TRCH Priscilla

Department For Dance Has Found A New Place to Groove

30 September 19 words: Eileen Pegg

The drinks might be cheap but there's more to this night than just boozin'. We chat to the founder to see what this new event is all abaht. 

There certainly is a lot poppin’ off right now and 4th October is one of those dates where you wish you could clone themselves thanks to the choice of brilliant things to do that night. One of these is Department for Dance, which will be launching its inaugural event at Arkwright Studios from 7pm, with proceeds going to support UniteTheUnion.

After spending his teenage years dreaming of organising woodland parties that never came off, now at 19 years old Charlie Alexander’s ideas have matured, leading to the new night. His friends Felix Butterwick and Alfie Rowley-Stone complete the team, bringing art, promotion and technical expertise to the mix. While you may have spotted them playing at the first Select Sounds pop-up record shop, the party this October is the first fully-fledged night from the brand.

Billed as an “intimate, sensory disco with a line-up crafted of some of Nottingham’s home-grown party enthusiasts,” and using a venue that’s been previously untouched by other promoters, it’s clear that this night was born from a desire to do something different. After chatting with its founder Charlie I couldn’t help but recognise this spirit, following in the footsteps of last year’s Wild Brunch, who fused live art with new spaces and Quake, who also paid special attention to the overall experience of the night - something Charlie echoed when asking about his inspirations and influences:

“Quake’s Sofie K night at Bar Eleven really opened my mind - I’d never heard the Italio Disco and the other types of music they’d played there and it was a refreshing change to the usual kick-drum heavy house stuff. The decor in there was so nice too, so it gave me ideas about using a space creatively. 

“I’m also in love with Jam Cafe. It’s a place where the ethos that track selection is key to a good DJ set is quite poignant, and I agree with that. When we went there at Pride we heard ASA (Hudson) play and his set really sold it to me.”

A track selected to showcase the sound to expect from the first night.

Aside from Nottingham, the set-up of Dekmantel Festival and Boiler Room shows are also popular with Charlie, and he’s choosing to place his DJs in the centre of the room, allowing dancers to break free from the usual ‘front facing’ scenario.

Next, we chat about the venue, with DFD opening the doors to Arkwright Studios - a place that you may have been before, but not in this context:

“I was so set on the idea of finding somewhere new, and first started looking at listed buildings but it wasn’t quite right. As part of this process I had a list of potential places we could use, with a percentage next to it that showed how likely it was that I’d get it. Arkwright was actually one of the lowest ones, but Samantha has been really lovely in getting it up and running.

“I’d been there to see a play many years ago… it’s used for all sorts of stuff like shooting music videos, fashion shows and so on, but this is one of their first ticketed events.”

A track selected to showcase the sound to expect from the first night.

With new ventures comes new challenges, and for Charlie this meant taking on the task of organsing a bar, much to the punter’s benefit:

“I had to arrange a licence and source the stock. While I was doing this, I worked out that we could actually sell the drinks for a lower price, and still make enough to break even and make some extra to support our charity too. Before 8:30pm, everything will be £2 and after that, only spirits will go up to £3. We’re hoping it will help to encourage people to come down earlier too, rather than getting steaming at home first to save cash.” 

Whenever any new night comes along, many are eager to get a taste of what type of music to expect. With DFD it’s clear that they favour an organic approach, focussing less on the heavy-hitting rave type sounds, and allowing its DJs to flow with the room:

“Brad and Jim (from Quake) will be playing 9-11pm, followed by ASA. I didn’t want to pre-empt or control the music too much; it’s all circumstantial. As a base, you can probably expect sounds like disco, Italio disco, world music and so on. ASA loves new romantic tunes from the 80s era too and you might even hear some post-punk type tracks as well.

“To kick things off, myself, Alfie, Alfie (Leavy) and Felix will be there too with a bag of records. I don’t want to force people to dance early doors if that’s not their thing - as long as people come, have a drink, chat, socialise and see where the night takes them.”

A track selected to showcase the sound to expect from the first night.

After mentioning the picture he’s painting sounds like an intimate pre-drinks scenario at a friend’s house, he agrees. However, one thing to take it firmly out of the house party category will be the sensory element that has undoubtedly caught many people’s attention. Artist Susannah Wheatcroft has been invited to takeover the industrial warehouse space, creating psychedelic visual delights using lights, mirrors and more.

A design to show some of the visual elements of the night.

Projections from Alfie Ramskill-Pugh are also part of the plan, using versions of the character that’s seen on the event’s flyers and graphics. We can expect lots of plants and foliage too:

“We want it to be a combination of art and music. It’ll be a weird mixture to keep people entertained, without being overwhelming. We want it to be an immersive adventure, to take people away from their stresses and work, home or whatever. I want people to feel free to talk to people, and know that everyone there is on the same wavelength. 

People really do make the party - if you fill a room with a crowd who want to be there, then you can’t really go wrong. Often, people will arrive to a party with their group of mates and stick with them. I think it’s a shame and a real problem in nightlife. I want people to know it will be a nice, accepting crowd and people will be up for a chat.”

The Pilot: Department For Dance launches on 4th October at Arkwright Studios, from 7pm - 1am.

Facebook event.

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