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August 2009

THE idea came from a former Hucknall miner who had moved down to Nottingham from Scotland in the early eighties. It was to tap in to the changes happening in London and Manchester clubs. The Acid House/rave revolution that had been happening in fields and warehouses across the country was starting to move into clubs.
From mining, James Baillie moved in to fashion, then with business partner Steve Kirk, took over a Stanford Street nightclub called The Club.
Newly-named Venus, it helped kick-start the dance club culture that was to dominate the 90s.
"It was the start of club branding, really," says former Venus DJ Ian Tatham.
"James never really forced any of the commercial aspect of it, but a lot of the big clubbing brands today owe a debt to Venus. The guys who started Moneypennys and Renaissance used to either go to Venus or at least knew about it."
The 39-year-old, now a father-of-one who runs Bar Eleven in Goose Gate and still DJs, adds: "It was the start of having regular guest DJs. Everyone played there: Sasha, Pete Tong... pretty much anyone who was anyone.
"There was a bit of a scene in London and Manchester and because James had all the contacts, he started pulling in the guests to play Venus, DJs like Justin Robertson and Terry Farley, Jeremy Healy, Brandon Block and Jon Pleased Wimmin.
"The night that made it for me was Flying. Fifteen of the best DJs in London would bring five or six coaches up. It was an absolute riot. People had big afro wigs, playing inflatable guitars on speaker stacks... in most clubs if you got on the bar and started dancing someone would come and pull you down, but you used to see James Baillie helping people up on to the bar!"
And it wasn't just about the music: Venus brought together the city's fashionistas.
"The owners of the clothes shops would all be in Venus. They could see what all the cool kids from Manchester and London were wearing and they'd begin to stock all the cool stuff in their shops."
Ian recalls men in leather trousers, women in fluffy bras and "a lot of waistcoats."
He adds: "You had the coolest kids gravitating to Venus. It was the same with the hairdressers. You had definite trends.
"One scene would facilitate the other, and that seems to be lacking now. Venus was the place that brought everything together."
He has been involved in a few Venus reunion nights in the city, prompted by a Facebook group set up by Ian Squire.
"It was just an off-the-cuff idea one Friday night," says the 37-year-old lab assistant and father-of-four from Carlton.
"I was sat at the PC at home, I'd drunk a couple of beers and I and my partner Stacy were listening to some old club classics.
"We both used to go to Venus and we started chatting about our memories of the nights out we had with our friends, the music, the fashion... and how we considered it more of a family than anything.
"It wasn't like Ministry of Sound or Fabric or any of those corporate clubs that followed. Venus was warm and welcoming.
"Without Venus and The Hacienda the superclubs of today would not be here. So I thought we would see if there was any interest in remembering it."
So, that night he set up the Facebook group Let's have a Venus – the UK's First Super Club Revival In Nottingham.
Says Ian: "The response was great and it snowballed. There are now 764 members."
It became a forum for people to exchange stories and catch up with old friends.
"Sharing memories with these people has been brilliant, reminding each other of the Stairs To Nowhere and watching people trying to climb them, or Edsal, "the ice pole guy" who sold Mr Freeze suckers in the club."
Venus was open for just four years, closing in 1993, a victim of its own success, according to Ian Tatham.
"People who went to Venus started their own nights using the same formula, not just in Nottingham but in Sheffield and Leeds and Derby... which meant they no longer travelled to Nottingham."
The club also had run-ins with local police due to overcrowding.
The Venus reunions have been held at Brownes and Bar Eleven. James Baillie was involved at first but after moving to London, it was left to Ian Squire, plus original Venus DJs Ian Tatham, Paul Wain, Tim & Laurie and Christian Woodyatt to keep the momentum going.
"They were great nights," says Ian Squire.
"I caught up with some old friends and we all danced the night away like we were young again."
They're planning another Venus reunion for October and one on Boxing Day.
"We made the decision to keep them to once or twice a year.
"After all, finding a good babysitter isn't easy."

INTERNATIONALLY renowned DJ Graeme Park played at Venus for just a few months but remembers it fondly.
"It was a great venue. I recall the downstairs had exposed brick walls, big mirrors and a pretty decent dancefloor."
Park, 46, has been DJing professionally for 25 years. He started out at The Garage in the Lace Market, one of the UK's first DJs to play house music.
After falling out with the club owner, he moved over to Venus for a short period.
"I had Todd Terry to a night I ran called Culture Bomb. He was one of those early house superstars before internationally renowned DJs existed. And he cost me £500. Which was quite a lot then. I got the place rocking and it was really rammed because they'd come to hear Todd Terry. I did up to midnight and he was due to go on until 2am, which was when clubs closed back then.
"He turned up to the DJ box at ten to 12 and his manager wanted the money upfront. I said 'right, I'll play one more tune, then you're on.' He just shook his head and said 'Money!'
I said 'OK, he gets on the decks and I'll go and get the money. You'll have the money before he's on his second record.
"But he was having none of it.
So I had to put on a long record, then find James who had the money... I couldn't find him, so I had to mix another record in, then go looking for James again.
"It was a great night in the end."
He adds: "At the time Nottingham was a real hotbed of music and fashion."

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