Wire Club, a basement nestled in Leeds centre specialising in underground dance music, is one of the many clubs within the UK that have suffered throughout the whole of the pandemic due to being unable to open. With the 21st of June fast approaching, the anticipation is high on whether or not we can return to dance floors again. With the likes of Ben UFO, Shanti Celeste, Andrew Weatherhall, Joy Orbison and Sherelle having been through Wire’s doors, the club’s event programmer and marketing manager Josh Bayat, reminisces on past nights and discusses what the future holds for nightclubs, in the wake of the pandemic.
Over the course of the lockdown period, have you decided on any new plans or approaches for when the clubs re-open?
Since we closed last March there’s been a lot of time for reflection. Obviously there are a number of societal issues that intersect massively with club culture and in hindsight I don’t think we’ve been doing nearly enough as we could to make Wire wholly welcoming to everyone.
I’m really happy with the bookings we’ve been making, and have planned for the future, alongside our safer spaces policy, but that’s basically the bare minimum really isn’t it? Moving on once we open we’ve got plans to invest in training surrounding race, sexual harassment prevention and LGBTQ+ awareness for our club staff and we’ll be looking to actively forge links with local communities outside of our typical student clientele through workshops and work experience opportunities.
Ultimately we need to be asking ourselves a number of things. “How can we make Wire a safe space for everyone?” “Are we truly welcoming to marginalised groups?” Are we really receptive to everyone’s needs?” I think as long as we’re consistently having these conversations with ourselves, and are committed to getting it right, then I think we’ll be on the right track.
Do you find that Wire’s clientele is mostly community such as people from in and around Leeds or is it sort of different every time?
Naturally our typical crowd is mostly made up of students, especially for our midweek events. It’s a bit of a shame really as we regularly have some top DJ’s playing our midweek nights and I always wonder how much of it people local to Leeds miss out on if they can’t commit because of work or anything else.
For our bigger events you do get the odd group that travel quite far to come up though. At our birthday last February there were a group of lads that jumped on the train straight after work from Kent to come and pay on the door! It’s always really nice chatting to people who come to Wire for the first time because I think it’s really easy to take for granted just how good a club it is and how lucky we are to have it on our doorstep.
What are you looking forward to most if 21st June goes ahead?
I think just listening to tunes on a huge system in a basement surrounded by people dancing (rather than on my monitors alone in the flat) will be amazing. More than anything I just think it’s going to be such a relief when I walk into a club and not see tables and chairs on the dancefloor!
How did you first get involved with Wire?
It was just by chance I had seen on Twitter that they were looking for club staff about 8 years ago. I applied and went over for a trial shift and I actually broke their glass-wash after about 10 minutes of being there and thought I was going to get the sack on the spot.
Coming to the end of my time at Leeds Uni after a placement in London working for a gig promoter, I got talking to one of the guys who did the club programming for Wire at the time. It turned out there was scope to put some nights on, so I started a club night there called Small Talk. I ran a couple of parties initially, the first being with Peach & D.Tiffany, and the second one was a collaboration with Idle Hands featuring Shanti Celeste and Chris Farrell. They both went really well and following a few more club nights there I was asked to come on as their booker.
So yeah I basically started off glass collecting and then hung around long enough so they couldn’t get rid of me.
March 23rd 2020, the UK went into a national lockdown. How did you guys take the news?
It goes without saying that we were all gutted, but there was actually a lot of relief that came with the announcement as well. If you think back to that period there was so much uncertainty about what was going to happen with our sector. Officially the advice was that clubs were allowed to stay open, but people were advised not to go. Ourselves, artists, promoters and punters were all concerned with issues surrounding safety and transmission, but we were offered no help or guidance from the government and really were left to fend for ourselves against the growing uncertainty. As soon as the government actually clarified we were in a lockdown it at least drew a line under the position we were in and enabled us to start planning our next steps rather than existing in limbo how we were before.
How did the podcast series begin? What are your future plans for it?
We’d actually had it planned for a while, and given how little we had on at it felt like the right time to do it. Our main priority has been keeping the guests consistently interesting and in line with the bookings we make at the club. Call Super, Elijah and Vladimir Ivkovic have all been amazing guests and I’m really happy with how it’s shaping up. My only gripe so far is that because of scheduling conflicts we’ve not been able to feature a female guest as of yet, however we do have some really interesting women lined up to take part soon!
Aside from that we’re also looking at starting up Wire’s label which I’m really excited about and has been a long time coming. We’ll be looking to release a number of four track V/A's for each release featuring a mix of local Leeds producers alongside some of our favourite artists. There’ll be more info coming soon on that as well for anyone looking to submit demos!
Tell me one of your favourite/memorable nights at Wire.
The 10-10 birthday party we did last year has to be up there. It was something that myself and Oli (our current podcast host and former social media wiz) had been talking about doing for a while and we had loads of fun putting it together. I was actually really nervous beforehand about trying to run a more European style of party, but it actually worked really well and we have a few more planned for the immediate future too.
A close second would be when we had Andrew Weatherhall play an all nighter back in November 2019. Looking back, having had him play so close to his passing is something we are all really grateful for, he really was at his best that night and I think everyone there knew they were seeing something really special.
List 3 of your favourite artists that have performed at Wire.
Andrew Weatherhall has to be in there for sure, like I said before it really was such a special night when he played so it would be criminal to leave him out of here. Helena Hauff has to be in here too. She’s been one of my favourite DJ’s for ages and I love her label Return to Disorder. Whenever she plays in Wire it’s always a massive treat!
Just for sentimental reasons I think I’ll go with Peach for my last pick. Peach was the first artist I booked at Wire and I’m really proud to say she’s now our first ever resident. Her latest RA mix that was out a little while ago is top drawer and all of her production is super slick.
Name some artists you are hoping to see perform at the club?
A big one for me would be Steve Marie from OPAQ and Libertine. I think he’s such a classy producer and I’ve never had the chance to see him play anywhere so it would be amazing to book him at Wire.
I’d also love to bring Traxx over from the states. His body of work as an artist is nothing short of incredible and I reckon he would be a really refreshing artist to have at Wire.
What are your thoughts on the Leeds nightclub / electronic music scene overall?
Luckily we’ve never been stuck for really interesting parties and outlets in Leeds. I feel really grateful to have lived here for the past eight years and I really do think we have a scene to rival lots of places worldwide.
The only thing I would really like to see is a wider variety of promoter running events and other projects in the city. For lots of people the financial burden that comes at every stage of running an event is too much to take on, and it seems as if largely it’s mainly those from a middle to upper middle class background who are putting events on in Leeds currently.
Right now we’re looking at a number of different ways to facilitate some change with regards to this. To be honest it would make me really happy if we were able to offer some meaningful help to people from any marginalised group who felt excluded from participating within the scene here.