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Emerging UK DJs
Photograph: Sophie Jouvenaar / Alya L / Rian Treanor / LISALÖÖF / Louis Reynolds / Oliver McKenzie / Time Out

The UK’s 6 best emerging DJs (and yes, none are from London)

There’s no shortage of exciting selectors in this little country. From Bristol to Glasgow via Sheffield, these are the names to know

Chiara Wilkinson
Edited by
Chiara Wilkinson
Written by
Time Out contributors

There’s a common conception that this country’s clubs are dominated by a handful of big-name London or Berlin-based DJs: your Peggy Gous, your Biceps, your Annie Macs. While that’s true to an extent (we’d argue that festivals are a different story), there’s also plenty of healthy homegrown talent and scenes popping off beyond the capital. The veteran DJs in these places don’t quite get the same attention as the big London names, but they’re certainly no less deserving.

From fresh faces reshaping Glasgow’s established techno scene for a Gen-Z audience to versatile Sheffield DJs blending computerised sounds with global influences, there’s no shortage of exciting selectors in this little country. So, if you’re looking to branch out your listening habits, planning to hit the dance floor in a new city or simply want to give your auditory canals a break from Fred Again’s drum machine, look no further. We reached out to writers in a handful of British cities to choose their favourite local DJ: grab your headphones and dig in.

The UK’s best emerging DJs

Photograph: Sophie Jouvenaar

1. NikNak


Working as a DJ, producer, promoter and radio host, NikNak is instrumental not only to the music scene in Leeds, but to the spirit of the cultural industries as a whole, representing a bright new future for eclectic, fine-art turntablism. Drawing on her Jamaican heritage, she uses found sound in intriguing ways, exploring themes of identity and belonging: recent project ‘Chasing Solitude’ mixes patois, space-mission samples and orchestral flourishes. NikNak has also been known to rock a crowd at the likes of Wilderness and We Out Here festivals, floating through a mix of jazz, soul, hip-hop and dub with seamless panache. Jenessa Williams 

Alya L
Photograph: Alya L

2. Alya L


A resident DJ at club nights PTS and No Future – the latter of which she co-runs – Alya L is well entrenched in Bristol nightlife. Her sets take a broad, multi-genre approach, driven by hard drum rhythms and an overarching melodicism, all woven together by an attention to textural detail, traversing UK club edits, breaks, kinetic techno cuts, footwork and more. The breadth of events you can find Alya L playing – from shows with local industrial-techno band Scalping to last year’s incendiary b2b with fellow DJ K Means at Keep Hush– is a testament to the the dexterity of her craft. Kez Cochrane

Rian Treanor
Photograph: Rian Treanor

3. Rian Treanor


While technically from Rotherham, Rian Treanor is still very much part of the Sheffield scene – even holding a stint as resident DJ at the city’s foremost rave space, Hope Works, based in an old WWI gun barrel factory. It might seem like a stretch to call Treanor underrated – he has critically acclaimed work released on labels such as Planet Mu, and has played all over the world – the reason he’s such a gem is his versatility. Whether it’s playing computer music with custom-built software, exploring twisted mutations of glitchy footwork, dropping party bangers or bridging the gap between Uganda and South Yorkshire via his No Bounds festival show with Acholi fiddle player Ocen James, Treanor is an endlessly interesting live performer.’ Daniel Dylan Wray

Photograph: LISALÖÖF



Glasgow’s vibrant techno scene is internationally renowned, and the city’s up-and-coming DJ and producer LISALÖÖF is one to watch if you like your club sounds dark, heavy and hypnotic. In a corner of electronic music that is all too often male-dominated, she’s a breath of fresh air – and her skills behind the decks have made her a favourite of Scottish techno royalty Slam at their famed Pressure parties. Whether bringing her dynamic sound to Glasgow’s storied Sub Club, playing to packed crowds at the Clyde-side Riverside Festival, or throwing down jacking mixes for local stations Radio Magnetic and Clyde Built Radio, LISALÖÖF’s sets always pack a hefty punch. Claire Francis 

Photograph: Louis Reynolds

5. Abena


Abena is one of the most highly-regarded DJs in Manchester’s club scene, having played at some of the city’s best bars, clubs and festivals – with regular spots at community-led space Partisan and ex-warehouse venue The White Hotel, and even performing at last year’s Manchester Science Festival. Their sets demonstrate an extensive knowledge of all genres and realms, often with a focus on bass-heavy sounds. You can usually expect the odd surprise edit thrown in: both Bloc Party and Panic! At the Disco have been known to get a spin in the past. Outside of DJing – but still adjacent – Abena is also a co-founder of the All Hands on Deck collective, which hosts open deck sessions and workshops for women, non-binary and trans DJs. Nadia Younes 

Photograph: Hector’s House



Now a familiar face on the Cowgate club circuit, 22-year-old DJ and producer SMIFF has made quick moves in the past couple of years: finding his feet at Headset’s long-running parties, holding down a Sneaky Pete’s club residency and more recently hopping on the decks to play a b2b with Skrillex. SMIFF’s sets are adeptly packed with heavyweight belters and more subtle textural sounds, exploring the crossroads between breakbeat, dubstep and other soundsystem influences. With a growing catalogue of releases and regular slots behind the decks at venues all over the city, you can party in comfort of knowing the future of Edinburgh’s dance music is glaringly bright. Chiara Wilkinson

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