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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 is a dance club in Brighton that became famous in the late 1980s and early 1990s, for large "acid house" dance parties that were held there, for example Tonka, with DJ Harvey, Choci and Rev (Mondays), Protechtion (Fridays) with DJ Eric Powell, and Coco Club, with DJ Chris Coco (Saturdays).
Located in the arches on the King's Road (seafront) in Brighton, many people would party all night at the Zap, and then sleep on the beach during the day. 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. This has allowed visitors to the club, to have a close view, from the balcony windows of the beach, while indulging in a spot of chill out.
Kings Road Arches
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. Some time later 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 has since been expanded even further.
Acid House, Rave, and the early Dance Music era
Tonka nights continued, for five 'fantastic' years, ending in the Summer of 1993, and Protechtion finished 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'). Additionally, Chris Coco's night showcased a more American style of dance music, at first House music, and then US Garage.
The Zap Club in the 1990s
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 harder 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, and even surpassed 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 began a monthly residence, 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 often played in the club, during these years.
The Millennium and beyond
The Zap closed in early 2005 and the building has since undergone sale and refurbishment, reopening as The Union. However, three months later, The Zap was reborn. It was closed down yet again and rebranded as Digital. The Pussycat Club is still the busiest night at the venue and is on the first Saturday of the month.