-year Dig­i­tal Film Pro­duc­tion stu­dents, are in­ter­view­ing key fig­ures in­volved with the clubs, from door staff to DJS, as well as try­ing to trace those who reg­u­larly danced the night away at the venues.

While Rob, now 25, was much younger at the peak of the clubs’ pop­u­lar­ity, he still re­mem­bers the im­pact and rep­u­ta­tion they had on young peo­ple grow­ing up in Sun­der­land.

Rob, from Se­aburn, said: “They were the most talked about places; they reached be­yond be­ing just night­clubs. The mu­sic they were play­ing was quite wide-reach­ing.”

The venues high­lighted mu­sic gen­res in­clud­ing Mak­ina, a form of hard­core techno which orig­i­nated in Spain with a keen fol­low­ing in the North East, and Monta, the events held to dance and lis­ten to it.

Rob added: “Even though the New Mon­key has been closed for more than a decade, the im­pact [of the clubs] is still there and I thought it would make an in­ter­est­ing sub­ject as a doc­u­men­tary for part of my dis­ser­ta­tion.”

Sun­der­land’s Blue Mon­key was lo­cated in an old bingo hall on Bed­ford Street in the city cen­tre.

The site has now been de­mol­ished to make way for the new Em­pire cin­ema.

But dur­ing the 90s, it was a haven for ravers be­fore it burned to the ground.

In 1999, ef­forts be­gan to turn the for­mer Plaza Bingo Hall in Pal­lion into a new night­club, this time called the New Mon­key.

How­ever, res­i­dents liv­ing near the venue ob­jected to the plans, claim­ing their lives would be dis­rupted by late night com­ings and go­ings, loud mu­sic and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour.

But bosses be­hind the club re­sub­mit­ted plans, this time say­ing they aimed to open a pri­vate mem­bers’ only dance club, serv­ing only soft drinks – thereby re­mov­ing liquor li­cence con­trol by the lo­cal au­thor­ity.

The era of the New Mon­key ended in March 2006 when more than 100 po­lice of­fi­cers raided the venue, seiz­ing drugs and mak­ing 14 ar­rests.

Search war­rants were also si­mul­ta­ne­ously ex­e­cuted at the homes of se­nior man­age­ment and staff from the trou­ble-hit venue.

Rob and Lewis hope their 25-minute doc­u­men­tary will en­cap­su­late the im­pact of the clubs dur­ing the height of the UK’S rave scene.

This is not the first short film Rob has made. In 2012 he made a doc­u­men­tary about the of­ten­for­got­ten Se­aburn Zoo.

He said: “I was blown away by the fact that a zoo which had tigers had just been around the cor­ner from where I now live.”

As well as a short film about Park­our, Rob and Lewis are cur­rently fin­ish­ing off a film about the his­tory of graf­fiti in the North East – called Bro­ken Win­dow – which they hope to have com­pleted by the be­gin­ning of next month, just in time for the Sun­der­land Short Film Fes­ti­val.

Rob be­lieves that thanks to stream­ing ser­vices like Net­flix, doc­u­men­taries are now be­com­ing much more main­stream and hopes to con­tinue per­fect­ing his craft ahead of grad­u­at­ing from the uni­ver­sity this sum­mer.

The 25-year-old also started pop­u­lar Face­book page Tyne and Weird which looks back at North East folk­lore, ur­ban le­gends and street his­tory.

Speak­ing about his time at the Uni­ver­sity of Sun­der­land, Rob said: “It’s been a great three years and I have learnt a lot.

“Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, I’m look­ing for­ward to build­ing on doc­u­men­tary mak­ing as well as my work on Tyne and Weird.”

Any­one who would like to get in touch with Rob and can help pro­vide archive footage or sto­ries of the Blue and New Mon­key clubs can send a mes­sage via the page or email Tyne­[email protected] out­

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