For anyone who loves a night out, London’s contemporary underground club scene is as creative and vibrant as at any time in the capital’s history
“I have a social disease,’ Andy Warhol once famously declared. “I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night, I start spreading rumours to my dogs.” He’s not alone. For many of us, nothing beats a good night out. And they’re not just fun – nightclubs are vital, not only to creative communities that inhabit them, but the wider community beyond, as London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has underlined when he speaks about the importance of clubbing to London and the city’s cultural fabric.
That said, the past 15 years has seen an unprecedented number of UK nightclubs close down. In London, fatalities include some of the city’s most iconic spaces: 333, Dance Tunnel, The End, Herbal, The Joiners, Peoples, Plastic People, Madame Jojo’s and Turnmills to name but a beloved few. The reason? Everything from people preferring to meet partners on dating apps instead of dancefloors to licensing changes, rent increases and an increased number of festivals to party at instead has been blamed.
Look beneath the surface, however, and British club culture is alive and well. A new generation is out there finding its community, exploring and expressing its identity, and simply letting loose. In London, a new wave of club collectives is emerging, creating spaces for people who were not always safe or centred in mainstream venues, and they’re championing the power of a good night out. Here, we spotlight five of them.
All-female club collective Pxssy Palace is united in the desire to create a safe and inclusive spaces for people – specifically women and LGBTQ folk – to enjoy hip hop music. Founded by Nadine Artois and Skye Barr, who hail from Glasgow, the collective counts transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf among its membership, along with app developer and illustrator Kesang Ball, hosiery designer Sophie Burge, graphic designer Holly Hmiddouche, stylist and blogger Alexa Kesta, and writer and activist Bemi Shaw. “With the nights I was going to, there is no way I could have invited my queer friends,” Artois said in a recent interview about her motivation to found the club. “It wasn’t fair. It is not just cis-het people who love hip hop. There should be a place which isn’t just full of men in a club jumping about mosh pitting”. With an inclusive atmosphere and incredible looks, Pxssy Palace throws some of the best parties in town.
One of the most talked about gay dance parties in London, Chapter 10 is helmed by Dan Beaumont and Charlie Porter (formerly of Macho City at the George and Dragon, which sadly closed in 2015). The club night’s manifesto is simple: ‘no compromise’ and ‘all welcome’. Often staged in warehouses, Chapter 10 promises great underground dance music (predominantly techno and house) and has already been touted as London’s answer to notorious Berlin nightclub, Berghain. The night was born out of Beaumont and Porter’s shared love of their chosen sounds – particularly those emanating out of Detroit – and a frustration that no-one else was playing them. Chapter 10’s reputation is built on freedom, wildness and opportunity – which, if you go, you can experience first-hand.
Without a doubt one of the coolest, most experimental club nights in town, Nuxxe is the brainchild of four very different musicians – French-born Coucou Chloe and Oklou, Glaswegian Sega Bodega and Londoner Shygirl – who each bring something different to the night. Shygirl mixes British rap and underground club music; Sega crafts “cybernetic” tracks with super-fast tempos and super, super deep bass frequencies; Coucou brings cold, dark sounds, while Oklou creates melancholic, nostalgic, almost emotional melodies. Nuxxe’s genres may be indeterminate, but one thing’s for sure: their futuristic sounds will have you dancing and leave you wanting more.
Comprising Chilean-British brothers Kamixlo and Uli K, and their best friend, Endgame, electronic music collective Bala Club made a name for themselves on London’s underground music scene via NTS radio sets and club nights. They don’t identify with any specific genre or scene, mixing everything from dancehall and reggaetón to industrial noise and trance. In fact, the collective says, the only thing that does unify them is that they’re each trying to do something new and different, rather than abiding by a genre or scene. With flashing lights, pulsing beats and crazy outfits, Bala Club has a dark, subversive and distinctly subcultural energy that might just be the future of clubbing.
If you’re after something a little more familiar look no further than Gay Garage, one of London’s best queer club nights. It may have begun life in east London, but the (still relatively anonymous) crew behind it have gone on to put on nights in New York and Berlin, as well as at Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party and Mighty Hoopla – they even took over the Southbank Centre this summer. Promising all your favourite garage hits, along with fashion harkening back to that era, Gay Garage is an unmissable night for anyone wanting to re-rewind (sorry) to the golden age of British club music.