We all have our own Southport Must-do List

Anyone who’s been to a Ceroc Southport Weekender will know that there’s so much on offer, and you soon learn you can’t do it all.  So when the programme is published on line many people start to make a to-do list.  Even this has to get slimmed down, and it’s not long before you have a shorter Must-do List.

I was tempted to give you mine, but as we approach yet another Southport dance fest, I thought I’d ask around to see what my dance friends would pick out as their not-to-miss parts of this wonderful weekender.

Your 10 Must-do List

As a result of these conversations I’ve put together a Top Ten Must-do List, that I hope will start to build the anticipation of yet another great weekend of dancing and socialising.  I hope it will also give any first timers a flavour of what they can expect, and a guide to some of the best bits.

While discussing people’s own Must-do List I was also given lots of tips about things to pack.  These are mainly items to make your chalet more comfortable and your weekend more enjoyable.  I’ve included this list at the end of the article.

No 1: Hayley Epps’ Thunderball Slot

If you like your dance music full on, with the bass turned up to the max, then the main Thunderball Room, after ten o’clock is the place to be.  There must be over five hundred people in this room at its peak, and most of them are on the floor dancing their socks off.  It’s not surprising that the atmosphere out on the floor is at times quite electrifying.

It’s easy to forget that the exhilarating vibe is created by a series of DJs who take it in turn to spin some of the best dance music ever produced.  Each has an hour long slot, and they all make sure they play their very best floor fillers.  No wonder then that at times it seems like the floor is on fire.

The DJs are some of the best, and have made a real name for themselves at Ceroc gigs across the country. My Dance Gang buddy Ian from Newark is not alone in not wanting to miss one particular DJ’s shift behind the decks:

The one slot in The Thunderball Room I never want to miss is Hayley Epps.  Not only does she play cracking tunes, but I love the way she gets up on to the higher teaching stage and seemingly conducts the dancers below her.  It’s great showmanship and adds to the vibe out on the floor.

Hayley has a set on each of the three nights.  The best slot is probably Hayley’s Saturday night set at one thirty, when the floor will really be rockin’.

Hayley gets ready to take over from Tim Sant in a packed Thunderball Room

Let’s hear it for all the DJs

This will be my fourth visit to Southport since I started reviewing the Ceroc dance scene, and I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing many of these electrifying sets (see links below).  I’m pleased that my blog gives me an opportunity to celebrate the craft of these top DJs.  I’m also a great fan of Hayley, and like Ian I’ll be checking out her sets across the weekend.

Out of the eleven DJs who are included in the Thunderball roster I’d like to draw your attention to one other – Tony Riccardi.  Tony has a prime slot on Friday night, at half past midnight.  I mention Tony because I reviewed his Southport fabulous set in June last year, and I went on to choose it as my Top DJ Playlist of last year (see link below).

No 2: Swinger’s Hour

Swingers Hour, with its sixty minutes of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Swing Music, is on a lot of people’s Must-do list.  One of the main reasons that this Saturday and Sunday mid-day hour is so popular, is because it gives the ladies an opportunity to dress up in gorgeous swirly ’50s style dresses.  Steve from Melton Mowbray is a great fan and here’s his take on it:

I love the music, particularly the Rock ‘n’ Roll, and quite honestly an hour is just not long enough.  Five hours would suit me just fine.

Not sure I could do five hours Steve, the one hour just about finishes me off.  I love the mix of ’40s Swing and ’50s Rock ‘n’ Roll music, as much as Steve, but it can be a little too fast for Ceroc at times, which is a great way to lead on to the fabulous lesson that Lyndsey Bennett puts on before hand.

Get Ready for Swinger’s Hour

The aptly named ‘Get ready for Swinger’s Hour class (see link below) is one of the most popular and most fun classes of the whole weekend, and takes place in the main Thunderball Room at midday.  In this class Lyndsey, usually aided by demo Ben, teaches some moves that work for the faster paced Swing and Rock ‘n’ Roll music.  Essentially what Lyndsey has done is to take the ‘Step Back’ out of some of the Ceroc moves to make them more easily fit the tempo of the music.

Here’s a video my friend Tel Jenkin’s made in September which shows Lyndsey and Ben teaching on the stage in the main Thunderball Room, and the great fun everyone had out on the dance floor.  You can also spot lots of people in their ’40s and ’50s themed clothes.

No 3: Walk on the Beach

Fred Pontin chose the site of his Southport Holiday Camp well, building it adjacent to the beautiful Ainsdale Beach.  This unspoilt sandy beach is just a two minute walk from the camp entrance, and offers an enjoyable and relaxing way to take a beak from the dancing.

In September the weather on the Saturday was quite summer like, and Rachel from Brinsley voted it one of her highlights.  Here’s a photo she took of her footsteps in the sand.

You might think that a walk in late February might be a little too bracing, but Davina from Nottingham was adamant it should go on the list:

If you’re not careful you can get a little danced out over the weekend, so a stroll along the beach is a nice way to give yourself a break.  The beach is so beautiful, even when it’s a bit blustery.  Hopefully if will be dry, so take a woolly hat and warm jacket, and enjoy a refreshing stroll.

No 4: Ashley Davis Musicality Class

One of the great attractions of Southport is the number and variety of classes you can attend.  At first sight, the choice can seem overwhelming,  and its easy to end up doing too many, so it’s worth spending a little time going through the programme before hand.  Fortunately the programme is now available on line (see link below) so you can pick out your must-do lessons.

I’ve already mentioned one of my Must-do lessons – Lyndsey Bennett’s  Get ready for Swingers Hour – but my regular dance partner Jo has picked out Ashley Davis’ Striking the chord class, described as ‘Musicality and half beats’, at midday on Sunday in the main Thunderball Room.

‘Musicality’ is a word I use a lot in my reviews.  I’ll talk about a track giving the dancers ‘opportunities to express their musicality’ – by that I mean it has different sections, which invite the dancers to mirror the changes in the music with their choice of moves, and the way they execute them.  I asked Jo why this was a Must-do class for her:

When I was first learning to dance it was all I could do to concentrate on following the male lead and keeping time.  Now I’m a little more experienced, I’m trying more and more to listen to the music and express it.

I have the pleasure and privilege of dancing with Ash most weeks.  I know just how much he can bring in terms of listening to the mood, accents and nuances of the music, so that they can be expressed in the dance.   This requires both a clear and considerate lead, which Ash is, and an attentive responsive follower.

I’m so pleased that Ash has an opportunity to showcase his understanding of ‘Musicality’ on the main teaching stage and I can’t wait to see what he’s going to bring to the lesson.

I think most of us want to improve our dancing, and so picking out a couple of lessons, that will advance our dancing, is one of the Must-dos for the weekend.  There is no doubt that classes like Ashley’s will help.  I suspect they might be a bit challenging too, but it would be a shame to come away on Monday without having added something to your dance repertoire.

No 5: Immerse yourself in this wonderful community

There is no doubt that one of the joys of Southport is that you can spend a whole weekend with hundreds of like minded people.  People who love dancing, but who also have a sense of fun, and have decided that they are not going to spend their leisure time sat in front of their computers and TV.

For three days all our worldly worries are pushed in to the background, and we are the best version of ourselves.  This goes some way to explaining why Southport is so friendly, and why everyone comes away having made more new friends.  For many people their must-do is to immerse themselves in to this wonderful community, go with the flow, and just enjoy every last minute of it.

These are the people who dance as much as they can, and with as many people as they can.  They will go to the chalet parties and stay up late at the after parties.  Some will take it in their stride and some will crash when they get back home on Monday afternoon.  All of them will have a great time packed with memories, and a longing to do it all over again in June.

Here’s Susan from Yorkshire’s take on going to Southport:

This will be my forth year of going to Southport.  I love it so much that I haven’t missed one in that time, and still get excited before every one.  I love dancing, particularly to upbeat music, but what I really love is the social side.

Southport is a time to meet up with all those people I’ve made friends with in the past, but I love the fact that I’ll also meet a whole new bunch of people over the weekend.  I’m so looking forward to having a great time with all of them – dancing, chatting and of course joining in with all the laughter.

I know Susan is confident and outgoing, and I suspect she finds it relatively easy to make new friends, but Southport is a place that all people will find welcoming and friendly.  I remember going to my first Southport knowing very few people, but I made lasting friends that I enjoy meeting up with every time I go.

No 6: Marc Forster’s Boudoir Set

Marc along with his partner Rachel Pears have built quite a name for themselves as a teachers of Tango and Blues, and of course as the DJs of the late night Blues Lounge in The Cyclone Room.  Whenever I’ve dipped in to the Blues Lounge I’ve always sensed I was getting an education in Blues dance music, and this year I’ve promised myself that I’ll write a full review of one of their late night sets.

However their is another string to Marc’s bow, and this was brought home to me, when I asked Ceroc Heaven’s teacher and DJ Ashley Davis for his Must-do item:

I always make sure I find out when Marc Forster’s doing a Boudoir set.  I love his Blues playlists, but he’s also has a very wide knowledge of Chilled out music that’s particularly suited to SILC –  a style of dancing I’ve come to love.

As a chill zone DJ myself, I’m constantly adding to my collection, but every time I dance to Marc’s music I realise that I still have a lot to learn about what makes a great Chill Zone track, and he points me in the direction of some artists and tracks I’d never thought about.

Marc will being doing a session at six on Saturday evening entitled SILC Lyrical and described in the programme as smooth, dreamy tunes.

More great Boudoir sets

Just as Ian picked out one of the Thunderball Room DJ sets as a Must-do, so the Boudoir (Queen Vic) area has a full programme of DJ sets that include Must-dos for many people.  One of the most popular is Vince Silva’s Funk Hour, which follows on from Swingers Hour on Saturday afternoon, but there are a whole list of top Chill-out DJs throughout the weekend.

One of my own Must-dos is to dance outside at night to some chilled music – its a great way to cool down after a full on session in The Thunderball Room.  Hopefully the weather will be dry and we can all enjoy dancing under the stars.

Dancing under the stars outside The Queen Vic.  A great way to cool down after a full-on session in the Thunderball Room

At last September’s Southport I had the pleasure of chatting with Sian from Sandbach, who explained that she spent as much time as possible dancing outside The Queen Vic, and particularly loved dancing while the sun went down.

There is no doubt that the dancing and the music in the Boudoir/Queen Vic areas are Must-dos for a great many people, and after Ashley talking so enthusiastically about Marc’s Boudoir session I’ve decided to review one of these DJ sets for my blog.

No 7:  The Survivors Pictures

Marc Forster turns up as another Must-do for many people.  Mark traditionally plays the last slot in The Boudoir between 4:30 and 6:30 on Monday morning, and as soon as his set ends a Survivors Photo is taken showing all the people who were still dancing at this unearthly hour.  For many people this is a rite of passage on their dance journey, and I suspect the photo is one of the most shared on Facebook of the whole event.

Considering it’s gone six thirty in the morning I’m surprised how wide awake people seem

Any credible blogger like myself should really try to make a Survivors Photo, so I’m pleased to learn that one is taken at the end of play in the Thunderball Room, three hours earlier at three thirty.  I think I can manage that, and it’s now on my own Must-do list!

No 8:  Get the Fancy Dress sorted

There are some Must-dos that happen long before the event even kicks off, as people make their preparations for Southport.  Here’s Sue one of the franchise holders of Ceroc Heaven based in The East Midlands and South Yorkshire:

About six weeks before Southport, myself and the Ceroc Heaven Top Team decide on our fancy dress theme.  This year its St Trinian’s.  Our fancy dress themes have become increasingly popular as more and more of the Ceroc Heaven faithful come suitably attired up for the traditional Sunday night group photo call.

It’s quite amazing the efforts people go to and we’ve had some very original ideas.  Last June our theme was Cubs, Brownies, Girl Guides and Scouts.  Ian came in a Brownie uniform with chocolates hanging from it – he had come as a Chocolate Brownie!

Sunday night in the Thunderball Room has become Fancy Dress time for more and more groups of people.  In September last year the themes included Ali Baba, and Glam Rock.  You don’t have to be part of a big group to join in – last time a group of about six came as French onion sellers all in matching red and white T-Shirts.

Last time round the Ceroc Heaven theme was Morris Men, complete with waving white scarves and bells on the legs.  Somehow they all managed to dance in Morris Men fashion to the rockin’ music.

Ceroc Heaven’s Mark O’Reilly even did his Thunderball Room DJ set dressed as a Morris Man!

No 9: Have a Cappuccino from The Java Cafe

My good friend Tel, who takes the photos and videos I use in my reviews, told me this when I asked him for his Must-do:

In the late morning we walk across to the Java Cafe, which is near the main entrance to the camp and is a cosy little cafe where you can get proper cup of coffee and a tasty muffin.  We then stroll at a leisurely pace to the main Thunderball, and sit on the tiered seating, and watch the weekenders working hard taking part in the classes on the dance floor.

We see the people come and go to the different lessons, and we just watch to see how they get on. Having taken part in every lesson going on our first visit to Southport, we found that saving ourselves for the evenings dancing was the best thing for us.

People watching is such great sport at the Southport weekenders, it really takes some beating!  Every so often some of our friends come along and they join us for a chat. It’s a wonderful way to pass the time of day.

Talk to anyone who’s been to Southport, and they’ll tell you how important it is to pace yourself over the weekend.  Dancing until late and then trying to do too many lessons can lead to you getting danced out.  Just sitting and watching the world go by is a good way of avoiding this.

In September I sat with Tel while he drank his cappuccino, and watched Tim Sant do his level 1 SILC Lesson on the main stage.  Having danced until late the night before, I was also grateful to chill out a little and just watch the lesson.

This lesson proved to be one of the most popular of the weekend, and it was interesting to see how people got on with, what is essentially a taster class, for this new and exciting dance syllabus.

This view of The Level 1 SILC Lesson is taken from the tiered seating where Tel relaxes with his Cappuccino.

No 10: Get inspired

We are all on a journey where we want to improve our dancing, and many of us also want to try out new dance styles.  With a full programme of classes over the Saturday and Sunday there is every opportunity to advance your dancing.

But Southport offers more than lessons, and if I’m allowed to included my own Must-do, it would be this:

I love watching other dancers that are a whole lot better than myself.  I find it quite inspirational.  I say to myself, ‘One day I’d like to be as good as that’.  My Must-do is to get inspired to be a better dancer.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching people dance in the Blues Lounge and SILC Zones.  I’ve always struggled a bit with close hold blues and the slotted style of dancing.  In fact, because the standard is so good at Southport, it sometimes felt a little daunting just asking someone on to the Blues dance floor.  A good dose of inspiration always helped though.

Perhaps it was just seeing a couple of moves that I’ve thought I could learn, or may be seeing a move I know executed in a different more chilled way.  Looking back at my own dance journey, I can see where I picked up the odd move or a new bit of styling.  It was a slow process and it was watching other dancers at places like Southport that gave me the inspiration I needed.

The Cabaret is a packed with inspirational dancers

The Cabaret on Saturday night is a great place to get inspired.  My favourite part is where the teachers showcase their skills.  A lot of it is way beyond me, but there’s always something that prompts me to think, ‘I could that do one day, if I keep improving.’

Here’s a video from YouTube that shows the teachers performing in the Cabaret from a previous Southport.  It is full of dancing that has something to inspire anyone who wants to keep improving their dancing.  But don’t forget that there is just as much inspiration to be found by just watching people like yourself on the dance floor.

A flavour of a wonderful dance weekender

I was given so many must-do items, but sadly wanted to keep the list to ten.  I hope that my selection gives a flavour of just what’s in store at next week’s Southport Weekender, and is particularly helpful to any First-Timers.  The main programme is now available on line (see link below) and so everyone can start to plan their own Must-do list.

A Must-pack List

This list comes courtesy of Sue and Rachel, two veterans of February visits to Southport when the weather can be particularly cold and the chalets heating system proves somewhat inadequate.

No 1: The Electric Blanket and Duvet

I’ve always taken my own duvet and bed linen but had never thought about Rachel’s suggestion of an electric blanket.  Realising that I won’t be going to bed until the temperatures are at their lowest, it makes sense.

No 2: A Halogen Heater

The chalets do have radiators, but they are a bit hit and miss.  Sue always takes a small halogen heater that easily fits in the car.

No 3: A Bath Mat or old Towel

This is something I wish I’d remembered every time.  You’ll need to bring your own towels, but Rachel suggests bringing an old one to act as a bath mat for when you step out of the shower.

No 4: Snuggly Warm Boots

Rachel always takes a pair of warm boots to the dance hall for when she’s walking back to the chalet in the early hours.

No 5: Exercise Clothes

Remember there are lots of non-dancing activities you can pick from, like Zumba, so remember to pack clothes for these.  Rachel is a big fan of the yoga classes that are provided, so again she packs suitable clothing.

No 6: Ibuprofen Gel

Long sessions of dancing can lead to sore feet.  It’s been suggested that you smother your feet in Ibuprofen gel as a way of pre-empting the discomfort of sore feet.

No 7: Large Mugs

I forget every time that the chalets have very small cups for hot drinks.  Hopefully this time I’ll take Rachel’s advice and remember to pack a large mug.

No 8: Home prepared Food

There is very little in the way of food on offer, and the on-site supermarket has only a very limited choice of basic items.  Myself and my dance gang friends get together before hand and decide who is bringing what, and we always prepare some tasty nutritious home made food that we can simply warm up in the oven.

No 9:  Black out curtains

Most of us will end up sleeping during day light hours.  Rachel suggests bringing some form of blackout curtains to help keep the light out, as the chalet curtains are rather thin and may even be short. Apparently you can buy babies Stick up Blinds that work successfully.

Postscript: Having read this item Tony Riccardi sent me this photo of the curtains at his chalet with the caption ‘Only at Pontins’.

No 10: Christmas Fairy Lights

This final tip came from Davina and made me smile!

Take fairy lights to string in your window so you can recognise your chalet at 4 in the morning – as they all look alike!

One of the joys of Southport is being able to stay out dancing as late as you like, but there is then the trudge back to the chalet, to try and get a few hours of sleep before all the action starts again.  It’s not just that all the chalets look the same, but all the chalet blocks look equally identical too, and the numbering on them is not always sequential either.

Sadly, I’ve been known to waste valuable sleep time trying to find the correct chalet block.  Now where did I put the Christmas lights.

Will the car be big enough?

I do wonder sometimes how we fit all the stuff in to the car, and now the list of things to take is a little longer.  Sadly I still can’t find the Christmas lights, but I will be taking a bath mat and some large man-mugs.  Here’s to a great Southport, and to some great dancing and socialising.

One last Tip

Jo got in touch and asked me to add one other tip.  There are very few sockets in the chalets.  You can’t boil the kettle and use the microwave at the same time, so Jo tells me she always takes a 4 socket extension lead.

The Programme for Southport Blush Feb 2018

Other related articles:

25 Things we love about Southport

Hayley Epps DJ Set

Tim Sant DJ Set

Debbie Attwood DJ Set

Tony Riccardi DJ Set 

Get Ready for Swingers Hour Lesson

My Top 5 DJ Playlists