Karisma: Memories of iconic club as Children Of The Night show revives Doncaster venue

Its walls and dancefloors once echoed to the sound of hundreds of pop hits and it was the scene of many a drunken night out – and Doncaster’s legendary Karisma nightclub has been reborn for a stage show celebrating its history.
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Children of the Night is the debut stage play by Doncaster-born writer Danielle Phillips and the dynamic coming-of-age story is running at Cast until Saturday andcelebrates the life of the legendary Duke Street club.

And it is being accompanied by an exhibition of artefacts and memories at Danum Gallery, Library and Museum when clubbers will be able to relive some 1990s memories.

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Doncaster's legendary Karisma nightclub to be reborn for stage show and exhibiti...
Karisma was the place to be in 1990s Doncaster.Karisma was the place to be in 1990s Doncaster.
Karisma was the place to be in 1990s Doncaster.
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Danielle said: “This is a play, and a party. Donny nightlife is electric, unashamed, and infectious. And there was no time quite like the heydays of the 90s.

“When I would tell people I was from Donny it was always met with ‘oh I've been on a Donny on a night out’, I quickly realised how iconic the town’s nightlife is on a national level.

“I am so proud to make a show in, about, and developed with my hometown. I interviewed over sixty people about their experience of the town. The script is, at its heart, a love letter to Donny, all things 90s and hopefully a fresh and truthful representation of the communities here.”

The building, which played host to The Beatles in a previous guise and which was also known as Romeo and Juliets and Seventh Heaven during its spell as a nightclub, closed down in the early 2000s and has since been converted to flats - but memories live on.

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The night spot closed down in 2004 and had a short-lived rebirth as Faith - but the venue was then left to fall into ruin for several years and before being ripped out by builders ahead of a new chapter as apartments.

The place to be seen in the 90s, clubbers would enter via double doors on Duke Street and then either climb endless flights of stairs to the top floor dance floor or, if you had a VIP pass, you could bypass the waiting throng and jump in the lift and cut the queue.

Once upstairs, you'd hand over your money and venture into the garishly decorated and dimly lit delights within, with male and female dancers often making endless circuits of a well-trodden path around the dancefloor on the lookout for potential suitors.

There was a popular food bar where sustenance could be gained in the shape of chips and not much else really, as well as "VIP" areas with raised seats. In the middle of it all, the DJ would blast out the hits of the day to the seething masses on the sticky dancefloor below.

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The Grade II listed building will be known to older generations as the old Co-op store.

Built between 1938 and 1940 by T H Johnson & Son for the Doncaster Co-operative Society Ltd, the Art Deco style building, christened Danum House, was likened to a ship, cruising down Printing Office Street on its unveiling.

The store went through a variety of guises under the Co-op banner, was home to Doncaster Council's planning department and bargain store TJ Hughes for a time and now houses a supermarket on the bottom floor.

And it was where The Beatles played early in their career, John, Paul, George and Ringo appearing there on August 8, 1962 - one of five occasions the Fab Four played in Doncaster.

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In later years, it became Romeo and Juliets, then Seventh Heaven and then Karisma - and it was from that venue motor racing champ James Hunt was famously denied entry for being drunk.

The fast-living, party hard playboy, who won the F1 World Championship in 1976 always liked a drink or two - and one night in Doncaster in 1989 proved no exception.

By then with his glittering career far behind him, a worse for wear Hunt, in town after winning two rosettes as a bird breeder at the World Budgerigar Championships, arrived at the door of Karisma.

Wearing jeans, he fell foul of the club's dress code and became involved in an altercation with bouncer Ian Butterfield. Furious at being denied entry, the F1 ace knocked a cup of coffee Butterfield was holding into his face, causing scalding for which was later treated at Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

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Hunt was wrestled to the ground by fellow bouncers and frogmarched to a nearby police car where he was promptly arrested. The incident made headline news - and came just a few years before his death in 1993.

And eagle-eared listeners will note that the name of the show pays tribute to one of Doncaster’s most iconic dance tracks.

The year was 1996 and the song went by the name of Children Of The Night - and for some bizarre reason, it became a huge smash hit in Doncaster - and pretty much Doncaster alone.

Recorded by Dutch 'happy hardcore' act Nakatomi, the clubbers' anthem was released in 1996 - and failed to chart nationwide.

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But here, in Doncaster, the song was lapped up by clubbers who begged DJs at nightspots such as Karism as well as Visage in Silver Street to blast it out week in, week out.

Dancefloors would be packed with cheering, hand waving fans as the song boomed out from the speakers with its lyrics urging "the children of the night" to "come together and unite" and "get up, get up, get up."

If they weren't doing that, dancers were urged to live their life like a "rave machine" and "fight for the future of our nation" because "nobody can stop this generation."

Back then, the Free Press used to print a weekly top ten singles chart based on the best-selling singles at the town's branch of HMV, then based in Frenchgate.

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In the same year that the Spice Girls made their debut and sold millions of copies of first single Wannabe, even Ginger, Posh, Scary, Baby and Sporty couldn't compete against the all-conquering Nakatomi in Doncaster.

For week after week throughout 1996, Children Of The Night outsold everything else in the town's record shops - easily beating sales of singles such as Return Of The Mack by Mark Morrison, the Fugees' Killing Me Softly and Three Lions by Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds. Number one with a bullet - and no shifting it for months.

Nothing could knock Nakatomi from their perch week after week as clubbers lapped up the song each time it was played. Follow up song Sing also outsold pretty much everything else that bizarre year too.

While the song was a huge hit in the group's native Holland, spending 11 weeks in the charts and peaking at number two, it was two years before the rest of Britain caught up with Nakatomi - the song stuttering to number 47 in 1998 before a re-release in 2002 finally edged it into the top 40 at number 31.

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Then, just as soon as the furore erupted, it was over. Nakatomi disappeared, clubbers forgot all about Children Of The Night and HMV moved to a new location in the Frenchgate Centre. Doncaster's brief spell in the limelight as a hotspot for one particular record was over.

You can buy tickets for Children of The Night at Cast HERE and you can watch a promotional clip for the show HERE

Your Doncaster Free Press has been to see the amazing show – look out for our forthcoming review.

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