Clubbing In Crisis

Editorial
Type:
Community

This isn’t an article I wanted to write, but maybe it is the one I need to. As a DJ and producer, the lack of hope I’ve seen across the majority of individuals working in nightlife and the music industry in the UK has felt both conspicuous and bleak. Few people posting the typical proclamations of “2024 will be my year”; article after article about venues across the country closing or in danger of doing so; and the same ten names appearing on every poster. I’ve never felt sadder for both myself and my talented peers. It’s so hard to have faith when the landscape is visibly in tatters. 

Back in December legendary live music venue Moles announced it was closing, effective immediately, and now The Music Venue Trust have revealed that Bath & North East Somerset Council have refused an Asset of Community Value status to the venue, effectively telling live music fans to head to Bristol instead. Having opened almost 50 years ago in 1978, it’s played host to countless bands, live acts and DJs, both local and international. Situated in Bath, a small Georgian town masquerading as a city with a large student population, it’s a club that’s always just implicitly been seen as a stalwart part of the scene, so interwoven with local musicians and nightlife, that it was a given it would just always be there. For me, it’s a place of formative musical moments. Moles and the attached pub above it, Porter Cellar Bar, were the first places I went regularly that felt like it had a solid community of people attached to it. You could go alone and be sure to bump into someone you knew. Your friends worked there. You DJ’ed there. It was the nightlife home away from home, with the ghosts of friends loved and lost permeating the whole structure.

This is a story playing out across the country. The most recent report from Music Venues Trust cites the closure of 125 venues in 2023, with 80 more spaces in crisis. That’s 4000 jobs lost. And an immeasurable amount of opportunities lost that affects performers at every level. This lack of work is hitting everyone hard at a time where the cost of living crisis only seems to be deepening. With venues, somewhat understandably, ever more risk averse, sticking firmly to hype headliners and maximising profit in order to simply stay afloat, where can we even still find these pockets of community?

Kerry Patterson of innovative Bristol venue Strange Brew, points out the impact of “persistent uncertainty for many venues, relating to things like lease renewal, rent increases and affordability, threats of redevelopment nearby, noise complaints” combined with the cost of living crisis affecting customers who might “prioritise 'must-see' or bigger ticket events as they cut back on the number of events they attend.” 

With even spaces that spotlight a wide range of artists citing BIG headliners and wealthy promoters as being the shape of nightlife in 2024, surely the homogenisation of events has the knock on effect of de-prioritising diversity. Poppy Ringrose of High Key Records in Birmingham wonders if speaking out on issues has affected her ability to garner support for her label and safe(r) space events, “it feels like the other promoters in our space are not as supportive. I honestly would have thought that our brand would have gotten a lot more requests for collabs/room takeovers at other events etc. A good example of this is the recently-opened XOYO Birmingham: a ton of similar-sized promoters got invited to collab on events/do takeovers but we didn’t… is [this] because I have personally been very vocal about issues in the industry (lack of diversity, predatory behaviour, etc), and for whatever reason me and my brand are viewed as volatile or difficult to work with because of that…?”

Given these dismissive attitudes, it’s understandable to worry how much work is really going on at venues to support marginalised communities. Luckily there’s organisations such as Good Night Out Campaign who go into venues and train both staff and security on issues like sexual harassment and sexual violence, empowering them to step in. Meanwhile in the capital, the Mayor of London’s Office runs the Women’s Night Safety Charter which regularly offers free online training to its signatories from others organisations such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust who offer Bystander Intervention training, and Attitude Is Everything who speak widely on disability access within nightlife and music events.

“I think transparency from promoters, venues and artists could make an incredible change in the scene. I would like to see a scheme where stats were published that showed what percentage of fees paid had gone to different demographics and how much non-headline acts were paid. I'd also like a gold standard certification scheme that events and venues could sign up to that committed to staff and attendee welfare steps such as: proper harm reduction teams; proper welfare teams; minimum wages for staff; and unionised workforces” suggests Leon Cole, co-founder of Norfolk based beloved boutique festival, Field Maneuvers. Now in its 10th year, the self-proclaimed ‘no frills rave’ is widely known for its forward thinking lineups, incredible visuals and lasers, and a strong queer representation across both attendees and artists.

 “A lot of punters don't know the steps that are taken behind the scenes to create a safe environment and what the costs of these steps can be. For example, at Field Maneuvers we have a team of around 35 professional persons working in safety/welfare capacities including first responder medics, professional firefighters, ambulance drivers, mental health professionals, dance floor monitors and welfare managers - that's 2.3 welfare personnel per 100 attendees - and that is on top of a full contingent of SIA licensed security and volunteer stewards.”

Queer-friendly spaces often bear the burden of these types of costs in nightlife, with LGBTQIA attendees often preferring events they know will prioritise safety and accessibility. And if they’re kink/sex-positive queer events, this is of course even more crucial. MJ Fox of queer Sunday party Joyride at London’s Corsica Studios bemoans the extra hurdles for this type of event including “misinformation, stigmatisation, regulation and a shortage of suitable venues. We’d love to see a greater understanding and recognition in wider society that our parties are vibrant cultural spaces…The community is here and growing– which is evidenced by new sex orientated nights popping up on an increasingly regular basis.” Joyride considers itself lucky to work with a supportive venue, but with a growing number of nights where safety is absolutely paramount to the patrons wellbeing, how many venues really have this type of infrastructure and training?

Up in Newcastle, one of the city’s longest running venues, World Headquarters, has been making key changes to how they approach this. In 2022 it scrapped its downstairs Green Room for artists and transformed it into a quiet Welfare Room staffed by trained members of their team, allowing patrons who need help to seek it safely. With nights like Bend&Shake, centred around women and non-binary POC, happening regularly at the club, alongside a brand new mentorship scheme in conjunction with the charity Youth Music, and a focus on diverse lineups, it’s genuinely challenging the idea of what a nightclub can achieve if it sets its mind to it. Ultimately costs still play a part. 

“Inclusivity is really important to us” Director Gabriel Day tells me “but we are finding we can’t book two headliners now and are having to focus on just one headline DJ. Previously, we’ve had to choose an act that will guarantee audience numbers, balancing this with a more interesting act that deserves platforming. Now, we focus on grassroots artists to find the balance.” Even at WHQ it can feel like an uphill struggle with inclusion, as Gabriel points out, “the weighting is still heavily on white male DJs, especially when looking at things in terms of big fees. That being said, a highlight for me  – was having Eliza Rose, Josey Mitsu, Amaliah, Danielle, Surusinge, Effy, Blasha and Allatt, Imogen, Mad Miran, Elkka all in a three-month period, in autumn and winter of last year.”

It’s not just female artists battling a lack of big fees as Dublin based DJ and producer Jamal Sul aka Moving Still will attest to, “being a person of colour, sometimes we've got to bring a little extra to the table. The game isn't always fair, so we work twice as hard to break stereotypes and shine. We set our standards and show we belong, no matter what. With all the releases and press since 2019, it's been a journey—yet even with those milestones, getting booked still demands significant extra effort. Occasionally, I've come across lowball offers, which I've respectfully turned down purely on principle. [I’ll] decline gigs that don't align with my values or make sense for me. I'm cautious about accepting lowball offers because it sets a standard that affects everyone in the industry.” With over 50k views on his SWANA focused Boiler Room, closing out the iconic Rave In The Woods stage to 10k people at Ireland’s biggest festival, Electric Picnic, and regular bookings in Europe and beyond, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s highly sought after both here in the UK and in Ireland. “Despite delivering slam dunk sets during festivals in 2023, I realise that it won't be as easy for me to secure a regular slot in the festival circuit compared to other artists who are part of a yearly rotation.”

He’s not the only one feeling far more valued abroad, as record-store proprietor and DJ Marion Hawkes finds her overseas gigs are the better paid ones. Even with co-running Belfast’s most fiercely loved queer night Ponyhawke (so locally cherished it was the subject of a recent tune by fellow Belfast native Jordan Nocturne, who included ‘Ponyhawke Pride’ on his latest EP for Polari), and being the head behind the Sound Advice record store, she’s had to learn to become increasingly picky about where in her hometown she plays. “Just after lockdown the gigs were tentatively starting back up again but fees had been cut to reflect how the hospitality industry had been affected, which obviously was fair enough but some never went back up again. After a while I had to sack a few of those gigs off as the fees were awful and never got back to pre covid figures, one of the first things to always get cut in venues is the music.” Much like Moving Still, she knows her own worth, “[you] have to stand your ground on your value.”

Unfortunately it’s this push-and-pull between knowing your worth as a performer, and the rising costs of infrastructure combined with a cost of living crisis that clubs and promoters currently face. Outside of London this tension is even more pronounced. “Sadly, it feels like a survival battle to be the last institution standing. This feels especially the case in the North, where audiences typically have less money and there is less cultural provision in general” points out Gabriel Day. Over in Birmingham, the prospects are much the same, with Poppy Ringrose having put her main events on hiatus for 2024 with only the open decks social running. “We can’t keep up with rising costs at the moment, because we know our audience can’t put up with rising ticket prices.” It’s the breadth of these rising costs that customers remain unaware of. Between flights, agents fees, venue hire, hotels and more, what’s left in the pot afterwards to pay yourself for the work you did? Marion Hawkes describes the shift in costs from moving Ponyhawke from a residents only party to occasional guests in order to “push and encourage new queer Irish DJs.” Queer parties already face a “fairly chunky expenses list, and we like to take care of the people who work for us, so [we] pay well.”                                              

With venues and promoters shouldering ever increasing costs and DJs receiving less offers as lineups lean towards a decreasing circle of headline performers and an increasing circle of low fee warm up DJs, what options are there for small spaces and more intimate affairs? In East London, the esoteric arts space Cafe Oto has been pioneering a membership model for the last decade, offering different tiers with different benefits, and of course, the all-important “unwaged/low income” option to ensure diversity amongst your customer base, keeping arts and music open to all. This tactic has gained traction in queer nightlife, with over 50% of LGBT people finding getting employment a challenge, and 40% stating their “trans identity had a quite or very negative impact on their job prospects.” It’s become somewhat a necessity to offer this in LGBT spaces. 

Up in Glasgow, Lewis Lowe of label and event series Redstone Press, looks to these models as a beacon for change, “My hopes look more at the alternative ways of engaging in nightlife that some friends and peers are trialing at the moment. An example is Events Research Program in Glasgow, run by my friend Hannah AKA Boosterhooch, its a subscription/patreon based event series - guaranteeing a monthly “salary” for the event to be able to take place, take more bookings risks and create a sense of ownership/support in subscribers thus creating a sense of community and belonging.”

It’s this sense of community that feels key to moving forward in 2024. As it becomes easier to spot which artists have the backing of a management team fuelling their every move, and streaming models interacting with the social media algorithm to only show the most attractive artists, surely the only solidarity we can count on is that of our community rather than an industry notorious for chewing us up and spitting us out. Last year Houndstooth artist Wordcolour released a t-shirt simply saying “book ugly DJs” as a semi-serious joke, but underpinning this is once again the idea of knowing your worth despite your environment telling you otherwise. “I always feel very “old man yells at cloud” when I talk about this, but it’s what you might call the “instagram beauty-fication” of electronic music. Now I wanna be really clear about exactly what I’m talking about here, which is a scene that is increasingly image-conscious in a way that is unwelcoming for people that have body-types and physical presentations that don’t conform to strict conventional standards of physical beauty.” Nick Worrall aka Wordcolour tells me. He points to Hör specifically as having had a bigger detrimental impact than say Boiler Room. “[It’s] cultivating a particularly image conscious culture in the scene post-covid. The crowd of dancers is swapped for a ring light. I also think there’s an awful lot of organisations/nights using the language of diversity and inclusion sort of as a marketing aesthetic without really interrogating what that might mean.”

With Hör’s boycott continuing apace thanks to the wider dance music community questioning their stance on Palestine, combined with weekly marches across the country, are we starting to see a more switched on stance from punters? Leon Cole believes so, “My hope is that given the increased political awareness we are seeing in younger generations and reflected in certain pockets of the dance music scene, people will start asking more questions about where they are spending their money… If we keep giving our money to promoters whose only line up diversity is in the support, whose only welfare provision is 1 first aider per 1000 attendees, whose only only response to BLM was a black square and who haven't yet worked out how to respond to today's horrors in Palestine without jeopardising future sponsorship deals - then we also have ourselves to blame for what our scene becomes.”

Saudi-Irish artist Moving Still shares this cautious desire “the fear of discrimination and safety risks for Arabs or non-white artists and attendees weighs heavily. However, my hopes remain strong. I envision a nightlife where diversity isn't just celebrated but embraced passionately. I dream of stages that proudly showcase various cultures especially in the festival arena.” This sense of prudent hope that permeates everything right now. A wish for a better scene, and a dream to make things better for those that come next.

A few months ago, the unexpected happened. After staying shut for 8 years, The Arches in Glasgow managed to reopen. Back in 2015 it was forced to shut, following a decision to restrict its licence to midnight by Glasgow City Council after police complaints of drug use and disorder. Against seemingly insurmountable odds and an extended period closed as a nightlife space (it reopened as a coffee roastery, café and bakery in 2018), and now functions as a glimmer of hope in what looks to be an otherwise brutal year. There are other shards of light peeking through however. World Headquarters have started to help finance young promoters in order to provide a safety net and an opportunity to build their brand and turn a profit. Both Kerry Patterson and Poppy Ringrose point to an increased awareness of funding options from organisations like Arts Council England and Youth Music. Wordcolour highlights more and more experimental events happening in London such as ‘Niche’, “run via a Telegram group with an ever increasing membership”  and ‘Free Movements’ at Ormside Projects, a Sunday day event that’s “a really carefully wrought journey that unfolded over the course of a whole day, and where tonally every set fit with every other.”

Every single person I spoke to for this piece mentioned they are going out less, but when they do, it’s usually to see a friend perform. Despite this being somewhat of a “busman’s holiday” in Kerry Patterson’s words, industry people on the whole used their time to highlight others, very little of which I can fit here. There’s no easy answer for battling the logistical quandaries of rising costs and improving nightlife — however there’s clearly a deep seated desire for change, support and care.

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Clubbing In Crisis

With an alarming rate of clubs closing down around the UK, there is growing concern as to what the future of night life will look like. Clubs are a sanctuary and these third spaces allow for communities to continue creating and building. DJ and producer Rachael Williams aka Ambient Babestation Meltdown reflects in depth on the uncertain future of UK night life.

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Category
Editorial
Published By
Rachael Williams
Location
Theme
Published On
April 3, 2024
Category
Editorial
Theme
Published By
Rachael Williams
Published On
April 8, 2024
Location

This isn’t an article I wanted to write, but maybe it is the one I need to. As a DJ and producer, the lack of hope I’ve seen across the majority of individuals working in nightlife and the music industry in the UK has felt both conspicuous and bleak. Few people posting the typical proclamations of “2024 will be my year”; article after article about venues across the country closing or in danger of doing so; and the same ten names appearing on every poster. I’ve never felt sadder for both myself and my talented peers. It’s so hard to have faith when the landscape is visibly in tatters. 

Back in December legendary live music venue Moles announced it was closing, effective immediately, and now The Music Venue Trust have revealed that Bath & North East Somerset Council have refused an Asset of Community Value status to the venue, effectively telling live music fans to head to Bristol instead. Having opened almost 50 years ago in 1978, it’s played host to countless bands, live acts and DJs, both local and international. Situated in Bath, a small Georgian town masquerading as a city with a large student population, it’s a club that’s always just implicitly been seen as a stalwart part of the scene, so interwoven with local musicians and nightlife, that it was a given it would just always be there. For me, it’s a place of formative musical moments. Moles and the attached pub above it, Porter Cellar Bar, were the first places I went regularly that felt like it had a solid community of people attached to it. You could go alone and be sure to bump into someone you knew. Your friends worked there. You DJ’ed there. It was the nightlife home away from home, with the ghosts of friends loved and lost permeating the whole structure.

This is a story playing out across the country. The most recent report from Music Venues Trust cites the closure of 125 venues in 2023, with 80 more spaces in crisis. That’s 4000 jobs lost. And an immeasurable amount of opportunities lost that affects performers at every level. This lack of work is hitting everyone hard at a time where the cost of living crisis only seems to be deepening. With venues, somewhat understandably, ever more risk averse, sticking firmly to hype headliners and maximising profit in order to simply stay afloat, where can we even still find these pockets of community?

Kerry Patterson of innovative Bristol venue Strange Brew, points out the impact of “persistent uncertainty for many venues, relating to things like lease renewal, rent increases and affordability, threats of redevelopment nearby, noise complaints” combined with the cost of living crisis affecting customers who might “prioritise 'must-see' or bigger ticket events as they cut back on the number of events they attend.” 

With even spaces that spotlight a wide range of artists citing BIG headliners and wealthy promoters as being the shape of nightlife in 2024, surely the homogenisation of events has the knock on effect of de-prioritising diversity. Poppy Ringrose of High Key Records in Birmingham wonders if speaking out on issues has affected her ability to garner support for her label and safe(r) space events, “it feels like the other promoters in our space are not as supportive. I honestly would have thought that our brand would have gotten a lot more requests for collabs/room takeovers at other events etc. A good example of this is the recently-opened XOYO Birmingham: a ton of similar-sized promoters got invited to collab on events/do takeovers but we didn’t… is [this] because I have personally been very vocal about issues in the industry (lack of diversity, predatory behaviour, etc), and for whatever reason me and my brand are viewed as volatile or difficult to work with because of that…?”

Given these dismissive attitudes, it’s understandable to worry how much work is really going on at venues to support marginalised communities. Luckily there’s organisations such as Good Night Out Campaign who go into venues and train both staff and security on issues like sexual harassment and sexual violence, empowering them to step in. Meanwhile in the capital, the Mayor of London’s Office runs the Women’s Night Safety Charter which regularly offers free online training to its signatories from others organisations such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust who offer Bystander Intervention training, and Attitude Is Everything who speak widely on disability access within nightlife and music events.

“I think transparency from promoters, venues and artists could make an incredible change in the scene. I would like to see a scheme where stats were published that showed what percentage of fees paid had gone to different demographics and how much non-headline acts were paid. I'd also like a gold standard certification scheme that events and venues could sign up to that committed to staff and attendee welfare steps such as: proper harm reduction teams; proper welfare teams; minimum wages for staff; and unionised workforces” suggests Leon Cole, co-founder of Norfolk based beloved boutique festival, Field Maneuvers. Now in its 10th year, the self-proclaimed ‘no frills rave’ is widely known for its forward thinking lineups, incredible visuals and lasers, and a strong queer representation across both attendees and artists.

 “A lot of punters don't know the steps that are taken behind the scenes to create a safe environment and what the costs of these steps can be. For example, at Field Maneuvers we have a team of around 35 professional persons working in safety/welfare capacities including first responder medics, professional firefighters, ambulance drivers, mental health professionals, dance floor monitors and welfare managers - that's 2.3 welfare personnel per 100 attendees - and that is on top of a full contingent of SIA licensed security and volunteer stewards.”

Queer-friendly spaces often bear the burden of these types of costs in nightlife, with LGBTQIA attendees often preferring events they know will prioritise safety and accessibility. And if they’re kink/sex-positive queer events, this is of course even more crucial. MJ Fox of queer Sunday party Joyride at London’s Corsica Studios bemoans the extra hurdles for this type of event including “misinformation, stigmatisation, regulation and a shortage of suitable venues. We’d love to see a greater understanding and recognition in wider society that our parties are vibrant cultural spaces…The community is here and growing– which is evidenced by new sex orientated nights popping up on an increasingly regular basis.” Joyride considers itself lucky to work with a supportive venue, but with a growing number of nights where safety is absolutely paramount to the patrons wellbeing, how many venues really have this type of infrastructure and training?

Up in Newcastle, one of the city’s longest running venues, World Headquarters, has been making key changes to how they approach this. In 2022 it scrapped its downstairs Green Room for artists and transformed it into a quiet Welfare Room staffed by trained members of their team, allowing patrons who need help to seek it safely. With nights like Bend&Shake, centred around women and non-binary POC, happening regularly at the club, alongside a brand new mentorship scheme in conjunction with the charity Youth Music, and a focus on diverse lineups, it’s genuinely challenging the idea of what a nightclub can achieve if it sets its mind to it. Ultimately costs still play a part. 

“Inclusivity is really important to us” Director Gabriel Day tells me “but we are finding we can’t book two headliners now and are having to focus on just one headline DJ. Previously, we’ve had to choose an act that will guarantee audience numbers, balancing this with a more interesting act that deserves platforming. Now, we focus on grassroots artists to find the balance.” Even at WHQ it can feel like an uphill struggle with inclusion, as Gabriel points out, “the weighting is still heavily on white male DJs, especially when looking at things in terms of big fees. That being said, a highlight for me  – was having Eliza Rose, Josey Mitsu, Amaliah, Danielle, Surusinge, Effy, Blasha and Allatt, Imogen, Mad Miran, Elkka all in a three-month period, in autumn and winter of last year.”

It’s not just female artists battling a lack of big fees as Dublin based DJ and producer Jamal Sul aka Moving Still will attest to, “being a person of colour, sometimes we've got to bring a little extra to the table. The game isn't always fair, so we work twice as hard to break stereotypes and shine. We set our standards and show we belong, no matter what. With all the releases and press since 2019, it's been a journey—yet even with those milestones, getting booked still demands significant extra effort. Occasionally, I've come across lowball offers, which I've respectfully turned down purely on principle. [I’ll] decline gigs that don't align with my values or make sense for me. I'm cautious about accepting lowball offers because it sets a standard that affects everyone in the industry.” With over 50k views on his SWANA focused Boiler Room, closing out the iconic Rave In The Woods stage to 10k people at Ireland’s biggest festival, Electric Picnic, and regular bookings in Europe and beyond, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s highly sought after both here in the UK and in Ireland. “Despite delivering slam dunk sets during festivals in 2023, I realise that it won't be as easy for me to secure a regular slot in the festival circuit compared to other artists who are part of a yearly rotation.”

He’s not the only one feeling far more valued abroad, as record-store proprietor and DJ Marion Hawkes finds her overseas gigs are the better paid ones. Even with co-running Belfast’s most fiercely loved queer night Ponyhawke (so locally cherished it was the subject of a recent tune by fellow Belfast native Jordan Nocturne, who included ‘Ponyhawke Pride’ on his latest EP for Polari), and being the head behind the Sound Advice record store, she’s had to learn to become increasingly picky about where in her hometown she plays. “Just after lockdown the gigs were tentatively starting back up again but fees had been cut to reflect how the hospitality industry had been affected, which obviously was fair enough but some never went back up again. After a while I had to sack a few of those gigs off as the fees were awful and never got back to pre covid figures, one of the first things to always get cut in venues is the music.” Much like Moving Still, she knows her own worth, “[you] have to stand your ground on your value.”

Unfortunately it’s this push-and-pull between knowing your worth as a performer, and the rising costs of infrastructure combined with a cost of living crisis that clubs and promoters currently face. Outside of London this tension is even more pronounced. “Sadly, it feels like a survival battle to be the last institution standing. This feels especially the case in the North, where audiences typically have less money and there is less cultural provision in general” points out Gabriel Day. Over in Birmingham, the prospects are much the same, with Poppy Ringrose having put her main events on hiatus for 2024 with only the open decks social running. “We can’t keep up with rising costs at the moment, because we know our audience can’t put up with rising ticket prices.” It’s the breadth of these rising costs that customers remain unaware of. Between flights, agents fees, venue hire, hotels and more, what’s left in the pot afterwards to pay yourself for the work you did? Marion Hawkes describes the shift in costs from moving Ponyhawke from a residents only party to occasional guests in order to “push and encourage new queer Irish DJs.” Queer parties already face a “fairly chunky expenses list, and we like to take care of the people who work for us, so [we] pay well.”                                              

With venues and promoters shouldering ever increasing costs and DJs receiving less offers as lineups lean towards a decreasing circle of headline performers and an increasing circle of low fee warm up DJs, what options are there for small spaces and more intimate affairs? In East London, the esoteric arts space Cafe Oto has been pioneering a membership model for the last decade, offering different tiers with different benefits, and of course, the all-important “unwaged/low income” option to ensure diversity amongst your customer base, keeping arts and music open to all. This tactic has gained traction in queer nightlife, with over 50% of LGBT people finding getting employment a challenge, and 40% stating their “trans identity had a quite or very negative impact on their job prospects.” It’s become somewhat a necessity to offer this in LGBT spaces. 

Up in Glasgow, Lewis Lowe of label and event series Redstone Press, looks to these models as a beacon for change, “My hopes look more at the alternative ways of engaging in nightlife that some friends and peers are trialing at the moment. An example is Events Research Program in Glasgow, run by my friend Hannah AKA Boosterhooch, its a subscription/patreon based event series - guaranteeing a monthly “salary” for the event to be able to take place, take more bookings risks and create a sense of ownership/support in subscribers thus creating a sense of community and belonging.”

It’s this sense of community that feels key to moving forward in 2024. As it becomes easier to spot which artists have the backing of a management team fuelling their every move, and streaming models interacting with the social media algorithm to only show the most attractive artists, surely the only solidarity we can count on is that of our community rather than an industry notorious for chewing us up and spitting us out. Last year Houndstooth artist Wordcolour released a t-shirt simply saying “book ugly DJs” as a semi-serious joke, but underpinning this is once again the idea of knowing your worth despite your environment telling you otherwise. “I always feel very “old man yells at cloud” when I talk about this, but it’s what you might call the “instagram beauty-fication” of electronic music. Now I wanna be really clear about exactly what I’m talking about here, which is a scene that is increasingly image-conscious in a way that is unwelcoming for people that have body-types and physical presentations that don’t conform to strict conventional standards of physical beauty.” Nick Worrall aka Wordcolour tells me. He points to Hör specifically as having had a bigger detrimental impact than say Boiler Room. “[It’s] cultivating a particularly image conscious culture in the scene post-covid. The crowd of dancers is swapped for a ring light. I also think there’s an awful lot of organisations/nights using the language of diversity and inclusion sort of as a marketing aesthetic without really interrogating what that might mean.”

With Hör’s boycott continuing apace thanks to the wider dance music community questioning their stance on Palestine, combined with weekly marches across the country, are we starting to see a more switched on stance from punters? Leon Cole believes so, “My hope is that given the increased political awareness we are seeing in younger generations and reflected in certain pockets of the dance music scene, people will start asking more questions about where they are spending their money… If we keep giving our money to promoters whose only line up diversity is in the support, whose only welfare provision is 1 first aider per 1000 attendees, whose only only response to BLM was a black square and who haven't yet worked out how to respond to today's horrors in Palestine without jeopardising future sponsorship deals - then we also have ourselves to blame for what our scene becomes.”

Saudi-Irish artist Moving Still shares this cautious desire “the fear of discrimination and safety risks for Arabs or non-white artists and attendees weighs heavily. However, my hopes remain strong. I envision a nightlife where diversity isn't just celebrated but embraced passionately. I dream of stages that proudly showcase various cultures especially in the festival arena.” This sense of prudent hope that permeates everything right now. A wish for a better scene, and a dream to make things better for those that come next.

A few months ago, the unexpected happened. After staying shut for 8 years, The Arches in Glasgow managed to reopen. Back in 2015 it was forced to shut, following a decision to restrict its licence to midnight by Glasgow City Council after police complaints of drug use and disorder. Against seemingly insurmountable odds and an extended period closed as a nightlife space (it reopened as a coffee roastery, café and bakery in 2018), and now functions as a glimmer of hope in what looks to be an otherwise brutal year. There are other shards of light peeking through however. World Headquarters have started to help finance young promoters in order to provide a safety net and an opportunity to build their brand and turn a profit. Both Kerry Patterson and Poppy Ringrose point to an increased awareness of funding options from organisations like Arts Council England and Youth Music. Wordcolour highlights more and more experimental events happening in London such as ‘Niche’, “run via a Telegram group with an ever increasing membership”  and ‘Free Movements’ at Ormside Projects, a Sunday day event that’s “a really carefully wrought journey that unfolded over the course of a whole day, and where tonally every set fit with every other.”

Every single person I spoke to for this piece mentioned they are going out less, but when they do, it’s usually to see a friend perform. Despite this being somewhat of a “busman’s holiday” in Kerry Patterson’s words, industry people on the whole used their time to highlight others, very little of which I can fit here. There’s no easy answer for battling the logistical quandaries of rising costs and improving nightlife — however there’s clearly a deep seated desire for change, support and care.

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