Notting Hill Arts Club
Welcome to the bewilderingly cosmopolitan Notting Hill Arts Club. Time Out shows you around
It's small, not quite perfectly formed, gets steamy in summer and doesn't even have the best soundsystem in west London, yet the enthusiasm and energy generated in the Notting Hill Arts Club make it one of the finest clubs anywhere, a slim jim that punches way above its weight.
It's also the best place in London to discover a world of nightlife possibilities. Do you fancy being transported by the samba-driven rhythms at Brazilian Love Affair? Want to explore the new sounds and visions of Scandinavia at the Beach Club? Be inspired by a medley of Mediterranean and Balkan beats and eats at Costa Urbana or the unlikely marriage of Asian hip hop and Bollywood glitz at Bombay Bronx?
These nights all happen in this W11 basement and there are plenty of other internationally inspired sessions, too.
The Notting Hill Arts Club (NHAC) is by no means an exclusively ‘global grooves’ venue, though, as regulars at weekly events like Death Disco, YoYo, Inspiration Information and Rota will testify. Yet it plays hosts to a series of superb monthly events which are directly inspired by cultures round the globe, filtered through the prism of twenty-first century London and its nightlife.
‘If you’re running a club,’ observes the Arts Club’s founder, David McHugh, ‘the two things you want are personality and a community, and when you’re running an international night you’ve often got both to begin with. If you can then appeal to the wider audience in London you may be on to a winner.’
Brazil: Patrick Forge and Lucy
‘This isn’t a worthy world music event,’ he says. ‘Our night has always been based on the way that Brazilian music is appreciated in London, the roots of what we do are in the sensuous, funky swing of the samba rhythm and that’s the predominant groove, even when we’re playing the newer, housier stuff.’
The second birthday of Radio 1 DJ Nihal’s Bombay Bronx happened during the same week in May, another mad-busy night with the Rishi Rich Project playing live and the club hosting the launch for Gautam Malkani’s book, ‘Londonstani’, which made it even more of an Asian networking event than usual (see www.myspace.com/bombaybronx). Even so, Nihal loves the fact that Bombay Bronx is a hip hop night ‘where desi divas meet Asian rudeboys. I’m a hip hop boy at heart,’ he declares, ‘so I didn’t want to run a chin-stroking Asian underground night, I wanted a party.’ And it’s worked; people queued for an hour and a half outside the second birthday party. ‘Mind you,’ adds Nihal, ‘in the first few months I was waiting an hour and a half just for someone to turn up.’
He’s only half-joking. Most of the international events have taken many months to establish their musical direction and for an audience to discover them. Hardly any can claim to have been busy from day one, which means a considerable commitment on the Arts Club’s part because until they’re established they always lose money. ‘On the other hand, when it works we get an event that can pack the club on a Tuesday,’ says McHugh, ‘and these nights draw so many different kinds of people to the venue.’ It’s quite clear too, that McHugh and the rest of the NHAC staff love the variety and ambition of their international events.
Greece: Alia and Paras
Costa Urbana does for the Mediterranean what the Beach Club does for Scandinavia. Hosts and DJs Paras and Alia are Greek, but the night features music and visuals from all around the Med, from flamenco funk to bouzouki disco-pop, and Paras loves to connect with other beach-fun cultures, too. Their next night, on June 18, ties in with a screening of the Brazil vs Australia game (so guest DJ Cliffy of Batmacumba joins them). Plus they’ll host the launch for the hotly tipped ‘Gypsy Beats & Balkan Bangers’ CD compiled by Russ Jones and Basement Jaxx’ s Felix Buxton, with German DJ Shantel and a live set by Emunah, a seven-piece Jewish hip hop act (www.myspace.com/costaurbana). Now that’s what we call a cosmopolitan mix.
There are many other trans-national events at the NHAC including Martin Morales and John Armstrong’s Futuro Flamenco, country cuts at The Honky Tonk and Max Rheinhardt’s marvellous and maverick Radio Gagarin parties. This week look out for funky reggae from Jamaica and the UK at Sweet Memory Sounds on Tuesday and DJ Cliffy and Russ Jones’s superb Future World Funk, back at the club on Saturday.
‘Somebody once said to me that the Arts Club is a bit like Cuba,’ laughs McHugh, ‘a relatively small place with a big foreign policy, and that’s how it seems to me.’
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