“Creativity often comes from a vacuum,” Red Bull Music Academy’s Lauren Martin posed to a panel of four young promotors before a small audience in London’s The Pickle Factory, “you are driven to create that which you cannot already access.” Such was the ethos behind the screening of Generation DIY – a series of five documentaries, produced with event technology platform Eventbrite, which profile creatives across five UK hubs all under the age of 25. London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow: these are cities which, though culturally and historically distinct, are strung together by young individuals and communities who are transforming nightlife from its grassy roots up. From theatre to club-nights, radio to musicians, poetry to comedy, conferences, campaigning and cooking, the near-thirty different groups and individuals featured across the documentaries illuminate the exciting variety of art in Britain.
Behind each film was the relationship between art and the infrastructure of the city, both physically and politically. For musicians and DJ collectives in Manchester – B.L.O.O.M, Funraising and David Burch of Ad Hoc – there was a frustration towards the council who, favouring high-rises over hedonism, are putting increasing pressure on the city’s clubs and venues. So, promotors adapt to this lack of traditional space in dynamic ways. Where Mancunians are turning to dive bars over pricier clubs, in Glasgow Forij take over the city’s abandoned enclaves for their gritty warehouse parties, and Where People Sleep host exhibitions in their own living rooms.
Beyond physical space, accessibility to culture and self expression – particularly those from marginalised communities – was also a driving force of Generation DIY's creativity. Promotors like London’s UNITI, Femme Culture and Bristol’s Concrete Jungyals are carving out safe clubbing spaces for LGBTQI+, non-binary and female-identifying partygoers, often without financial backing: “we’re young people first and foremost trying to survive in this city,” says UNITI’s Alice Bettinger. Intertwined with the rise of 'conscious clubbing’ propelled by abortion rights campaigners Room for Rebellion and Love for the Streets (who raise funds and awareness for Manchester’s homeless community), nightlife across the films is emphatically inclusive and community-driven.
In the following discussion, panelists Kaiya Milan (Off Balance), Isis O'Regan (Room for Rebellion) and David Gilbert (S+K Project) reflected on the struggles and rewards of starting out as independent promotors and artists. Also amongst them was Harjeet Sahota, Grime Activist, Trustee of Kado Projects and the previous Night Time Coordinator in the Mayor of London's office. She illuminated how the political and legislative cogs of government, though working in many areas for the betterment of nightlife (e.g. the recent scrapping of form 696), are often slow and met with resistance.
Nightlife in the UK is shaped by the meshing together of legislation, culture and the people who drive it forward. Where companies like Eventbrite can provide the support for event creators, connecting grassroots causes to both the right people and the right platforms, the dynamic and diverse future of UK culture is firmly rooted in the likes of Generation DIY. As Seshie from London's IAmNext sums: “it’s D.I.Y. or D.I.E.”
The London film is out now, and keep up with the remaining films are they are released over the next month: Bristol - 13th June, Glasgow - 20th June, Birmingham - 27th June, Manchester - 4th July. Find them on the Eventbrite website: http://bit.ly/GenerationDIY .
Words: Josie Roberts