A nostalgia ride through 1990s Hull
5 Hull venues as featured in my books
Writing books set in 1990s Hull with a strong music theme is basically my midlife crisis. I’ve been doing it since I turned 40 - and it certainly wasn’t a conscious decision. My Spotify playlists just naturally sort of veered towards Senseless Things and Babes in Toyland, and old vinyl records were dusted down and played (for about 5 seconds, after that most of them jump relentlessly). But having my head back in Hull (from a fictional point of view) has been fun - and I’ve been back to visit my old stomping grounds (from an IRL point of view) a fair bit recently too…
My new book, PARKLIFE (the follow up to The Twenty Seven Club but also a standalone read) is set in 1996 and the action revolves around main characters Emma and Dave, who live in the Newland Avenue area and (naturally) frequent many of the same places I used to. The Twenty Seven Club, set two years earlier, takes readers on a similar journey (well, except for that anonymous reader from Hull who gave it 1 star and called it ‘the worst book I’ve ever read’.)
Anyway, I digress. I thought, for fun, I’d write a little companion piece, a nostalgic tour of (my) 1990s Hull, to further indulge my midlife crisis and pretend, just in my head, that I am young all over again…
5. The Malt Shovel
Starting things off with a bit of a wildcard…This place was right opposite Riley Arts Centre on Anlaby Road so us college kids spent our spare pennies buying pints of cheap Vaux Light in there on a lunchtime.
Of course, I’m not sure if it’s really on a college-kid-type-pub-crawl or anything these days (especially since Riley Centre got knocked down) but, because I was trying to come up with an after-work option for my main character Emma to sink a few pints and vodkas in secret, it sprang straight to mind. All the characters in the unnamed after-work pub in the book are fictional, and its fictional interior is more reminiscent (in my head) of the Silver Cod over the road (where we also used to go on a lunch time to play pool with some of the locals). But Malt Shovel was the first pub I thought of when I needed Emma to find a secret drinking place. Apologies to the current owners/landlords that us college kids used to refer to it as the Shit Shovel - but that was probably because we could only afford the cheapest lager on offer back then…
Although it’s not named, anyone who remembers Silhouette and reads Parklife will recognise it from the description of the steel stairs! It’s where Emma goes alone for a night out to feel normal about getting drunk, finding (in the slightly edited lyrics of Wolf Alice) that other lost souls congregate at the bar…
Silhouette was my first ever proper night out (unless we count Lady Le Gros pub in Beverley where underaged bands played and underage kids drank Taboo and Lemonade and pints of Fosters). It was Helter Skelter on a Tuesday night that we went to, and I would ensure I made very loud, obvious and angry yawns in the high school classroom the next morning in the hope that my classmates would ask me where I’d been the night before (a good move when you didn’t have evidence of a club stamp on the back of your hand).
Stone Roses, Underworld, Hole, Propagandi, Bjork and House of Pain provided the soundtrack to those Tuesday nights. I remember my friend Suzi had passed her driving test before anyone else cos she was a year behind in school due to her time spent in America or something (we were Year 11). Anyway, she drove us there sometimes and my mum, seeing that she had forgotten to switch her headlights on, excruciatingly for me, called Silhouette (yes, really) to get a message to me. I still to this day have no idea how she succeeded (no mobile phones, obvs), but she managed to get that panicked message to me, and Suzi was duly reminded to put the headlights on to drive back home.
There were other cringe-worthy moments in ‘Sils’ too. I once ended up in a fight on the dance floor (it might be a stretch to call it a fight but I’ll press on regardless) after some big guy knocked me over just as I ran on the floor to do my best Courtney Love impression as Violet came on. Feeling mortified, and not knowing what else to do, I kicked him in the shin - only to be attacked from behind by his girlfriend. Luckily, the management at Silhouette knew what they were doing because there was no way you could stay angry with anyone after heading to the loos to ‘sort things out’ and being treated to a high pitched happy soundtrack featuring songs like ‘Chick chick chick chick chicken, lay a little egg for me.’ It was music like that on a loop in the ladies loos. I still don’t know why that stuff was always playing but I know this - I didn’t emerge from the loos with a black eye, instead I emerged with an invite to a birthday barbecue on Bransholme.
If you fancy a proper nostalgic read about Silhouette, this blog from one of the guys involved in a Silhouette’s reunion is well worth a read (nicked one of his pics too - so credit where credit’s due). It’s also got a great Silhouette-inspired playlist.
I remember being immensely proud reading Sky Magazine in the early 2000s and seeing Spiders listed at number 7 in a round up of the best clubs in the UK (or something - it was definitely at number 7 - the exact category I’m rather hazy on).
Spiders was a special night out - and it barely cost you an hour’s wages. Once you were in, you had the choice of Pink Pugsleys, Pangalactic Gargle Blasters, Green Gremlins or, my favourite, Tyzer. The cocktails were immense(ly cheap) and if you ended up puking them back up in the loos, you’d definitely find the willpower to pull yourself back around in order to get another down your neck, chuck yourself about on the dance floor a bit, snog some dodgy looking youth and grab a greasy cheeseburger from the van that was always parked up outside.
In the books, Dave and Emma are Spiders regulars. At least they were - before life got serious. In The Twenty Seven Club Emma decides that rock music might be the reason she’s feeling all on edge so she decides to drag poor Dave to LAs. Thankfully, the bouncers don’t let him in on account of his trainers (trainers, trainer boots, same fucking thing), so they bypass the ordeal and head back to their old favourite.
In reality, Spiders is set in the middle of an industrial estate, so walking home past the overgrown graveyards and derelict factories always had to be done in groups. But it was a must on a Saturday night for anyone who wanted to jig about to Violent Femmes, Jilted John, The Prodigy or The Cure.
You can find out what’s happening by visiting the Spiders website OR, if you spent the 80s or 90s getting trashed in the glorious webbed cages of Spiders, find out if your pics made the cut in Andy Roe’s Spiders Nightclub photo book by visiting his Facebook page (there’s loads of fun reminiscing goes on there too).
You can’t write a book set in Hull that’s hugely influenced by music without mentioning the Adelphi. But I also think one of the reasons I wanted to write about it was to have many more (albeit imaginary) nights out there (in reality I didn’t go half as much as I should have).
Adelphi is quite simply legendary. As is Paul Jackson who runs it. My first live gig there was some band called S*M*A*SH in the early 90s. I can’t remember who else I’ve seen there but I went a few times (although as already acknowledged, definitely not enough for a Hull girl) and it hosted big names including Oasis, Pulp, The Housemartins, Beautiful South, Stone Roses, Senseless Things (as anybody who reads my books will know, I’m still a HUGE fan) and a band called Lithium Joe who were basically Hull favourites and everybody knew their name because of the graffiti on the train line en route to Paragon Station…
Adelphi features in both books but more so in Parklife, when Emma drags Dave along on a ‘school night’ after being dumped by the love of her life, to watch some young local band called King Rupert (yep - you’re right, they were a real life Hull band - I used to knock about with the singer Martin at arts college so naturally had to chuck in a fictional cameo. Sadly, it doesn’t end too well for him thanks to Emma…)
Find out what’s on and read more about The Adelphi ‘the music capital of Hull’ here
Queens HAD to take the number 1 spot. I still love it in there and could quite happily spend all my Hull visiting time in Queen’s beer garden. I don’t know why - but it still feels like home…
In the books, my fictional Angel pub is heavily inspired by Queens Hotel on Queens Road - between Newland and Princes Ave (although a couple of the background characters in the first book were inspired by two older blokes who drank real ale in the Tap n Spile on Spring Bank - another old favourite haunt). I didn’t name Queens in the book because, well, The Angel isn’t exactly the cleanest cut of pubs and I wasn’t sure the new landlady would want to be associated with that… However, it’s set in the mid 90s and, let’s be honest, most pub toilets needed sloping cisterns back then…
Of course, the characters that drink in the Angel are all fictional - but I could definitely see them feeling right at home in Queens. Emma and Dave practically grew up in there, and Emma’s dad, Tel, is best mates with the fictional landlords Bob and Bren - often getting caught in a cycle of socialist ranting after a few too many drambuies. Dor props up the bar on a daily basis and drinks milk stout…and students come and go as the new academic year starts…sometimes spattering the Axminster with a madras from Ray’s Place.
Back in the real world, Queens (still) has the local vibe I always loved about it - having a real mix of anybody and everybody, and where nobody raises an eyebrow when the laughter gets lairy. It’s where Hull’s comedy queen Lucy Beaumont once pulled pints (even though she sometimes forgot she had a shift and would perch on the wrong side of the bar with a bevvy until the landlord reminded her she was officially on the clock). It’s also where we’d watch the football with the lads - until we got asked to leave (my sister reminded me recently that we had a bit of a pub rotation going whenever we got banned as a group - Queens to Linnet to Mainbrace to The Avenues to Hogs Head and back to Queens again once they’d forgotten why we were asked to leave in the first place.)
There’s still a juke box of sorts, occasional live music, a few familiar faces - and you can still get a packet of mini cheddars. It looks just the same as it always did - but with a MUCH nicer beer garden. Definitely my all time favourite pub in Hull.
If you don’t already know this wonderful pub, you can link up with Queen’s Facebook page and see what’s going on here
If you fancy some fictional nostalgia inspired by my 1990s memories of Hull, you can order PARKLIFE and THE TWENTY SEVEN CLUB via the links below.