The Zap

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The Zap Club first opened at the New Oriental Hotel Brighton in April 1982. Founded by Neil Butler Patricia Butler and Amanda Scott the Zap was an experiment to mix radical art with cutting edge entertainment. The first shows were presented in a cabaret format mixing performance art, poetry, comedy, dance and theatre with the opening night featuring Ian smith, Roger Ely and the band Resident Zero. It soon moved to the Escape and then to the Northern before finally arriving at its own home in Kings Road Arches in October 1984. The Club was organised by the four directors: Neil and Pat Butler. Dave Reeves and Angie Goodchild. Ian Smith was the resident MC and in the new venue the Club started to develop a music policy that won acclaim for its live music and its place at the forefront of the late 80s House boom. Meanwhile the Zap continued to promote and commission radical art and entertainment through its regular performance programmes, commissions and festivals.

See Zap: 25 years of cultural innovation http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/category_id__1372_path__0p116p169p.aspx The club's commitment to New Art for New Audiences led to a range of projects across the UK including curating seasons of performance at the ICA and London South Bank and developing the Streetbiz Street Arts Festival as part of Glasgow's 1990 Year of Culture Celebrations. These external projects were managed by Zap Productions where the Zap Directors were joined by Robin Morley. In 1994 Zap Productions joined with Edinburgh's Unique Events to create Glasgow based UZ Events. UZ went on to create a range of festivals and events including the Shine On Festival Glasgows Hogmanay and Millennium celebrations, Big in Falkirk, Glasgow Art Fair and Glasgow's Merchant City Festival. Internationally UZ created programmes for the Scottish Government (Executive) in New York Canada and Sweden and a range of projects on nearly every continent.

The original Zap directors sold the club in 1997 with Zap Productions continuing for some years before handing over all projects to the charity Zap Art which continues to create programmes and commission artists and companies in the field of Street Arts. Where are they now?

Neil Butler is Artistic director of UZ Events www.uzevents.com

Dave Reeves is Chief Executive of Zap Art www.zapart.co.uk

Angie Livingston works with Cherie Blair

Patricia Butler is a teacher

Robin Morley is Director of Magnetic Events www.magneticevents.org

Ian Smith is Artistic Director of www.mischieflabas.co.uk

The Zap and clubbing The Zap was a club in Brighton that became famous in the late 1980s and early 1990s, mainly for large "acid house" dance parties that were held there, for example Tonka, with DJ Harvey, Choci and Rev (Mondays), Club Shame in Wednesdays, Protechtion (Fridays) with DJ Eric Powell, and Coco Club, with DJ Chris Coco (Saturdays).Worth mentioning is that Tuesday Evenings at the Zap were staged by Josh Dean and Martin Southern, two promoters booking a broad variety of bands and usually attracting audiences too large for the venue such as The Lemonheads, Rollins Band, Teenage Fanclub and Hole, these nights added in no small way to the credibility of the venue.

Located in 5 arches on the King's Road (seafront) in Brighton, the mixed cosmopolitan audiences would party until 5am at the Zap, and then some would party on or sleep on the beach until the sun rose. The Zap is mentioned in the book The Black Album by author Hanif Kureishi.

A large part of the Zap Club's appeal has undoubtedly been its location, it was for many years the only nightclub on the lower seafront and therefore attracted a less mainstream clientele. It was popular with a broad mix of people and helped define clubbing regardless of sexual orientation thanks to the open mindedness of the owners and staff and in no small part to the promoter of the Wednesday night club Shame promotion; Paul Kemp. After a balcony was added in the early 90's visitors to the club could enjoy a view, from the balcony windows of the beach, while indulging in a spot of chill out. The Zap was also one of only two nightclubs in the town to be given an extended licence in the early 90's to remain open after 2am in the town, the other being the Royal Escape. These two clubs competed for the late night dance audience even though the licences were granted with a restriction disallowing entry after 1am. "Andy Walkers Frame Fame" on early Friday evenings showcased new performers and acts on the stage introduced by Andy walker and Adrian Bunting, the shows were popular and the audiences usually invited to stay on the club promotion afterwards free of charge. The Zap club also played host to a number of (humerus adult) pantomimes over the christmas period helping establish a reputation for being an 'Arty' venue

Kings Road Arches[edit]

The arches were originally used by the fishermen of Brighton for storing their equipment. These were long and narrow with curved ceilings. Originally it was made up of two arches (entrance and performance area) before another one was added for a bar. In 1989 it underwent a massive overhaul which open up a couple of the adjoining arches. This gave it a proper stage with a balcony and bar overlooking it. It was further enlarged in 1996 to include another arch.

Acid House, Rave, House and the early Dance Music era[edit]

Tonka nights continued, for five 'fantastic' years, ending in the Summer of 1993, and Protechtion evolved into a new promotion later the same year. The following year, Chris Coco bought his Saturday nights to an end with a packed, and extended house party. Throughout these years, these three nights had continually played music that had showcased the newest and best sounds of underground dance. While Tonka straddled the Acid House, and early Trance eras, Protechtion went for a more British style of Techno, championed by Eric Powell, that was later more fully developed by DJ's such as Dave Clarke, and Powell's Bush Records label; and a happier, British house sound, played by London DJ Paul Newman (better known as 'Tall Paul') Smokin Jo, John 00 Fleming and DJ Paulette. Additionally, Chris Coco's Saturday night showcased a more American style of music, at first House music, and then US Garage. The success and popularity of the Coco club was due to a combination of the music and hard work of Chris Coco and his wife Helene who developed a unique relationship with the audiences talking to and welcoming people to the venue.

The Zap Club in the 1990s[edit]

Having ridden the acid house wave, and added its own chapters in the story, the Zap continued to showcase emerging DJ's and newer styles of electronic dance music, during the 1990s. While other Acid House clubs like The Haçienda in Manchester hit trouble after the heyday of Acid and early rave, the Zap adapted, and thrived, well into the era of the newer, larger type of dance club - the Superclub. This was despite the fact that the Zap only had a capacity of about 500.


While the club continued the previous policies of tech-house, and techno (Red) on Fridays, and house and garage (Pussycat Club) on Saturdays with Residents Nippa and Neil Rhoden, Monday nights were given over to a range of nights, showcasing everything from Trip hop to Trance music. The Zap was instrumental in bringing Trance, then emerging from the Frankfurt underground, to the UK, with regular Monday night sets from Sven Vath and DJ Dag (of Dance 2 Trance). Popular European DJs such as Laurent Garnier and CJ Bolland also DJed at the Zap around this time.

Nevertheless, the Zap's Monday nights, during the mid-1990s also provided plenty of opportunity for American and British DJ's. US House legends David Morales and Frankie Knuckles played at the Zap's Monday night, while DJ's Sasha and John Digweed, already superstars in the North and Midlands of England, brought their magic to the South Coast, with the launch of their 'Northern Exposure' night, in the autumn of 1993. These parties, and the progressive style that Sasha and Digweed brought to the club's turntables were a huge hit with the Zap crowd, and the atmosphere in the club evoked the frenzied energy and positivity of the clubs' earlier years. Despite the Zap's sound system often being criticised, Sasha was quoted in a dance music magazine, as saying his two favourite clubs were the Hacienda and the Zap.

In the mid-1990s, Danny Rampling was invited by promoters Wayne seven-Kurz and Sdaegh Al Hilaly to hold a monthly residence at a new promotion called 'South' that showcased his new, trancey, Euro style. Again, this ensured long lines outside the club, and Rampling often gratefully mentioned the positivity and friendliness of the Zap crowd, on his Radio 1 Show. Saturday nights also adapted, bringing a more 'pumped up', Superclub style of House music to the club. Accordingly, superstar DJ's such as Paul Oakenfold and Jeremy Healy played in the club, during these years. The club closed for a week and re-opened under new ownership and management in Dec 1997 after the Zap was sold to a larger company, the owners, management and promoters all changing. Only the Friday Promotion was kept on with the help of DJ Eric Powell until 1999.

The Millennium and beyond[edit]

The Zap closed in early 2005 reopening as The Union which didn't seem to work so three months later, the club was renamed Zap. It was closed and refurbished yet again and rebranded as Digital in 2008, reselling again in 2014 and being rebranded as "the Arch"