Strange Fruit (club)

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Strange Fruit is an indie club night that started in Oxford, United Kingdom in November 1998, moved to London in November 2000. It ran until ending on its fifth birthday in November 2003. During the five years the club was in existence it evolved from being a straightforward club for dancing to an independent promoter putting on regular shows in London. Strange Fruit put on early shows for bands who were later to become more established such as The Futureheads, British Sea Power, The Postal Service and Motormark. Strange Fruit also organised two festivals, on its fourth and fifth birthdays.

Origin: Strange Fruit Oxford[edit]

Strange Fruit was started by six Oxford-based DJs, namely Paul Haswell, Verity Clarkson, Peter Vickerman, Andy Clyde, Steve Jefferis and Rebecca Shatwell. These DJs were fans of obscure independent and experimental music, and had tired of the samey nature of independent music following the Britpop boom of the mid-1990s.

Naming themselves the "Strange Fruit Collective" (and taking the Strange Fruit name from a Northern Soul compilation owned by Peter, not from the John Peel-founded Strange Fruit Records as many assumed), the DJs started a small club taking place in Oxford every week playing a mix of popular indie at the time, northern soul, but for the most part obscure (and sometimes unlistenable) indie. Favourite bands included Stereolab, The Flaming Lips, Add N to (X) and Quickspace.

Strange Fruit proved more popular than the Strange Fruit Collective expected, and began to develop a following in Oxford's music scene and amongst students. This subsequently attracted guest DJs such as Darren Hayman of Hefner and Add N To (X). The Strange Fruit Collective itself grew, and new DJs such as Ben Mellors and Mira Aroyo (who later joined Ladytron) became regulars.

Strange Fruit London[edit]

Just over a year after Strange Fruit began, the venue in Oxford at which it took place (a subterranean bar called "YesBut" on George Street, in the centre of the city) closed down. By this time, many of the original Strange Fruit Collective had moved away from Oxford, and the club was being run by Verity Clarkson and Paul Haswell. Paul was about to move to London, and the Strange Fruit Collective decided to try to relaunch the club there. Strange Fruit set up a base in London over the Summer of 2000 and eventually restarted in November 2000, Upstairs at The Garage in Islington, London, and for the first time featured live bands. The night Upstairs at the Garage continued until Strange Fruit disbanded at the end of 2003. The first two bands to play at Strange Fruit were Copenhagen and Tompaulin. Strange Fruit London was initially run by a large collective but as the club continued, and began to promote shows at The Spitz, Bush Hall and 93 Feet East, it was run by a core collective made up of Paul Haswell, Clare Best, Julia Boyce, Richard Tunnicliffe and Nichola Halliday.

Strange Fruit became popular for attempting to give new bands a fair deal - paying them well for performing at Strange Fruit nights that took place typically on a weekly basis. Strange Fruit saw early London appearances from The Futureheads, British Sea Power, Jeff Lewis, Ballboy, French Kicks, Future Bible Heroes, The Postal Service and Freezepop, and welcomed obscure and well-known bands from all over the world. The Strange Fruit Collective was tireless and aggressive in its promotion of events, culminating in two Strange Fruit Festivals in November 2002 and November 2003, and UK tours for the likes of Bangs, Schwervon! and The Gossip.

Dissolution[edit]

The second Strange Fruit Festival, held at Bush Hall, London, saw Strange Fruit come to an end. Reasons for Strange Fruit's end remain unclear, and there is suspicion that there were internal pressures within the Collective. Paul Haswell has gone on record to state that the organisation simply ran out of money however, which is possible given that the Collective typically gave all of an event's profits to bands, and paid for losses out of their own pockets.

After Strange Fruit finished, the Strange Fruit Collective ceased to put on shows and disbanded. Julia Boyce organised a series of events in Scotland, and Paul Haswell, Clare Best and Nichola Halliday set up the unorthodox club night Crimes Against Pop at The Buffalo Bar in Islington, with a number of DJs who had played guest slots at Strange Fruit nights. Crimes Against Pop still runs to this day. Whilst the return of Strange Fruit has never formally been ruled out by the collective, it now seems unlikely.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′24″N 0°13′54″W / 51.5066°N 0.2316°W / 51.5066; -0.2316