DANGERS TO THE DANCE FLOOR
Covid-19 has had a serious impact on the events industry - and clubbing. Overnight, the entire clubbing industry was shut down. The modern ‘fight for the dancefloor’ has officially heated up.
Aside from the pandemic, while the clubbing industry continues to be a huge employer and contributor to GDP globally, it has struggled to gain the support needed during recent times. In the UK, it is the fifth-biggest industry, accounting for at least 8% of the UK's employment and annual revenues of £66bn. While in NYC, the night-time economy generates $35.1bn (£27bn) in economic activity, and nearly $700m in local tax revenue. Despite this (in general AND in the context of Covid-19 implications for clubbing and the arts), the support for clubbing culture has been severely lacking. The Night-Time Industries Association in the UK, for example, has warned that the night-time economy is ‘on the brink of collapse’ (more than 700,000 jobs are estimated to be at risk).
In Ireland, clubbing culture has been under threat for a long time. This threat is not only health-and-pandemic-related (kudos to the amazing #ThisIsWhoWeAre campaign, led by EPIC, this week), but also hotel-related - a problem rooted in the exclusion of clubbing from the traditional definition of culture.
WHY CLUBBING IS CULTURE
Clubbing brings people together, it provides growth, art and identity. A community is formed on the dance floor as people make friends for life, open up to random strangers in the smoking area and share their collective hopes and dreams while dancing their socks off in unison. This level of herd behaviour is inherent to humans, and we will always flock to sound and stomp our feet, so why then is the support of clubs, and its culture, often overlooked?
Below are sentiments gathered from those full of passion about this.
“Contrary to popular belief dance floors provide a safe space, a meditative space, a collaborative space. On the dance floor you don’t need to be the best version or yourself, or any version of yourself, you just need to be there for the music.” Gillian Cadwell, Events, THINKHOUSE
“We initially set up No More Hotels out of frustration at the eradication of spaces specifically for clubbing. Yes, the people of Dublin are resourceful and will repurpose, recreate and revive what they can, but there was no focus on providing cultural spaces for night time dancing. We have a National Gallery, a National Library, a National Concert Hall, a National Theatre – why is there nowhere to dance? When we broke it down, we felt it’s because clubbing isn’t recognised by those not partaking in it as culture. It’s dismissed as a messy-after-thought, after dark. We wanted to use our club night as a stepping off point to illustrate why clubbing IS culture. Why it’s essential for so many people’s lives. Why it provides a richness in society that is often overlooked. Why there are so many makers and creators whose ideas germinate on the dance floor. That the community that is created can together overcome social, racial and economic barriers.” Andrea Horan, Co-Founder, No More Hotels
“Algorithm started its journey in multiple clubs and venues across Dublin. At one point we had residencies in three clubs at the same time. We got to work alongside some of the most talented Djs and Musicians both locally and globally and our team has personally become friends and colleagues with promoters, sound engineers, venue owners and producers etc. The core skills we learned and developed in these clubs have evolved into everything we do. Without clubs there wouldn’t be the Algorithm you know today. Nightclubs in Dublin have always been versatile spaces where people from all backgrounds can come together to enjoy themselves – we can’t lose this. Clubbing is for dancing, art, music and human expression. Clubbing is Culture.” Kev Freeney, Co- Founder, Algorithm
“A city without club and dance culture is a city not worth visiting. It is so vital that people who are not accustomed to the dancefloor realise the importance of these spaces to make cities thrive and flourish. Look at Berlin, it has a billion euro nightclub economy with tourists visiting from all over the world.” Dave Byrne, Head of Creative, THINKHOUSE
“I love clubbing. So much of my life has been shaped by, or influenced by the things and people I met through club culture. Some of the best creative ideas I’ve ever seen were created in club spaces by some of the most vibrant and progressive creative minds in our city.” Jane McDaid, Founder, THINKHOUSE
Club culture IS culture.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE OF CLUBBING
Where else can we go from here? From a Covid-19 perspective, the future of clubbing and clubbing spaces requires imagination and experimentation. Clearly, sweaty packed dancefloors are not conducive to a safe environment for the time being but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Virtual clubs have popped up across the digital realm, and with a vast array of event experiments currently being worked on, we’ve seen social distanced events dip their toe into the unknown. Some have managed to adapt their business to run outdoor events - notably ‘Escape to Freight Island’ in London and ‘Suicide Circus’ in Berlin who are lucky enough to have the space and capacity to adapt. But not all are so lucky.
“Barring the giant venues with huge financial backings, I think clubbing will require a dramatic reimagining once it's safe to get together as a community again, and that will require a reimagining of what "space" means to people.” HOMAGE
Things are not simple, however, when looking to address the problem of clubbing spaces being eradicated in Ireland. This Culture Night (today!), Thinkhouse, No More Hotels and Algorithm have joined forces to shine a light on Dublin’s club culture to demonstrate that clubbing is culture. “Clubbing is Culture” is a special digital event that takes place here: Clubbing Is Culture at 6pm. Alongside a multitude of night-life culture-shapers who have shaped Dublin’s nightlife now, and over the last 20 years, this project is a celebration of how clubbing enables us to communicate, move and connect in unique and magical ways.
Physical proximity and touch are entangled with the human experience of connection. It’s something we all miss, whether or not it's about brushing by people or jumping up and down together on a sweaty dance floor. The uncertainty around when this can happen again is a real source of anxiety for many people. It may not be possible to replicate this connection experience in a safe way right now - but it's certainly worth exploring alternatives.
If there’s one thing we can all be united under right now - it’s the importance of the arts, including clubbing. The community it creates has undeniable benefits and has a huge role to play in expanding our minds and offering escapism, all while bringing people together. The next generation deserves a (secure) dancefloor. Let's find a way to give it to them.