On the demise of Wendy House

Last Saturday we went to Wendy House. It recently celebrated it’s 16th birthday and a message went out from the organisers saying “we hope to be here in another 16 years!”. I am not convinced it will be though.

It was a good night. It went as a group of friends and had a good time. For proof, see this low quality photo of Hugh looking ambivalent.

hugh

Wendy House itself though, is a a shadow of its former self.

The rise and fall

I first attended Wendy House eight years ago. It was magic. They had three rooms. Stylus played alternative and 80s, Mine hosted the Mutate room (EBM) and Bat Coda (now Pulse) hosted an indie room. They were all full. Not Fruity full, but pretty full (for context, Fruity is the big Friday night student cheese event).

If my memory serves me correctly, which it probably doesn’t, Mine had a capacity of around 500. Pulse had about 350 and Stylus could hold thousands. Therefore if I was to estimate attendance I would put it at over 2,000.

Slowly, as the years have gone on, this has drained away. First they closed the indie room and moved Mutate into the smaller bar. Then they started closing some of the area in Stylus. Now even Mutate has gone and they are down to a single room. Furthermore they do not even run in the summer any more. For a second year, there will be no event in July, August or September, and they missed March this year too.

It is not hard to see why. Last Saturday was empty. There were maybe 200-300 people there, a tenth of what it might have been at its peak. You could actually get served at the bar and get space on the dance floor.

wendy-house

Worse, it was full of people in casual clothing. I was somewhat dressed up, but I think if I had gone full on dressed up I would have actually felt conspicuous because of the lack of other people in full costume.

What went wrong?

Some people have suggested that the students are to blame. They are not around over the summer, hence why nobody was there. This does not explain the long term decline in attendance though, nor do I think it is a significant contribution.

Firstly, in my experience, a lot of the students that went to Wendy House did not go home for the summer. That is really a first year thing, after that people have a house in Leeds and hang around to see their friends. Secondly, a lot of the patrons are not students. The summer never seemed to have a huge affect on attendance back in the day.

Perhaps a better explanation is the decline of the alternative community. When I was a kid, there was a big crowd of goths outside the Corn Exchange every weekend. Then they renovated the Corn Exchange, kicked all the alternative shops out and told the goth kids to go away. Later their lead tenant went bust. But that is a whole different rant.

The point is, you do not see that as much anymore. Much like the pensions pot crisis, there is a lack of young goths to replace the old retiring goths. Perhaps time has run out.

Bucking the trend

It is also worth nothing that Wendy House has actually done really well to get this far.

Alternative nights have never been popular. When I first started clubbing in Leeds there was Bar Phono and another alternative club. They both closed. Then Subculture opened. And closed. Rock Of Ages used to be based at the Union, now it is upstairs in the Library which, as James points out, is where nights go to die. Halo’s indie night suffered a similar fate. Basically all alternative nights everywhere are unpopular. Even the legendary Jilly’s Rockworld (Manchester) has gone.

The fact that Wendy House has survived this long really is to its credit.

Scaling down

Unfortunately, as it has begun to shrink, it is possible that it has hastened its own decline. Take the music they played in Mutate for example. I just do not want to listen to it. It just is not music. Take a listen to this:

It is just annoying. When they closed Mutate they merged it into the main room. This did not really keep anyone happy. Those that preferred Stylus were suddenly frightened and upset by them actually changing the playlist, while those who had spent their time in Mutate were unlikely to find enough songs on the playlist to keep them interested.

Conclusion

Wendy House is still a night worth visiting. The music is still good. However, on Saturday it felt just like a regular run-of-the-mill alternative night. Not the magic night that it once used to be.

With them taking a break this summer, and the low turn-out this week, who knows if they will return. But here is to hoping.

Here are some old photos to make us all feel better…

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 at 10:39 am and is filed under Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.