Any fellow geeks here? Raise your hands now. I have an exciting post to share with you today.
A couple of weeks ago, I headed back to my home town of Bury, Lancashire. I head home fairly often, however, this time, I was a little more excited than usual. You see, I was off to spend the day at the hidden gem that is Arcade Club.
Having spent most of my youth playing video games with my Dad and sister, nostalgia and intrigue were the driving force behind this trip. Me, Adam, Lucie and a bunch of our like-minded friends decided to meet up and see for ourselves what the Arcade Club was all about.
Hidden away on the 3rd floor of the unassuming Ela Mill, Cork St, it would be easy to miss. With games such as Street Fighter, Golden Axe (two of my personal favourites) Asteroids, Black Widow, Hot Rod, Pacman, Point Blank, Frogger, Sega Rally Twin, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, House Of The Dead 2, Ikaruga, Donkey Kong, Mortal Kombat II, Shinobi and Vulcan Venture alongside pinballs machines like Addams Family and Metallica and Twilight Zone – to name just a few – I genuinely could not wait to get inside.
I even got to chat with the owner Andy Palmer and his mum Linda to learn a little more about Arcade Clubs origins.
They began their venture in Haslingden, Lancashire after placing a few machines in the computer repair shop that Andy runs. This became so popular that the opened the very first Arcade Club in Haslingden, starting with around 30 machines. Soon expanding to over 120 machines, people were queuing out of the door, with the Arcade Club then having to enforce a ‘one in one out’ policy!
As with a lot of people, arcade games have always been a love affair for Andy and he began his collection over 20 years ago, now boasting over 300 machines. Their passion for Arcade Club is clear to see. With volunteers helping out on a regular basis, Linda explained to me that the main goal here is community.
“We are big believers in the local community, with parents bringing in their children of all ages to enjoy some rare family time, away from the modern technology of phones and the internet. People love coming in and reliving their teenage years. It also opens up classic arcade games to a brand new generation.”
My friend Lewis and I were also given access to Arcade Clubs other floor in Ela Mill, not currently open to the public. I was in awe, with so many games from my childhood being repaired and getting ready to be used upstairs. Some of the machines here are over 30 years old, which is mind blowing given that some of them were only initially made to last for a few years maximum. Andy has plans to expand this space in the months ahead, bringing in a potential board game club, pool tables, a bar, LAN gaming, tournaments, competitions and much more in the future.
I was also surprised to see just how many of the younger generation were in attendance on our visit, having – somewhat naively – assumed that the main audience would predominately be my own age group, looking for a hit of gaming nostalgia.
The Arcade Club is the biggest collection of retro arcade games in Europe, with people even flying in from Germany and America to attend. You can also hire Arcade Club out exclusively, which I am seriously contemplating taking advantage of for our next big occasion. Linda even told me that some people have expressed an interest in getting married there – Adam and I definitely missed a trick with that one!
With no advertising or corporate agenda behind this venture, Arcade Club rely solely on word of mouth as their means of promotion. Given that this is a hugely popular concept, I could very much imagine this kind of venue would be right at home in the Northern Quarter, Manchester. However, it was almost refreshing to hear that profit is the last thing on Andys mind. They charge just £10 per adult and £5 per child to come along and spend as much or as little time here as they like.
They also offer an array of retro and gaming memorabilia, a pick and mix selection (yes, we indulged) and soft drinks priced from just 50p, along with bottled beers and hot dogs. Open Fridays from 6pm – 12am as an over 18s only night, Saturdays from 11am – 11pm and Sundays 2pm – 8pm for all the family, this is a unique and fun way to spend the weekend.
Even 12 year old Lucie and her friend had a great time, heading straight for the Sega Rally Twin then kicking my arse on Point Blank! We ended up staying at Arcade Club for a good 4 hours or so, to enjoy all of the free play games and will most definitely be going back again soon.
If you’re in the area and fancy stepping into this little time machine, let me know what you think and say hello to Andy for me