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The Cause

Clubbing with a conscience

2020 Feb 16     
2 Bit Thugs

Tottenham pop-up venue The Cause has raised over £100K for various charities over the past two years

The Cause is a nightclub with a difference. Sure, all the familiar ingredients are there – bar, dancefloor, DJs playing records – and the idea of turning a former car mechanic's garage into a venue for dancing is hardly new – Paradise Garage got its name for a reason, after all (though that was, admittedly, a different sort of garage). And the whole self-supporting, community-focused ethos of the club will ring bells with anyone who remembers, for instance, The Loft in 70s NYC, or legendary Preston techno squat Artlab in the 90s.

But we can't, off the top of our head, think of another club whose entire raison d'etre is to raise awareness and funds for good causes. Benefit gigs, fundraisers, charity balls, whatever – they're ten-a-penny. But to base an entire venue around such is definitely unusual, at the very least. To then be able to attract DJs ranging from Detroit founding father Derrick May to the cream of today's house and techno crop, not to mention numerous big names in drum & bass, UKG and beyond… well, that's pretty much unique as far as we're aware.

Right now, they're in the middle of a series of three parties that are raising money for those affected by the bush fires in Australia. The final party in the series, FOMO for Wildlife Victoria, takes place next weekend (Sat 22 Feb), with the likes of Heartless Crew, One Man and DJ Spoony laying down the house, garage and bass in aid of Wildlife Victoria, who are working to rescue injured and displaced animals. They're also busy expanding, with not one but two new spaces hopefully coming fully into play this year. Which is pretty impressive for a pop-up club that was supposed to have closed by now!

So right now seemed like a good time to have chat with New Zealand-born co-founder Eugene Wild to find out more…

You're on the verge of expanding, I believe, so let's start with that…

"Yeah, there's a few things in the pipeline, actually. There's one space that we actually did our New Years party at – it's just down the road so we did it in two venues, with buses running between them. We're looking to take that space on, and we're also taking on another adjacent building that actually links in to our current space, which would be another large room that we'd use over the course of the year. It'll be largely a daytime venue and then we'll do a few larger events on temporary events notices when we can.

"That would another 500-capacity room to our our 600-capacity space, and then when we use Grow next door as well, that takes us up to 1,200. So we've got options available for quite large parties with multiple rooms, and then there's the space down the road as well."

When The Cause launched, though, it was only supposed to be a temporary thing! So has that changed now?

"Yes and no. We got one extension, to the end of 2019, so we were looking for new spaces to move to, and then just as we were taking one space on we got an eleventh-hour extension in November. And now more space at that location has become available, hence the new 500-capacity room. It's just one of those things where you can't really… because of the nature of the building, it's a meanwhile project. It's not really up to us how long these things go on for, it just seems like the powers-that-be haven't really got their stuff in order so we keep getting these six-month extensions.

"Which is great for us, but obviously it makes it quite hard to organise the programme in advance. But we saw that coming a bit, which is why we created our XXX in-house parties with unannounced headliners. That way, we can announce the party, and then if we get the extension we can look around and see who's available! And that's actually worked quite well – or as well as you could hope, anyway. But of course nowadays everyone's booked up a year in advance, so it's not always easy."

So as it stands, it's still a temporary space, but you're not actually facing any immiment threat of eviction right now?

"Yeah, that's where we're at right now. But we are trying to plan ahead as much as possible, which is why we're taking on the second building down the road, so that if we do get kicked out we won't be left with nowhere to go."

Okay, let's rewind a bit and talk about the origins of The Cause, because I know it was born out of London Loft Party, but I don't know if that was you or if you came along later?

"No, London Loft Party was Stuart's thing, my business partner Stuart Glen and John Chung. I met Stuart because he was doing that and I was doing warehouse parties at my own warehouse. This was about 2015, and my parties were kind of similar to Stuart's but a lot smaller. He was doing big secret one-offs pulling in 500-1000 people, whereas I was putting on parties for about 200 people. But it was at Manor House where I was living, so you could kind of just click your fingers on a Friday afternoon, move all the furniture out and you had a club room! We did those once every couple of months.

"So that was how me and Stuart met, because both our parties had a similar kind of ethos, and we've carried that over to The Cause."

Hang on, I'm a bit confused… how did you come to have a warehouse in the first place?!

"It was kind of a live-work situation, set out as a kind of blank canvas and we'd live in it as well but then we made it adaptable so we could turn it into quite a good venue and have 200 people in there dancing."

Okay, so then you set up The Cause in Tottenham, and initially I know you were raising money for mental health charities…

"Yeah, we started out working with MIND and CALM, and we've raised a fair chunk for them over the past two years. But as The Cause has become known for supporting charitable endeavours we've had other promoters reaching out to us, so for instance we're currently doing a series of parties in aid of the wildfires in Australia, because Sam from Bizarro in Australia contacted us."

What are the criteria, then? Do you see yourself as a 'progressive' organisation, or a 'socialist' or a 'green' organisation – what exactly IS the ethos?

"Erm, I'd say it's just clubbing with a conscience, really. Trying to use our platform to raise awareness for causes that are close to our hearts, issues that affect our lives and those of our friends. I wouldn't say it was exactly political, but I guess it could be seen that way in some instances.

"But really it's about spreading awareness, and if we can raise some money as well, that's great! This weekend we managed to raise about £20,000 for our charity partners, and we've raised over £100,000 in total for different charities."

What about music policy – is there one? So far you've booked quite underground DJ names but what if some Top 40 boyband star wanted to do a secret gig in aid of Greenpeace or something?

"No, we try and work with all sorts of promoters and put on all sorts of music. The shows we put on ourselves, the in-house parties, those do tend to reflect our own music tastes, which is house and techno in various forms. But we get all types of promoters coming in that want to put on D&B or UK garage or live music, and that's cool too. We're always open to ideas! We just want to be an accessible space for everyone, which a lot of London clubs aren't."

Now tell me about the area… Tottenham's had its share of troubles over the years, but then checking out your press cuttings I kept reading about "the vibrant Tottenham scene" and so on: is the area on the up, then?

"It is, these days. Down the road from us there's a club called Five Miles, there's all kinds of pubs and bars popping up, and the council's been getting behind these initiatives to breathe new life into the area. And then you've got the warehouse community in Haringey, which for me is where it all started. That's, like, live/work spaces for artists and like-minded people… they've been there for a good 15 years in some cases. They're great for people who've just moved to London, as I had when I first moved there, because you've got kind of a ready-made scene and social circle right there."

But having all these hip new bars and so on does sort of open you up to complaints about gentrification, doesn't it? Have you had any grief on that front?

"No, not really, the locals have generally been very supportive. I mean yes, gentrification is definitely happening, we can see it going on right in front of us. But then we're kind of next on the chopping block ourselves, so…"

Speaking of money issues, how do the finances work? Are you a registered charity or…?

"No, we're not a registered charity, it's basically just self-funding. We started out with a very small budget and a plan that was originally going to include a load of work studios as well as a party space, but the studio side of things didn't really take off whereas the parties did! And then it's just been a case of… it's kind of self-supporting now, but we've put a lot of money and work into it, just to keep it going and get it to this stage. 

"We have quite a big team of people involved, and we do make sure people are getting paid, but we keep costs down as much as we can – I did a lot of the interior build myself, for instance, using recycled materials. But slowly we've been able to build up a bit of a war chest, if you like, which is why we can look at expanding now."

So has the studios and work spaces idea fallen by the wayside entirely?

"No, it did for a while, but this year we're looking at revisiting that and getting it going again, hopefully in another space on the same road. Because that idea of supporting small creative businesses is close to our hearts, just as raising awareness for our different charity partners is."

Finally, you've had some pretty cool names down to play… have there been any that were a bit of a "pinch yourself" moment for you personally?

"Yeah, a few… Gerd Janson was definitely one. We had Saoirse and Shanti Celeste back-to-back this weekend, that was brilliant. And we've had some of the American pioneers down as well, like in 2018 we had Derrick May and Boo Williams. That was pretty amazing."

Words: Russell Deeks Pics: Luke Curtis

FOMO for Wildlife Victoria takes place at The Cause this Saturday (22 February)

Follow The Cause: Facebook website





Tags: The Cause, Eugene Wild, Gene Smart, Tottenham, London Loft Party, MIND, CALM, Derrick May, Boo Williams, Gerd Janson, Saoirse, Shanti Celeste, DJ Spoony, One Man, Heartless Crew