It was a simpler time

It was a generation of bleached hair, popped collars and Bebo skins. Whoever was in your top 16 was sure to be a friend for life and if your flashbox wasn’t Basshunter then it was DJ Cammy – and rightly so because it was awesome. Sharing love, changing your personal display on MSN and sending chain messages on your flip phone was how we spent our weekdays, but where did we spend our Friday and Saturday nights?

The minors of Northern Ireland flocked in their droves to the wee Elk, Clubland and other teenage discos all over the country. Hyped up on “Burn” energy drink or drunk on half a WKD if you were hardcore, we wrecked dance floors to the tune of “Now You’re Gone”, kissed every person in sight and posed to countless photos with our thumb and index finger under our chin (my generation’s version of the infamous duckfaced pout).

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Ardboe’s Niamh Sheeky’s seen it all from the cloakroom of Cookstown’s Sense nightclub where she works. University of Ulster graduate Niamh said: “The teenage discos they hold now are as busy as ever, but they seem a lot more innocent than how I remember it.”

Jordanstown Engineering third year James Devlin remembers his own teenage discos fondly, and still sees them from his bar job in Glenavon. He said: “They were good because they brought lots of different groups of young people together and it gave them something to look forward to. It’s better having them in here than out drinking in parks etc”.

For organisers, the reality is teenagers are going to be a bit rebellious so it’s better they do it in a organised safe environment than out on the streets.

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Ulster second year and former teenage Glenavon disco lover Hanah McHugh misses the easy fashion choices and carefree days of the under 18 night out. She said: “It was a time where it was acceptable to go out in a hoodie, denim shorts, trainers and legwarmers, something you definitely wouldn’t wear now”.

“I definitely witnessed a lot more at 12/13 in the Glenavon than I ever did at an over-18 club once I went to uni.”

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Magerafelt under-18 disco Elk was an old favourite for many of us and host to an array of bizarre experiences. Jordanstown fresher Michael Holgate boasts about taking part in “slut races”, a game which he claims involves setting out to kiss as many people as possible, with whoever had the highest tally as the winner. Michael said: “My personal best was 57, at the first Clubland live, I think that’s correct. I’d say average eight, but my friends would tell you that if I said 15, I meant five. Usually a factor of three is a good shout for the actual number”.

The one-time casanova has now settled down into a long-term relationship with QUB fresher Roisin McCloskey. A fellow under-18 disco fan, Roisin was once known as the “queen of tutus” on the circuit with memories a Mizz magazine back catalogue would be jealous of. She said: “I once went to a pyjama themed disco only to discover I was the only one in the whole club who actually wore PJ’s. Guys were coming up to me all night asking if they were shorts or boxers.”

Cringe!

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Soon to be Holylands resident Kirsty McLeod reminds us all of the beauty disasters we had when gracing the ilk of the Elk. Explaining her under-18 beauty routine, Portglenone born Kirsty says: “I would start with slapping on sun shimmer on followed by applying a foundation at least 8 shades lighter than your tan. Then I’d use my Front Cover palette to apply as many shades of eye shadow as I could fit on my eye lid. The hair would be back until it made you at least a foot taller as well.”

The discos adhered to strict rules. Revellers would stick to their areas, separated by school divisions – Kirsty’s was called “The Convent” – and rarely venturing as far as the dancefloor.

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Sadly we have since grew up and swapped Bebo for Facebook, tutus for white jeans, bleached hair for comb-overs and slut races for stupid meaningful relationships. We’ll always have the memories though.

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