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Best Of British 2010: Best Large Club - Digital Newcastle

The Digital Age - Music comes first at Newcastle’s premier venue

DJmag was present on the opening night of Digital in Newcastle in the summer of 2005. The only way promoter Dave Stone could get opening night headliners 2ManyDJs from their slot at Global Gathering in the Midlands to the north-east in time was to charter a helicopter from Stratford-upon-Avon. DJmag hitched a ride with the Dewaele brothers, naturally: a surreal experience. The pilot regularly flew Tony Blair, and we had to chat to David and Stephen through headphones like in Airwolf. Fog altered the landing location, but we just made it in time.

After the opening night, we christened it “the Fabric of the North”, and its quality line-ups ever since have cemented it as our kinda club venue. Digital in Newcastle was founded by Aaron Mellor, Rob Cameron and Dave Stone: all music fans and creatives first and foremost.
“It was the culmination of each of our career paths up to that point, and it was important to us all to realise that passion to the letter,” says Dave Stone on Digital’s formation. “That was the most difficult thing about setting it up — to make sure our high standards were met.”
Charismatic promoter Dave Stone, originally from Liverpool, helped set up acclaimed drum & bass night Movement in London in the mid-‘90s and was a promoter in Brighton for several years before moving up to Newcastle with his Geordie missus. Music has always been his passion, which he believes has made a difference to the success of Digital.
“I don’t go to sleep at night dreaming about Excel spreadsheets, I go to sleep dreaming about music and making things better for people who want to go clubbing,” he tells DJmag. It remains an ambition to switch people onto things for the first time. “When a band first breaks, you want to be the first ones to put them on in Newcastle,” Stone says. “We did that with LCD Soundsystem, Florence & the Machine, Hot Chip, Calvin Harris — loads of other stuff. It’s about spotting talent early and knowing its worth and being able to promote it.”

A key factor in Digital’s success from the start has been the venue putting on a lot of live music, as well as DJs. Dave says it’s hard to pinpoint highlights, as “every week there’s something that happens that’s fantastic”, but personal highlights for him include “LCD Soundsystem for our second birthday, they played everything they’d ever done and said it was their best show all year. Public Enemy tried to kick down the pillar that’s on the main stage, that was fantastic. 2ManyDJs helicoptering in for the launch… there’s so, so many of them. There’s those people who when they play you know it’s going to be special – the likes of Eric Prydz, Fake Blood, Erol Alkan. They’re like UPS — they always deliver.”
He mentions when Pete Doherty came over after a gig and did an impromptu performance from the DJ booth, before reeling off some more highlights. “Watching the rise of Annie Mac from the very start; watching dubstep explode like drum & bass and jungle had done before — another UK dance phenomena that we’re extremely passionate about.
“Then there was opening Digital Brighton, because The Zap was the first place I went clubbing in 1988,” Dave continues. “It was a night called Monkey put on by the guys who now run Skint Records. It needed someone who understood it, it’s a phenomenal space, there’s nowhere in the UK like it. The sun comes up, your eyes are bulging after being clubbing all night, step out onto the beach. Brighton’s been really good, sharing the passion of Newcastle, the next generation of dance promoters sharing the passion of the originals.”

Dave talks animatedly about the future, and how Digital are going to carry on doing what they do extremely well.
“It’s not just about filling the club, it’s making sure everybody’s looked after and feels that they have an individual experience,” he says.
It’s clear that the passion and the vision are what have seen Digital ride the crest of a wave, and Dave is overjoyed when we tell him about scooping the Best Club award.
“Winning the award is a huge accolade, for all the people who’ve worked for us, from the general manager to the bar staff, the guy who collects the pots off the floor, the flyer girls, the promoters, people who come through the door all the time… it’s a tribute to them, as well as vindication for what we’ve been working so hard at.”

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  The Other Nominees

Ministry Of Sound Factory Club, Sankeys Fabric