1. The End & AKA
Brief history?A DJ named Layo was throwing parties around town in his student days and, with input from his architect dad, set about transforming an old post office sorting depot into a permanent venue. With creative advice from the irrepressible Mr C of The Shamen, they launched The End in 1995 and it quickly became the most cutting edge nightclub in the country. Spiritual home of the nascent tech house scene via Mr C’s own night Subterrain, it was also a big champion drum & bass, techno and all forms of innovative new music. Later they opened the large self-contained AKA bar at street level, which could also be incorporated into the club for bigger events. Defined by queues round the block, both venues were roadblocked right through until the final party. And despite financial troubles in the early years, the club ultimately proved it was possible to run a successful business without ever succumbing to artistic compromise.
Famous For? With line-ups like these, where do you begin? How about Laurent Garnier’s residency, where he always played all night long, veering from thundering techno to country & western effortlessly. Or Erol Alkan’s scene-defining Trash on Mondays. Friday was all about Drum & Bass heroes like Andy C or DJ Markey laying waste to the main floor in a whirlwind of reloads. We enjoyed the guilty pleasure of Riot on Sunday afternoons just as much as a cool night of Underground Resistance or the throbbing sound of DTPM, before it defected to the then newcomer Fabric. AKA was famous for nights in its own right, including Thursday’s industry mash-up Misdemeanours, run by Caroline Prothero who is now behind the global phenomenon that is David Guetta.
What was it like? Trailblazing. From dramatic ideas such as placing the DJ booth in the middle of the dancefloor at crowd level, to little touches such as the famous drinking fountain, every element of The End was meticulously thought out by people who understood what needed improving about the bog-standard clubbing experience. A monster soundsystem and the intense atmosphere created by the arches meant that when the place erupted to a big track, it was a beautiful kind of extra-sensory mayhem indeed.
Why did it close? The team, many of whom had been with the club since day one, decided that they’d like to move on to fresh challenges, and leave on a high rather than let things get stale. The club was such a personal project that they didn’t want it to continue under different management, plus a property developer placed an offer on the table that made the decision difficult to refuse.
What’s happening there today? The arse fell out of the global economy shortly after the sale of the building, so redevelopment plans were swiftly put on hold. It reopened as a nightlife space under new management, (exactly what The End team didn’t want), cheekily retitled The Den and Centro. But despite aping the name, the new clubs inevitably failed to emulate what had gone before. The venue was soon forced to rely on some fairly grim commercial parties and was eventually closed down for quite serious breaches of licence. Last month the place was repossessed by bailiffs and currently lies boarded up.
Words & Pics: Tom Kihl