- My take on Trade is quite idiosyncratic and I balk at the idea
of talking about a club which has been written about by so many
for so long, especially as I haven't been going there for more
than a few years and then only occasionally. Still, I have a sort
of business perspective on most of the clubs I'm writing about
and this perhaps has been less well described elsewhere.
Trade is also one of my all-time favourite clubs.
Trade is the mother of all U.K. after-hours clubs. It started
in 1990 at Turnmills, in London, which was the first venue
in the UK to get a 24 hour entertainment license, (for the owner,
John Newman, being an former police officer may have helped).
When it began it catered exclusively to the gay scene, and the
promoters and DJs were also all gay.
Trade's reputation as the home of hard dance music is well-deserved.
The Trade's DJs Malcolm Duffy, Alan Thomson, Pete Wardman,
Tony deVit, Ian
M, Steve Thomas, have since become legends in their
own right, not particularly helped by the design of the club,
(I'll explain in a mo'). These DJs developed a wonderful ability
to complement each other's sets into a seamless whole in which
the music just built and built and built.
To get a sense of the evolution of the club's music policy and
the longevity of the club here's a quote from the old
Trade website after the club had been running for just over
"One of the regular clichés you will hear about
the club is that the DJs play only hardcore techno. Not so - the
music is as varied as the DJ's taste. The music policy is keenly
monitored and has evolved away from the industrial-strength techno
that Trade became known for courtesy of Daz Sounds and
Trevor Rockliffe. Smokin Jo cut her teeth at Trade
and, along with Tony de Vit, Paul Newman and Malcolm,
the emphasis has been placed on happier house. Nowadays, the music
comes from Italy, Chicago, Detroit and you'll also find some Belgian
new beat. The atmosphere has got more comfortable as a result,
and is proof positive that the club's promoters have catered to
their customers needs."
The door policy has eased somewhat, perhaps because it has had
to, to avoid accusations of sexism. Still today the vast majority
of punters are gay men. Perhaps because I've been a few times
now, I forget how intimidating this can be for some people who
go there for the first time. I took some straight people there
recently and they left within a few hours, overwhelmed by the
sexuality of the place. I forget, and others sometimes don't know,
why it's called "Trade"! For straight lads used to seeing
a smattering of gays in "their" clubs, entering "gay
territory" can be quite intimidating. After spending a few
years on the straight scene I first found the Muscle Maries and
the cruising - the fact that here some people do come solely
for sex - a bit of a shock. That said, clubbing is largely what
you make it, and I soon found many people who, like me, just came
for the music and to socialise.
Many of these people turned out to have been coming from the early
days, and considered themselves "Trade Babies". Given
that most clubbers have a stay of about two years on their scene,
this says a lot either about the durability of Trade as a club
or of gay men as clubbers, or both.
Though there are two rooms, the second being The Light Lounge,
these days playing funky house, I have to admit that, good, and
busy, though it is, I don't spend any time there. I'm either in
the main room or the coffee bar.
Apart from the DJs, the unsung heroes of Trade are the lighting
jocks, who manipulate and extemporise on the lights throughout
the night with punters sometimes standing transfixed during breakdowns
by Turnmills' lasers. As the lasers are at the opposite end of
the dancefloor from the DJ booth, this means that a lot of the
time people dance with their backs to the DJs rather than facing
them. Indeed there is very little eye contact between DJs and
There have been quite a few changes at the club over the years,
even the few years during which I've been going. I first went
shortly before the club was raided, taken there by a friend who
had been going for ages. He explained the drugs setup to me before
I went but I didn't really believe him until I was actually there.
It was like a bazaar. You placed your order for whatever you wanted,
(and whatever you wanted was almost certainly available), and
it was filled a few minutes later. All very orderly, and efficient,
with lots of happy customers. It seemed reasonable to assume that
if I knew how things worked before I got there then so did the
management, the promoters and the police, yet the main dealer
had been there for years.
This, of course, was hardly an unusual situation. With many clubs
having regular dealers on the premises, some managers argue that
it's better to know who's dealing than have it go on underground
and therefore out of control. This "reasoning" is spurious,
and I'll discuss this elsewhere on the site. More likely both
promoters and managers/owners take a cut from in-house dealers
and work very hard to prevent anyone else from reducing their
income from that source. Recent changes to legislation making
license holders accountable for known drug-dealing on their premises
has made this more problematic for both club owners and managers
as evidenced by the closure of Home and the raid on Cream.
Anyway, although it went on at other clubs, I hadn't seen it so
obvious anywhere else. As I said, this was shortly before there
was a "raid". Trade maintained that only people in the
queue outside the club were searched, and eighteen were reported
to have been arrested, but that police did not raid the club itself.
Whatever, the drugs situation in the club changed dramatically
shortly afterwards. The main dealer was arrested at his home,
and Trade moved out of Turnmills for a time, a change which was
not supported with any enthusiasm by its members. When it returned
there was no obvious dealing going on.
However, this break in the continuity at Turnmills seems to have
marked a turning point. On the one hand both Trade and Turnmills
seem to have recognised that they both were better off with each
other than without as neither did as well in the Sunday morning
slot when the club was relocated to another venue. On the other,
the break seems to have given many of the club's regular customers
a reason to go elsewhere, and attendances started to become more
erratic after the return to Turnmills. Further problems emerged
on with the music policy of the club, which had been developed
through the seamless build-up created over more than seven hours
by the Trade resident DJs. Suddenly for some reason the established
DJs changed, with a major loss being the departure of Ian
Turnmills isn't as big as many expect. It probably holds about
1,200 comfortably, though for special events it gets utterly rammed.
Air conditioning was only recently installed, and the low ceilings
in parts of the club result in empty ice pockets, even when the
club is packed.
Nor was it designed with the DJ-as-celebrity in mind. Perhaps
reflecting what some see as the inevitable conflict between promoter
and DJ, the DJ booth was an enclosed box giving the dancers only
a very limited view of who's playing. Those not on the floor couldn't
see the DJ at all and many didn't know who's on, (nothing very
unusual there then!). Thankfully for those of us who do want to
know, there's a line-up list stuck on the booth door, and in 2002
the booth was finally opened up, though visibility is still very
Nevertheless, the sound system is superb. These days it's
pumping out the tunes of resident DJ EJ
Doubell, who made her name first at FIST,
as well as Malcolm Duffy, who's been there from the start,
Gonzalo, and new signing Rosco, (we first met at 2Klub's
launch night in Manchester a few years ago), and most recently veteran
Grand Wizard of the decks, Pete Wardman.
Despite having members paying about £45 each and numbering
over 4,000 in 2001, Trade, along with it's celebrity promoter
Laurence Malice, has faced numerous financial crises but
has weathered them all to evolve from being an underground club
for benders, to an internationally recognised brand. Trade events
are held regularly in Glasgow and occasionally elsewhere
in the U. K., as well as in Ibiza, but Laurence's aspirations
for the brand became evident when Trade was launched in Paris
and then, in 2001, in Los Angeles.
His ambitions do not end there, and there is talk about a fabulous
new venue he is working on in London, Egg,
coming to fruition sometime this year after years of speculation.
More recent rumours suggest that Trade may close in October this
year, but these have not been confirmed and were subsequently
retracted by my source.
The weekend before last was dire and the worst of a series of Trade
events which had not been well attended. The nadir of the night
occurred when Rosco cleared the dancefloor in the main room. There
were, count them: one, two, three, four, five, yes, five people
on the dancefloor at one point, and it stayed that way 'til Pete
Wardman came on. As a DJ mate of mine remarked, Trade forgot its
simple but effective music policy of up, up and up. Rosco decided
to experiment with some monotonous techno tracks which just didn't
suit the mood people wanted and they voted with their feet. If only
more clubbers in other clubs would do the same when they hear something
they don't like, promoters would quickly get the message.
|Addendum, (mid Sept. 2002):
After that night I had decided not to go again for some time, but
I was persuaded to go along to Trade's Tony de Vit birthday celebration
on Sept. 15th. The main room line-up comprised Malcolm Duffy,
Gonzalo, Pete Wardman and Andy
Farley and Emma Doubell playing the final four
hours back-to-back. Well, it was utterly amazing. I had one of the
best nights I have ever had in any club anywhere. It was breathtakingly
superb, and a reminder of why Trade has been so loved, (for instance
have you ever heard of anyone having their ashes scattered on the
dancefloor of a dance club - well, it's reputedly happened at Trade).
There was an utterly memorable moment for me as the first few tracks
of Emma and Andy's b-t-b set started that I suddenly realised what
they had in store for us, and I just said, out loud, "Oh, my,
G-o-o-o-o-d!" It was that moment where you feel like the music,
which has been building so brilliantly throughout the night, has
just reached a point it's about to utterly blast us all into orbit.
But that's not all. The crowd, and this time the place was packed,
(but not stuffed), was lovely, There were people I knew, and some
I got to know a bit better. Steve & Stefan with
Sven, Chris and their whole tribe, Karl, with
his cheeky grin, the mates I went down with, Norman and Tony,
the ever amazing human dynamo, Doris and her bevy of lovely
girl friends from French Kiss, Pete and his mates
who were swallowed up by a mysterious taxi at the end of the night,
Andrew who I hadn't seen for a year and his friend James,
a nice bloke from Brum, who recognised me but I didn't recognise,
(sorry mate if you're reading this), Debs from Brum - I think,
Steve and Mick, young David with the very messed
up life, Sean (who I kept calling Craig) and his DJ boyfriend
Karl both from Luton, Paul who I kept calling Steve,
who's originally from Manchester, Shane from Adelaide who'd
come with DJ Karim, (if Karim had been
smiling any more broadly his head would have fallen off) and many
more besides. They all helped contribute to what was for me a wondrous,
amazing, and delightful night.
As you can tell from the above, my memory's not the best but I never
want to forget that night. None of us wanted it to end, and I hope
that that Trade spirit never does.
That said, Trade closed its doors as a weekly London event after the
jam-packed 12th. birthday party was held on 27th. October
2002. The intermittently sparse attendances over the past
twelve months due to ever more competition, the wholesale desertion
from the club of a swathe of muscle maries, a rep for sparsely attended
nights, etc. etc., plus the cost of working with Turnmills, combined
to force Laurence Malice to close the place as a weekly.
Many will say that twelve years is a good run, maybe it's time to
move on, times change etc. But many will be feeling a gaping hole
in their weekends from now on. I know I am and I wasn't a regular.
Laurence has plans to open a new, smaller (900 cap.) club, Egg,
near King's Cross next year, and says that Trade events will still
be held, but for some people - perhaps, given the above, not as many
as one might think - the closing of Trade at Turnmills will be like
the loss of a close friend and too many of us already know what that's
For those who like this sort of trivia, the last track played
at weekly Trade@Turnmills was: well... the last DJ was EJ
Doubell. She ended her set with The Dawn, but then
was FORCED to play more than an hour of encores. She had intended
to finally end the night with something else but actually, the final
track played at Trade at Turnmills was Such a Feeling by
Terrorize (Original mix) on the Hamster Records label.
So another household name in clubland has gone... if only for the
moment. 2002 has not been a good year for club promoters.
Trade has re-emerged as a sort of monthly/occasional event. Since
the 12th. birthday/closing there have been events held at Turnmills
on Xmas day, NY day and now Valentines' Weekend. There are rumours
also that Trade will move to Egg as and when that opens.
However, the music and other policies are still proving problematic.
Valentines' weekend, The Love Ball, saw Malcolm Duffy
pull out at the last minute over a tiff with the promoters and instead
Rosco was drafted in to play the opening set. So
we had another stop and start disaster. Whereas, Duffy does an absolutely
wonderful job of building up the start of the main room with his tough
and tribal sounds, Rosco just farts around with his sputtering tracks
that take you precisely nowhere. The problem for Trade is that this
suggests that they have no one better to call on in an emergency!
Surely they both recognise the limitations of this DJ and have a ocean
of terrific potential stand-ins... don't they???
Matters were not helped much by Rosco being followed by Gonzalo,
who both seem to have gone to the same school of "Let me take
you on a Journey to my Nightmare" DJing.
played an innovative set as she develops her new style and normal
service was resumed by Wizard Wardman
who was followed by Andy Farley and
BK playing back to back. Farley has slimmed down
(said he's going to the gym now.. another muscle mary in the making?)
and looks better than I've seen him in a long time. Could be his love
life is looking up that has helped too! Lucky bastard.
The mainroom lineup for this Easter extravaganza
BK & Andy Farley (b2b - 3hrs)
and the ever magical Wizard Wardman.
The music was good and the lineup worked well with Gonzalo building
things up, developing a nice techno groove, and EJ building the tempo
while she continues to develop her new Electro style. Things blasted
off though with BK and Farley playing an electric set, peppered though
their and Wardman's sets were with some old hard chestnuts, (Music
is Moving - eeek!), though the classics were at the request of the
promoter, and went down very well with the crowd.
Gripes?: we..e..e..ll... the usual problem with the place being rammed
to the rafters so there was not much room to dance, and people were
being constantly jostled, but this is not much of a problem for those
who enjoy being pressed against loads of muscled men, and many there
did! Also, Trade now runs occasional events which are themed. This
time the theme was Manhattan, but frankly there wasn't much of a club
transformation, just a few banners with skyscrapers, some slides with
a NY skyline and some go-go boys wearing I love NY shorts. Neither
seemed to make much difference to the crowd.
Hi to (from Brum) Paul, Norman &
Tony, and from London, Onya (apologies
if I've got the spelling wrong), Patrick & Dave,
Morton, Silvio, and Karl
(visiting from Leeds - hope you got home safely).
One other point to note, though not about this event itself: the Trade
website gives the strong impression that Trade's foray into the US
market has not been a success, as Trade Los Angeles seems not to be
running any more. On the other hand, on the Saturday night prior to
this Easter event, Trade was on in Zurich.
Well now, the anticipated move of Trade to Egg,
has emerged, in the form of "Trade Gold",
which is due to take place there on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
This looks like a clever way of hedging one's bets - offering something
somewhat specialised at the new venue, seeing if it works and presumably
leaving open the option of still running the Trade monthlies at Turnmills
if it doesn't. However the promotion and in my opinion the whole underlying
organisation of this new event has been a mess.
|August 2003 - Trade Gold @ Egg
Trade Gold has been billed in the press releases and e-flyers as an
opportunity for those who never experienced Trade to do so, and to
hear four of the the original Trade residents playing "Trade
classics", along with the "fierce rulin' Trade DJs",
This in itself sounds weird. Firstly, Trade has never been held at
Egg, and the experience of the club is, as you can tell from what's
written above, very much bound up with Turnmills. If you wanted to
give people an understanding of what Trade used to be like you wouldn't
hold it at a new venue, you'd hold it at the venue it has been at
for the past twelve years. (See the review of ff:reloaded
for a similar viewpoint about the association people have of a club
with a venue - again Turnmills).
Secondly, the proposition of having both "original Trade residents"
and the new "fierce rulin' DJs" creates a different music
policy than at the original club where there were two rooms one playing
funky house, the other building up from tribal house to hard dance.
With four original residents AND the new residents, Trade Gold would
have to put each group on in its two dance rooms, meaning that there'd
be two rooms of hard dance music, with punters having to choose between
the two. Effectively this would also be inviting them to choose between
the old and the new, and placing the djs involved in a somewhat invidious
position. This problem seems to have been recognised eventually, as
a subsequent e-flyer dropped any mention of the new residents, and
the focus thus seemed to be on the original residents playing "classics",
with something funkier being played in the second dance room.
However there's a further difference between Egg and Turnmills which
cannot be adjusted and that's the size of the rooms; Egg is just smaller,
and each of the two dancerooms there can reasonably hold about 300
people. That means that about 300 people at a time can experience
the one room with the original residents and the harder sounds, compared
with the same room at Turnmills which could hold about twice that
number or more. Ultimately the number of people in the club may depend
on the weather, and whether the outside patio can be used. If it rains
you can expect the interior to be rammed, and that might be the case
anyway, even if it's fine. There has been a continual problem at the
new venue with the air-conditioning, which seems partially non-working
at times. The management of Egg would be well-advised to make sure
that it is fully working and up to snuff for this event, which despite
everything I say here, is likely to be packed.
Unfortunately, during the time all this was being publicised and modified,
Trade hadn't actually agreed the concept with all the djs nor had
they contracted them all to play. As a result a third press release
/ e-flyer was issued with a new DJ lineup replacing Ian
M with Baby Doc, although by this time flyers had been printed
and were being distributed with the original lineup of Malcolm Duffy,
Steve Thomas, Pete Wardman and Ian M. This
third e-flyer however repeated the phrase "four original Trade
residents" even though Baby Doc had not been a resident at Trade,
and many people I asked didn't even know that he DJed! My understanding
is that the problem with Ian M stemmed largely from the expectation
that he would play "Trade Classics", rather than what he's
playing currently. What I know about the other original residents
is that they are as independent-minded as Ian, and I wonder to what
extent they will go along with playing what many must expect to be
something of a retro set.
Were the original line-up to have been kept together there then would
have emerged a further political problem, namely, if the punters loved
what was being played, there'd be a lot of people asking why Trade
had allowed the combination of original residents to be broken up.
Even with Baby Doc replacing Ian M this still remains something of
Perhaps reflecting the lack of care taken with the planning of this
event is the printed flyer, which states the date as "24.09.03"
on one side, and "24th. August 2003" on the other. (Club
Promotion 101, Lesson 1: Proof read all your promotional materials,
then check them, then check them again!)
The desire to move Trade to Egg is completely
understandable. Trade is the jewel in the crown, and should be a reasonable
money earner, and hiring Turnmills cannot be cheap. It also seems
reasonable to experiment with a format for Trade at Egg which does
not jeopardise the possibility of holding it at Turnmills in the future.
But to go about it this way, using the new venue to re-create the
old club, and to have the wrong djs and dates on the printed flyers
seems at best poorly thought through. The mis-management of an event
as potentially important as this for both Egg
and Trade by a team as experienced as this seems quite inexplicable.
The bottom line? Even very experienced promoters make mistakes.