Why a new documentary about Glasgow's after-hours scene misses the mark

Chester Cornford and Jonathan Fernandez question how much a new documentary charting young people and after-hours culture in Glasgow really reflects the scene

i-D, A SUBSIDIARY of Vice, published a documentary, 'Inside Glasgow’s Illegal After-hours Party Scene', and to be frank we are a bit confused as to its purpose. However, what has left us more shocked is the response it has merited.

The documentary centres around an after-party spot in Glasgow called Incognito, and frames it poorly in a post-Brexit, post-independence referendum context. The narrator, Leala-Rain Shonaiya, guides the viewer through a story of Glasgow’s after-hours scene, and interviews Incognito’s creator, Mobo. 

Add a few words from some Glasgow creatives, and some clips of people dancing and partying, and we have the sum in whole of the i-D documentary. This fairly lazy piece of journalism has caused a stir on social media and caused anger among Glasgow’s 'underground' dance music network.

i-D creates a narrative that suggests after-hours parties in Glasgow were born out of discontent with the socio-economic climate, and out of outrage with Brexit, Trump and the 2014 No vote in the Scottish independence referendum. While it is true that many people in Glasgow are discontented with these situations, to state that the "youth, all dressed up" have had "nowhere to go after-hours, until now", is simply not true. 

To state that the majority of Glasgow clubbers venture to after-hours spots as an act of rebellion against the current political climate is dubious at best.

Some of this narrative is created by one of the documentaries interviewees - the second speaker, Fletch, argues that by attending after-hours parties, "we are reacting against normal life ... we are taking control into our own hands". 

This statement is hard to refute. It is true that a large majority of people don’t attend after-hours parties and that it’s a DIY reaction against restrictive laws. 

If the clubs aren’t able to satisfy the demand for late night partying, it is completely correct that after-hours are a grassroots antidote. While some might object to the framing of after-parties as conscious political action, it isn’t a huge stretch from what some might portray as blind hedonism as a reaction to restrictive licensing laws. In that sense, after-hours parties can be and are political.

To state that the majority of Glasgow clubbers venture to after-hours spots as an act of rebellion against the current political climate is dubious at best.

However, i-D opens the documentary with this narrative, and then does little to explore it. There is more than one after-hours venue in Glasgow, and there is more than one view on what they mean to people. It seems the team behind the documentary have done little research, and created a false story that portrays Glasgow clubland as being a united political force. 

Rather, if i-D had dedicated any real effort to its work, it would have realised the divisions in the underground scene, and noted how many in Glasgow desire to keep politics out of their parties - something clearly displayed in the reactions to the documentary. 

i-D has attempted to universalise a point of view that is held by a minority of the Glasgow club scene. While this point of view is a valid one, it was a mistake by i-D to portray this as the sole image of Glasgow’s after-hours landscape.

Despite focusing on this one element of Glasgow’s underground, i-D did not explore it in any purposeful depth. Talking to local promoters such as Sarra, co-founder of OH141, was a good first step into reflecting some of the political issues facing Glasgow’s club scene. 

For a city of great musical heritage the only political issue often discussed by the popular music press is Glasgow’s economic past. Sarra’s comments raised the issues of gender and minority representation in Glasgow. i-D gave it barely a passing moment. And with that, we have the crux of the problem of the i-D documentary. In the 13 minutes it dedicates to the city, it barely reveals anything.

The documentary features interviews with some students from Glasgow School of Art, but again, its half-hearted approach limits its success.

Discussing Incognito, i-D notes how the after-hours venue is a hub for the next wave of creative talent in Glasgow, giving it a great opportunity to document the lives of creatives in the city.

The documentary features interviews with some students from Glasgow School of Art, but again, its half-hearted approach limits its success. 

The first interviewee, Flint, describes aspects of his work and gives a brief description of his experience of Art School. For one of the only actual depictions of a creative’s work in the whole documentary, it feels rushed and downplayed by i-D. 

Dylan, the next student interviewed, gives insight into his difficult family background and experience of growing up in Paisley. Dylan is part of the KIN, an art collective inspired by the experiences of having family members in prison. However, i-D doesn’t explore this. This seems to be a story that there would have been great worth in documenting the detail of, in particular for young working class people who feel isolated and are looking for someone to identify with. 

However, it was a completely missed opportunity to frame Glasgow creatives in a broad and interesting way, opting instead to force everything into a skewed narrative about an after-party scene.

It was a completely missed opportunity to frame Glasgow creatives in a broad and interesting way, opting instead to force everything into a skewed narrative about an after-party scene.

Yet, despite the abundance of criticisms that can be launched at i-D for this documentary, comments on social media soon turned from valid criticism of poor journalism to regressive personal attacks. 

A range of people involved with Glasgow’s club scene hurled insults at people in the video, based on their identity and their opinions on club culture in Glasgow. The idea of inclusive clubbing was ridiculed and dismissed by people who refuse to believe that members of minority groups can find clubs a daunting environment to be in. 

They ridiculed how an unofficial party could ever be a 'safe space'. But are they misunderstanding what a safe space really is? By claiming that the documentary's interviewees do not represent underground clubbing, they are not only being ignorant to the different parts of Glasgow’s large club scene but also to the history of what they think they are defending.

House music was born out of the gay black warehouse parties of Chicago, and these were a place for oppressed groups to express themselves, free from bigotry. This history is often brushed aside. 

Many people in the i-D documentary are genuine when they say they have nowhere else to go. Many people feel alienated by the clubs and afters left out of the i-D documentary. 

You regularly hear people talk of records played at legendary American clubs of the past like the Paradise Garage or The Warehouse. For most, the memory is of the music and the sounds associated with the dancefloor. 

Surely what is equally - if not more - important is what it represented for minority groups who were free from their everyday persecution. The refusal to believe the narrative of Glasgow club culture put forward by women, POC and/or LGBTQ+ people is exactly why safe spaces are needed. 

Although i-D poorly represented just one sect of the Glasgow club scene, it does not permit the personal attacks on people that i-D was trying to represent. Many people in the i-D documentary are genuine when they say they have nowhere else to go. Many people feel alienated by the clubs and afters left out of the i-D documentary. 

After reading the response by all levels of Glasgow’s club scene, is it any real wonder why?

Picture courtesy of i-D

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Comments

112234

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 01:02

Very good analysis here. One important thing to take away from all this is that corporations are rarely goings to have the best interests of the people featured in their content in heart. While the individuals involved in producing the content might care deeply about issues affecting marginalised groups, the final editorial control lies in the hands of people who prioritise their bottom line over everything else. As a result things will always get chopped up and presented in a form that appeals to the advertisers rather than staying true to the original intent presented to the participants. Depth and context will always be disregarded for snappy soundbites and provocative imagery that will get more clicks. By all means, corporations should be milked for all they're worth, but if one wants accuracy, nuance, and safety, grassroots publications and curators are always going to be a better bet.

shibu

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