Nikki missed dancing so much that she created a club night and found her tribe

If anyone had told me that at 58 I’d be strutting around on stage wearing a sequinned batwing 80s dress and silver platform boots in front of a screaming crowd of hundreds of people, I doubt I would have believed them. But welcome to my average Saturday night! My major career change from journalist and media tutor to Director of D.I.S.C.O (yes I have it written on my business cards) all started over a decade ago when I had one of those “What about me?” moments.

Quite simply everyone seemed to be going out and having a lot more fun than I was. I love dancing but there didn’t seem to be anywhere to go where I wouldn’t feel like I was gatecrashing one of my teenage daughters’ parties.
Millennials had the pick of the capital’s club and even parents could still party, albeit in the daytime thanks to events like Baby Love Disco, but I couldn’t find anything for my age group.

“I had one of those “What about me?” moments.”

In the late 70s & early 80s when I was at university in Manchester I loved the Thursday soul, funk and disco night at the students’ union. I have fond, if fuzzy, memories of going to The Ritz and The “Conti”, and one occasion when a gang of us even did “Oops Upside Your Head” in the middle of a thankfully deserted Oxford Road afterwards.

After uni I moved to London for work and continued to party, but once I had my daughters things ground to a halt, bar the occasional work do or knees-up at a family wedding.

It was tough when I split from my girls’ dad and one thing that helped me climb back up from rock bottom was going to a local salsa club where I met a great bunch of women, who are still friends to this day. But waiting around for a partner to dance with was frustrating.

“I just kept thinking, “We can still dance, so why the hell shouldn’t we still dance?””

I tried to go out clubbing in Soho with my friend Alison one night, but we didn’t even make it through the door. The long queue and possible humiliation of being turned away for being too old was too much to bear and we ended up back home dancing around my kitchen table – which was fun, but not quite what we had in mind. I just kept thinking, “We can still dance, so why the hell shouldn’t we still dance?” and, in the absence of anywhere to go,I decided to start my own events for people like me. I came up with the name Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet after hearing the Gonzales track on the radio one night and the title just summed up what I was feeling.

I had previously organized a couple of fundraisers for my daughters’ primary school but it was still scary booking that first venue and handing over the deposit, which I borrowed from my brother (and thankfully was able to return to him straight afterwards). My only regret is not doing it all sooner. I’d talked about it for ages and ages and I am eternally grateful to my salsa friends who kept on saying “So when is this actually happening?” and this spurred me on. The only way to know if an idea will work is to give it a go.

“My only regret is not doing it all sooner.”

Over 250 people turned out to the first Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet party in the upstairs ballroom at The Trafalgar Tavern Greenwich in 2010 and since then demand has just grown and grown. What really helped take it to another level was when I gave a flyer to a journalist from BBC Radio 4 one day. She loved the idea of HSDY and featured us on Saturday Live. After it was broadcast we started selling out and the word has kept spreading.

I now run about a dozen events a year in London, plus events in Croydon and Brighton. I do private parties,, corporate events and festivals too. Organising HSDY events has become my main job and though it is hard work and crazily stressful at times it also brings me so much sheer joy. At some point during every event I stop for a moment at the back of the room and just stand and watch everyone partying and can’t help but grin from ear to ear.

Midlife can be tough when you are trying to juggle everything and hold it all together: work, relationships, children to bring up, parents getting older, us getting older, illness, issues of self-confidence, anxiety … the list goes on. But for just one night we can forget about it all and dance our socks off to music that makes us feel good. Someone even recently said that HSDY should be on the NHS!

“While some are talking about early retirement I seem to be going in the opposite direction and cranking it up.”

Creating Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet has changed my life – and my wardrobe. I have always loved clothes but this has taken it to a new level with an ever-expanding collection of vintage jumpsuits and shiny shoulder padded numbers gradually edging out my usual denim and Breton stripes.

Life has taken off in interesting ways. Whilst some of my contemporaries are talking about slowing down and taking early retirement I seem to be going in the opposite direction and cranking it up. Disco even took me to No 10 Downing Street when I got selected as one of Small Business Saturday’s Small Biz 100 and invited to a reception there. I can’t help smiling to myself when I have to do a last-minute dash to the printer’s on a Friday night. There are all these young guys in their designer trainers and baseballs caps picking up their club flyers, and then there’s me. Doing the same.

“I do feel that I have finally found my tribe.”

I do feel that I have finally found my tribe. Not just the team of fantastic, mainly female, forty and fifty-something vinyl DJs and dancers and backstage crew that I am lucky enough to work with. But all those who come to our nights and show us again and again that they are certainly not ready to stop dancing anytime yet.

Nikki Spencer is Director of D.I.S.C.O. at Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet (www.haventstoppeddancingyet.co.uk)
Photos: Richard Gray

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