We sat down with Jim Al, one of the event organisers of NEXUS to discuss the philosophy behind the hugely successful techno nights and their 13th event, which is taking place at The Saddle Inn on the 6th of December.
“Hi Jim. So it’s incredible to think it’s been 12 Nexus events up to now. What do you put the success of the concept down to?”
“It is pretty wild to think we’ve run that many parties over the last 2 and a bit years. That’s plus 18 radio shows, various other Nexus gigs round Chester and our DJs playing round the country and abroad!
…To be honest – I think the concept’s done alright because we never really had an end plan in any financial / size sense – it was always about throwing a party we thought Chester was missing, at a reasonable price and that was as much about the crowd as it was the DJs, even though we’ve booked some monstrously good folks to come and play, as well as supported local acts. I’d like to hope it comes through clearly that we’re not into this to make wads of cash and rinse the people who come to dance with us. We break even over a year – win some and lose some! We’re also super-keen that we stay small scale – we’ve got a lovely core crew that come to every event and set the tone – a massive mix of ages, backgrounds, genders, sexualities etc. so anyone new turning up already walks into this friendly vibe.
I guess as we started small too, that helped. At least in the sense that if a particular night didn’t do to well (And we definitely had a couple of quiet ones early doors) then we hadn’t chucked thousands in and could still afford to do the next one. It’s nice to see other small nights popping up now – certainly when we started we weren’t aware of any regular electronic nights running that weren’t at the Live Rooms.
I think also, we’re genuinely interested in supporting other cool stuff and promoters / artists in Chester, we’ve done free gigs for other people and projects we like, lent out our soundsystem here and there and slotted people into our nights and radio show and we’re all about making proper connections. There’s so much brilliant stuff happening right now in Chester, both at the electronic end but also the wider music and arts scene.”
Having looked at it from the outside I also would suggest it’s also the liberal and inclusive nature you encourage with Nexus. Do you think dance culture has a large part to play in breaking down boundaries in terms of sex, gender and other types of discrimination?
“Yep, I think that’s probably one of the most important things for us – we’re a mixed crew of various backgrounds – but personally I remember growing up and going raving in the late 90s and having to choose between going to queer spaces and having to listen to music that wasn’t quite my thing, or going to places that played the hooning techno I was into but having to really watch myself not to draw any attention. The recent growth of nights and parties playing excellent music that might not be purely LGBTQ+ spaces but are really overt that it’s a space where all sexualities, genders, ages, backgrounds, abilities etc. are welcomed has been really awesome to see. There’s a fair few people that moan about safe spaces policies for club nights, but it tend to be people who’ve never needed one. What we wanted to create was a space where everyone could be totally themselves (or maybe try on a new self!) and know that other folks in the room have tacitly agreed by being in that space that they’re accepting of all. I do know, as we’ve been told, that we’ve had people come and party with us that might have been unsure about sharing a dance floor with folks from certain groups – but have totally come on board with it and are now part of our regular raving crew…
The fact that we’re really clear about that, as well as having a no photos on the dancefloor policy (no evidence of people’s freaky dancing on the internet 🙂 )does keep some people away, but it keeps people away we wouldn’t want to come – and we think that’s particularly important in a smaller city like Chester where there might not be a huge amount of spaces and nights compared with larger towns….
There’s definitely different strands of electronic music, even techno that totally ignore the influence that POC, LGBTQ+ folks, women and other groups have had on dance music – and in some cases are pretty anti- those groups, so to nail our colours to the mast of inclusivity means that our crowd is lovely, mixed and accepting of all…
As well as that, we try and book guests both live and on the radio show that mirror the crowd we get or want to attract – there’s not point JUST booking white, cis, straight male DJs (even though we’ll book our favourite DJs of any persuasion!) if you’re talking about inclusivity on your dancefloor you’ve got to mirror that behind the decks as far as you can.”
It’s taken nearly 30 years but it seems the rave culture, on a local level, has finally broken away from it’s old stigmas and is back on the rise in a mainly positive light. I suppose what people are looking for is unity in these uncertain times. Something to bring everyone together?
“Definitely, though I can’t really speak for Chester’s history as we’ve only been here 3 years. There were some great nights with great bookings happening when we first moved to Chester, but they weren’t quite for us in their format back then music-wise (that is definitely no disrespect to them, the nights I’m talking about are fantastic and really help to sustain Chester as a city with a good rep for dance music) but we missed those little spaces playing belting tunes that we’d spent 20+ years raving in round the country and abroad…..
There seems to be loads of stuff happening now though, across the board music- and arts-wise and I think there’s definitely a DIY and collaborative ethos in Chester right now, which for me was the spirit of rave and decent dance music – and what’s great is from what I can see most of these events draw a really diverse crowd. I do think there’s something good about a smaller city – there’s less space for things to get atomised into sub-genres of music and people, and folks of different backgrounds and tastes mix a little bit more….
But yep, for us, it’s alll about bringing people together on the dancefloor – the crowd’s as much a part of the night as the DJs, and partly what I love is the smoking area chats between really different people who might not otherwise meet. There’s been some really good friendships and collaborations happened due to people getting to know each other at our nights, as well as people deciding to start their own parties. We called it Nexus for a reason when we started – because that was EXACTLY what we wanted to happen.”
So tell me about Nexus #13?
“We’re so psyched up for Nexus in December 🙂
So we’ve got 3 of our residents playing (one of us always takes the night off on a rolling basis) plus the awesome Isis Moray [Sunk Records] from over Sheffield way doing a live set, and we’re flying over a fantastic DJ from Europe called Bunny for a UK debut…
Bunny throws belting parties over in Romania and Bulgaria with a really cool outlook and books cracking guests (he had the crew from Gegen in Berlin at his last night) and we’re really excited to have him over….
You can get a feel of what his parties are about on the following link from Vice Magazine –
Early birds have all gone for that one, but tickets are still only a fiver as we do like to keep things accessible financially. If people are havin trouble getting the pennies together to rave with us, just drop us a line and we’ll work something out.
There will also be the most kick-ass mince pies ever (seriously)…”
Nexus continue to wow ravers up and down the country, as well as all over the continent, making connections, playing techno and doing their title justice.
We’re extremely lucky as a city to have been adopted by Nexus.
Thanks to Jim for his extremely positive insight. A Top TOP geezer.
Hurry up. This will be sold out soon.