As part of a new piece of research looking into the influence of dance music on urban regeneration, Richard Anderson asks us to look back to the good times, the better times, the times that will happen again. But, importantly, where?
Remember dancing? I’ve been going out dancing for years. I’m not a good dancer, but I am an enthusiastic dancer. So, it made sense that, in October 2019, I began researching Liverpool’s dance music scenes.
I was particularly interested in the emergence of smaller clubs and party events that sprung up outside the city centre, generally in the decade following the 2008 Capital of Culture. Through this Arts and Humanities Research Council project running at the University of Liverpool, I’m also looking at the term ‘underground’ as it is used in dance music scenes. What does that mean to the people in these scenes? And what ties its association to certain venue spaces?
As has been documented numerous times in Bido Lito!, the spaces in which we dance and socialise together always seem to be under imminent threat of closure. Music happenings in previously unfashionable zones on the city’s periphery inject an aura of cool into an area, only to find themselves being crowbarred out as property developers transform vibrant nights out into luxury apartments.
But what does this mean to the people who dance in these spaces? My research was initially aimed at trying to understand people’s attitudes towards going out dancing, and the cultural relevance of club scenes. It is still about that, although the global pandemic has had a huge impact on night-time economies.
Literally everything I aimed to study has been shut since March 2020. And we know nightclubs will be the last places to reopen. Social dancing takes place almost exclusively in environments in which the physical closeness of other dancers is key to the experience. Dancefloors get hot. People sweat. The poorly circulated air becomes thick. They are loud. We shout to be heard. We expel. Not just air, but our cares. Many people work hard all week just for these weekend experiences. Not just for the music booming over dedicated rigs, but for the other people we share these dark, sweaty boxes with.
The pandemic has stopped us all dancing, but it has not stopped the construction sites in the Baltic Triangle. That threat to culture moves on relentlessly. Some spaces many of us have happy memories of dancing in are no longer there.
My research has pivoted, out of necessity, to capture not just the impacts of gentrification on our city’s scene, but also the existential threat that Covid-19 has brought to bear. Dancing will be the last thing to restart. We miss this. Yet, our enthusiasm for dancing is unlikely to have been diminished.
I’ve created an online survey to try to gather people’s thoughts on dancing. I want to hear from anyone who attends dance music events – any style, any genre. Anyone who, before Covid-19, went out to dance – regularly or just once in a blue moon.
The survey will attempt to discover patterns relating to how often, what venues, what nights people attended before the pandemic; their attitudes towards certain types of clubs and venues; what people think about ‘the underground’ and also thoughts on how dance music events might be impacted in the future, after coronavirus; how do clubbers anticipate scenes re-emerging and adapting to the challenges of the pandemic?
So, I’m asking fellow clubbers, party heads, old-school ravers and disco queens for a moment of their time to complete the anonymous online survey [link at bottom of the article].
I hope that the findings of this research project will be of interest not only to club owners, promoters and DJs, but also city planners, cultural institutions and the Liverpool City Region Music Board. Its aim is to shed light on dance music’s influence on urban regeneration, cultural participation and the artistic make-up of a city.
Participation in this study is completely voluntary and completely anonymous.