Kelly's Club Ireland celebrates 15 years

Words by: Polly Lavin
Posted: 16/6/11 17:10

Col HamiltonOpen since the 1970's, Kelly's Northern Ireland had a music policy change in the the early 90's and in 1996 a new night 'Lush' began. At the height of its popularity busloads arrived from as far as Dublin during the height of the Northern Irish 'Troubles' to party until the early hours and converge with other clubbers who hugged one other as if they had been friends for life 15 years on "Lush" is still going strong, stronger even.

Albeit, the crowd is a little different to the baggy jeaned, topless ravers that made the venues name. A £1.5 million facelift last year saw James Zabiela christen the refurbished venue with a set that broke decibel barriers on the night and a further £4 million investment saw a boutique hotel and restaurant 'Atlantis' replace the thrashed clubbers accommodation.

Now, the place where a new generation are raving away and where a young local producer/DJ called Dibby Dougherty has caught many ears over in the last 2 years, we grabbed 5 mins with Col Hamilton, the clubs promoter to ask him how it feels to be 15 again.

Your 15 years in existence now, what are the main things that have changed over the years in the club and clubbing in Ireland/Northern Ireland over the years?
The essence of clubbing is still the same in that people still come out to listen to great DJs playing in a great room with superb atmosphere. The hard part nowadays is getting them out weekly and to try to get them to appreciate not only big name DJs but the newer up & coming acts also. A lot of kids nowadays seem to only want to see/hear the "latest" big name which I find a bit sad.

Highlights of the last 15 years?
Far too many to mention, uniting people from all sections of the community in N. Ireland to dance together in a big room was always one of the defining aspects of Lush! in the early years. Being in Portrush on the north coast and being a "destination" venue means we get clubbers from Belfast/Derry etc and from all sides raving side by side with smiles on their faces.

Hosting the first ever essential mix from N. Ireland back in 1997 was also a massive highlight as was booking DJs like Sasha & Digweed, Pete Tong, PVD, Morillo etc for their Irish debuts.

Bad points of the last 15 years? Any d*ckhead DJs you've had to deal with as a promoter or anything else that tried to bring the club down?
All DJs are dickheads are they not?? J To be honest we have very seldom had any "egos" to deal with. Being a DJ myself as well as promoter possibly helps in that I generally book DJs that I know and respect and they are mostly all cool. Nowadays the hardest thing is dealing with agents expectations of what their artists are worth, and the fact many have a flat fee take it or leave it attitude. We pride ourselves on offering great value for money and try not to charge more than £15 entry, but it's increasingly getting harder nowadays what with some of the fees being quoted. In saying that it's a dog eat dog world so if they are getting it why would they not take it.

Kelly's had a core crowd that you used to come to Lush back in the day has this crowd stuck with you and how have they mixed with the incoming generation of kids that are into electronic music?
Not so much nowadays as the original core crowd are all in their 30's nowadays. We still get the old heads out for gigs like the recent 15th birthday party with Sasha and they mix really well with the newer kids who are maybe experiencing a DJ like Sasha for the first time. It's essential to have a good spread of ages in any club as that's what generates a proper club atmosphere. There's nothing worse than being in a club either full of 18 yr olds or full of 30 yr olds moaning that it's not as good as it used to be.

What big nights have you got planned to celebrate 15 years then?
We are doing a series of Past: Present: Phuture parties throughout the year where we invite our favourite guests from the past 15 years to come play 3 hr Past: Present: Phuture sets. We have had Sasha in March, Carl Cox in April and future guests like James Zabiela, Tongy are lined up. Just to add a bit of excitement to proceedings musically.

Kelly’s Club Ireland celebrates 15 years Ireland is a bit held back by the draconian licensing laws is there any movement in the north to get the hours extended so that clubs like Kelly's  can keep going longer into the night?
I don't think the licensing laws will ever come into line with UK mainland or Europe due to the religious ramifications of Sunday church goers.

The only good thing is that on a big night we have a queue outside Lush! at 9pm and have a full venue by 10.30pm. Even though we close at 2 or 2.30am the DJs still play to a packed venue. I'm not entirely sure that the Irish psyche is geared up for clubbing till 6am anyway.

Which producers from both north and south are you really into to right now?
There has been a real output of good talented young producers over the last 12/24 months that are getting a foothold in the scene covering all genre's.

Acts like The Japanese Popstars, Psycatron, Tucandeo, Dibby Dougherty etc are all getting productions signed to major labels and booked for major clubs so all is looking healthy.

You're coming to Ibiza in September this year to do a date at Eden, what are your thoughts on Ibiza and its change over the years?
Ibiza never changes. It's always the same party style people doing the same thing, that's what makes it so special.

As an international promoter how important is Ibiza to what you do in your club year on year?
To be honest it has little actual bearing as the majority of clubbers that go to Ibiza treat it as a hedonistic holiday and dip their toes into different musical genre's and amazing venue's. I get requests sometimes for DJs that clubbers have heard in Ibiza and would really like to see at Lush! But sometimes DJs that rocked for you at5am in Ibiza won't necessarily do the same on a wet windy night in November in N. Ireland. Ibiza is like a virtual world of parties and clubs that lasts for 3 months then everybody gets back to the reality of the normal life and their weekly routine.

Kellys Portrush
Golf Links Hotel, Bushmills Road, Portrush, County Antrim BT56 8JG
Tel:028 7082 6611


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