Nothing could have prepared me for the logistical nightmare of launching a new club night in London. Regardless of all the cat-herding of DJs, door and cloakroom staff, cementing a brand and music style, marketing, and generally convincing the notoriously fickle alt scene that this was a night that they actually wanted to come to, finding a venue willing to host us was trying, to say the least.
If memory serves, I started canvassing venues back in November of 2011. Considering that we were set on running Shenanigans in SE London at that point in time, the list of potentials was short. Then I had to strike off the ones that were obviously dodgy, catered solely to mainstream crowds or that were too far off the beaten track for people to sensibly get to. I think in the end I was left with a list of about three places, before I'd even started pitching to anyone. One flat out didn't reply to my email, one turned me down straight and I was left with Release, which was a totally unknown quantity in my book. They never had nights advertised out front, always looked shut down and the only reason I was planning to try them was because they'd previously hosted the opening night of Republic.
As it turned out they were quite amenable to having us and, most importantly, were willing to do it without charging us for the use of the place. A couple of us got together and went to view it, and talk business with the owners. Release was a perfect size for us, though, to be honest, a bit dingy and poorly laid out. The sound system was sub-optimal, the floors were sticky, they only sold bottled beers and the toilets were gross. In the end, beggars can't be choosers and I'd exhausted all avenues at that point so after drafting our requirements to the owners, we penciled in a date.
The opening night rolled around rather too quickly for comfort and our major battle turned out to be trying to coax north London clubbers used to having everything on their doorsteps to venture south of the river. Some people groused and couldn't understand why we didn't just use somewhere more 'convenient'. Being an SE London night was at the top of our mission statement back then and we did our best to point out to people that due to the inception of the London Overground we really weren't inaccessible. We were also first-time club runners and taking an unknown venue somewhere out of the ordinary did take a lot of pressure off of us.
In the end, it went as well as could have been expected. We were pleasantly surprised by the sheer numbers that descended upon us as the doors opened and the cloakroom, being manned by me, quickly descended into chaos, but we managed to soldier through. I panicked my way through the night, painfully aware of how empty the dancefloor was - it remained that way throughout the night. In hindsight, this was mainly down to the lousy layout of the venue. All the seating was up some stairs, away from the floor and the bar was in a totally separate room. From experience, I've found that if people can't see the dancefloor, they easily get caught in the buy booze, chat to friends, go to the loo, buy booze loop. We probably should have moved some of the seating down to the dancefloor, just to keep people more engaged with what was going on down there. You live and you learn.
It wasn't a disaster though, by a long way! Just about everyone I spoke to was having a good time, approved of our music choices and quite a few commented on how they were bumping into people they hadn't seen out clubbing in a long time - which was something that we'd specifically set out to achieve. Looking back on it now, I laugh to myself at how green we were, how shoddy the venue was and how we should have just aimed that little bit higher. The thing that shone through though, was our friendly atmosphere, inclusiveness and downright schizophrenic music policy. It's really the backbone of what we're about and it obviously works for us, because when we returned for a second run (unsurprisingly at a different venue), so did most of the clubbers and they brought their friends. But that's another story...