The Island, Bristol
Tucked away down a rainy street in central Bristol, The Island complex teems with creativity.
The complex’s formerly disused Old Bridewell Police Station houses a hub of studios, inhabited by a collection of artists with an aim of going against the grain. At its surface, the listed building is unassuming, but it has become a well-loved home for the city’s boundary-blurring club nights too. As you rush down the stairs into the basement, eagerly anticipating a night of searing UK techno, the venue’s brightly decorated winding corridors, random bits of debris and indoor speed bumps add a sense of haphazard thrill to the night. Will you trip over in front of that guy whose eye you caught across the smoking area? Who knows, but with any hint of a sterile club environment out the window and with it our preconceptions of what a club night should be about, anything can happen.
The Timedance parties began in February 2015 with bossman Batu alongside Beneath and Transient at the Cavern Club. Since then they have been graced by the UK’s leading pioneers of all things weird, spooky and techno-leaning, from local punk noise heroes Giant Swan to sought after names like Ben UFO and Objekt. The parties have become more than just a casual club night. Operating on a strict safe space and zero harassment policy, Timedance has one of the most diverse crowds in Bristol. At a time where equality is extremely lucrative, it can be rare to find a night that doesn’t shout about it but ultimately provides the space for marginalised individuals to get loose, but this sums up Batu’s approach perfectly.
As a result of not taking itself too seriously, the atmosphere is light. On warm up duties, Batu delivers the unexpected. As a producer, Batu is known for his unhinged, dark low-end mutations on his own label as well as for Bristol favourite Livity Sound and the iconic Hessle Audio. As a DJ, tonight Batu reaches far past his instantly recognisable sound. Instead, he brings an unabashed party atmosphere. Spinning old school nostalgic dubstep to an enthusiastic crowd, the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming, and there are moves about that might not have been thrown around since 2010. Batu goes on to dip in and out of various UK club sounds, with UK funky, Afrobeats, club trax and a dose of rowdy Bristol techno for good measure.
It’s a tough set to follow but Lena Willikens looks unphased. After all she’s been resident of Düsseldorf’s esteemed Salon Des Amateurs for over five years. As soon as you walk into the back room, you’re instantly dancing. It’s near impossible to see anything but Willikens right at the front, but with the high ceilings, the entire venue is consumed by the energy of her music. Seamlessly mixing acid-tinged techno with straight up bad boy electro, the first hour of her set passes without anyone noticing. As we approach the end of the night, there is no gentle wind down, instead Willikens switches from wall to wall slammers into pop-tinged techno and back again. At close, shouts of ‘one more tune’ ring around the room, but alas we’re defeated by the higher powers of club security. As we all left wanting more, so did Lena. Her words on the night, “I wish I could have played another three hours for this crowd”, are a powerful endorsement for why Timedance continues its stride as one of Bristol’s most cherished events.