Megatripolis

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Megatripolis was an innovative, underground London nightclub created by Encyclopaedia Psychedelica / Evolution editor and founder of the Zippie movement Fraser Clark,[1] partner Sionaidh Craigen and partners JJ and Bugsy as well as a great many others (from an original concept by Fraser Clark and Sionaidh Craigen).[2] The club combined New Age ideology with Rave culture to create a vibrant, festival-like atmosphere presenting a wide variety of cross-cultural ideas and experiences. Club nights ran regularly on Thursdays from 1993 until 1996, being the focus of much of the Zippie movement. The club and its related activities also helped to popularise ideas such as cyberculture and the Internet between those years.

History & Venues[edit]

The club first started at The Marquee in London when it was at 105 Charing Cross Road, at first as a collaboration with Tribal Energy on Thursday nights in June 1993, With a lecture by Terence McKenna on its opening night, and with DJs Nik Sequenci, Tribal Energy (Jez Turner), Solar Quest and Mixmaster Morris. The club ran with an ambient space in the foyer and a smart bar on the terrace. With techno playing, an assortment of about 250 people attended. The club ran weekly. After eight weeks, a disagreement between the Tribal Energy and Evolution crews led to a schism with the latter being asked to leave.[citation needed] Tribal Energy then continued at the Marquee with a club on the same night, called 'Metropolis', which ran for seven weeks before closing. The Evolution crew consolidated and grew at the so-called Stansted Tree Party in September 1993 - a protest event to prevent woods near Stansted Airport in Essex being cleared to make way for housing development. On October 21, 1993, the Heaven nightclub under Charing Cross Station became home to the club. 4,000 people attended for the free opening night. Heaven was London's original gay-only nightclub, but had run non-gay (known as Pyramid) nights for many years, including clubs such as Rage, Earth, Spectrum and Land of Oz. The club had the distinction of being full or almost full for every night of its 155 week run at Heaven.

The Megatripolis 'Festival in a box' on Thursday nights attracted a diverse patronage from a wide age range, many of whom would not otherwise have considered going clubbing.[citation needed] By early 1994, it had also taken over the adjoining Sound Shaft nightclub and turned it into an ambient space with frequent all-night sets by Mixmaster Morris on the club's fourth separate sound stage. Megatripolis also promoted several large parties at Bagley's in Kings Cross and escalated its political agenda by renting an armoured car for the Criminal Justice Bill protest rally in July 1994.

The club ran until New Year's 1995 when internal pressures split it apart. It continued with a diminished agenda until it was closed on Thursday, October 24, 1996, being the club's third birthday. A three-CD album representing the club was released in July 1996 on Funky Peace Productions 2000 featuring mixes by DJ regulars and completely packaged on hemp (tree-free) paper (re-released in 2013).[3] Production equipment owned by the club was distributed to many members of the club's crew. At a court case in London in June 1998 brought by Fraser Clark remaining rights to the name Megatripolis were given to Fraser Clark, after an agreement made very early in 1993, in the opening stages of conceptualising the club. A single Megatripolis event organised by Fraser Clark took place at Heaven in May 2000.

Culture & Events[edit]

Megatripolis proved popular, although some reporting of it suggested a conflict between an avowed downplay of psychedelic drugs and an enthusiasm for substance use by some club-goers.[4] In any event, the club provided a meeting place of like-minded people and served as a platform for social awareness and activism as well as more traditional nightclub fare.

Typical evenings combined lectures and workshops with live musical performances accompanied by live video mixing and theatre. Musical styles were diverse, and included progressive house, trance, deep house, minimal techno and dub. The club played an important role in promoting trance music. Visits from speakers such as Allen Ginsberg, Terence McKenna, George Monbiot, Howard Marks and Ram Dass were common, and part of the club's 'Parallel Youniversity'. Ginsberg's 1995 appearance was made into the film Allen Ginsberg Live in London.

Guest DJs included Colin Faver, Colin Dale, Alex Paterson, Andrew Weatherall, Mr C, Tsuyoshi Suzuki and others. The club's resident DJ's were Darius Akashic, Nick Sequenci, Richard Grey and Marco Arnaldi. Marcus Pennell was resident VJ. Atmospheric music combined with sound effects was played along to films in the "chill-out rooms" set apart from the dance floors.

New-age stalls occupied the central hallway selling non-alcoholic energy (or "smart") drinks, body jewellery, alternative "small press" comics and magazines (such as the short-lived, but influential Head Magazine), as well as T-shirts and other clothing. The club also encouraged face and body painters, massage therapists, healers and magicians.

Also notable were early demonstrations of the World Wide Web at a time when most patrons were just beginning to be aware of what was then termed cyberculture, something seen as an important, if not defining, part of the Zippie future. Underground bulletin boards such as London's pHreak hosted live "cyber events" from the club. In what was seen as very progressive at the time, a live video interview with Arthur C Clarke was conducted from his home in Sri Lanka [5] on a portable satellite phone system. Similarly, Timothy Leary was transmitted into the club via ISDN giving a video interview from his home in the Los Angeles hills, ISDN having been installed at his house for the link. Leary had been banned from entering the UK in person by the British government in the 1960s, a ban that was still in force at the time. His Holiness the Dalai Lama also gave a lecture at the club from the Barbican via ISDN on Thursday 18 July 1996.

Environmental issues were an important part of the club's remit, and another part of the Zippie agenda. Anti-road protests were advertised on its internal noticeboards, hemp fashion shows were staged, environmental lectures and debates took place in the talk room called "The Well", and bicycle-powered sound-systems played on several occasions in various rooms.[6]

A UK tour took place in the spring / summer of 1996 including venues such as the Hacienda, Manchester, Junction, Cambridge, University of Surrey and Brighton and others. Two gigs were also held at the Mad club in Athens, Greece in 1996.

Megatripolis West[edit]

An offshoot of the club was started by Fraser Clark and others, in San Francisco in late 1994. It ran for five consecutive weeks before closing.

The sixth and final night of the club was a "launch rave" hosted by Ronin Publishing for Timothy Leary's book Chaos And Cyber Culture. In true "illegal UK rave" tradition, patrons were given the event's location at a nearby burger joint. Leary jammed and performed jazz skat with famous Bay Area musician Maruga. He was later kidnapped by the Zippie Soundsystem and forced to release a statement condemning the UK Prime Minister John Major and the Criminal Justice Bill, which famously banned outdoor parties with music that included an "emission of a succession of repetitive beats".

Leary exerted a powerful influence over the philosophy of the club and the Zippie movement overall. An indication of this can be found in the introduction to his posthumous book The Fugitive Philosopher (Ronin Press, September 2007) written by Fraser Clark. The original title of the piece, published in Clark's online magazine the UP![1], was Timothy Leary Was A Saint Who Will Be Remembered & Celebrated Long After Jesus, Mohamed and Elvis Are Forgotten

Megatripolis in popular culture[edit]

Megatripolis is referenced in the BBC TV comedy 'Absolutely Fabulous', and on the Red Hot Chili Peppers album 'Stadium Arcadium'. Well-known people who attended the club as visitors included Malcolm Mclaren, Lynne Franks, The Pet Shop Boys, Björk, Heather Small, and Sir Richard Branson.

Megatripolis Reunion Benefit for Fraser Clark[edit]

In 2008 Fraser Clark announced that he had inoperable liver cancer. In farewell to him, a final Megatripolis was held at Heaven on 13 November. He died on 21 January 2009.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Raynolds, Simon "Energy Flash", page 287 Picardor 1998
  2. ^ Others involved at the beginning of the club included Allen Hyman, Marcus Pennell, Andy Lockwood, the Scooby Doobies, Matthew Freeth, Martin Kavanagh, Lucy Wills, Dorcas Perry, Martin and Lynn Tucker, Alistair Brook, Des O'Leary (and other members of the Evolution collective), Tribal Energy, Nik Sequenci, Eenasul Fateh and others
  3. ^ mega-t album www.megatalbum.com
  4. ^ BBC Two "yoof" DEF II news programme Reportage, Reportage on Megatripolis
  5. ^ Video clip Sir Arthur C Clarke from Sri Lanka - as above
  6. ^ Disco divas turn the tables, Guardian, 24 August 1999