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“I won’t be sleeping”: 9 ravers look forward to the return of clubbing

Niamh Ingram talks to members of the clubbing community ahead of the reopening of nightclubs on June 21

  • Niamh Ingram
  • 27 May 2021

June 21 could be about to go down in history as the date that the third summer of love began.

Under the government's current roadmap out of lockdown, this is of course when nightclubs will be allowed to reopen.

The UK’s nightlife industry is worth £66 billion, ultimately providing unique values and meaning to everyone. Their fifteen-month absence has left a gaping hole in the lives of many: but just how keen are we to get back into the club? (Spoiler alert: very).

Mixmag spoke to nine different people – from long-serving DJs to promoters to student ravers – to get their reactions and opinions on the return of clubbing.

The panel:
Junior Simba, 24, DJ
Mala Nepal, 21, student
TeTe Bang, mid 20s, drag queen
Manji, 25, model/part of 24 Hour Garage Girls
Josh Crowe, 22, Editor of Babystep magazine and music writer
Emily Knight, 21, DJ
D:Ream, mid 50s, DJs
Tom Beckles, 19, student

Read their thoughts below and watch in video form here.

What have you missed most about the club?

Tom - The social side, just being with my mates and having a good time. This year has been diabolical really, being at home constantly. Most of my mates are at uni therefore I’ve not been seeing them, so I’ve really missed that and [just] having a good time.

Manji - The atmosphere and the people. Also, the ability to listen to loud music and dance - the general release of dancing to loud music is definitely up there.

Emily - The music: that’s what first comes to mind. The opportunity to play, or just listen to it at a loud volume, has been pending for so many months. I’ve been going to Pirate Studios (where you can rent out decks and just blast music), so that’s been sound. Besides that I just miss music in clubs, the atmosphere, and the dancing. I cannot wait to get back to it all.

Mala - I’d say being with my friends and looking around and just being together, as a community. It’s such a nice feeling.

Josh - The social element of it and meeting new people every night. The unpredictability in terms of what promoters, DJs and venues are capable of too - what I used to enjoy the most pre-pandemic is not knowing what to expect on each night out as they were always so unique. Even when clubbing was a thing we could access very easily, it still felt like every night was different and that there was an element of surprise, so that’s one of the biggest things for me: just enjoying the diversity in terms of line-ups and what different places can offer.

Simba - At this rate, I even miss queuing for the toilets! Chats in the queue with random people before later seeing them on the dancefloor is so funny. You feel like you’re friends for life but you’ve only just seen them in the queue. The stupidest things that I used to moan about are the things that I miss the most now. I think the theme throughout is just meeting people randomly and having 30 minute friendships which probably end nowhere, but at that time you feel like you can have a month’s worth of chat with that person and consider them a friend for life.

Al - A number of things! I’ve missed the general meeting up with people, and for me, I run nights as well as playing with the band [D:Ream]. The general camaraderie with people has been the main thing though. You can obviously argue wages and everything, but I just think everyone getting together and having a good time is the key thing.

Peter - The fun. The potential of a night out, you know, it’s just that we all work for the same thing. We love to dance, and it’s the fun and the engagement with other people. We’ve been robbed of that. I miss the excitement, the butterflies - for us when we do gigs and clubs we get a real adrenaline rush, and these days that’s as close to Class A as we get, being in our mid fifties!

Tete - I’ve missed the interactions with people the most, I think. What we’ve missed in quarantine life is just those interactions - whether it’s just fleeting, chatting to someone in the toilets, or talking to someone in a walkway, just those little moments and sparks of communication. I miss those the most.

What are you looking forward to the most when clubs reopen?

Tom - I’m most looking forward to going clubbing out of my area! I turned 18 in January 2020 so only managed to go clubbing about two or three times in Salisbury where I live. I’m just looking forward to going out and exploring new places. A lot of my friends had their birthdays during lockdown when they turned 18, and obviously we couldn’t do anything for that, so I’m looking forward to celebrating those a bit later than expected.

Manji - Being able to perform again! Performance is a big part of my job and since lockdown, besides livestreams, there’s been no performance or anything of the sort. I’m really looking forward to getting back out there and connecting with a physical crowd.

Emily - The feeling of togetherness with everyone. There’s nowhere else you can look around the room and everybody is having as belter time as you are, so I just miss knowing that everybody is having a good time and feeling the communal sense to it all.

Mala - The excitement and the buzz that it’ll have compared to pre-covid. It’s going to be so exciting and such a good feeling to get back out there with everybody. The club scene really will boom.

Josh - Celebrating people who’ve done so well to keep it going and stay positive in what’s been such a difficult year. It’ll be so special to be back out, enjoying seeing live music again - I don’t think anything quite compares to being in that environment with the soundsystems and all the people surrounding you, so it’s going to be amazing and I cannot wait for it.

Simba - Seeing what people have been creating. There’s going to be a lot of people who have just sat and stripped everything back, preparing for even bigger and better shows upon return. Everyone’s going to be gunning for sick shows that people want to go to. I also feel like everyone will get appreciation - from warm-up acts to the main DJs. Everyone’s going to be giving it their all, and there will be a lot of healthy competition with amazing nights that’ll be going off. It’ll be interesting to see how testing works when people go in, too. Getting drunk people to get swabbed before going in will be funny, if that’s the way rapid testing is going to work. I don’t know if that’s been thought through!

Al - Being back to how it was would be the best thing. Whether that happens or not is a different matter of course, but I think similar to the first question really: it’s meeting up with people who you haven’t seen in ages. That’s what it’s all about really, with such a lack of communication with people over the last year and a bit.

Peter - Having a drink and a bop! In D:Ream, I get to hang out with my besties and we do our thing, which is when life makes sense to me. With the rise of streaming we don’t earn anything – it’s theft. The only thing we had left was performing, and now we’ve been robbed of that, so we’re all left in a complete void-like abyss. It’ll be great to get back to it.

TeTe - I’m looking forward to people’s energy the most, people are going to have so much to bring to the dancefloor. It’s going to be explosive and will create some really magical moments. There’s so many amazing songs that have come out as well since lockdown and we haven’t heard them in a nightclub setting yet: we haven’t heard them on the dancefloor or experienced those moments where we all celebrate them together, which will be really exciting.

How often do you think you’ll go to clubs when they reopen?

Tom - At the start, probably most days! It’s been such a long wait so initially definitely most weekends. After that, it depends on the bank balance really. Clubs are expensive so it all depends after the initial influx.

Manji - Probably every weekend in one way or another. I feel like I’ve been robbed of so much time and there’s so much music and dancing that I’ve got to do. I’m definitely going to be ‘out’ when we’re allowed.

Emily - As often as I can be! Gigs have started rolling in now, because clubs are starting their reopening, so at the moment it’s looking pretty booked up from June 21 onwards. I’ll also be supporting my mates, brands and festivals as much as possible. So in answer to the question: as much as my sanity allows!

Mala - Every day! You won’t see me, I won’t even be sleeping. Maybe 3-4 times a week realistically, but definitely the weekend. A lot more than I did previously.

Josh - Everyone in their own heads thinks non-stop and I feel like it will be like that at the start, and I’ll be hoping to be going to as many nights as I can. It will just be so good when they’re back and I really can’t wait for it, it’ll be amazing. I hope that people will have an appreciation for it that they didn’t before - for example where they might’ve previously snubbed off or said that they didn’t want to go on a particular night out, they now will.

Simba - As a DJ, I’m hoping to go out a lot more to play - granted a lot of venues have shut down - but if I could play everyday for two months after places open, I would. I’ve been storing up so many new songs. There’s a lot that you discover in a year period and normally I’d have a week, or three hours, before a set to load new songs onto a USB and head out. Now, I’ve had so many in the last year, I’ve forgotten about things that I’d listened to last April. To go through an entire catalogue of songs requires me to be playing a lot of parties, so I’ll be going ‘out’ a lot that way. I’ve discovered artists elsewhere, outside of my immediate circle. Before lockdown I was going out in Leeds, meeting local DJs and finding out about their Leeds nights, but since lockdown I’ve been connecting with people from outside of where I live - something I think we’ve all been doing. I’m now wanting to go to Bristol and visit the scene there.

Al - See I’m a bit older than some others, and I have been doing it since the late 80s! I run a few things, and will be there for them. We [D:Ream] obviously will be doing gigs, purely to get my wages back and money back in the bank. If it was me personally going out, I don’t think I’d be going every week, because I’m old!

Peter - Well, we had a 30 day tour lined up for this year, which is gone, but we often are out between 20 and 35 times a year. It’s mainly around festival season but we do a lot of private parties and stuff now. We’ve got a new record which we want to promote and so will be trying to push that in the clubs as part of our live set.

TeTe - I plan to be there every weekend. My diary is already full, I cannot tell you how many events are being planned, and how many amazing things are coming into play. People are bursting with creativity and ideas: I want to see it all! I’ve already said that I’m never going to say no to going to an afterparty now - and this is probably going to be so untrue because I get so tired and can’t function on no sleep - but those moments when the clubs close and then someone goes, “Do you wanna come back to my house, we’re going to listen to music and dance around the kitchen?”, I want those moments as well! I really miss those.

Why are clubs important, in your opinion?

Tom - They bring everyone together, especially if you’re working all week. They bring a time to relax and destress, to have a bit of fun. Whether you’re at uni or working full time, you need that weekend to relax and let yourself go.

Manji - That release that you get when you’re in the moment - dancing to loud music with your friends and peers and just letting go - I feel like that’s a real human thing. It’s very important for people who want to be able to do that, to be able to do it.

Emily - For me, it’s a form of self-expression. I know a lot of people might be socially anxious in normal situations and mightn’t be as comfortable within day to day life, or people are stressed with work. It’s a way to let go, for everybody to get together and have fun. That’s so important because daily life can be so stressful. Being able to have fun, let loose and not care about anything for the night is vital.

Mala - I love music. It can bring everyone together, especially when it’s a whole group of people. It’s such a nice feeling making memories that you can’t anywhere else, at a festival or seeing a certain DJ.

Josh - Clubs are everything: in terms of celebrating DJs and producers, shining a light on new music, and showing what venues are capable of. They’re such a wonderful combination of so many different skillsets and creative people: whether that’s the people sorting the lighting, the sound, the actual talent on (in regards to the DJ). Clubs are the greatest combination of all of these things and such a melting pot of talent. For me, it’s the ability to celebrate that.

Simba - So many reasons, many of which I don’t think are overtly clear from the onset. If we look at getting to and from the clubs, people rely on taxi drivers, who have already expressed how they’ve got less of an income because less people are going out at night. At times like 2am, prices obviously surge, and this is where a lot of income appears from. Clubs are obviously important for bar staff, those who curate the line-ups, and the promoters too. As a student, promoting was a supplementary income for myself: you’d work on the door for clubs, ticket selling. It’s a whole financial income system for a lot of people when you think into it. There’s the bouncers too, a lot of people who haven’t had work - and due to the gig nature of that kind of work, have not had the furlough. A lot of people would be happy to have that income back. So I’d say financially, that’s why clubs are vital. For artists, clubs are important too. There’s a lot of music that hasn’t broken through because of the absence of clubs. Some tracks aren’t radio friendly, but still smash it because of the club. There are also DJs who aren’t producers, who haven’t got music on streaming services. Dancers, too. It’s just such a huge industry with a lot of people who find it so valuable.

Al - The clubs are like any sort of public meeting - a place where people have the chance to meet up with each other. They’re safe environments generally, and people can have a drink and just let themselves go, and get away from the crap you get in the week. They’re good, safe places for people to go and just be themselves.

Peter - Clubbing does many functions. I think the biggest is that it’s where like-minded people meet. You’re going to go to a garage night because that’s your vibe, or a house night because that’s how you’re feeling, and you get exposed to all of these different beats. What makes us human is to dance: it unifies us

TeTe - Clubs are important because they unify people and bring people together that wouldn’t normally interact day to day, and music gives people this amazing common ground. Music really does break down social barriers, political barriers. It’s so so powerful, and we take it for granted so much, because we’re surrounded by it all the time! I think that when it’s taken away from us, we recognise it, and that’s really obvious in people’s mental health and their wellbeing at the moment. I think people are really struggling, but I think that clubs have this historic ability to bring communities of people together.

Which DJ or party are you most looking forward to seeing and why?

Tom - That’s a tricky one! There’s so many DJs I want to see. I’d had summer 2020 planned to go on holiday in Spain, so seeing a massive DJ in Ibiza would be insane.

Manji - I’m part of the 24 Hour Garage Girls and I’m so excited to perform to a massive crowd and be part of that environment again. I can’t wait!

Emily - I’m going to be a bit biased here, but I’m so excited for House of Tech, the brand that I’m part of. We host nights at Distrikt in Leeds, and it’s a family occasion for me. I can’t wait to see the crew all back on it having a good time. We have some big plans in the works which will hopefully manage to bring some international DJs over, if restrictions are fully lifted. But yeah, absolutely House of Tech. A bit biased but I cannot wait to be back in Distrikt with everyone I know!

Mala - I’m going to Field Day in London to see Bicep, which I think is going to be insane. Listening to ‘Glue’, surrounded by friends and all there together will be incredible. Drunk in the sunshine, all together: it’s just so exciting.

Josh - Studio Barnus - a Swedish label - their night at Corsica. I don’t know if it’s actually scheduled yet, but they do an annual show there which has always been my favourite night to go to. They seem to have a really established following in London. Those nights are always special and I can’t imagine what it’ll be like now. It shines a light on Swedish house music and I think they’re one of the best labels around, so I think that’ll be the night I’m the most excited for.

Simba - For nostalgia, Leeds’ Beaverworks. I cannot wait to go back and I hope that they do a full month takeover with weeks of different themes, just to get it out of my system. There’s a lot of people and a lot of things I want to go to. I don’t think the funds will allow all of that though! I’m thinking: ‘I want to go everywhere’, and then I’m looking at the bank and it’s going ‘the facilities are not there, sorry’!

Al - I could be really big headed - but I’ve got a sold-out party that’s been cancelled three times now, with Sean Johnson. It was to be with Andrew Weatherall but of course he passed away, and then it’s been postponed, postponed, postponed.I’m just really hoping it can happen this time. It’s been over a year, so it would just be nice to get that done. I’ve been a bit reticent to buy tickets for anything, because anything I have done has ended up being cancelled or postponed, so I’d just rather wait until things are absolutely 100 per cent sure.

Peter - There’s people like Louie Vega, and I really miss Frankie Knuckles. He was our vibe and it’s a shame because he’s just left us with a wonderful body of work, but I wanted to go and see him play yet never got to. That’s kind of where my head is at.

TeTe - That’s such a hard question because there’s so many things I miss for so many different reasons. I miss dancing with Shape Shifters to ‘Lola’s Theme’ every weekend and I miss Glitterbox. I also miss my East London friends, and dancing around to Lady Gaga and pop music. I miss Sink The Pink, and I had a moment the other day where I thought “I just really fancy dancing to Purple Disco Machine,” because we used to dance to his music so much in a certain period of time at Glitterbox. I feel like I haven’t danced to him for ages. I want to go to them all!

Niamh Ingram is a freelance journalist, co-founder of The Gem Collective and Head Of Digital of Lippy. Follow her on Twitter

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