Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lee Dorsey Riot

The dance was billed as a "fantastic all star soul together". It was intended as a celebration of black music featuring contemporary soul acts. Instead it turned into a night of teen carnage.

On the bill at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, in 1968 was American "King of Soul" Lee Dorsey best known for his hit Working in the Coal Mine. Also scheduled to appear were The Drifters, William Bell, The Quotations, Carlo Thomas, Funky Fever and The Power.

Tickets for the dance cost 10 shillings. The show was meant to last from 8pm - 1am but unfortunately the event quickly descended into chaotic violence as youth gangs from Cardiff and Aberdare slugged it out on the dancefloor. The teenagers appeared to be far more interested in knocking seven bells out of each than dancing.

Attempts were made to stop the fighting but before midnight organisers simply gave up and pulled the plug. The music ceased and the lights went up. Soul star Lee Dorsey didn't even get the opportunity to perform. Promoter Roy Tempest was disappointed but how could the show continue when there was a riot going on in the hall?

After the gig officials at Sophia Gardens Pavillion decided to call a halt on holding dances at their venue. They'd just forked out £6,000 on a makeover for the building and didn't want to run the risk of further destruction.

Such incidents were nothing new in Wales during this era - in fact organised teenage violence was rife. In particular dances held in the south Wales Valleys were regularly marred by fighting. An infamous Them gig in Maesteg in 1966 had to be curtailed as rival gangs fought it out in front of Van Morrison and co. And in Caerphilly in 1966 there was a full-scale riot involving 300 people when local youths took on their peers from Cardiff.