will be a study of a night club in
Figure 1.1 –
Map of the
South West of
The most recent boost to
This massive influx of
students, with more yet still to come when the
new medical centre on the university campus fully opens later this
meant that the leisure industry in
(Bill Hackett, cited in Robinson, 2000:76).
However, the decline of
numbers in the Royal Navy has meant that this is
no longer the case, “today there are more students here than
the University has overtaken the Navy as the biggest employer in the
(Simpson, 2002). Most of the bottom end
“In the early nineties Union
Street became very much the hub of the Westcountry
rave scene, two clubs in particular led the way – the Dance Academy and
Warehouse” (Robinson, 2000). I personally
remember queuing for two hours to get into Warehouse, and speaking to
who had travelled from as far as
“People were coming from as far down as Land’s End as far up as Exeter, they were running buses from Exeter, Torquay, St Austell, three or four buses from each major town every time and of course this got into the major magazines, so people from further a field, Birmingham and London would come down to sample the nightlife” (Darren Cox cited in Robinson, 2000:96).
The Dance Academy is still a
relatively popular venue hosting the
monthly drum ‘n’ bass night “Legends of the Dark Black”, which draws in
crowds of mainly students as the club does not have a particularly good
for itself amongst the locals, due to the unfriendly attitude of the
the door staff. The Warehouse, where I
first experienced the joys of clubbing, sadly closed in 1997 and was
into what is now Millennium, a club that offers commercial music, all
drink for £10 and a rather dubious clientele comprised of
young people. It is, unfortunately, the
place to go for many of the
There are still a small
number of clubs and pubs on
The Bus Stop (the location for this study) is neither situated in the city centre or in particularly close proximity to the university (although within walking distance of both). I will investigate whether the club’s location has any bearing on its popularity later on.
· The Bus Stop
Figure 1.2 - Map to show the location of The Bus Stop
(Source: multimap.com, 2003) Scale 1:5,000.
A Background to Club Culture
This section will give a
background to nightclub culture as a youth
subculture. It will first be necessary
to look at the work of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural
(C.C.C.S.) which first developed the concept of youth subcultures and
on to how and why club culture developed and became what it is today,
Hall et al (1976) wanted to
examine why and how youth groups were
formed. Youth only really came into
existence after the second world war when, with the advances in
and technology, it was no longer necessary for people to go straight
working life at an early age and there was much more leisure time
available. There was no longer the
immediate jump from childhood to adulthood, but there was a transitory
in between when a child became an adult, they may have been continuing
studies or just enjoying life. This
period of life between childhood and adulthood became known as youth,
appeared as an emergent category in post-war
There is never just one culture, society is always split into different groups and there is always a dominant group. At the time when members of the C.C.C.S. were investigating youth cultures they believed that these different groups are always a result of different classes within society, “in modern societies, the most fundamental groups are the social classes” (Hall et al 1976:13) and the creation of youth subcultures was a response to the breaking down of class barriers at the time. Phil Cohen (1972) argued that, “when working-class communities are undergoing change and displacement – when the ‘parent culture’ is no longer cohesive – youth (and the focus here is always on working-class youth) responds by becoming subcultural. Subcultures thus become a means of expressing and, for Cohen, also ‘resolving’ the crisis of class” (Gelder 1997:84-85). This is no longer applicable in today’s society as class is no longer such an influential factor in societal groupings, but I will examine this further later on.
Hall et al (1976) identify five specific social changes that caused the creation of youth cultures. The first was the increasing affluence of youth, “the increased importance of the market and consumption, and the growth of ‘Youth-oriented’ leisure industries” (18), a specific market appeared purely to cater for the youth, supplying, for example, youth clothing and youth leisure opportunities as the youth were experiencing rising levels of disposable income. Secondly, the spread of culture due to increased communications led to, “the arrival of mass communications, mass entertainment, mass art and mass culture” (18). The most influential of all was the arrival of commercial television. This enabled the youth greater access to youth culture and “the means of ‘imitation’ and ‘manipulation’ on a national scale” (19). Thirdly, were the destructive effects of the war, it was felt that the breakdown in family life, caused by absent fathers, led to increased levels of youth delinquency. Fourthly, there were changes in education. “This interpretation pin-pointed two developments above all – ‘secondary education for all’ in age-specific schools, and the massive extension of higher education” (20). As mentioned earlier, the fact that people no longer had to go immediately to work at an early age meant that another life stage, between childhood and adulthood, was created, “subcultural youth may also replace a lost sense of working-class ‘community’ with subcultural ‘territory’ – a shift which is symptomatic of the relocation of youthful expression to the field of leisure rather than work” (Gelder 1997:85). Finally, there was a massive style explosion, a huge varying range of different ways to dress and different music to listen to led to the creation of a number of different cultures (or subcultures) within the main youth culture.
For so long as people have had leisure time there have been nightclubs in which to socialise and listen to music. However, the origins of the nightclub that would be recognisable to us today, with the DJ mixing vinyl records together for the clubbers to dance to, was in the gay disco scene of the late 1960s, early 1970s New York, with a man named Francis Grasso as the first modern DJ (Brewster and Broughton 1999). Disco was the start of the nightclub scene and soon discos were springing up all over the world,
“After the disco sound proved to be so irresistible, so universal and so effective, disco swept through the wider world like a new kind of fast food. It enjoyed a brief but near-total dominance of the global music machine, it made billions and it brought nightclubbing resolutely into the mainstream. In the process, it also changed much about the music business and the profession of the DJ”.
(Brewster and Broughton 1999:182-183)
Disco clubs were fun and funky, colourful and sparkly. They were the epitome of the gay scene, flamboyant clientele danced to funked-up party tunes and developed into the house music clubs around today.
In the mid to late 1970s hip-hop and break dancing were born in the Bronx of New York,
“The Bronx DJs … wanted to throw a better party than their rival up the block. In fact, they were creating an entirely new and revolutionary genre of music and sowing the seeds for several more… hip-hop is now a whole culture (indeed, ‘hip-hop’ is not now strictly synonymous with ‘rap music’; instead the term refers specifically to the cultural trinity of rap music, graffiti and break dancing)”. (Brewster and Broughton 1999:224)
The hip-hop parties started out on the streets and moved into derelict housing blocks, paving the way for the dark, dingy hip-hop clubs of today. Hip-hop has always been a ‘street’ thing with a macho attitude, “The rise of graffiti and break dancing offered less dangerous ways to express your male competitiveness” (Brewster and Broughton 1999:239). Break dancing ‘battles’ and graffiti ‘fights’ are still common place today within the hip-hop culture, “it’s weapons are sprayed words … this fight is between two graffiti artists and takes place on the wall (Macdonald 2001:1).
Disco died and next came
The style of music took its name from the club in which it
“the word ‘house’ came from the Warehouse [in
“A ‘house record’ could be one belonging to a particular club. It could be a song which simply ‘rocked the house’. A ‘house party’ was more intimate and friendly than a club, and of course ‘house’ conjured up the idea of family, of belonging to something special. If you were a part of it, house was your home”.
(Brewster and Broughton 1999:318)
Club culture, as we know it, was still yet to arrive in the UK, however, in 1985 house travelled from Chicago to London, “no one in Chicago had expected their music to have an impact outside of the city, but it was in the UK that this music would rise it’s greatest heights” (Brewster and Broughton 1999:338) and ‘Acid House’ was born.
Acid House gave rise to rave culture, which
was probably the biggest subcultural explosion in
“This section applies to a gathering on land in the open air of 100 or more persons (whether or not trespassers) at which amplified music is played during the night (with or without intermissions) and is such as, by reason of its loudness and duration and the time at which it is played, is likely to cause serious distress to the inhabitants of the locality; and for this purpose:
(a) such a gathering continues during intermissions in the music and, where the gathering extends over several days, throughout the period during which amplified music is played at night (with or without intermissions); and
(b) "music" includes sounds wholly or predominantly characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.
A constable in uniform who reasonably suspects that a person is committing an offence under this section may arrest him without a warrant.”
(The British Government, 1994).
The act was passed in 1994 and “although other youth movements had inspired new legislation, never before, over years of post-war moral panics about the activities of Teddy Boys, Mods, Hippies and Punks, had a government considered young people’s music so subversive as to prohibit it” (Collin 1998:223).
The music was
forced back into clubs and the
Clubs are so important to youth cultures of today, which club you go to defines who you are. A club will have its own style of music, dress, clientele and décor with certain stereo-types attached to these factors to define those who frequent the clubs. The club space in turn is influenced by all of these factors to make it what it is. Each club is different, they may play the same styles of music but even at the most basic, the venue will be different, clubs are now housed in all sorts of buildings from old cinemas to purpose built clubs and this in itself will differentiate one club from another. Each club will have its own specific clientele, groups of young people will nearly always have one favourite club, especially in smaller towns or cities where there is only a few clubs to choose from, with maybe only one club playing their favourite style of music and all of this will differ depending on which town or city you are in, as Thornton notes, “although club culture is a global phenomenon, it is at the same time firmly rooted in the local. Dance records and club clothes may be easily imported and national, but dance crowds tend to be municipal, regional and national” (1995:3). Some clubs are seen as ‘cool’ others not so cool and some as dives, but again this will differ depending on who you are speaking to. The same as certain clubs are given labels as to how cool they are, or not as the case may be, so will those who frequent them.
I wanted to investigate these issues further, what is it that makes a space a club space? Does the club define those who frequent it or do the clientele define the club? How much effect does the décor of a club have on its coolness rating? Why do people frequent particular clubs? What is more important, the social or the music? I intend to answer all of these questions in this study and hopefully understand further the importance of club culture to today’s youth.