A retrospective on Church, Edinburgh’s legendary student club night

If you’re a student in Edinburgh then you’ve likely heard of Church. The monthly event has cultivated a strong reputation since its creation three years ago, but 14 March marked the end for Church as LTJ Bukem took over the decks for one final rave. Students will fondly remember the floor of Mash House literally bouncing underfoot as some of bass music’s best-known selectors took the stage, but most don’t realise how Church has helped introduce more students to Edinburgh’s vibrant clubbing scene. Co-founder Guy Lough discusses how his clubbing experience as a student influenced Church’s meteoric rise from a personal project to a prolific, unmissable night.

Lough founded Church in 2016 with his friends during his second year as a student, perceiving a gap in the clubbing market for nights directed towards the student demographic. Clubs like Sneaky Pete’s and Cabaret Voltaire have rich histories of bringing the underground to Edinburgh, but these weren’t generally the kind of nights students were attracted to. “When I was in first year the clubbing landscape was very different. We used to go out a lot more than I think people do now,” begins Lough. “Blitzing every night Monday to Saturday wasn’t that uncommon, but the majority of nights we were going to were very much in the Why Not mould.”

There were still events, but it was uncommon for them to be pitched towards the student population. Nowadays this has changed; the appearance of market platforms like Edinburgh Ticket Exchange on Facebook inevitably draws attention to events as they reach a wider audience. But before this became commonplace like it is for many current students, Lough perceived a gap in the clubbing scene for proper dance music nights which could generate such hype in Edinburgh’s halls of residence.

“I think I first got the idea at a one-off night called Outbreak at Studio 24, which was just a few student DJs playing garage and bassline. Clocked that it was being well-received but that there weren’t any regular nights dedicated to that music. This was back before anyone had heard of Skepsis, Holy Goof, Notion etc so the idea was to give guys like that a platform in Edinburgh that didn’t exist yet.” Church was this platform, but it took until the second year after its formation for the popularity of the bassline night to snowball, beginning with a sold-out freshers show featuring Skepsis in 2017 but primarily focusing on bringing the big bassline acts to Edinburgh. Lough and co. stuck to this music policy, booking established bassline acts like Bassboy, Champion and Lengoland in the following months, and Church soon became renowned as one of Edinburgh’s must-go events.

Somewhere in between, Church grew beyond being just a popular, student-run bassline night. Many students would go not just for the DJ but because it was Church, respected for what it was. The way Church was marketed during the first two years brought about that clamour for tickets, tapping into the student demographic’s desire for underground music events.

Lough acknowledges, however, that this string of sold-out shows throughout the year was partly due to the sudden surge in the popularity of bassline as a whole. “In fairness we were incredibly lucky – I don’t think any of us really thought bassline would take off quite as much as it did. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time as the genre was developing.” 2017 was a big year for bassline and it began to garner more widespread attention, blowing up much in the same way as Church did at the same time.

By the third year Church’s reputation was firmly established, allowing it to adopt a more diverse music policy. The more eclectic
bookings of Special Request, Swindle and Alix Perez deviated away from bassline to wider electronic genres, allowing Church to become a more unique and varied musical experience, although appealing to a similar crowd.

But given the extent of Church’s success, why end it now?

“It’s simply because we’re all leaving uni,” says Lough. In this sense it was always a hobby for Church’s creators, who are now graduating, but they succeeded in transforming Edinburgh’s student nightlife in the way they set out to. Many current Edinburgh students go to events without realising how different things were before they got here, not comprehending how much the club scene has changed in the last few years, and nights like Church are to thank for that.

At its heart, Church was a passion project for some students to promote the music they found interesting but which also lacked representation in the Edinburgh club scene, crafting a new kind of experience for people like themselves.

 

Image: James Gourlay 

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