“Beyond the disco, there was the rave, beyond the rave, there’s Whirl-Y-Gig.”
Reading WOMAD Festival 1994
“Beyond the disco, there was the rave, beyond the rave, there’s Whirl-Y-Gig.”
“Beyond the disco, there was the rave, beyond the rave, there’s Whirl-Y-Gig.”
Reading WOMAD Festival 1994
Firstly to say thank you. That was the first time attending whirl-y-gig for me and my wife (in our forties, we have come to the whole world of rave and dance events very late, having spent our earlier years in different subcultures, or just as slaves to the demands of parenthood). Well, it was glorious. I must admit, I did come with reservations, but every one of them was confounded. Read more →
MP: The very first was held in the summer of 1981 by Ros Madden, for twenty odd people in a pub venue. In the autumn she launched the event in a bigger way under the umbrella of the Association of Humanistic Psychology in a community hall, and it was the second AHP event which I by chance attended, having seen an advert in Self & Society (the AHP’s journal). I had recently discovered drumming and dance for myself and was exploring different clubs and live gigs. Whirl-y-Gig was a bit like a cross between a very alternative college disco and a hippy dippy gig in a post punk era….perfect!
MP: Whirl-Y-Gig was started by Ros Madden in 1981 as an “AHP” event. The Association of Humanistic Psychology is an umbrella organization for professional practitioners and interested like minded people. Whirl-Y-Gig was a social space for anyone who enjoys dance as a means of self expression.
I went to the second AHP Whirl-Y-Gig and was impressed by the event’s apparent values of inclusiveness and respect for each and every person’s human potential. I immediately became very involved and in 1985 Ros left me in charge of Whirl-Y-Gig’s future welfare. I had by that time built the first Dance Trance Sound System and was DJ at Whirl-Y-Gig (where I was initially assisted by DJ Floyd Freud) and Club Dog (where at first I was the sole DJ).
By ’88 Whirl-Y-Gig was outgrowing the AHP and we separated amicably. From being a monthly event, Whirl-y-Gig was now becoming more frequent. It was also at this time that Jim arrived introducing an integrated psychedelic lightshow. The special marriage between sound, light and decor was finally established.
MP: I had helped Ros Madden at Whirl-Y-Gig for three years doing things like management, flyer design, environment and front desk. For those three years our DJ played a mix of slightly left field party sounds including some golden oldies, and Ros Madden would MC two twenty minute sets per night of more traditional irish and other dances. At the end of the third year the DJ failed to turn up and we spontaneously decided to do it ourselves from then on.
I started to DJ as Monkey Pilot at Whirl-Y-Gig, Old Hampstead Town Hall . Initially I shared whirly DJ’ing with a good friend called DJ Floyd Freud. I quickly realised that your DJ sound was greatly influenced by your sound system and so I built my own with the able assistance of a friend called Mark, a Rastafarian who knew a thing or two about such things!
It was based on the multi box systems common on the carnival streets of Notting Hill (an economical source of big bottom end sound) and it was designed to fit in the back of Ferdinand, the Dance Trance Hearse (1962 Vanden Plas Princess Hearse Reborn).This first Dance Trance Sound System was visually tweaked with backdrops featuring the streaks and symbols from the Dance Trance flyer and the traffic light which survives to this day. Inspired by my work with the Youth Service, a parachute was always taken to gigs as essential kit!
For one year I launched independent Dance Trance events at Old Hampstead Town Hall along side Whirl-Y-Gig. Somehow, the Whirly sound soon embraced elements of all these and more besides. Once Whirly went weekly in 1989, it became my sole personalised DJ identity and spiritual journey…and from this time on, my only regular gig.
MP: As time passed:
MP: There was a time when I completed a music technology course with Jose Gross, and subsequently remixed several tracks with Jose and also with Swordfish from Astralasia. Although it was very exciting to be part of the originating creative process, I noticed that I was beginning to listen to music in an increasingly analytical way which I felt was at odds with my more open and subjective “music selector” ear. Also, the amount of time and emotional energy that music making requires, placed it in direct competition with the equally satisfying creative process of researching and compiling a live set of found music for Whirl-Y-Gig events. I concluded that Monkey Pilot should stick to doing what he does best…..whirly dj!
MP: Monkey Pilot was the title of a song by the Comsat Angels, from their first and classic album called “Waiting for a Miracle”, inspired by the first living creatures sent into space. I adopted it as a creative device during a cassette compilation exchange relationship with a friend called Natasha V in Berkeley, San Francisco. Prior to adopting it as my DJ name from 1984, I submitted “The Reality Scandal” for publication in Self and Society under the name of Monkey Pilot in late 1981. This first version was rejected as too journalistic for a semi academic AHP journal. In later form it was finally accepted in 1986 with the title “This Fear Of Gods” and credited to my real name. This essay in many ways laid the foundation of thought that led me to choosing Whirl-Y-Gig as my perfect means of expression and most valid activity for this lifetime, a way of achieving everything and explaining nothing!
MP: Whirl-Y-Gig occupied a number of community halls during the early days, and for three months occupied the very atmospheric Almeida Theatre in Islington. During the second year, we stayed for nine months at Notting Hill’s Acklam Hall later known as Subteranea. We settled for the next two years at Old Hampstead Town Hall, but by January 1986 we had finally found our first true home in a little known gem called Notre Dame Hall, off Leicester Square. This was where we first experienced major success and for the last of four years we were selling out (550 capacity) on a weekly basis often by 8.45pm (8 until 11.30pm!). As has happened so often in our history, our popularity brought unwanted attention indirectly leading to the church management discovering their license had expired during the recent relaxed years of GLC control. Everything came to an abrupt hault.
It was chosen partly by us because we recognized it would allow us to use our recently donated (from the military) 60’ pink parachute as a centre piece. The space seemed so big to us that we initially caved off areas with netting and installed the amazing Space Tumbler. However, by the last two of five years we enjoyed a regular attendance of more than one thousand people every week without exception. We were given storage space on site and it was during this period that we developed our production in a big way, and we invested in the lights and sound system that we still use today. Gareth was the man who wired the new sound system and having delivered it to his first Whirl-y-Gig, stayed and has looked after sound ever since!
However, once again things came to an end with little warning and it was largely down to nervous council officers who had been nursing a license requiring pending building works for many years. Following Shoreditch Town Hall was always going to be difficult, but Hammersmith Town Hall seemed to offer what was needed in the form of a weekly Saturday booking, storage space (up many steps!), 2am license and a small chill out space. The interior was impressive with our total décor cover, but we never grew to love the exterior of the venue which had a very municipal vibe to it. It was a tip off regarding new sympathetic management that led us to the Camden Centre and a return to a monthly booking. This venue lacked storage space but had a larger chill out area and a well proportioned main space. As time went by the late night license was extended and the “sympathetic manager” became less scary. It was never easy covering costs at the Camden Centre but it represented a period of success, stability and consolidation as we lived down the passing of the Shoreditch light. It was a change of policy from above that pulled the plug on the manager and us alike and it was over. Interestingly, ten years later that policy was reversed making possible our recent happy return to the Camden Centre.
After a long search and three months without Whirl-Y-Gig we fell in love with the 291 Gallery. As a converted church it had great atmosphere including a garden and felt a bit like our own Faery Castle. However, an early license and high costs resulted in crippling financial losses. Without a very generous donation from Ray, a wealthy long time whirly fan, Whirl-Y-Gig could have ended there and then.
A move to Jacks represented a major change of direction for us away from the polished wooden dancefloors of our past. The venue offered an all night license, a management dedicated exclusively to underground club runners and all at an affordable price. It meant compromises like the end of our BYO alcohol policy (already lost at the 291 Gallery), as well as no more whirly staffed free cloakroom or whirly exclusive security, but it gave us an incredible eight years of stability. In the latter years we achieved capacity audiences, long queues and a return to the sense of excitement achieved during the nineties.
MP: It was always my dream to take Whirl-Y-Gig to the Roundhouse, as it was the original Roundhouse Implosions which provided the bedrock of inspiration that would ultimately manifest at Whirl-Y-Gig. The Implosions grew out of the UFO and Middle Earth clubs of the late sixties, the first truly psychedelic club events in London. In the semi derelict Roundhouse with internal scaffold amphitheatre surrounded by hippy stalls and hosting a stage for all the best underground bands, the Sunday Implosions established the festival in a club vibe and format. Later, the Roundhouse remained closed for many years, and I dreamed of returning with Whirl-Y-Gig. Now that it has been so beautifully refurbished, I suspect this will remain just a dream but never say never!
MP: Every night must achieve moments of near perfection in some great way to feel it has happened at all, and the magic of ordinary perfection is that it makes you want to create and experience an even more perfect vision next time!
MP: Whirl-Y-Gig had slowly grown through several venues including three months at the then empty and semi-derelict Almeida Theatre in Islington, nine months at Notting Hill’s Acklam Hall, two years at Old Hampstead Town Hall, and by January 1986 we had finally found our first true home at Notre Dame Hall. By 1988, with such a journey already traveled, we did not see the steadily growing numbers of whirl-y-goers as related to anything outside of our own whirly evolution. What was obvious however, was that ‘dance’ was growing rapidly in popular culture, and rave was influencing many social groups and most particularly, from our point of view, the festival and club scene! We already had our own broad musical identity which was inclusive of many different electronic world fusions producing a unique, psychedelic, and completely alternative dance sound.
The arrival of Dub in earlier years, club styles such as House, and then specifically Trance, were all undoubtedly big influences on the whirl-y-mix, just as Break Beat, Drum’n’Bass and Dubstep have been in more recent times. However, Whirl-Y-Gig has always stamped its own identity on these generic forms. The process of inclusion of major new electronic styles has always been continuous and progressive, with ‘moments’ that only in retrospect represent giant leaps. In the grand scheme of things however, the influence of trance and rave culture was undoubtedly monumental. It was particularly relevant to Whirl-Y-Gig because of the positive high energy music, shared ideals of peace, love, respect and freedom, plus common values of DIY independence and interest in broader social and spiritual issues. Whirl-Y-Gig shares these values. We have always designed, owned and managed every aspect of our own production, making sure that each part is harmonious and complementary. Ultimately, it is still difficult to separate the emergence and evolution of dance music from Whirl-Y-Gig’s own evolutionary process, but looking back, 1988 was certainly a time of rapid growth for us. Although we were not initially of the rave scene, we knew we were passionately united and spiritually connected, and remain so today.
MP: By staying true to the vision no matter what, refining and making strong, Whirl-Y-Gig has always evolved rather than changed.
MP: Initially borrowing from many musical influences to create an alternative and varied dance sound, it was soon the electronic styles that embraced those broad influences most completely that rapidly became more recognisably “our” whirl-y-music as we now know it. So in essence it hasn’t changed, but in form it has become much more defined and clearly futuristic…
MP: For many years we lived in a tiny one bedroom flat, and my vinyl occupied a wall in the living room which was stacked high with record boxes. For the last twenty years we have lived in a small house in which I have a whole room the size of a large box room. I disappear into my “studio” for five or more long and lovely days every month to prepare my eight hour set. I have a four speaker system at eye and ear level, shelves of vinyl and drawers of CDs all up to the ceiling, and views out of a west facing window across Harrow cricket pitch towards the hills of Pinner and Grimsdyke. I was quick to adopt CDs which appeared more reliable and precise than vinyl but the humidity achieved under the arches at Jacks proved too much for even CDs to endure resulting in painful show stopping 5 second gaps, a problem finally solved by my Media Player. This is like a CDJ controller but drawing material from a computer hard drive, finally solving both reliability and storage issues!
MP: Music is a spiritual force in my personal life. It connects directly with my emotional self and has influence on my day to day ‘spirits’ bringing sense of hope, connectedness and most importantly well-being. As a DJ, and at Whirl-Y-Gig, I am very aware that we are providing an environment where these things become possible for everyone, but only if each individual remains free to engage in their own way. Therefore, every aspect of Whirl-Y-Gig is wherever possible non-intrusive and non-specific to ensure that we do no more than create an opportunity for ordinary ecstasy in which we find positive, peaceful, respectful relationship. I have been described as the worlds first faceless DJ, no microphone and playing apparently with my back to the audience. However, the stage décor, lights and sound system provide all the necessary visual impact required and I play a small part. I am accessible, facing the same way as the audience, and sharing a journey that through music and dance creates a magical and significant trance state. As an artist my DJ sets are an expression of a higher purpose and inevitably a product of my emotional and spiritual self, but the nature and value of the experience is ultimately in the hands of the individual to make their own. In this way there are many parallels between the church and the modern dancefloor, but I think that is exactly what they are, parallels and a fine example of our expanding universe!
MP: Always seemingly slightly out of step with the norm, I believe Whirl-Y-Gig is as much about the future of clubbing as it’s past. I think Whirl-Y-Gig is finally realising its true strength of form, and as such is embarking on a new and renewed future.
In 2008, we started a local weekly free night called Parlour Party where Mary plays live and hosts the open mic stage and I look after the sound engineering and environment. It was the result of a long held ambition to start our own jam night and we believe it embraces genuine whirly values by putting people on stage and providing space for free expression in a safe and welcoming atmosphere.
In 2013 we launched Whirl-Y-Fayre bringing Whirl-Y-Gig and the Parlour Party together for the first time. Having been regular festival goers for more than forty years and having taken Whirl-Y-Gig to many major UK festivals, the Whirl-Y-Fayre has been a long time coming. Aware of the risks involved we waited until the right site and the right moment became known to us. We hope that the Whirl-Y-Fayre will grow and enjoy a long life, in the end outliving all of us!
MP: Life, love, family, future….
If you have lost personal possessions at Whirl-Y-Gig such as keys, mobile phones, passports or wallets then there is a good chance that it has been found and handed in. Please contact us with a full description of your missing property via:
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Booking reference numbers made via this web site are now 4 digit numbers and will appear on your email confirmation as Order: #1234. All that you will need bring with you to the event is your booking reference number which will be presented upon completion of order and sent to you in an order confirmation e-mail. You may also be asked the name under which the booking was made as additional proof of ticket ownership.
Advance tickets for Whirl-Y-Gig events may be purchased online directly from Whirl-Y-Gig on this web site, subject to availability. A booking fee of £1 applies to all tickets purchased online.
Advance tickets may also be purchased from Access All Areas Network Ltd. :
Web: Access All Areas
Tel: 020 7267 8320 & 020 7267 6148
Access All Areas, 2nd Floor, 30c Camden Lock Place, London, NW1 8AL [ Map ] Tuesday – Saturday 12pm till 7pm (Closed Sundays and on Bank holidays). Booking Fees apply. Tickets subject to availability.