Almost every teenager growing up on the Northside of Dublin, and beyond, between 1967 and 1997, will have heard of, the now legendary, alternative disco known as The Grove. Most of them will have gone, at least once, to find out what all the fuss is about. This year, The Grove celebrates it’s 50th anniversary. The simple fact that we mark the 50th anniversary of this school disco says it all.
On the afternoon of February 19th, 1967, in the hall of the Belgrove Football Club (from which the disco gets it’s name), a group of Clontarf locals set up for, what they considered to be, just another Clontarf-based social event. Little did they know, that this was to be the first night of the thirty year run, of the disco that was to influence the music tastes, to one extent or another, of every person who walked through its doors.
The man behind the turntable, 20 year old Cecil Nolan, affectionately known to all as just “Cecil”, had already garnered the reputation as the “music man of Clontarf” – if you were at a party in the neighbourhood, he was, more often than not, the man in the corner spinning the discs… Originally running twice a week, and three times during school holidays, The Grove Social Club, as it was formally branded, quickly became a permanent fixture in the school diaries of that north Dublin generation. Over it’s 30 years, The Grove was considered a safe haven for teens of north Dublin, a melting pot where rockers could hang with Mods, with Goths, with geeks, with hippies, with Cureheads… No matter how you wore your hair, you were accepted for who you were. Of course there was the music: Cecil’s playlist naturally grew and morphed over the years, but there were more than a few staples that stood the test of time and became true “Grove Songs”. Among them were Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’, Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’, Rainbow’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, ‘Purple Haze’ by Hendrix, Santana’s version of The Zombies’ hit ‘She’s Not There’, B52’s ‘Rock Lobster’, Talking Heads ‘Psycho Killer’, too many Zeppelin, Doors and AC/DC songs to mention and in later years, tracks like The Waterboys ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ would join the ranks of Grove Classics . And of course, it wouldn’t be a school disco without the slow sets – where “Stairway” and ‘Freebird’ regularly rubbed shoulders with the likes of Janis Ian’s ‘At Seventeen’, Hazel O’Connor’s ‘Will You?’, Judy Tzuke’s ‘Stay With Me ’til Dawn’ and Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’.
Sadly, in 1975, the old Belgrove Football Club caught fire, and was burnt to the ground. Not letting this stop the momentum, Cecil and the rest of the Grove crew quickly relocated The Grove to a venue just a stones throw away, the gymnasium of St. Paul’s College on Sybil Hill Road, Raheny, where it played out it’s next 22 years. Finally, in 1997, for various reasons, they decided to call it a day and The Grove said it’s last goodbye.
This month, in the year of it’s 50th anniversary, The Grove will be returning home, back to St. Paul’s College, for one very special weekend. This will be a once in a lifetime chance for ex-Grovers to relive those memories – same Grove DJ, same Grove music, and for many the same Grove venue. The first night, August 26th, sold-out the day after tickets were released, but a second night, Friday August 25th has been added. Tickets have just been released through www.tickets.ie and were still available at the time of writing. In accordance with the school’s wishes, there will be no alcohol available on the premises over the weekend, just like the original Grove, but there will be some organised pre-parties at various locations throughout the city – see www.TheGroveSocialClub.com and The Grove Social Club Facebook page for details. Just don’t forget your Polo mints and your address, so you can get past the bouncers!