WHEN Bury-born director Elaine Constantine began making a feature film about her biggest passion 17 years after she first thought about it, she looked close to home to find inspiration.


Despite her work as an award-winning photographer moving her to the Big Smoke many years ago, most of the scenes in her debut offering, Northern Soul, - a film about the music genre’s heyday set in the 1970s, - was shot in and around her home town.

Having lived and breathed the scene as a youngster - going to clubs at the tender age of 16 and later marrying a northern soul DJ - Elaine has first hand experience needed to re-create an authentic but entertaining glimpse into what music in the north was like 40 years ago.

The film, which is released on October 17, follows two friends whose lives change when they discover black American soul music.

Featuring a star-studded cast including Alan Partridge comedian Steve Coogan, The Royle Family's Ricky Tomlinson, Christian McKay - also from Bury - and Rochdale singer Lisa Stansfield, Elaine was keen to use her own memories and experiences to tell the story.

She said: “I first discovered northern soul at Bury Town Hall youth club in about 1976. I think it was the spectacle of seeing young men so liberated as they danced. Prior to that they were too self conscious to let go, apart from the odd slow dance for a snog with a girl they fancied.

“I remember the DJ at the club put a northern soul record on and this young man came out of the shadows and started dancing - it blew me away.

“I am married to a DJ in that music scene. I stayed with it because it [the scene] felt like my home. Where most 16-year-old girls were going to a Donny Osmond concert I went travelling with DJs to clubs around the country.”

Thanks to skills learned at Bury Camera Club, she started out as a photographer, making a name for herself shooting for now defunct music, fashion and culture magazine The Face.

She said: “I once went on tour with a band called the Mock Turtles and Martin Coogan became a friend of mine. I met Steve on that tour while I was doing some photography and I ended up shooting him for The Face magazine.

“When I began writing for the film I knew I wanted him in it. I contacted Baby Cow production company who loved the script and they got Steve Coogan involved. I was over the moon.”

To make the film as close to real as possible, location was important.

She said:“I knew to do it justice I had to shoot up north. We filmed in Bolton Road, down the bottom. There’s a right turn to Ainsworth Road opposite there there is an industrial estate. Down there there’s a really big viaduct with a mill next to it. We shot lots of scenes around there.

“I grew up around there [Woodhill Street] so I know the area well.

“We also shot in Merton Street. We recreated Wigan Casino, which doesn’t exist anymore, at a cafe near Wash Lane.

“Then for all the big scenes we shot in the King George’s Hall in Blackburn, where we had the film premier.”

Coming home to shoot the film was not a rare occurrence for Elaine, who returns to see her family when she can.

She said: “I love coming back to Bury to see my family. My dad is 94 and still lives in the same house. He’s really excited to see the film.

“Ironically if I hadn’t got into the northern soul scene I don’t think I would have left. But with a job like mine it is difficult to be based anywhere but London.

“I would not be where I am today if I hadn’t grown up in Bury. I have very fond memories of growing up there. I moved to London years ago but still today I go into meetings and people say, ‘where have you travelled down from today?’ The accent has evened out a bit but it is still there.”

Northern Soul, written and directed by Elaine Constantine, hits cinemas nationwide on October 17.