London: habitat I’m sure has been many a poets’ muse and many an opportunists’ terrain. Where the streets are seldom lonely and the walls act as an artists’ canvas. The only refuge on this island for house and techno connoisseurs parched for a taste of something fresh London, with its concoction of contrasting souls and sonic frequencies that reinvigorate seemingly desolate spaces. Basements, warehouses and rooftops are transformed into ceremonial rendezvous.
Some go to listen, others to dance, some attend purely to socialise and enjoy the atmosphere where others go to study. There are numerous innovative parties that intuitively cater for what their audiences crave. in our fair capital: Art of Dark, Half Baked, FUSE, Toi Toi, Undersound, the list is long enough that if I were to credit all the parties that deserve praise I would be in need of an extensive scroll. That’s without naming the influential DJs and radio shows that all have their own part to play in making London the extraordinary experience it is.
The point being that within the geographical confinements of London there is an abundance of innovative music to be heard, whatever the medium. But what about outside the city as, after all, London only counts for a small part of the United Kingdom. There are other venues around the UK that are integral to the UK’s house and techno scene. ‘Sankeys‘ in Manchester regularly has exciting events with awesome line ups and has been responsible for perhaps the freshest venue and club nights in Ibiza for the past few years.
Which naturally leads on to events that don’t have a huge financial backing. There are a few around, of course, with much smaller followings which I imagine have many more sustainability issues. To find out more regarding small parties around the UK and the challenges they face, being geographically located outside the artistically fruitful capital city, I’ve undertaken a case study of a little known party on the south coast of England ‘muddywellies’.
From a gathering of likeminded friends brought together through their adoration of house and techno music, muddywellies generated momentum by building an intimate party built on family vibes and underground music. They draw from their united passion of unanimous defiance of lacklustre entertainment within the city providing affordable entrance and a sound system that values both clarity and warmth equally. This is a privately funded community, whereby every soul brings their strongest card to the table forming an unbreakable deck. True to any family aesthetic they share a space they call home The Joiners, residing in a neglected street in the heart of Southampton. Voted ‘Britain’s Best Small Venue’ 2014 by NME Magazine this is a place of musical heritage where the ceilings sweat and the walls breathe. A dark yet eerily vibrant setting that accentuates the deep, rolling grooves of the muddywellies’ residents.
Some residents channel all their energy into the art of mixing while others keep an arm spare to hand sculpt their own productions, all of which are heard long before their date of release, pulsating from the muddywellies’ sound system. Careful consideration of headline DJs is an important part of event preparation. DJs are chosen due to their style and never their hype. The muddywellies organisers travel to check out potential headline DJs’ live performances at other parties as well as their podcasts and productions. This helps make sure the right talents are exposed at their events, further solidifying the muddywellies sound. Many of the muddywellies family’s favourite DJs and producers have graced their dance floor including Isherwood, Rich NXT, East End Dubs, Brett Jacobs, Sam.ul, Ittetsu, Peter Glasspool and Monika Ross.
Southampton is not the multi-cultural epicentre of creativity and expression London is. It does not have the vast population or the derelict spaces which can be converted into quirky havens for house and techno heads alike or a scene of ever flowing sonic wizardry people travelling religiously in hope of hearing the next innovative artisan, daring to experiment while those inside the box stretch its available space and regurgitate its accepted popularity. Neither do many of the cities in the UK but that’s not to say that a successful party cannot be achieved. Perhaps muddywellies is proof of this a candescent light that, from a distance, may only seem like a flicker of hope, though up close burns bright and continues to evolve fuelled by community and passion. A true party for the people, from the people.
From speaking to the organisers about their future plans, it seems that flame is only going to grow in intensity. Already the muddywellies family have established a podcast series (available on ‘Soundcloud’) and are in final preparations to launch their digital label project, of the same name. Many of the same DJs and producers are involved in all three projects, further reinforcing that sense of family values.
Running a party outside of London surely seems a challenge and certainly will not just create or sustain itself. But, if people were to not attempt something every time the results were uncertain or seemed challenging, then humans as a race would have never evolved past our cave-dwelling neolithic stage. We would probably be capable of hitting sticks on stones to produce some kind of basic rhythm, but we certainly would not have synthesisers, turntables and studio monitors. Though I may be being slightly pedantic with my examples, the point looms clear as day. Put in the work, get something out of it accordingly.
With the right knowledge, passion, commitment and principles, the challenge of creating and sustaining a party outside of London is very achievable. Start small and prioritise the music, vibe, venue and sound over the profit and hype and take the time to socialise with your crowd. As muddywellies has shown this may just be a handful of friends to start off with but even the most intricately woven tapestry begins as a single thread. Many events are thrown by promoters rather than music lovers, which is perhaps the issue. After all what is a party about if it is not about sharing musical experiences with one another?
It should never be about how many people you can convince to come through the door it should be about creating a series of moments and memories for the people that share a passion for the music your party represents. After all do you want five hundred drunken time wasters grinding on your dance floor or eighty music lovers taking in each hi hat shuffle as if they were breaths of enlightenment?
Written by Michael Ainsworth