by Callum Greenwood
From the rise of underground dance music in the early eighties, right through to the present day, the relevance of club nights as a rite of passage remains. They play a pivotal part in youth culture, providing an opportunity for a broad range of individuals to experience creativity and escapism on a relatable level.
Now more than ever, there are opportunities in which club nights can move out of the eery shadows, into the light. For the majority, this is through music festivals and outdoor events that shine focus onto what was once solely for the hardcore.
Along with this, comes a more crowded, noisy landscape and heaps of competition; that not only puts pressure on promoters to produce better line-ups, with more out-there ideas, but to provide gateways for more individuals to engage with the current scene.
From humble beginnings, Jika Jika! are one of the few institutions that have persisted and made the leap to becoming festival owners. As a continuation of previous parties, Jika Jika! have a view to creating a night that represents what people want to hear as opposed to their own personal choices, expanding their musical horizons from the more niche bookings that initially took more of a focus.
This approach doesn’t come without its hardships, which Jika Jika!’s Stephen is more than aware of. “The aim was to develop the party and just for it to grow. We had a lot of struggles along the way and many times we thought about quitting but thankfully we persisted.” These are words that ring familiar, with promoters all over the country. The rise in DJ fees, the landscape changing, more competition are all the usual suspects in a plethora of difficulties faced.
The instability of making a profit comes as a result, with Jika Jika! more than familiar with this, “We had booked some great DJs with mixed results but it was often a struggle to be able to afford to take the hits when it didn't go well”. Proving at times difficult for the Derry-based party to keep going “There were a few times when we seriously considered stopping, as things just didn't seem to click. Then when I thought about it I thought it was madness building up such a following and giving up”.
Amidst the standard issues, having built up a large following over the years is something Jika Jika! look to expand on. In today's scene, more people are looking for those bigger experiences, for opportunities to see their favourite artists in one place…all of which can be found at a festival. Touching on the broader influence for Jika Jika! to make the transition “The main thing for me was to be able to bring the world's best DJs here and to help put Derry on the map” Stephen clarifies.
When asked about the steps towards owning a festival, Stephen explains “It was very gradual”. Very lightly touching on the broad scope of their development “We went from a 200 cap venue to a 600 cap. We upped our game to a venue that held 1000 and when we outgrew that we knew it was time to move into a bigger space”.
There were a few steps in between 1000 capacity spaces to a 2-day affair at Ebrington Square, with the party moving on to a 1500 people venue known as the Halfway House, 8 miles outside of Derry’s centre. “As good a venue as it was we felt it was hampering us with walk-up punters so we had our eye on Derry”. A pretty sound decision from them, as they began to move towards their legendary Bunker parties that took place in an underground car park.
Growing their audience base even further through the Bunker parties, a logical next step was to try to put on an even bigger show, moving to Ebrington Square. Sven Vath and Adam Beyer headlined consecutive years at the former barracks’, before they ventured to their first festival this year, with Denis Sulta and Green Velvet curating stages for each day. A great success for a party that started off, at their roots in low capacity venues, but with no sign of slowing down soon “Each year just gets better and better and 2019 will be no different”. Stephen mentions “I'd love to start doing more events outside of Ireland and get it spread around the world a bit more, festivals, sunny places etc.”. This can do attitude, ability to be persistent and break the mold, adds to the many reasons for Jika Jika!’s success “We never accept that we can't do something without giving it a good bash”.
It’s been an absolute pleasure working with Jika Jika! Festival on their visual identity, branding and digital marketing strategy. We’re especially thankful for the opportunity to run through Derry with a camera.