Tess Reidy, 21/01/2016, VICE
Turnmills in Farringdon, The End on Tottenham Court Road, Shelly’s in Stoke, The Quad in Bootle: clubs like these paved the way for British nightlife, yet today they’ve all been demolished, left to rot or rebuilt to make way for high-rise flats and offices.
There is always sadness when a club closes. These were places where lasting connections were made and friendships formed, some that lasted a few hours and some, decades.
Of the clubs that are still standing, many are Iiving on borrowed time. Councils, police and developers are closing down these spaces at an alarming rate. But what’s it all for? What happens in these bulldozed, empty arenas?
We travelled the country to find the people who now sleep, eat and work where you danced.
THE END, LONDON
An intimate basement club run by Mr C and Layo, tucked just behind High Holborn. With the booth in the centre of the dancefloor, it was one of the first clubs in London said to be built by DJs for DJs.
Today: Most of the building is empty or occupied by guardians, people who live in properties for a cheaper rent to prevent squatters moving in.
Resident: Brian Sury, 39, freelance journalist.
VICE: How have you ended up living here?
Brian: I moved in about three or four months ago now, but people lived here before I did. I used to go to The End – a friend of mine used to host parties there and I helped promote them. I used to go on a Tuesday, to a night called Players Club, which was sort of for industry people that worked at the weekend. That was our weekend, on a Tuesday.
When was that?
It must’ve been eight years ago. I spent a lot of time trying to get into that club and I was quite excited about the fact that I could actually live there. My bedroom was a private dance floor, an area I never knew about.
You live here as part of a guardian scheme. These set ups are often temporary, right? Have they said what they’re going to do in the future? The building is an island, like a square, and the owners have bought the entire block. It’s Russians I think, or some corporate company, and we’ve got no idea what they’re going to do. It’s three floors below ground level so we were thinking they were going to turn it into some mega mansion because everyone in London wants digging underground for cars or cinemas or swimming pools. It’s a vast underground space and it’s perfect for that, but I don’t think they’ve got the planning for it so that’s why it’s still like it is.
Have you ever been down there?
The only time I went down into there was when they had a squat party and there was literally the most horrible gabber techno blaring out from under my street, so I went to investigate.
What was it like, was it the same as you remembered?
It was always quite industrial, Berlin-esque, but now it was like that and beaten up and covered in spray paint. The squatters are anarchists so they spray-painted the lot. It looked horrible. That’s the last image I’m ever going to see of The End.
BAGLEY’S AND THE CROSS, LONDON
Bagley’s and The Cross were both on the huge King’s Cross site that has since been entirely redeveloped. Bagleys was a huge multi-room warehouse club that held some of London’s biggest Saturday night parties. The Cross filled six arches and brought a Balearic party atmosophere to the most run-down corner of central London.
Opened: 1991 (Bagleys), 1993 (The Cross)
Today: The buildings are in the process of being restored and made into shops, restaurants and the Jamie Oliver HQ, as part of the wider regeneration of Kings Cross.
Occupier: Morwenna Hall, senior project director of Kings Cross redevelopment.
VICE: Kings Cross has changed a lot recently. What are your plans for this area?
Morwenna: Kings Cross kind of had three eras – industrial goods and freight canals, then wasteland, but now it’s becoming a place where you can live and work. Sat under the building are the arches and that’s where The Cross was located. It was originally built as stables where horses would take coal and fish across London.
Where are you with it at the moment?
We’re just over half way through the restoration and we are working with Jamie Oliver and his enterprises. Jamie is taking it over for his head office. The arches themselves will be a new concept restaurant for Jamie. People will be able to go and eat and drink and reminisce. Bagley’s was located opposite in the Coal Drops building. It was called that because 100 or so odd years ago it was a bottling factory and in a warehouse unit called Bagley’s. We’ve been working for a year and a half with Thomas Heatherwick, an up-and-coming local architect, and this last month we put in the planning application to the local authority.
What’s the plan for the Bagley’s site?
The idea is that it will be the retail part of King’s Cross; there will be 60 units of various sizes.
I’ve heard you’ve had a street-naming competition.
It’s important that people who lived and worked in the area have some sort of input so we opened it up to local people. We’ve got an approved shortlist – you can’t have two streets called the same and we got 10,000 entries. We’ve sorted through them all. There were lots of Amy Winehouse suggestions, but that’s Camden not King’s Cross, and we have a Bagley’s Way/Lane on there too.
Can you tell that these buildings used to be iconic clubbing destinations and are you trying to preserve that legacy at all?
It’s really important to us is all the layers of history are represented, we want to tell the story right from the beginning all the way through to now. You can see it in the architecture – all of the external signs bolted on the walls are signs from the 90s. No one is forgetting it. I work with contractors and people who say “yeah, I used to go clubbing in here”. It’s very much a part of the history.
QUADRANT PARK, LIVERPOOL
Began as a cheesy nightclub before becoming a rave destination in 1990. Host to Orbital, Sasha, Carl Cox, and regular favourite “the Frenchman” Laurent Garnier, The Quad was the UK’s first legal all-night rave.
Occupier: Carl Trevaskiss, Site Foreman at South Sefton Household Waste Recycling Centre.
How long have you worked here for and what do you do?
I’ve been working here for 11 years now. We have a Reuse Shop on site, where the public can visit and drop things in to donate for reuse and also buy items as well. It saves them being sent to landfill and it raises money for the YMCA.
Had you heard of Quadrant Park?
I knew this used to be a club, I’ve always lived in Bootle, so I remember it from back in the day. There aren’t any signs left that it used to be here, it was completely demolished before the recycling centre was built. We’ve not found anything that was linked to it over the years that we’ve been here.
Do people still talk about it?
A few people have talked about how it used to be where the nightclub was, but this was mostly when the site first opened. People said they used to love it. From what they’ve told me it was very, very popular and was always packed every weekend, but I never went myself.
Is this still a clubbing part of the city?
No, the nearest nightlife is on Bootle Strand, but it’s mainly bars these days, not really any big clubs like that one was.
THE HACIENDA, MANCHESTER
The birthplace of the “Madchester” scene and the club that kicked off the house music revolution. Launched as a rainy, northern version of cool New York venues, it showcased artists including Madonna, The Smiths and New Order.
Today: Luxury flats and Bridgfords letting agency
Occupier: Wolfgang Webster, 50, property photographer for Bridgfords.
VICE: Do you know much about The Hacienda?
Wolfgang: I used to go to a lot of the clubs in Manchester back in the 80s and 90s. I started taking pictures then, in around 1989, and started working for Sankeys and the Hacienda and a music magazine called the Blue Planet. The club actually shut down in ’97 and it was derelict. They made some flats and the office in the front was an architect before Bridgfords took over.
That’s where you work now, right? How did that come about?
The director contacted me for pictures of the Hacienda and they bought my artwork for there and other buildings in Manchester. These days I photograph their corporate events. It’s good because I’m still involved in that building.
When you’re at work do you ever think about the times you used to spend partying there?
Yeah, I do. The downstairs has never changed, it’s only the upstairs that is different. The bars have gone but the layout is exactly the same.
VELVET ROOMS, LONDON
Founded by Ibiza party man Nicky Holloway, the venue hosted international DJs as well as some seminal club nights, including the dubstep-founding FWD>>.
Occupier: Ayo Nuga, 25, Team Leader, Superdrug.
VICE: Can you tell that this used to be the site of a club?
Ayo: No, not in my opinion anyway.
Does it surprise you?
Yeah, it does. I see pubs round here, but no sign of clubs. It’s not a clubbing area. When customers come in asking for nightclubs this way I always direct them towards Soho, those sorts of places.
Do you go out much yourself?
I go out occasionally but not that often. I’d travel further for a good night out or go to central London.
The first venue in the UK to get a 24-hour dance licence. Its flagship night was Trade – the original afterparty.
Today: Home to media agency SMG
Occupier: Scott Curtis European Mobile Strategy & Development Director at SMG.
Did you ever go to Turnmills?
Yeah, I did. It was an amazing club, I used to do some partying there back in the day, many years back.
What kind of nights did you go to?
It was mostly the house nights. I don’t remember specifics of a particular DJ or night but we used to go partying up in London a lot and Turnmills was one of the haunts.
There’s a big Turnmills sign at the entrance of the building now. Are there any other clues to its former life?
We’ve got meeting rooms named after festivals and DJs. It’s just kind of to carry on the legacy of the old building and maintain that creativity. Turnmills has being closed for a while now. Obviously it’s not the same, we’re a media agency, but the site is still being used for a sort of creative thing. And also I used to go partying there too so it’s nice from a personal perspective.
Do you still go out partying much?
I’m too old to go out much now. I have very irregular nights out at like The Egg or somewhere like that, but not with the frequency of the past. I used to love it. When I was 17 I used to go to True Playas nights in Fabric and then through to Pacha, The Egg, The Cross, The Key, Turnmills. I stopped a good few years back, when work started getting a bit too important.
SHELLY’S LASERDOME, STOKE
Known for launching the careers of Sasha and Dave Seaman, who were both Friday night residents, and mega brand Amnesia House ran the Saturday nights.
Occupier: Jane Johnson, Store Manager Farmfoods, Longton, Stoke.
Did you know there used to be club here? No.
Has anyone ever talked about what used to be here?
I don’t know anything but it, I don’t come from Longton. Perhaps, I’ve heard of it but I think it was years ago, wasn’t it? Didn’t people like Tom Jones used to go to it? My mum and my dad probably went 100 years ago, you’d be better off talking to them.
Did you ever go out partying much when you were younger?
Clubbing’s not my thing, no.