August 30, 2009 by DJ Elroy
Ravers hit Facebook for 1990s club revivals
Veteran ravers of Cream, Venus, Haçienda, Vague and Shelley’s are reliving the 1990s club scene through social networking
words by Chris Cottingham~
It began as a bit of common-or-garden nostalgia. Two years ago, Ian Squire was spending Friday night at home with his wife, Stacey, in Nottingham. They were listening to classic club tracks from the early 1990s, songs such as Too Blind to See It, by Kym Sims, Don’t You Wanna Be Mine, by Denise Lopez, and Rhythm Is a Mystery, by K-Klass. They started reminiscing about Venus, the early-1990s club night in Nottingham where they’d both been regulars. “If I’m honest, I’d had a couple of beers,” says Squire, now a 37-year-old lab supervisor and father of four. “I decided to start a Facebook group called Let’s Have a Venus, the UK’s First Super Club Revival in Nottingham. We just wanted to see if there was any interest from people who used to go to Venus, but for various reasons had lost touch, and if they felt the same way we did.”
The next day, Squire had forgotten about it — but he had struck a chord. The Venus Facebook group snowballed and now has nearly 800 members. It’s just one of numerous Facebook groups dedicated to clubs from the 1980s and 1990s. Think of a club from that era and the chances are that there’s an online community of ex-ravers in their thirties and forties, swapping stories, meeting old friends and organising reunions. There are groups celebrating the original incarnation of Cream, the Liverpool night that defined the term “superclub” from 1992 to 2002; Vague, in Leeds, which championed “handbag house” in the mid-1990s; and Shelley’s Laserdome, in Stoke-on-Trent, a pivotal venue on the early-1990s rave scene. By far the largest is Fac 51, dedicated to Manchester’s Haçienda, which has more than 6,000 members.
It’s not hard to see the attraction. Acid-house culture was built on interlocking networks of clubbers. Social networking taps into the same sense of community. As with all reunions, the starting point is the opportunity to catch up with old friends, although, in this instance, friends whose names you don’t always know. Sam Bunbury, founder of the 1,600-strong Cream group, finally discovered that an old clubbing companion he previously knew only as “Orange Boy” (because he wore an all-orange outfit every week) was in fact plain old Richard. As Paul Senior, who oversees 1,300 fans of Shelley’s Laserdome, laughs: “You never really knew people’s names back then, just their faces.”
The trend is more than old friends e-mailing each other with the thud of dance music in the background. Facebook has been the starting point for numerous reboots of defunct clubbing brands. In the past year, there have been nights organised by veterans of Venus, Vague and Shelley’s, as well as events dedicated to less famous venues such as the Hippodrome in Middleton, on the outskirts of Manchester, and Quadrant Park, a hangar-like rave mecca in the Liverpool suburb of Bootle. In turn, DJs and dance producers who thought their time had long since passed have suddenly found an audience again.
In the case of the Haçienda, nostalgia has morphed into something else entirely. The club shut in 1997, after losing its entertainment licence, and the building was demolished in 2002 to make way for upmarket flats. Fuelled by a growing number of Facebook and MySpace friends, however, it has become a contemporary club brand — one with considerably more reach than the club it’s named after. As well as regular nights in the UK with original Haçienda DJs, including Jon DaSilva, Mike Pickering and Graeme Park, there are events around the globe. This month, you can attend the Haçienda in Mexico City, Trakai Castle, in Lithuania, and the Peruvian capital, Lima. New Order’s Peter Hook must be pleased. Earlier this year, the bassist revealed that he and his bandmates poured £30m into the club, a misjudged investment that presumably informs the title of his forthcoming book, How Not to Run a Club. Now, as the owner of the Haçienda brand name, he’s finally seeing a return on his money.
If the enthusiasm is still there, other things have changed. One veteran of the Manchester club Luv Dup, who wishes to remain nameless, recalls a recent reunion. The event was held on a canal boat. As he walked up, he saw one of the DJs through a porthole. “I recognised him immediately. The only thing that was different was that he had a pot belly.”
There are practical considerations, too. Squire explains: “The three Venus reunions we’ve had were great nights, but we made the decision to keep them to once or twice a year. After all, finding a good baby-sitter can be hard work.” He pauses for a moment. “The main attraction, I think, is that we all need to feel like we did when we first heard that amazing track, when we all shared that joke, when we felt free.”
No wonder he wants to relive the dream, even if, most of the time, it is virtual.