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The end of Wilkie House signals trouble ahead for underground clubbing in the capital. Owner ELLIS JOHNSTON tells The List all about it.
Words: Catherine Bromley
ilkie House. one ol‘ the capital‘s most
successful undergrouml clubs. el'l‘ectively
shut tip shop as a dance music venue on 9 March. This followed a police raid in which nineteen people were arrested. two for possessing ‘dealer quantities‘ ol‘ (‘Iass-A narcotics. ()wner lillis .lolmston. 28. said that he was closing the venue voluntarily. even bel‘ore talks had gone ahead with Lothian and Borders Police and licensing ol‘licials.
‘I won‘t be re-opening Wilkie as a dance music venue.’ said Johnston. conceding that recent events. including the emergence of serious competition from a re-vamped Vaults (now the Honeycomb). had 'led to a juncture‘. 'Quite simply. we would lose. The lloneycomb‘s better than me.‘
‘When you come to drug culture, there are certain aspects of the Wilkie House programme that I will
not be accommodating in the Venue.’ Ellis Johnston
The end of Wilkie House came two weeks bel‘ore the closure of Home in London‘s Leicester Square. Britain‘s biggest nightclub. owned by Scots tycoon Ron McCulloch. was shut down alter being branded a drugs den by Vl'estminster (‘ity Council. Not quite in the league of Ron McCulloch. Johnston is nonetheless a successl'ul local businessman who makes a large proportion ot‘ his income from the ownership and management ol‘ entertainment spaces. Ironically. he tirst became involved in underground clubbing al'ter nearby ventte the Vaults lost its license over drugs.
‘When I tirst started at Wilkie House in l993. it was a very mainstream club.‘ said Johnston. 'lt was around about Christmas ()5 when one of the
70 THE LIST 1;? ‘26 Apr 2001
promoters came to me from the Vaults and suggested there was a better way ol' making a living. It all seemed like a great idea but I suppose. at that point. I was fairly ignorant of club culture.’ And all its associated problems. it would seem.
A converted church building. Wilkie House has. over the past six years. been one ol‘ the city‘s most successl‘ul venues for underground clubbing. It has played host to lidinburgh‘s leading club nights. including 'l'aste. Luvely and Sublime and its departure from the scene will be l’elt for some time. So what can we expect for the l’uture ol' Wilkie llouse‘.’ Depending on the success of an tip-coming private hearing with the Licensing Board. Wilkie House will re-open later this year as an entertainment space. ‘lt‘s likely to reopen as an entertainment lacility of some sort because that‘s what the licensing is l‘or.‘ said Johnston. ‘lt will be a nightclub in some shape or l’orm open until three in the morning. It won‘t be a
lap-dancing bar — well I could give you a long list of
things it won't be — but it‘s going to be something sensible and above board. In the opinion of the police. there is a problem with the way that we've been trading. so we won‘t be trading like that anymore.'
What. then. of the Venue. an entertainment space owned by Johnston that also accommodates the kind of umlerground club nights that the police are all too prone to take exception to'.’ ‘When you come to drug culture. there are certain aspects of the Wilkie House programme that I will not be accommodating in the Venue.‘ said Johnston. ‘.\'o matter what club nights we have in there. well be controlling them and protecting our space against what we would consider to be a threat of closure. It. for example. we‘ve got nights that have been famous for having a drug culture and we can’t had a way ol‘ controlling that drug culture. then we‘ll stop doing the nights.'
Lessons have been learned and. while Johnston may have been naive about the complexities of underground club culture when he lirst became involved in 1995. recent events have certainly taught him to err on the side ol‘ caution.
The latest Club news . . .
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SCOTTISH HOMELANDS details have also been announced, although they‘re not much use for the Central Belt seeing as this year's site is just outside Aberdeen (and you thought the journey home last year was a nightmare!). Still, if you fancy a long haul to lose it in the middle of nowhere, the line- up includes: Sasha (pictured), Nick Warren, Steve Lawler, Fergie and Mauro Piccotto. For confirmation of the latest bookings, see www.ericsson@ homelands.co.uk.
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make you work for it thzs issue. In our ix Sf; :5;s;on m; have two pairs of tickets; to set; Dermak May anri Kevin Saunderson at Pttt't: t2/ Apr. as part of thr; highly exciting tnplych innsu; i(3fiil‘.’£li. But to hero's/1th a chance of ‘.‘.’lliil|ll(} a pair of tickets you must first answer this very il£1r(l(ltl(:f$I!()iiI \"Jhicn North American city is most associated Wliil the mosaic of both May and Satinrlerscn? Answers to cluhs’mlist.couk by Vu/erlnesda‘,’ 18 April. LEGENDARY HIP HOP DJ Cash Money has been booked to appear at a one- off event at La Belle Angele, Edinburgh on Wednesday 9 May. It’s a week night, but quite frankly who cares?