Scratch beneath the surface of our city and you'll find some real hidden gems. So we have set out to explore the best-kept secrets and unsung heroes of Birmingham. This week, Oseyi Okoh ventures to The Night Owl...
Described by Birmingham Mail as the new home for Northern Soul, I was not sure of what to expect from my first visit to The Night Owl which is located off Digbeth Road on 17-18 Lower Trinity Street in Birmingham.
To start with, I had no idea what Northern Soul meant; what it entailed or if I would like it but, because my regular music playlist already consists of shockingly different music genres, I decided that trying out something new could not harm me.
I found out about The Night Owl 1st Birthday Weekender event by visiting the website of the nightclub and made plans to go with a couple of friends. I was almost at the location when my “super amazing friends” called to tell me they had been delayed. Not wanting to return home and risk changing my plans for the night, I decided to go on my own.
Apprehensive about sticking out because I was alone, after confirming my details at the club entrance and getting my hand stamped, I walked in cautiously. My intention was to slip in, have one drink and return home. While I believed no one would notice me enter and leave the place, I was certain I had made a terrible mistake and was sure I was going to have a horrible experience. Thankfully, I was wrong.
Stepping into The Night Owl felt like returning home after being away for a long-long time. It was nostalgic yet fresh. I was given a warm welcome and invited to participate in a dance lesson. At first, I declined the invitation because I was afraid I’d embarrass myself but after watching the first routine, I put down my drink and joined in. A few minutes later I was laughing, giggling and trying to catch my breath as I swung and shuffled happily across the dance floor.
After being told about the dance lessons which were held at the location every Wednesday, by a fellow visitor, I realized the classes served as a double opportunity to socialize and learn some serious dance moves. While I enjoyed my night out and returned home deliciously tired, I would advise first time visitors intending to attend an event to either sign up for dance classes and meet likeminded individuals, or go with a friend or two or more.
The Night Owl experience is meant to be shared with friends (who don’t change plans at the last instant).
That being said, from my first experience, here is what I have to say about:
While the response to enquiries via email was almost immediate, I kept getting voice mail when I tried the contact number. Alternatively, the Facebook page which is updated regularly could be another means of communication. Oh and speaking of Facebook, I spotted myself in the gallery, yeay!
By comparing the map on The Night Owl website with a satellite image on Google Maps, it was really easy to find the club.
To get to this location, I went past a couple of pubs with patrons on sits that spilled out into the street. After getting used the rowdiness which drew a fine line between being a nuisance and adding to the cultural experience, I was taken aback by the abrupt silence when I turned into the curve and was confronted by the sweet looking pink white and black sign that indicated I had reached my destination. I stood gawking for a moment, not sure I was at the right location. Out of curiosity, I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other until I was at the entrance to the club. Entry, to the club is either by membership (£25 annually) or with tickets brought online or at the door. Since I brought my tickets online, all I needed to do was give my confirmation code and then get stamped.
Aside from discouraging team specific sportswear for obvious reasons, there is no dress code. From experience, I would advise visitors to keep it simple. I had on too much accessories and had to gradually strip down the more involved I got.
Note: If you go to The Night Owl, you will dance. It is a good idea to go with either a hankie or face towel because you will need it; think ‘Zumba’ but more fun and drinks!
While there is a small area for dancing upstairs, the main dance area is downstairs; both dance floors have sprung wood which makes sliding and spinning on the floor easier. I noticed a heavy duty industrial fan and assumed it was part of the vintage décor until I begun to dance and realized it was a necessity.
There is a courtyard which doubles as a smoking area with throwback benches and brightly colored butt-buckets. Despite having a more sits upstairs, the club has very little sitting area. In their defense though; The Night Owl is a ‘dance club’. If your idea of an amazing night out is moping comfortably in a corner of the club, then I suggest you invest in a nice sofa and remain at home.
There was one female toilet and an arrow giving directions to a male toilet somewhere upstairs. I am particular about this because I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of just one female toilet at a bar, restaurant or anyplace that serves drinks and food. I would hate to be at an event location where there is just one toilet and a whole bunch of ladies decide they need to use the bathroom about the same time.
There is a small parking space on the street in front of the club but no bicycle rack although I think riding a bike to and fro after dancing all night is pretty ambitious.
The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed. Inspired by the reasonably priced drinks and a poster that invited guests to ‘Dance and Drink in the Clouds’, when I wasn’t dancing, I was passing on or returning infectious smiles. I felt a sense of security while I was there. When I dropped my purse on a seat to dance, I was not afraid it would get picked up.
The staff at The Night Owl were courteous, patient and quite attentive.
While the vintage décor and the bar made from a chest of drawers are impressive attractions, I was fascinated by the giant disco ball hanging from the ceiling.
The venue is small and friendly, the music is different and DJ’s are amazing. Pictures and written words are not enough to describe The Night Owl experience, it is something that has to be felt to understand. I enjoyed my visit to the venue and will definitely go back again.
Review written by SWOOPE content partner Oseyi Okoh.
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