Cork is in need of a purpose-built club space, a space that has all the facilities and features required to host electronic music events. Beyond the physical considerations, however, a new space must connect with the community if it is to sustain a culture. In a changing world, connecting with the community means a club must go beyond the confines of a late-night, alcohol-centred approach, and connect with a broader demographic.
Words: James Abjure
Part 3: Connecting for the future.
In researching this series of articles, I spoke with countless artists and promoters spanning ages, genres, and backgrounds, each of whom shared a passion for electronic music & the culture that surrounds it. This experience reassured me that, without a doubt, Cork has both the population and appetite to sustain a vibrant club culture with quality music at its core. The piece missing from the puzzle currently is an appropriate space required for the culture to grow and thrive in.
In Part 1 of this series, I described the desired physical characteristics of a venue as envisioned by local promoters, while in Part 2 I made reference to some of the physical and environmental considerations that must be taken into account for any future venture. Perhaps the most important attribute that a space should have, however, cannot be attained purely through financial means, or through regulatory or legislative changes. The most important attribute of a successful club if it is to function as a cultural hub is that it connects with the community around it. Achieving this connection requires understanding what it is that makes a venue important in the eyes of the community it serves, as well as understanding how a venue can benefit a community.
Many of us began listening to electronic music in earnest during our teenage years. It is well established academically that music in general plays an important role in the lives of teenagers, both acting as an outlet for expression while also functioning to satisfy emotional needs. It should be a no-brainer, then, that connecting with a community should begin with the youth. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case currently, with opportunities for listening to music in a communal setting often limited to teenage discos for under-18s, where only chart music is on offer.
In the eyes of the legendary Cork DJ & radio presenter Stevie G, this is something that must change. In days gone by, Stevie ran hip-hop nights for teenagers in the now-defunct Savoy theatre. With teenage DJs performing to crowds of peers, Stevie felt there was a great connection between the teens and the music. Having events like this fostered enthusiasm among the youth for the music and influenced the lives of many young people in their formative years.
Nowadays, virtually all electronic music events are late-night, over-18s events, incontrovertibly linked to the sale and consumption of alcohol. This has the dual effect of both locking out the younger populations from the music that they may be listening to at home, while also demonstrating to them that when they do turn 18 the music is only to be experienced alongside alcohol.
It should seem apparent from this that a healthier approach would be to have a space where teenagers can connect with the music in a communal setting, without the presence of alcohol, or the commercial aspect of teenage discos. This may help then to improve the image of electronic music within the public domain, which unfortunately remains associated with over-consumption and mindless hedonism in the eyes of many. With this in mind, a space that could facilitate both early and late-night offerings catering to youths & adults would be hugely beneficial for nurturing the community in Cork.
Speaking to Andrea Kend, a key figure in the club scene in Cork when it was at its peak around the turn of the century, she stressed the eclecticism of the community. She described how the electronic music community had strong links with local art colleges, theatre companies, and visual artists. The crossover of disciplines enhanced both the artistic output and sense of community across artists working in various disciplines in Cork.
The concept of multidisciplinary collaboration has re-emerged in recent times through the work of various Cork-based artists. At Fuinneamh festival last year, artist Riona Denys painted live during performances by Offtrack, Oneyra, and Ellen, her work responding to the atmosphere and emotions created by the musical artists during the course of their sets.
Riona spoke of the music helping her to achieve a state of flow, providing inspiration, and boosting her ability to create. In her network of artists, the understanding that artists can ‘bounce off’ each other means there is a strong desire for opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration. Needless to say, a collaborative approach can benefit musicians also, with visual arts providing sources of inspiration and creativity.
With these aspects considered, it is evident that a multidisciplinary space would have a tangible artistic benefit to the community. On a practical level also, having a space for different art forms to come together would mean the space would have a broad reach and could better serve a greater number of people. Financially, too, having a space constantly in use enhances its commercial viability.
Multidisciplinary arts spaces exist all over Ireland, including in Cork where several spaces such as the Triskel provide a home for various art forms. Unfortunately, electronic music does not play a major role in any of these venues, and as such new spaces must be sought out.
Understanding how a space should work need not be a laborious process, with several international examples providing potential blueprints. As covered in Resident Advisor, a space such as the newly launched DIJONSS in London illustrates how a community space could function, hosting events such as DJ workshops, mental health talks, and art exhibitions.
Another exemplary space is Lost Horizon in Bristol, a multidisciplinary arts space and venue operated by those behind the renowned Shangri-La district at Glastonbury. The venue describes itself as a ‘creative playground’, providing workshops, classes, conferences, theatres, and markets, as well as live performances and DJ Sets. Notably, it is partly funded by the Arts Council of England.
With an understanding now in place of what a space catering to electronic music should look like in Cork, the onus is on the local artists and community members to continue to push for its creation. With public opinion on electronic music seemingly shifting for the better, and regulatory changes on track to reduce barriers, now is the time for decisive action.