From disco to disco, tens of thousands of us across the country spend our Saturday nights in various states of disrepair, propping up the bar and filling the dancefloors of clubs from London to Llandudno via Liverpool and Lyme Regis. Each of us seeks something different from those communiques with sound and vision, but one constant remains, well, constant: nightlife, and nightclubs are a permanent fixture in the cultural landscape of the young, and not-so-young, Briton.
25-year-old graphic designer Will Calder’s latest self-initiated project is a rich, varied, and gorgeously assembled love letter to the past 30 years of British rave culture. Clubland is, Will tells us, an attempt to, “represent club culture in a positive way and depict it as the rich subculture that it is, something that should be cherished and encouraged. Britain is steeped in clubbing history but for some reason, on the whole, doesn’t seem to want to celebrate that.”
The designer’s first forays into clubbing came nearly a decade ago. He and a few friends would hop on a train from their hometown of Reading for nights out in the capital, with clubs like Ministry of Sound and the now-closed Cable being regular haunts. He describes those early, eye-opening experiences as “quite overwhelming.”
That sense of being overawed by the sheer physicality of being in a proper club, with its strobes and smoke machines and stacks of speakers, will be familiar to most of you reading this. In fact, it is one of the things that sends us back into those dark rooms weekend after weekend. It is, in many ways, a link to the past. And that communique with history is something that spurred Will onto creating Clubland.“What happened in the late 80s and early 90s has had such an impact on where nightlife is today that I felt that was where I should begin to underpin that message. Also from a visual perspective, I love everything that comes with club culture from that era,” he tells It’s Nice That.
The publication features a plethora of fascinating – and good looking – insights into the past, present, and possible future of UK nightlife. Will tapped up Dave Swindells, one of British nightlife’s most celebrated and storied photographers, for a feature. “That’s one of my favourites,” he says. “The photos represent an era and there’s a real nostalgic quality to them. I’m just fascinated by images from back then. It was a really great opportunity to be able to interview Dave for the feature and hear first hand some of the stories behind them. I had prepared some questions and expected it to be quite a short interview but we actually ended up being on the phone for over an hour.”
Another of Will’s favourites is a photo essay that captures clubs after the night has ended, but before the clean-up operation has begun in earnest. “In a technical sense, they are different to most of the photography within the publication as they are shot digitally. What makes them different is the distinct absence of any people, making the clubs appear to be quite desolate spaces. I really like how these photographs tell the story of the night that has just ended. Being bang in the middle of the publication it comes almost like a pause for thought.”
Blending a retro-futurist DIY approach with cutting edge and contemporary aesthetics, Clubland is a publication to treasure for those of us who dream of Ricardo Villalobos, the Pickle Factory, and PLO Man mixes.
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