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Interview: Groundwork: Laying The Foundations

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Great club music, with great beer, in a great pub. On paper it's a simple formula, but it doesn't do justice to the special kind of magic that keeps the Groundwork faithful returning to Shakespeares month in, month out.

We spoke to founder and resident Alex Hatch to find out what sets them apart from the heads-down majority.

There are hundreds of techno nights in Sheffield. What makes Groundwork different?

What makes it different is the lack of commercialisation. It's a non-ticketed event and it's free entry. The market is saturated for techno nights in Sheffield and my personal issue with club nights is that you pay to see amazing DJs but you're in venues that are overcrowded, where it's hard to get a drink and you've got to be out until 6am. This gives you an alternative. It's generally on a Thursday and it finishes at midnight, so even if you're up in the morning you can get away with it.

How did it get started?

It's the old cliche - a small collective of us were all playing music in our bedrooms with our 'Happy Meal' DJ controllers, as we call them. For me it was two residents in particular. I was DJing every night in my bedroom with them. I knew if I could give them an opportunity to play music maybe that would help in terms of boosting their confidence.

It's about being able to be a bit weird and maybe expect the unexpected

It feels like a casual environment for DJs as well as dancers.

That's it. Speaking from behind the decks it's definitely a place where you can experiment, where you can afford to get things wrong and it's okay. A lot of us have switched over to vinyl in the past year. There's no pressure in that sense. It's just about expressing yourself.

To put it under an umbrella, we all like techno and that is the core focus of the night, but there's no structure in terms of telling residents and guests what we want them to play. It's a chance for them to do their thing when they might not get away with doing that anywhere else.

Is there a musical ethos running through the night?

For me personally, I wouldn't even brand it as a techno night. That's just the way it's gone in terms of what we enjoy playing. I remember playing a full jazz hour a few months back and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It's about being able to be a bit weird and maybe expect the unexpected. I'm not the biggest fan of getting my head blown off by the same 4/4 kick for five hours straight. I need elements of surprise. I need change. If a resident plays an electro set the month before they might do something different this time. No-one is defined by any one genre. The night might start with some jazz, then we might bring in some leftfield house and weirder UK techno, and then, as per usual, it'll end with thumping techno from Oliver Heaviside, who absolutely kills it every time. When Ol steps up people know what they're letting themselves in for.

Sam Gregory

Groundwork return for their 15th party on Wednesday 19 December, as well as a day-to-night bash on New Year's Eve. Both free entry, upstairs at Shakespeares.

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