A new exhibition celebrates the importance of nightlife by showcasing photos of East London rave culture in the 80’s and 90’s.

Credit: Dave Swindells

It’s common knowledge that the trendy restaurants, quirky bars and popular nightclubs of East London are only a recent development. The area may now be buzzing with young creative talent but, prior to regeneration, places like Shoreditch and Hoxton Square were considered “derelict urban wasteland”. Nowadays, anyone looking to party in London is pretty likely to end up in East, but it was the good timers of 30 years ago that paved the way for the creation of the city’s best late night spots.

Brand new exhibition Origins East is showcasing photographs that document how the British rave culture of the 80’s and its evolution into 90’s nightlife enabled the awakening of Shoreditch and Hoxton Square. Work taken from the YOUTH CLUB Archive by prolific photographers Dave Swindells, Gavin Watson, Adam Friedman and Teddy Fitzhugh offer exhibition goers a peek inside the parties of the past like never before. The photographs are a welcome celebration of nightlife and self-expression in the wake of relentless club closures. The depiction of the defining days of rave culture, acid jazz and bhangra are guaranteed to make you smile.

We know there aren’t many reasons to get out of bed on the weekend, but believe us, this is one. One look at the happy, care free ravers of those golden years and we guarantee you’ll want to venture out again on Saturday night, even if you’ve had a heavy one the night before. Given that Origins East is being shown at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, there’s also no reason why you can’t grab a Bloody Mary beforehand.

We caught up with Jamie Brett from the YOUTH CLUB Archive to find out a little more…

Credit: Teddy Fitzhugh

What spurred the decision to display these photographs now?

We’re moving into uncertain times both politically and culturally. With the election of Sadiq Khan as London Mayor we’re promised the safeguarding of our nightlife whilst we’re currently facing a series of relentless nightclub closures. As YOUTH CLUB is dedicated to sharing, preserving and celebrating youth culture history, we felt it was perfect time to partner up with Hoxton Square Bar to really showcase the energy and DIY attitude that makes London’s nightlife worth preserving, protecting and nurturing for future generations.

What can viewers learn about London that they may not have already known?

Origins East showcases a selection of images that have never been paired together before, from suburban raves and Old Street warehouse parties to the height of inner London rave culture, the exhibition has been carefully curated to showcase the energy, styles and nightlife pioneers who made going out what it is today. The exhibition has a heavy focus on the role of Hoxton Square in making Shoreditch a nightlife destination, and viewers will see a side of the area from way back in the 1990s when Blue Note appeared on the square playing a pivotal role in scenes such as Bhangra (Anokha) and Drum and Bass (Metalheadz).

Do you have a particular favourite photograph?

It’s an incredibly tough one but I think if I had to pick an image that stuck out to me within the space it would be the Bhangra girl at Blue Note by Adam Friedman. The image really breaks up the selection with it’s luminous colour and reflects a real sense of innocence and fun that brought a wider demographic of people together into such a small space than ever before. It feels very London to me.

Would you say that East London has still retained its eccentricity and individuality despite the regeneration and gentrification of the area in recent years?

Definitely, I think that young people are just as eager as ever to express themselves and work together to celebrate and document nightlife however Origins East is a bit a call to action to ensure that club closures and mass developments don’t work to further endanger self expression or smother the organic progression of nightlife as we know it.

How do you think the nightlife landscape has changed over the last 30 to 40 years in East London and would you agree with recent suggestions that the British nightclub scene is dying off?

Hearing from the photographers who photographed these movements towards East London, it seems fair to say that the area has experienced a complete metamorphosis in terms of the way it is enjoyed by Londoners. When we look at the image of the Old Street warehouse party by Dave Swindells, it seems unimaginable to think of anywhere abandoned within London’s (now) prime real estate. It’s hard to speculate on the British nightclub scene dying off, but when movements are suppressed they don’t disappear but they move underground into a form of counterculture. With organisations such as the Night Time Industries Association working to protect the future of night time establishments, I think we’re pretty well equipped to put up a good fight.

Credit: Dave Swindells

Credit: Adam Friedman

Credit: Gavin Watson

Origins East runs from 7th July- 22nd August at London’s Hoxton Bar & Kitchen.

Kathleen Johnston

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