Bringing good juju back to CrookesPosted by: Ashley Birch
Papa Al in front of his mighty record collection
Tonight (3 May) sees the return of The JuJu Club at Crookes Social, so we sat down with organiser and lifelong supporter of the Sheffield music scene Papa Al for a chat about the world music club night’s history
Over thirty years ago,the much-loved JuJu Club devoted itself to promoting live world music nights in Sheffield. After a near twenty-year hiatus, its original organiser Papa Al (Alan Deadman) is bringing the night back to life for a one-off fundraiser in its spiritual home, Crookes Social Club.
The triumphant return takes place tonight (3 May) and showcases two exciting new bands. The first, Captain Avery and The Cosmic Triceratops of Intergalactic Peace, Papa Al saw at their 'Mutant Disco' album launch in Theatre Deli last year. The other, Onipa, is the latest creation of Kweku Sachey, universally known as KOG, and Tom Excell, the man behind the highly successful Leeds band Nubiyan Twist.
Papa Al has known Kweku since he first moved to Sheffield around 10 – 15 years ago and has paid close attention to what he’s done through his now three major musical projects.
“I went to see his new band Onipa when they did a freebie at Workstation, last November.” Says Papa Al: “There’s a Ghanaian woman at the uni doing a PhD on something to do with the Ghanaian education system and neo-colonialism, and he (Kweku) did the soundtrack for the film. His band then played after the film and it was just a riot!”
Seeing stars: Onipa
“For me, having listened to a lot of music from different African countries, the original 70s stuff, the remixes, all the different transitions that music’s been through, this just hit the spot totally.
“Tom (Excell)’s dad played a lot of African music, so he grew up listening to it, and as a result he has this most amazing guitar style. He and Kweju have this really strong creative relationship, which makes it so good. I was just determined to put these guys on, and therefore revive the JuJu Club.”
The revival of The JuJu Club is the culmination of a musical journey for Al that started after he moved up to Sheffield from London, and saw his involvement with some of the city’s best loved night’s and events, including Headcharge, Tramlines and Sharrow Festival amongst others.
Papa Al said: “I’d been in Sheffield for about ten years, and probably like a lot of people that come up from London, coming up North was very liberating for me. I felt I could do stuff that you couldn’t do in London because it was so big and amorphous. A bunch of us got together, a group of six people, that then went down to five, to see if this night would work. Initially it was just DJ stuff.
Crookes Social Club
“The main music collection was in Sheffield Library at the time, and you used to get these little cassettes, C5’s, which people used to put programs on BBC computers. You could put an A-side and a B-side on them, and I was DJ-ing off these stupid little cassettes.
Before making its home in Crookes, the JuJu Club started out in The Polish Club on Ecclesall Road, before moving onto the Irish Club in Burngreave. Both times it was kicked out because of membership rules. Papa Al then stumbled upon Crookes Social and fell in love with the venue.
“One of the unions were having an international phase and they put on a gig at Crookes.” said Al: “I remember going, and as a nice middle class, white boy from the suburbs of London, I’d never experienced a working men’s club, and Crookes to me, as they go, it’s a bit of a palace. You know, it’s pretty fucking good!
“Eventually, after a couple of years, in about ‘89, ‘90 we took up residency there for about seven years. We found out that the club had been losing money every year until we moved in. A comedy night called Route 52 also moved in, headed up by Linda Smith, who were booking the likes of Eddie Izzard, so between us and Route 52 the club suddenly started making money that they’d not made since the collapse of bingo!”
Being in the thick of late 80s and early 90s working class Sheffield threw up its own problems for the club. Particularly in its early stages.
“It was total culture clash” says Al: “Some of the lads, the sons of the Crookes regulars, a lot of them were like painters and decorators, self-employed workers mostly, with some fairly old-fashioned attitudes, shall we say! Women couldn’t buy drinks, women couldn’t stand for committee, women couldn’t vote for committee members. It’s hard to think really.”
“A couple of the lads used to hang out in the lobby, and they used to barrack us all the time. ‘Fuckin poofters, slags’ you know, just anything. Then at some stage of the night, they’d rushed to the door and we just let them in. So they’d come in and then they were like, what do we do now? There’s no one to fight!
During their stint there, the club was closed down for a six month period due to noise complaints, which Al tells us was nothing to do with JuJu, when they eventually reopened, the JuJu club team took the opportunity to make a few changes.
“When they reopened they had a general meeting, which only men could go to, but we had a mailing list of over 700 people, so we invited all the blokes who were full members, and we got all the archaic rules changed. They got rid of the whole lot and these wizened old painters and decorators all became new men over night, because they realised the financial success was keeping their club going.”
Sadly, after another noise complaint, the club was handed an 11 o’clock curfew, just days after Papa Al had quit his job to run the JuJu full time, forcing them to move around, eventually ending up in The Boardwalk, on Snig Hill, and attracting a slightly different crowd.
It’s those heady, eclectic days in Crookes that JuJu is best remembered though, and Al is hoping that that spirit is well and truly alive for tonight’s return. Tickets are priced at £8.45 (including booking fee) and can be purchased through Eventbrite. For more info head over to the event’s Facebook page. The event is a fundraiser for a charity in Ghana, called International Needs, suggested by Kweku.