For February’s characteristic interview, we spoke to DJ Holly Lester and Boyd Sleator. The duo run ‘Free The Night time,’ a Northern Eire campaigning organisation, main the way in which in dance music activism.
A mixture of lack of infrastructure, the conservative nature of Northern Irish politics and probably the most restrictive licensing legal guidelines in Europe imply that Northern Eire’s (NI) DJ tradition and clubbing group have been held again from reaching their full potential.
The non-profit organisation Free The Night time purpose to vary that, by means of a rigorously thought-out technique of lobbying and advocacy. We spoke with co-founders DJ Holly Lester and Boyd Sleator about how dance music can organise to vary the established order, and about their inclusive and efficient mannequin of dance music activism.
Who’re Holly Lester and Boyd Sleator?
Boyd Sleator: Co-founder Boyd is a self-described “outdated raver”, who for the final seven years has labored professionally campaigning for social change. Along with his work with Free The Night time, he’s additionally a Improvement Officer for the human rights charity Humanists UK.
Holly Lester: DJ, runs her Duality Trax label, has been DJing since she was 14, for “principally half my life”. Holly additionally works in radio and dabbles in music manufacturing, in addition to her lobbying and advocacy work for Free The Night time.
Assault: Free The Night time is “dedicated to making a protected, progressive and wealthy nightlife setting for NI” – does this imply that NI doesn’t at the moment have a protected, progressive and wealthy nightlife setting?
Boyd: That will be true to some extent. It might be a lot a lot better. NI has a wealthy tapestry of tradition and humanities, some very divisive as I’m positive you’re conscious! However we now have an incredible music scene with wonderful artists and expertise. The issue is that the assist construction and infrastructure for our tradition to exist is changing into weaker and weaker.
And we now have a extremely conservative authorities in place too. You realize, we make jokes in Eire about locking up the swings on a Sunday, however that used to occur, they used to lock play parks up on Sunday afternoons and we nonetheless have a really conservative nation when it comes to our laws!
That doesn’t imply that the persons are conservative – NI, I’d argue, is changing into one of the crucial progressive elements of the UK – however because it stands, our laws doesn’t mirror that. So we now have closing instances for music and pubs at 3 am, that’s the newest they’ll have the ability to keep open to. In the course of the latest authorities licensing overview, they really mentioned lowering this to 2 am.
However these are our cultural rights – dance flooring – these locations are the place we now have fellowship and group. And we actually want to consider how this may be progressed when it comes to fairness and equality.
So the licensing legal guidelines in NI are completely different from the remainder of the UK?
Boyd: Sure, we now have completely completely different licensing legal guidelines in NI. It’s a 2 am end for serving alcohol and at 3 am the venue closes. To remain open until 5 am you must cease serving alcohol at 11 so it simply doesn’t occur. Twenty-five years in the past we used to have the ability to discover venues that went to six within the morning, that had been ‘form of authorized’! However now the scene’s very completely different when it comes to its professionalism.
Now, a variety of the promoters in Northern Eire placed on these wonderful nights in an extremely skilled approach though there may be little or no assist or financial acquire for them. And, though occasions have change into extra inclusive, safer and higher organised with unbelievable native and worldwide expertise enjoying right here, the outlook on the scene remains to be the identical from the eyes of the federal government because it was 25 years in the past.
Inform us a bit extra concerning the transport situation in NI.
Holly: By 11 pm, just about all public transport stops operating in lots of areas all through NI, there aren’t even direct routes to the airports. It’s very tough for folks to come back into our cities from extra rural areas, which is the place I’m from initially. Tackling the general public transport situation wasn’t one among our preliminary goals, nevertheless it has change into one since being raised regularly to us by means of our on-line discussions and varied different conferences.
And so clearly these infrastructure points have an effect on DJ and membership tradition…
Holly: Completely. For me personally for instance, I lived in a rural city simply exterior of Armagh and I’d have struggled to get to town the place many of the nightlife and larger occasions would have been occurring.
I really needed to transfer away, like most individuals do right here as a way to attempt to additional their profession. There’s an actual situation with the ‘inventive drain’ right here due to transport points affecting folks’s profession alternatives, after which additionally because of a normal lack of infrastructure for these creatives.
Then you may have all of the political points which might be distinctive to Northern Eire and a traditionally backward perspective from the federal government. We wish to change that, attempt to create an infrastructure that enables artists and creatives to remain right here and never really feel like they’ve to maneuver away.
I’ve been dwelling now for about 3 years and I’m moderately established in my profession now however I nonetheless surprise on a regular basis, do I would like to maneuver to Berlin or London? I would like to have the ability to keep on this nation and have a profitable profession and never must suppose I’m within the fallacious place or that I would like to go away as a way to achieve success.
So how is Free The Night time tackling all these points?
Holly: Primarily by means of lobbying and advocacy work which is what Boyd has been doing for the final six years professionally; he guides us in that sense. Boyd is the rationale we now have the information and means to maneuver ahead and sort out the federal government professionally. The opposite massive a part of our work is gathering analysis related to the nighttime economic system in NI, as there may be little or no knowledge on this space to this point. We’re working with a incredible PhD researcher from Queens College referred to as Ciara Energy to assist change this.
For instance, we only recently carried out a public name to motion, asking the federal government to assist artists with the final lockdown – that’s only a small instance of the form of work we’re going to be enterprise. Clearly, we’re hoping that’s the final Covid associated factor we now have to take care of and the remaining shall be extra to do with our total imaginative and prescient of tackling points creatives face within the nighttime economic system.
There’s one other licensing overview arising this yr by which we plan to do one other name to motion and principally ask the federal government to assist additional adjustments on this laws which may enable leisure to go on previous 3 am.
We haven’t set a precise time however ultimately, we’d wish to see one thing like 24hr licensing choices in place for some venues. In the intervening time, we’re simply hoping we are able to get some motion within the subsequent yr with this very outdated 3 am reduce off time. And we’re going to be tackling different points just like the aforementioned public transport issues.
Venues which might be in peril of closing fall inside our remit too and we hope sooner or later to see nightclubs and venues recognised as locations of cultural significance. That is likely to be some time off however we actually wish to purpose excessive with these things. Something that’s affecting the scene, that’s the place we’re going to leap in as a result of there was no unified voice for these folks to this point.
Boyd: Now’s a extremely good time to do it. NI has gone by means of a few huge progressive adjustments – we’ve had legislation adjustments on ladies’s reproductive rights, same-sex marriage was legalised lately – these adjustments are big and I believe it ought to give folks encouragement that change can occur if you happen to come collectively. Take a look at the LGBTQ communities, they’ve lobbied and advocated effectively for years and we must always take examples from these communities.
Holly: Folks ask why now for Free The Night time and I believe as Boyd says, it’s a mix of all the most important human rights points right here which have principally been sorted out at this level. It wouldn’t have felt morally proper to start out tackling these nighttime trade points with out different human rights points being addressed first. With out these fundamental wants being met, these different issues can’t occur – it’s like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Want, the fundamental elementary wants must be met first.
Boyd: Up to now, there’s been no lobbying or advocacy for the nighttime economic system right here, so it’s going to take some time for us to get politicians to recognise its significance. We’ve a lot of work to do participating politicians and having these political events tackle a few of our insurance policies, have motions taken with Belfast metropolis council on nighttime panels and ambassadors, and so on.
We’re a part of a world initiative with Cities After Darkish by Vibelab. We’re actually embedding ourselves in with these our bodies and I believe we’ve cemented ourselves as a number one organisation in coping with the nighttime economic system, at the very least in NI. We’re additionally fortunate to be supported by a passionate group of volunteers who come from a inventive background or are concerned within the nighttime sector not directly. There at the moment are ten of us in whole, together with our advisor Sunil Sharpe who runs nightlife advocacy group Give Us The Night time within the ROI and was a key determine in guiding us within the early levels.
The extra I take into consideration this, the extra I’m satisfied that that is about our cultural rights; our freedom of expression which takes place on dance flooring throughout the nighttime economic system, and this must be protected like another cultural proper in NI.
You could find out extra about Free The Night time, together with details about getting concerned right here.