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Green Light in the City

Silence of the Jams at Rough Trade

25 November 21 interview: Katie Lyle
photos: Daniel Hughes

Best friends Sarah Chapman, Frances Rooke and Kat Clayton created Silence of the Jams, a silent disco offering all round party tunes across three channels. Starting in the suburbs of Manchester, they are bringing their event to Notts for a night at Rough Trade on Saturday 4 December, and we had a chat with them about the event, and what can be expected… 

How did Silence of the Jams come about? 

Sarah: We still like to party as people in our mid to late thirties, but we were increasingly finding that places in Manchester just weren’t really for us anymore. We are not the demographic that people want. And we love silent discos, we’ve been to a fair few together and we used to go to quite a regular one. It got to the point where we were like, we should do this ourselves.

There’s an amazing club that is local to where all of us live that is a real community run place, so we approached them, they’ve got a long history of putting amazing nights on. The idea to party in the suburbs came forward, because we still want to go out but you might not fancy going into Manchester, obviously we are turning it on its head slightly by coming to Nottingham and doing it right in the centre of town but, I’m Notts born and raised but now live in Manchester, and all my friends at home, because I used to harp on about Silence of The Jams, said bring it to Nottingham because we don’t have anything like that here, so we were like cool, lets try it, lets see. 

Fran:  We've been to ones at the top of the Shard, at Glastonbury, at EXIT Festival in Serbia. We’ve been to loads. It was when we found out there was not one in Nottingham and we were like hmm, let's have a go. 

 

You have three channels, what kind of genres will be featured? 

Kat: We have a channel each and basically play whatever we want. Most silent discos define their channels by genre, but that was one of the things we knew we didn't want to do. By taking one each, they all get the same amount of love. What we do is we all just feed in too much love. We play whatever we want to play, we don't have any rules. It's just like, is it a banger? 

We have a big session where we sit down and we play our playlists to each other. And there's always a sort of two against one vote on whether something counts or not. Sarah plays a lot more emo, pop and R&B. Frannie likes a bit more ska, a bit more hair metal. I have a preference for slightly odd noughties dance, funk and disco. So there's a lot of intersection and there really is a lot of pop. 

Sarah: We have a vague rule that if someone's playing something a bit obscure or a bit lesser known on one channel, there needs to be a pop hit on the other one because there's nothing worse than looking around the room and seeing someone who has stopped dancing and flicking through all three channels and not feeling it.

We order them in a spreadsheet, it is a thing of beauty. It's really always seeing what's on each channel each time. So it can be like, that one's probably not going to be as much of a hit. So I'm going to move that here.

It's really nice when you look around the room and  you can see the people that are listening to your channel. The first time we played Papa Roach, it was just a bit of a throw away, but the place went off. We love it. We want to bring that energy to Nottingham. 

Fran: See which weird ones Nottingham likes.

 

What's the reception been like in Manchester? 

Sarah: We've got some real loyal followers which is incredible. There was one girl who came to the first one, she came on her own, danced the whole night and she's been to every single one since and she's not one of our friends that we coerced to come down, someone we didn’t know. 

We had a really lovely review after the last one from somebody who just said how safe and inclusive the night was, and how amazing it was that it was a female lead night, it was everything that we've been trying to put out there. We’re just really grateful. 

Even though it seems isolating because everyone's got their headphones on, it's actually way more communal.

Is there a reason why you picked Rough Trade as a venue? 

Sarah: I put it forward because I used to work in Wild. I started working there when I was seventeen, and worked on and off for a decade. It will always have a place in my heart. We used to go for drinks in Rough Trade bar, and the guy who used to own Wild had his sixtieth birthday there. And I was like, this is an incredible venue. So when we were sort of vaguely talking about the idea of going to Nottingham, there were a few places that we talked about and I was like, let me just speak to Rough Trade first and see if it's something they would even consider. And Sam, the events guy, was straight away like yep, sounds brilliant. Let's do it. And obviously it's right in the heart of the city, surrounded by such amazing bars. We can't wait to party there. 

Every venue has its capacity and we're not going to try and sell to capacity because we want people to be able to dance. It's all fun and games if you're there and you are having a nice time, but we find that people when they're in the silent disco tend to flail a lot.

Kat: People move around the floor a lot. There's a real breakdown between people's friendship groups. People just go and dance together and it's not just people that know each other. 

Sarah: Even though it seems isolating because everyone's got their headphones on, it's actually way more communal. 

 

When did Silence of the Jams Start, have you had to live through lockdown?

Fran: December 2018 was our first one, and we did them quarterly. The Saturday just before we went into lockdown, we had one of our biggest ever. Then we went into lockdown. And we were like, this is slightly disappointing because we were just really building momentum. But we did have a little kitchen disco playlist of people daily, which became about fifty hours worth of music.

Sarah: We had so many people saying to us, that was my last night out before the world ended, and we got a lot of positive feedback. It's such a shame because we were really psyched to make a name for ourselves and start to build things. And then obviously, it stopped for us as it did for everybody. We managed to pull off an online one where people could go into different breakout rooms on Zoom and listen to songs. It was a technical challenge. But we did it.

Have you had to think about what's going to go down well in Nottingham? Is it different? 

Kat: I've been thinking about that loads. And also, I think we always feel depending on who's bought tickets, we know groups of friends are coming or if we're aware that there might be an older crowd, we try and tailor it a bit. So I know a lot more uni friends are coming to this one. 

So I’m going ‘I was a student in the noughties. Just how much noughties pop can I put on one playlist?’ 

Fran: It's quite exciting as well, because I think there's some stuff that we trialled, maybe the first one or two in Manchester, that didn't go down as well. And then stuff that went really well. Because in Manchester, there's a kind of quite a lot of Manchester nights. There's a lot of Manchester bands, so we try to stay away from it. So we're not too cliche. Where it's very hard not to play straight cheese either, even though it's quite poppy and cheesy, we have a hard and fast rule. No cheese. Again, it's a selfish thing to a certain degree because it's stuff that we like.

 

If it goes down well, are you planning on carrying on doing events in Nottingham more regularly?

Sarah: I mean, I'd say yes, I would really like to think so because we have certainly had a healthy sale so far. And we haven't really done that much promotion. Obviously, we've corralled my friends, who are still living at home, but I'm just like, come on, you're the one to ask for it, you gotta come down.I would like to think that if it goes well, we would definitely do more. 

 

Silence of the Jams takes place in Rough Trade on Saturday 4 December. You can buy tickets here

 

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