The year 1995 saw the first ever Beautiful Octopus Club take place! Many people will now know the club as a huge Heart n Soul event at the Southbank Centre attended by over 3000 people, but it began 22 years ago on a Wednesday evening with 100 people at The Albany.
For many of the people with learning disabilities involved in Heart n Soul it was the first time they were able to socialise at night in a venue with a bar and performances from other people with learning disabilities. We asked Mark Burgess, now a Heart n Soul Trustee, to tell us a bit about how it all got started…
“After Heart n Soul had run the Training Scheme for a few years we had many more people interested in performing on stage. The Beautiful Octopus Club was a chance for people to do new things and gain confidence and independence. We held regular open mic sessions, which were very popular, and got a lot of people on the stage.
“Winston Green (a Heart n Soul original) thought of the name ‘Beautiful Octopus Club’ and I designed the very first poster (on the left). I used to compere the club nights, but eventually stopped to let others do it – it’s all about moving on and doing new things. The Beautiful Octopus Club has come a long way and it’s got a long history now.”
When Heart n Soul started The Beautiful Octopus Club all those years ago we could never have dreamed that it would get as big as it is now, and that there would be 50 club events across the country inspired by it.