Londoners will be all too aware of the precarious position of the capital's clubs. Ministry Of Sound under threat, Plastic People bickering with Hackney Council a couple of years ago, the fact that most parties take place at those same few (not so) secret unlicensed locations we've all been to a thousand times.
Underneath the surface is a club scene struggling to keep its feet. London's Oval Space is therefore a god-send. Formed in 2011 after two chaps, Jordan Gross and Daniel Sylvester, transformed an unused — save for the odd squat or rave — medical factory in Bethnal Green into a fully-functional multi-arts loft-cum-warehouse space, it's breathed fresh life into the city's nightlife as a fully-licensed venue that doesn't feel like an oversized All Bar One with a soundsystem.
Pitched in the heart of Hackney, it attracts a cool, cultured crowd by only booking the best DJs, and — unlike London's many pop-up venues and undisclosed warehouse spaces — promises to remain a permanent feature on the city's club scene with its long-term plan.
“We're in it for the long haul,” says music curator and ex-journalist Hannah Briley. “2012 was the year we got our bearings, worked with amazing promoters and established partners whilst introducing Oval Space as a venue to London. Now is the right time for us to take the next step to fulfilling the vision or running it predominantly in-house.”
Making a splash with Body & Soul, Shake It! and Dirtybird events, 2012 was the year that put Oval Space on the map, ear-marking it as a space to keep an eye on despite criticism over heat levels inside the venue. Since, teething problems have been addressed and a three-pronged in-house programming strategy introduced, incorporating weeknight live events, late-night weekend club nights and Sunday day parties under one roof.
“Each of the series aims to explore different sides of music that we are equally passionate about,” continues Hannah. “Each has a varying personality, from the day of the week they are held on and at what time, to the production and layout differences that subconsciously alter the experience.”
Beside the implementation of this overall in-house creative vision — which also includes Cinema Club, screening independent films with panels, and pop-up Forza Win supper shop, serving tasty scran — the venue is also still available to the best external promoters in the game. Coming off the back of booking the likes of Moodymann, Jackmaster and Oneman to the venue, Black Atlantic, formerly of Plan B, launched a collaborative project last month with Joy Orbison, Just For You, with Ben UFO, Mister Saturday Night and Raime at the launch.
“From the moment we set foot in the venue in its very early days, we knew it had the potential to become one of London's most important contemporary spaces,” says Black Atlantic's Tom McCarthy. “After running some of the first events at the space and being given a sneak preview of everything the team there had planned in its development, we were really keen to be involved. It's been great to see it come to fruition.”
With in-house events featuring Fritz Kalkbrenner, Chopstick & Johnjon, Jozif, Cobblestone Jazz, plus Metro Area, Bicep, Optimo and Freerange Records lined up for the next six weeks alone, it's not Oval yet!
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THE DJS TELL US WHY THEY LOVE OVAL SPACE
"Xavier and I played for DURRR's weekender over at Oval Space back in December and we both had a great time. I think we ran an hour over than we should have done, and I think the reason for this was because we enjoyed it, and it felt like the rest of the room were too. Part of this is always down to the venue and sound, both of which were brilliant on the night. Rory Phillips who played before us also set the night up perfectly."
"Oval Space worked well for our NYE party. I really like it when most of the space is one dancefloor — it makes it a better vibe. Also, unlike most warehouse spaces, it has great facilities, so there's not endless queues!"
"Oval Space is our favourite new London venue, period. It has a great warehouse aesthetic, but with the qualities of a high-end club in terms of sound, facilities and team. The skylights and terraces are absolutely perfect for our daytime sessions and we can’t wait to be doing more parties there in 2013."