It’s 2025, in the past 5 years a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus has been distributed across all of the UK, people still carry travel-sized bottles of anti-bacterial gel in their handbags, but otherwise social norms have gone back to being somewhat ‘normal’. The economic effects of the pandemic are still taking their toll, but the radical changes in policy and planning are beginning to show their effects. In London, over a third of the office spaces in 2020 have been converted into other uses, with many professionals opting to work remotely. At the weekend friends go for drinks at the local pub, they mingle with strangers in the table next door without a care and after two, five, eight beers they all decide to head out to for a dance. Nightclubs are going strong now, with transmission no longer on people’s thoughts you can truly let yourself go on the dancefloor. The first few years were rough as most small venues were forced to close as the country went into recession. However, with the Rave Union working alongside the Music Venues Trust, appropriate spaces for dance venues were sought and designed, providing knowledge and life support for new businesses to open and old ones to return. Their advocacy work within policy and planning and their comprehensive technical toolkit has allowed for abandoned office and vacant commercial units to be easily appropriated for spaces of music and cultural production. With 2020 a distant memory, the city is thriving with dancers ready to spend a night away from reality and more and more event spaces are opening to facilitate. It’s 2025, I sit myself down on the front seat of the bus on the way home from the launch event of a new venue, I think back to September 2020, when I spent most of the summer worrying about graduating in the midst of a pandemic and the start of a recession, and I think to myself, ‘what a weird but perfect time it was to begin a career’.
CHANGING THE CONVERSATION
For the Unit 02 submission in December 2019 I proposed a union of dance venues to act as a common, united voice for the rave scene in order to be able to demand the right to space for nightclubs in the city. The need for such an association was evidenced after I pitched the proposition as an audience question at a panel discussion held at Fabric in November 2019, entitled ‘The Future of Club Culture’. For the following months into Unit 04 the union proposition fell into the shadows whilst the focus was on delivering a design project. Now, Unit 05 offers the opportunity to return to the union proposition to investigate the feasibility of such a proposition, and how it would favour in the real world of today.
In order to push the union and bring it to both the architectural and music industries the next, most important step for me to take is to organise my own event series that will sincerely and meaningfully delve deep into the topic. The organisational process has already broadened my network and will continue to do so as more stakeholders come on board. For this ambition to become reality I believed it was an appropriate time to professionally reconnect with my placement hosts, Futur Shock (previously FOLD(Lab)), a multi-disciplinary arts platform that is the not-for-profit side of nightclub FOLD. Pairing with Futur Shock to embed the discussion series within a wider arts events programme provides opportunity for the series to reach wider audience, engaging audiences from the art world as well as the architectural and music industries.
The organisation and planning work for this programme has been the primary focus of my Unit 05 work to build the groundwork for my practice. This has largely taken the form of producing the Arts Council Application for funding for the programme, which asks for information about the project under 4 categories: Quality, Public Engagement, Finance and Management. The ACE application forms the reader to short film ‘Policy, Pacman + Plague Raves' that offers a teaser of the conversations that will form the discussions. Both the film and snippets of the application can be found here.
From ACE Application: Quality -
‘An educational & multi-disciplinary event series exploring London’s club culture and its relationship with its external oppressors through a theme of ‘Re-Worlding’. An engagement with space, both physical & digital, will be the common focus throughout, combining spatial design with art & music by selecting sound, visual, digital & performance artists to contribute to a high-quality programme of performances, exhibitions & workshops (collaborating with Futur Shock), & a series of panel discussions that innovatively respond to law & policy, planning reform, pandemic & institutional inequality.’
unit 05 plan OF ACTION!
what actually happened...
It’s mid-September and restrictions are only tightening; it’s not looking like nightclubs will open again until 2021. The disappearance of my culture, my job, my friendship circles and my passion has been a huge emotional challenge to deal with throughout the pandemic and particularly Unit 05. With these businesses struggling to keep afloat the future of club culture is looking challenging. On one hand I ask myself ‘how can one look to start a union for a culture that no longer exists?’ On the other hand, the consequences of the pandemic could mean that this practice is particularly vital right now. In this time of uncertainty there is an amplitude of change occurring in planning and development and the government need to remember the lost industries that are vital to cultural and social production. I recognise that my expertise and skills I have acquired throughout the past two years are needed during this time, and the importance of helping to save such a beautiful culture must take priority in my future practice.
THINKING + RESEARCH
In August, mid unit 05, I attended a virtual discussion hosted by the Architecture Foundation, entitled ‘The Current and Future sound of London - Music and Money in the City’. In the past 2 years there has been numerous discussions about the direction UK rave culture is heading in, however this discussion was the first that spoke progressively of the role of design, policy and planning within the culture. Other discussions were typically hosted by organisations and professionals within the music industry and, perhaps consequently, have not been as progressive and productive as they need to be. In these talks, the topics of conversation typically revolved around material issues affecting venues and promoters, but any discussion of policy, planning and development was minimal with little understanding of the steps needed to change the situation. This has always been a frustration and a drive for me to consider planning my own series of events that actively discuss actions that can be done to push the conversation forwards.
This discussion with the Architecture Foundation, although only 1 hour long and thus not comprehensive enough, evolved my thinking about the union of venues to instead consider the partnership of spatial designers with the music industry. There was a strong discourse about the issues of legislation, planning and policy on rave culture and how they have been instrumental to the decline in venues over the past 20 years. Progressive discussions like this are necessary and need to continue with drive and innovation. The pairing of the architectural profession and the music industry will create a strong cross-disciplinary practice that is louder, more demanding and more effective than the internal conversations that are currently contained within each discipline.
Since the discussion I have contacted 4 of the participants on the panel to introduce myself and my work and grow my network, all of which were keen to remain connected and two of which I have met and to discuss my work and ambitions further. These figures have been key characters in developing my practice through Unit 05 and will likely remain as valuable connections to strengthen my practice going forwards.
Recording of the event can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM8K_lwLVtY
As an art school student and a professional with one foot in the architectural profession and another foot in the music industry, the intersection of art, space and music is where my future practice lies. The past 2 years has encouraged me to understand spatial design through a completely new lens, exploring a wide range of methodologies and skills to push the boundaries of traditional architecture to develop a practice that is right for me.
Two years, two installations, three films and one pandemic down, my confidence in my position within the city has significantly evolved. Throughout this degree I have explored methodologies of audio production, film making, large scale installation art (including a commissioned piece), aluminium sheet work and self-taught coding in order to make 1:1 scale programmable lights, all contributing to the development of my spatial design skills. Outside of my educational work I have set up a womxn-only DJ learning collective and played my first live DJ set at a small event. The course has given me a niche set of expertise in a field of study that desperate needs discovering and exploring further and the connections I have made through the course, particularly through Unit 05, have been instrumental in my development as a professional, giving me the confidence to speak with authority on the subject.
For me, my future practice is uncertain. It often feels like the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown away hopes of future stability in my practice. In the UK, both the hospitality and the performance sector have been hit particularly hard by lockdown and the ongoing effects of the pandemic. Seven months after the UK went into lockdown the nightclub industry is looking to be one of the worst affected sectors, with venues physically unable to operate with social distancing guidelines. Some venues have re-opened again with outdoor spaces or restricted seating, proving a somewhat compromised alternative to keep their businesses alive. A business model like this, however, is not a sustainable solution long term and disproportionately favours venues that have enough money and space to operate in such a way.