Surely a city would protect the birthplace of northern soul from destruction? Not in Manchester.

They’re queuing around the block on Whitworth Street. It’s December 30, 2012 and hundreds of 1960s soul fans have come for the very last session at the venue once known as the Twisted Wheel.

The company that owned the building went bust and now London developer Olympian Group has an agreement with a German budget hotel chain, Motel One, to tear it down and build a 330-bed hotel.

“We hate the Germans!” shouts one woman in the queue wearing a green wig.

I work nearby and have had a nagging feeling for months that I should go down and record the last night before it vanishes. Now I’m standing outside on a drizzly December night with a video camera trying to work out the best shots to capture the size of the queue.

Campaigners tried to stop the hotel plan, saying the building had cultural significance as the birthplace of the northern soul movement. It hosted performances by the likes of Ben E King, Lee Dorsey, Ike and Tina Turner, and Edwin Starr. But the city council passed the application, holding the view that its heritage value was “not considered to be of sufficient special interest”.

Now the punters have come to pay their last respects to a place that’s lost out in the regeneration game. There’s no place for sentimentality when a big overseas investor is promising to create jobs.

The Twisted Wheel was founded in 1963 by Jack, Phillip and Ivor Abadi as a Brazennose Street coffee shop in 1963, with DJ Roger Eagle putting it on the map as a soul and rhythm and blues venue. It moved to Whitworth Street in 1965 where it ran until 1971 when the venue became Placemate 7, and northern soul took off in venues like the Wigan Casino and the Blackpool Mecca.

The building is now the Legends nightclub, a gay club, hosting nights like Bollox and Homoelectric. It is facing demolition along with the Outpost Bar – the old cafe part of the Twisted Wheel – and the 52-bedroom Hotel International on the other side of Monroe’s. All are run by leaseholder Julian Lyons who tried to buy the buildings but was beaten to it by Olympian which agreed a deal before they came up at auction.

The soul sessions have been run by DJ Pete Roberts for around 12 years. A former Twisted Wheel punter, he saw the appeal of a revival night where he only plays records that were released between 1963-71 – the years the original Twisted Wheel was open.

“Everyone’s worked that stage,” he said. “I’m totally disgusted this club is going, you’d think on heritage value alone, and the importance of this little club that they’d have kept it. But obviously someone made the decision that a 330-bedroom hotel is more important than this legendary club.”

Pete was happy to have me, visibly pleased that someone had shown some interest, and not at all inhibited by the camera poking into his DJ booth. The stifling heat of the packed cellar club kept misting the lens and it was hard to get different, and steady shots with enough light. But I managed to capture all of the last two songs – Jimmy Radcliffe’s Long After Tonight Is All Over and Sam and Dave – Soothe Me.

They were a perfectly poignant combination. As the regulars sang along to the Radcliffe number they seemed to be stating an undying love for the place.

Let me tell you

Long after tonight is all over

Long after it’s all gone

I’ll be yours

For ever and a day I’m yours

Come anything that may

You’ll always be just everything to me

With the Sam & Dave tune they were seeking solace for the loss.

The film is about the loss of this particular club, but also the way people and their passions make the cities we live in but are often given short shrift by the planners and politicians.

But for me, the emotion in the sweaty and straining faces singing along to Long After Tonight Is All Over was matched by the heartfelt views expressed by Jackie, the barmaid at the Outpost. At 70 she felt she was being thrown on the scrap heap couldn’t understand the forced closure of a viable business.

“I don’t understand why they’ve got to demolish this place when over there that fire station has been like that for 28 years and they’ve still done nothing to it. So why do they need this place? Why do they need to make so many people redundant when they’ve got a place over there that’s not derelict, but more or less, why do they need to pick on us,” she said.

“There’s no consideration of the people that are employed here, and all my regulars. They’re thinking, ‘well, where can we go?’ Because this place is a one off. It’s a proper, proper bar, it’s a proper pub. It’s not a wine bar, it’s not a posey bar, it’s a bar that you can come in, be who you are and get on with it. And then the Twisted Wheel, that’s another story, that’s going back longer than this bar. Why are they doing it? Disrupting everybody’s lives, for what? I’m 70, I’ve got more to give, more to offer than them that are thinking, ‘right, that place is surplus to requirements’, but it isn’t. We’ve got a lot going for this place. They’re obliterating a place that’s regenerating money into the city.”

By James Graham

You can watch the film here:  HOW ELSE DO I EMBED THIS?

Pete Roberts’ Twisted Wheel soul sessions continue at Alter Ego, Princess Street, twice a month.