Chris Walls gives the 'wow' factor with help of Chorley businesses
During these uncertain times it is more important now to do everything we can to support small local businesses.
And one man in Chorley, Chris Walls, who started this process before the coronavirus hit, is making sure he continues where he left, albeit in a more streamlined manner.
Chris Walls is the owner of Cityslickermusic - a band of soul music lovers, collectors and purveyors. They specialise in buying, collecting and selling soul, R&B, smooth jazz and fusion on all formats.
"First of all I was a collector and I used to buy from all the specialist retailers in the area, which have all virtually gone now," says Chris.
"And then my aunt came over, she lived in North America, and she said to me, 'Why don't you come over and spend two weeks with us.' She lives in Ontario, but literally at the bottom of the street it's Detroit, it's right on the American border.
"So to say I was on the next plane, it wasn't an understatement!" he laughs.
"Well sell incredibly rare collectors pieces.
"Even though some of these things are 30 years old, they are still brand new, they're still sealed up, never been played.
"The best way I can describe it, it's like the fine wine of the soul music really. You know, you make an investment in a bottle of wine to keep it. It's exactly the same concept.
"However, we don't buy things to not play and the customers are encouraged to buy them and play them. But some people do buy them and don't open them. They get them framed and stuff."
But not only does Chris run Cityslickermusic, he also puts on a number of club nights during the year at Chorley's Filling Factory. At the moment those events are on hold due to the coronavirus crises, but Chris fully intends to resume these nights as soon as it is safe to do so.
And it is this three-year collaboration with The Filling Factory and two other Chorley businesses that Chris has upholstered his reputation with in recent years.
"I used to call in the Filling Factory for a beer on a Thursday afternoon, about 5 o'clock, and I said to the guys who own it, 'I'd like to make a proposal to you. Can we do a modern soul night here?'
"Because it is absolutely unique. It's a bottling plant. The Morrow brothers who run in, they have the beer delivered from places like Moorhouses in Burnley. They're delivered in big casks, almost plastic drums, and they put that through the bottling plant and it bottles it all. They are bottling for small brewers who don't have a bottling facility at the brewery," says Chris.
"We would have a venue that is in effect a warehouse. The turntables are on pallets and people are sat on pallets with cushions. So when you walk in, you do literally go 'wow'. There's fork lift trucks parked up where the DJs are. It's kinda funky you know."
The nights themselves are the Modern Soul Sessions, playing classic 70s to 90s soul and contemporary smooth midtempo dancefloor grooves.
Chris continues: "It was my vision to do something completely different.
"The sounds are unique. For example, very, very early Luther Vandross type stuff; smooth jazz with vocals on it.
"The theme is, it's got to be really well produced and good quality.
"There's no pressure for the DJs to fill the dance floor, because there isn't one. It's a warehouse floor.
"We've had some roaring reviews from everybody about the concept of it."
But how does this bring together other businesses in the area? So far we have Cityslickermusic providing the music and The Filling Factory the venue. What else is going on? That's where the two sponsors of the events come in.
"Leading on from that we work in partnership with Sleepy Hollow Bedroom Centre in Chorley and Maidens in Chorley. And what they do is, we allow them to put their business details on the back of the flyers that we send out. So it's a partnership type thing.
"I suppose it's all family-run businesses. I mean, Sleepy Hollow - three generations of family have run that. Held in very high regards, everyone knows it in Chorley. It fits well with what we're trying to do. It's another small independent business that's thriving.
"Maidens has recently changed hands and it is now operated and managed by Paula Flitcroft. And she's absolutely revolutionised it. You know the stock and availability. She's transformed it. It's got all the designer labels in there. It's the place to go for designer stuff really.
"So again, the catch for that would be, if you see one of these flyers either at the shop or at the soul event, the two's linked. I want to go and look nice, I want to go and get some designer stuff, I'll get it from Maidens. It's all aimed at trying to push business and community spirit.
"And likewise the guys at Morrow Brothers, the Filling Factory, are also local lads and they've been along to the session and said 'Oh my god, this is amazing'.
But the support doesn't end there. Cityslickermusic has their hand in a couple of other pies. "We support Expansion Records, which is a London-based company, and who work closely with.
"We also sponsor a show on Solar Radio, which is an internet-only broadcasting system, and that's on a Sunday afternoon, between 1 and 2pm. And the host of that show is a guy called Richard Searling, and he was one of the original DJs on Wigan Casino. He does a two-hour slot, the first hour is Northern, second hour is modern, a bit smoother, a bit richer, not Northern SOul, probably a bit more mellow," explains Chris proudly.
To conclude, Chris had this message for all those affected by recent events: "It is sad to note all the businesses involved are affected by recent world wide health concerns.
"Their collaboration is merely put on hold until we return to a degree of normality."
And as things do return to a degree of normality, the Lancashire Post will be the first to give you details of when the Modern Soul Session make a welcome return to the Filling Factory.