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Unseen 80s nightclub images from photographer discovered after 40 years

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Take a look at the gallery of brilliant images of nightlife in the 80s

David Owens

In the summer we published a story in which all people of a certain age looked back on their youth.

Photographer Martin McCabe had spent several months wandering the past and luckily for us, what he discovered was photographic gold.

His design agency business was frozen by the pandemic, so the Cardiff creative spent much of his time working on a project that evoked many memories of his days as a DJ and photographer in the nightclub described as Cardiff’s answer to the Blitz.

Funktion Suite at Nero’s was the Saturday night favorite of the alternative crowd in the Welsh capital. The similarities between the hugely influential London club run by style pioneer Steve Strange and Nero’s, located on Greyfriars Road in Cardiff city center, were obvious.

The early 1980s saw a seismic shift in the nation’s cultural landscape; the flowering of British youth movements that would change the face of fashion and the underground – a coterie of young creatives – artists, designers, photographers, DJs and club promoters who were key parts of a cultural uprising.

Clubber at the Funktion Suite DJ console requesting a track

Nero’s was a haven for young tribes exploring their own individuality who wanted to dance the night away, Goths, new romantics, punks, psychobillies and everything in between, it was an alternate crowd and artistic expression a world away from the General public.

For McCabe, 57, revisiting those heady days of yesteryear was like unearthing a treasure trove of memories, many of which had remained buried until he decided to dust off his archives and digitize those long lost slides and negatives.

Martin, who was also a regular at concerts in the city taking photos at early ’80s shows by artists like Ultravox, Simple Minds, Japan and The Cocteau Twins, is not 100% sure, but he believes that Nero’s footage was taken between 1982-1984.

“It’s all a bit hazy,” he laughs. “I’m not good at identifying exactly when they were. I took so many pictures back then.

Modes

“My day job was as a photographer, but I landed a DJ job at Nero when I met Anthony Feehan, who was the original DJ there. Anthony lets me help. He then left for London and I took over.

“I wasn’t a big fan of fashion, it was always music for me,” he adds. “I would spend all my money on records at places like Spillers in Cardiff.

“I went through the punk scene with the Sex Pistols and the Clash and then moved to a new romance and alternative afterwards. I still had a pretty good collection of vinyl records. But of course the DJ gave me the excuse to spend almost all the money I earned from photography and the DJ spending on records.

Friends enjoying a night out at Nero’s

As for recording the fantastic nightlife at Nero’s, he and a companion thought it would be a lucrative source of income.

“Well that’s what we thought,” he laughs. “I worked in a photo agency with a guy called Jonathan Moss-Vernon and we decided to take pictures of people at Nero on a Saturday night because of their looks and sell them the pictures.

“I remember we didn’t sell a lot of photos at the end, but we ended up with a fantastic record of club, people and fashion images at the time.

“Back then, it was rare for people to take cameras to clubs. Now, of course, everyone has a camera on their phone and takes pictures of everything.

“When I started scanning the photographs of the Nero, I put a few of them on Facebook and quickly realized that it was something people liked. People love to remember and remember those days.

“I have a lot more to scan, so watch this space for more photos. “

Learn more about Nero HERE


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Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement