Martyn Ware + The Manufacturers of Lancashire

Church of Rare Souls, 2018

Martyn’s epic sound and performance piece at Tony’s Ballroom, ‘Church of Rare Souls’, blended Northern Soul classics from the Ballroom’s heyday in a soundscape intertwined with human voices and industrial sounds recorded live on factory floors across Lancashire.

Produced in collaboration with manufacturers and workforces at Cherry Tree Bakery, WEC Group , Darwen Terracotta, Silentnight and Graham and Brown, voices from the factory floor remind us of the ‘work hard, play hard’ cultures of Northern towns, where work ruled the week and dancing ruled the weekend.

Small, intimate groups of Festival audiences were invited back into Tony’s for two incredible days to hear the sounds of factories and the stories of the workers, before the historic space erupted into life with Northern Soul dancers, spinning like ghosts on the sprung floor of the ballroom.

Listen to the podcast about the work below.

In Focus

‘Tony’s’ opened in the roaring 20’s to the sound of the Charleston, hosted big bands in the 30’s, jiving in the war years and the Rock and Roll explosion of Elvis and the 50’s. Tony’s witnessed every youth movement that would follow, including Acid House in the late 80’s. It is most fondly remembered, however, as the home of Northern Soul all-nighters and was featured in films and news reports of the time, drawing crowds of the faithful from across the country.

Audiences experienced a live performance and 3D soundscape and the opportunity to witness an incredible heritage space in its own right.

Tony’s New Empress Ballroom was opened by Tony Billington in the 1920’s and is now owned by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council who are currently restoring the building.

“It’s an installation about the sounds of industry and the stories of people, of working people from Blackburn and Darwen factories, and also the previous life of this ballroom as Northern Soul. We used a special rig that records in three dimensional sound, and that’s what’s reproduced in this soundscape. The narrative around this amazing space is that you work all week, and at the end of the week, you want to have some fun.”

Martyn Ware


Martyn Ware is the founder of both the Human League and Heaven 17. He has featured as record producer and artist on recordings totalling over 50 million sales worldwide – producing Tina Turner, Terence Trent D’Arby, Chaka Khan, Erasure, Marc Almond and Mavis Staples. Since founding Illustrious Company with fellow synth pioneer Vince Clarke in 1990, Ware has developed and consulted on sound installation for a vast variety of projects and clients including the Venice Biennale and The National Portrait Gallery, London.


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