Simon Morrison

A panel discussion at Louder Than Words will ask whether there is a political aspect to clubbing

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The nightclub scene has continually reformed and regenerated, whether lindyhoppers in 1920s Harlem nightspots, pill-popping mods in 1960s swinging Soho or – arguably the greatest reconstitution of music and intoxication – 1988’s Second Summer of Love, when a rave might co-opt a beach, field or warehouse for a dancefloor. Although all of these subcultural moments were undoubtedly socially important, clubbers, writers, academics and DJs have long argued whether this was ever a party with any political point.

Music writer Simon Reynolds called the rave scene “the cult of acceleration without destination”, with Rupa Huq adding that “rave was seen as ideologically vacuous”. Yet set against that has been major club events in 2016 including the mass shooting at Florida gay club Pulse, and the enforced closing of Fabric in London.

A panel has been assembled to get to grips with these issues, as part of the Louder Than Words Festival, taking place in Manchester over the 11-13 November. Louder Than Words provides a platform for people to gather and talk about music in the gorgeous surroundings of the newly refurbed Palace Hotel, whether that be issues to do with rock, or indeed rave.

So in order to decode the disco and drill down into these points, the assembled panel will include celebrated writer Matthew Collin, author of Altered State, a definitive history of the rave scene in Britain, as well as several other critically acclaimed books about music, dance culture and political activism, including 2015’s politically-charged Pop Grenade.

Joining Matthew will be Martin James, a music writer who over the last 20 years has been punched by Goldie, kidnapped by Italian DJs and still found time to write books such as State of Bass: Jungle – The Story So Far, rising from subterranean dancefloors to reach the exalted status of professor of music Industries at Southampton Solent University.

A very welcome panellist is DJ Paulette, who over an auspicious career has DJd all over the world, notably Paris and Ibiza, twice winning an MTV Dance Award for best DJette in the French and international scene.

I will once again chair the panel. I’m an ex-columnist for DJmagazine, editor of Ministry in Ibiza and author of books such as Discombobulated: Dispatches From The Wrong Side, and the upcoming Reaktion title Dancefloors: Revolutions of Club Culture. Now programme leader for the music journalism degree at the University of Chester, I have never been punched by Goldie (at least to my knowledge), but did once go raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers.

The panel will take place at 5.45pm on the Saturday night (for nightclub authors, when else could it be?), moving Louder Than Words towards an altogether more electronic beat, and deciding, in line with the Re-Flex song of the 1980s, whether there was ever a “politics of dancing”… or merely the “politics of oo oo oo feeling good”.

Louder Than Words is on 11-13 November at the Palace Hotel, Manchester

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