Nothing will ever beat the underage club nights at Escapade in Chesterfield

It wasn’t a question of if you would pull, more how many times


2008 was a beautiful year. It was a time defined by Bebo, Charlie bit my finger and Bluetooth-ing DJ Kammy’s Dancing in the Dark on your Sony Ericsson at lunchtime. Andrei Arshavin had just dominated the Euros and the music world was shaken up the emergence of N-Dubz on Channel AKA. But one thing around this period shaped our teenage years like no other: going to underage club nights.

These weren’t nights where you snuck into a club with a fake ID; they were organised explicitly and exclusively for under 18s. Escapade in Chesterfield was the place to go every other Wednesday or so. We didn’t know it at the time, but these nights provided our formative clubbing experiences and, in many ways, provided moments of joy and freedom we haven’t been able to recapture since. At the very least, it’s hard not to look back at them without feeling a deep sense of nostalgia.

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The events here either hosted a D-list celeb or reimagined familiar childhood party themes for an adolescent audience. Rave paint, glow sticks and foam parties replaced face paint, balloons and water guns. It wasn’t fully grown up – there was Coca Cola rather than coke – but you might have had a couple of Strongbow tinnies before you went in. Lads wore Wet Look hair gel, Gio Goi jeans, Lyle and Scott cardigans, Bench coats and neon Topman t-shirts with that horrifically ugly granddad collar. Girls wore as little as possible.

The music was just as gloriously bad. These were the pre-EDM days when Rusko & Caspa propelled the underground currents and Justin Bieber was an unknown uploading Chris Brown covers to YouTube. Guru Josh Project, Basshunter, Cascada, T2, Fat Man Scoop were the stars who shaped the musical landscape and soundtracked underage club nights.

I remember going to see DJ Ironik perform at Escapade. He performed Stay With Me and Tiny Dancer (his only two songs) and everybody loved it. There was no self-consciousness shuffling or pretence like there can be today – just appreciation for being out on a school night. We knew all the moves to Soulja Boy’s Crank That dance and rapped along to Flo Rida’s Low with pride. It was a simpler, more innocent time.

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Our blissfully naive anything-goes attitude extended to encounters with the opposite sex. Everyone pulled at the underage night at Escapade. It was less a question of would you pull than how many times. Your tongue whirled around like a washing machine with countless strangers. I remember my mate got with 21 girls in one night. Twenty-one. For many, exchanging saliva with someone over Lil Wayne’s Lollipop was their first kiss. Fingering was just as common. It was crude and awkward but, in a strange way, completely innocent.

But no one judged you because there was no reference point. If anything, you felt left out if you didn’t get with at least a few people. Try to get away with such promiscuity now and you’ll be labelled a slut or fuckboy. In these glorious spaces, however, it was just par for the course. We were free to do whatever we wanted and, under these strobes, you learned more about sexuality than from any PSHE lesson.

At 11pm you finished necking a nameless girl and received a message from your mum saying she was waiting in the car ready to pick you and your mates up. You laughed all the way home, knowing school the following day would be full of epic tales from the night before. I wish I could go back.