Monday, 13 September 2010

Noughtie Nightlife by Calum Ross

When I was 15 years old I read The Face religiously.

My days and nights were spent finding solace in the glossy pages of the fashion culture magazine and it was through this publication that I became obsessed with London nightlife. I devoured the images of the latest club scene 'stars' such as the Ju Ju Babies and Synthetic Pleasures. I savoured the tales of their recent hedonistic revelry at Kash Point and Nag Nag Nag. I longed for the day when I could make the pilgrimage from Edinburgh's one horse club scene to London and be a part of this thriving movement.

But, like I said, I was only 15. I certainly wasn't old enough to drink (legally anyway) and definitely didn't have the disposable income to indulge in such a migration. So I just had to make do with what I had. Inspired by the draggy trash-fashion and face paint of these postmodern club heroes, I would spend every waking hour trying to emulate their looks. Boiler suits were painstakingly embellished with illustrations, sunglasses were dipped in glitter, wedding veils were attached to beanie hats and everything needed kimono sleeves. It wasn't just the aesthetics of the club movement nor was it the music which captured my imagination; it was the perversity, the absurdity and the outrageousness of it all. These were people who just did not give a damn.

It was at the opening of Noughtie Nightlife at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green where these teenage dreams of mine were re-awakened. As I made my way up the stairs into the gallery at Rich Mix - accompanied by the demolishing bass-line of Peaches' 'Set It Off' - I emerged into a dark bustling room full of London's freaks and uniques. The energy was high, the alcohol was flowing and I all at once felt in awe of the spectacular individuals who surrounded me and slightly embarrassed by how pitifully under-dressed I was!

Focusing on the fashion, faces and attitudes of cult London club-nights, Noughtie Nightlife is a photographic retrospective of the past decade, celebrating the style tribes which emerged from the Capital's hottest nightspots. Trash, Anti-Social, All you Can Eat, Durrr and Boombox are amongst the legendary and innovative club nights captured by prominent photographers including Billa Baldwin, MegaMegaMega, Ellis Scott and Christopher James, all of whom have been lighting up the London club circuit with their flash guns for the past ten years.

Carefully selected from over 100,000 images by curator/DJ/photographer/LCF lecturer Antony Price, the images convey the rich mishmash of styles which have flourished under the rotating disco ball. A vast array of high fashion, sportswear, customisation and performance costume collide into an exhilarating visual delight. Fetish, Rockabilly, Punk-Goth and 80's kitsch are some of the influences which are consistently checked throughout the retrospective. Noughtie Nightlife also gives us the chance to re-live some of the short lived trends of the decade such as Electro-clash and Nu-Rave - a trend which was over-commercialised and died out before it even fully developed.

As a new decade begins and we look back on the music and fashion styles of the noughties (a decade defined mostly by appropriation and retro revival movements) one can't help but wonder what the next ten years have to offer. As Antony Price summarises - "Parties come to an end, but a new one has only just begun."

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