“In October 1990 Coventry made dance music history. At a time when the nation’s rave scene was still very much an underground “let’s all congregate in a secret field/warehouse location”, Coventry launched the first legal all night rave in a city centre club.
It was called The Eclipse, it had slipped through a gap in the law like a naughty kid through a fence and it was to become the epicentre of the national rave scene.
That first Saturday night/Sunday morning experience in October 1990 was put on at the former Granada Bingo Hall in Lower Ford Street (which has now sadly been knocked down) by local entrepreneurs Stuart Reid and Baz Edwards.
Coventry City Council were powerless to stop them because no alcohol was being served and only private members were allowed to buy tickets. As such, they didn’t need a licence. You could smell the council’s displeasure.
Rap star MC Tunes was booked to play that first night. He did, for five minutes at least. That’s how long it took for his sound system to pack up and for him to leave the stage shouting: “Get the sound sorted out! We’ll be back soon.”
MC Tunes didn’t return, but that was the only setback to what was a hugely successful night.
Ravers danced non-stop and were treated to an extravagant light show complete with lasers and strobes.
To what must have been the amazement of police and councillors the night passed without any reported incidents of drugs or violence. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop them continually blocking every application made by the Eclipse for a drinks licence.
But that didn’t stop the 1,600 capacity venue being filled every Friday and Saturday night by clubbers from all over Britain.
And it didn’t stop some of the country’s best DJs burning up the decks at the city club, ranging from Boy George and Jeremy Healy to Roger Sanchez and Sasha.
Other regulars were Parkes and Wilson – local DJs Micky Wilson and Micky Parkes – who made a name for themselves playing at raves all over the country.
By June 1991 the Eclipse was getting even more adventurous. As once again the High Court banned druids from celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge, four Wiltshire druids were invited to perform an ancient ritual fertilising the nation’s spirit and honouring the Earth Mother at a mini-Stonehenge created at the club.
Eclipse’s influence on the dance scene was officially recognised at the start of 1992, when readers of top clubbers’ mag DJ voted it club of the year. It was also voted as having the best lights, the nicest door staff, the second best sound system, third best toilets and fourth best flyers.
A “chuffed” Stuart Reid said: “We have taken a lot of flak in the time that we have been here, but this is a national magazine and people are voting for us throughout the country.
“It speaks volumes of what we have done for Coventry and what the people who come here have done.”
April 1992 even saw Coventry’s own music multi-millionaire Pete Waterman, who had described rave music as “blips and blops”, film an edition of his TV show Hit Man and Her with Michaela Strachan at the Eclipse. Allegedly Michaela had to be taken home after being ‘spiked’. Urban myth or fact?
And the kids were continuing to flock in from even further a field.
Their reasons were simple. Andy Taylor from Nottingham said: “It’s the only place in the country where you can do this. I come with my mates and we just have a really good time.
Gloucestershire lad Kevin Edwards said: “The atmosphere is great. There’s never any trouble, everyone’s just here to have a good time.”
Stevie Pentelow of Northants said: “I like the people and I like the music, that’s why we come.”
Local DJ Rob of Distortion Crew said “on a Friday and Saturday night it really was the place to be. The Eclipse was up their with the countries top clubs like Manchester’s Hacienda and London’s Astoria, the Eclipse gave Coventry an identity amongst our generation”
The bubble, however, was soon to burst. The Eclipse was developing an increasingly unsavoury reputation for being a haven of drug use, not helped by the death of 19-year-old Christopher Doust, who collapsed after a night at the club and was found to have taken amphetamines bought from a dealer outside.
Police also seized other hard drugs at the club, including crack, and Stuart Reid admitted: “There are drugs in here, of course there are. You can get a needle and heroin inside Pentonville Prison.”
Continuing battles for a drinks licence were turned down. As rave culture began to take something of a dip in popularity applications were made to open the club on other days of the week for different events. These applications were also met with objections.
A name change to The Edge failed to bring back the glory days and in September 1993 the club was closed.
At the time of closing more than one million people had passed through its doors and it had a standing membership of 74,000. A buzz and a vibe that matched the arrival of 2Tone in Cov.
The Eclipse, however, was not to be forgotten easily. In 1996 Virgin Records released, with the help of Stuart Reid, two albums entitled Eclipse Presents… Dance ’till Dawn, remixed by Stu Allan and the legendary Slipmatt and celebrating the early days of rave music and the part played by the Eclipse.
A spokesman for Virgin said: “The Eclipse was at the forefront of a scene that developed into the youth movement of the 1990s.
“Rave has fundamentally altered our culture and Stuart Reid and The Eclipse club were there when it all started.”