Birmingham’s renowned psychedelic club Sensateria returns this month, after an eighteen year hiatus. The sixties themed club night began in 1984 and ran for ten years, moving to and from venues such as The Fantasy Club, The Powerhouse [now the closed Oceana], The Hummingbird [now Birmingham Ballroom], Digbeth Civic Hall Institute [now HMV Institute] and Snobs.
“I used to just hire a room and completely dress the place in oil wheels and parachutes, and it just became more and more popular”, says Mark ‘Mack’ MacDonald, who is the brains behind Sensateria, which is returning on 26th May at PST, Lombard Street, Digbeth.
“I did everything myself, all the artwork, I printed the posters and put them up around Birmingham. I used to set off early with a bucket of paste, a bag and a brush, putting these posters up over walls.
“The posters were unreadable on purpose. Sometimes I didn’t even put the venue on it, and it was still packed!”, he says.
The Sensateria inspired a wide range of musicians to take influence from the sixties psych aesthetic, specifically the late great Trish Keenan and her band Broadcast, who were regulars at the club night.
“We all met in the Sensateria”, says Tim Felton of Broadcast/Seeland.
“I played Garden of Earthly Delights by United States of America”, says Mack.
“That was when Jam [James Cargill] and Trish [Keenan] [of Broadcast] met. “It was at that moment in their heads; they just formed a band. They just got it straight away.”
Sensateria also brought in live music and big names from the likes of Spacemen 3 and The Sea Urchins. The nights were heavily focused on sixties psychedelic artwork, which were created by Mack himself.
“I didn’t just want it to be a piss up in a club”, says Mack. “I’d make people go to [record shops] Swordfish and The Plastic Factory [which no longer exists] to get there tickets.
“With each ticket, I’d make a lucky bag of games. One ticket was a printed t-shirt, so you’d have to wear the t-shirt to get in. Another was a pair of batman glasses, which I put red and blue lenses in to make a 3D effect, and another was a cassette which had an hours worth of music on it from the club.
“I can’t quite believe this now, but if I hadn’t brought the tickets into Swordfish the week before, I’d bring them in on the actual day of the gig, and people would be queuing up with these lucky bags I’d made!
“I also did some really mad stuff, like Charles Manson coat hangers. So when you put the top of your shirt on the coat hanger, Charles Manson was wearing your clothes!”, he says.
“There was nothing more sixties than Sensateria, apart from actually going back in time to the sixties!”, says Matt Eaton from Pram.
Sensateria returns on 26th May at club PST in the main room, as part of Kismet’s Retro-Afro-Futurism. 10 pm – late. £4.
PST, 71 Lombard Street, Birmingham, B12 0QU.
Words: Ross Cotton