The Arch (nightclub)

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The Arch
The Arch, Brighton Logo.png
The Arch Nightclub, King's Road Arches, Brighton (July 2020) (2).JPG
Entrance to The Arch, photographed in 2020
The Arch is located in Brighton
The Arch
The Arch
Location within Brighton
Former namesThe Zap (1982-2005)
The Union (2005)
The Zap (2005-2008)
Digital (2008-2014)
Coliseum (2014-2015)
Address187-193 Kings Rd
United Kingdom
Coordinates50°49′12″N 0°08′34″W / 50.8201113°N 0.1428807°W / 50.8201113; -0.1428807Coordinates: 50°49′12″N 0°08′34″W / 50.8201113°N 0.1428807°W / 50.8201113; -0.1428807
Opened1 November 1984[2]
ArchitectAnthony Browne [2]

The Arch (formerly known as The Zap) is a nightclub in Brighton, England.[3] The club became famous for its cultural, art and music events, particularly its dance and acid house nights held throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. It has been described as an "influential club which pulled together many of the underground strands of visual art, fashion, music, design, comedy, cabaret and theatre which were circling at the time".[4]

The Zap closed in 2005, and after a number of attempts at rebranding was sold and rebranded as The Arch in 2014.



The club first opened as The Zap Club[5] at the New Oriental Hotel, Brighton in April 1982. Founded by Neil Butler, Patricia Butler and Amanda Scott, it 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 Royal Escape and then to the Northern before finally settling at its own venue in the King's Road Arches in October 1984. The club opened its doors in its new location on 1 November 1984.[2]

The club was organised by the four directors: Neil and Pat Butler. Dave Reeves and Angie Goodchild. Ian Smith was the resident[6] 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 1980s house music boom. Meanwhile, the venue continued to promote and commission radical art and entertainment through its regular performance programmes, commissions and festivals.

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 Institute of Contemporary Arts and London's South Bank and developing the Streetbiz Street Arts Festival as part of Glasgow's 1990 European Capital of Culture. 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, Glasgow's 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.

Arts Venue[edit]

In the 1980s, the club was a performance arts venue, with Ian Smith hosting Performance Platform on Tuesdays and later the Silver Tongue Club on Sundays. These played host to numerous stand-up comedians, artists, dancers and theatre groups. Tony Lidington of the Pierrotters recalled, 'Alongside such acts as the Pookies, Theatre of the Bleeding Obelisk, Bright Red, The Pierotters, The Wild Wigglers, the nascent alternative cabaret and street scene had support and a home on the south coast...These seminal groups have had a profound impact on the contemporary performance scene in Britain today.'[7]

From 1985, the venue staged an annual alternative pantomime, performed by Zap staff and other performers, including John Dowie, James Poulter, Robin Driscoll, Tony Haase, Becky Stevens, Pete McCarthy, Andy Cunningham, Louise Rennison, Liz Aggiss, Steve North, John Cunningham, Roy Smiles and Jane Bassett.[8]

The Brighton based Yes/No People staged the preview of their hit show Stomp at the club in May 1990, ahead of the show's official premiere in Edinburgh the following year.[8]

In 1986, the venue commissioned Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie of the Wild Wigglers to make a stage show in one of the venue's arches. The show, a solo performance by Aggiss, was Grotesque Dancer, which premiered at the venue in December 1986. This was the beginning of Divas Dance Theatre, which went on to premiere five more stage shows at the venue: Dorothy and Klaus (1989) Die Orchidee im Plastik Karton (1989), Drool and Drivel They Care (1990) Cafeteria for a Sit-Down Meal (1992) and Absurditties(1994) [9]

A later performance night was "Andy Walkers Frame Fame" on early Friday evenings, which showcased new performers and acts on the stage, introduced by Andy Walker and Adrian Bunting. Audiences were usually invited to stay on at the following club promotion afterwards free of charge.


Key club nights that became associated with the club were "Tonka" with DJs DJ Harvey, Choci and Rev (Mondays), "Club Shame" (Wednesdays), "Protechtion" with DJ Eric Powell (Fridays), and "Coco Club" with DJ Chris Coco (Saturdays).

Tuesday evenings 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. The success of these nights greatly enhanced the reputation of the club as a pivotal live music venue.

Located in 5 arches on the King's Road (seafront) in Brighton, the mixed cosmopolitan audiences would party until 5am, with many continuing the motion (or more often sleeping) on the beach opposite until sunrise, depending on the time of year. The Zap is mentioned in the book The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi.

A large part of the club's appeal was its location. It was for many years the only nightclub on the lower seafront and as a result, 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 vision of the owners and staff. 'Club Shame' on Wednesdays was regarded as "the blueprint of gay clubbing in the nineties"[10] and was directly involved in bringing gay clubbing into the mainstream, thanks to the efforts of promoter Paul Kemp.

After a balcony was added in the early 1990s giving club goers direct views of the beach while indulging in a spot of chill out. The club was also one of only two nightclubs in the town to be given an extended licence in the early 90s allowing it to remain open after 2am (the other venue was the Royal Escape). These two clubs competed for Brighton's late night club goers despite the licence restricting entry after 1am.


Acid house, and the early dance music era[edit]

"Tonka" nights continued for five years, ending in the summer of 1993, and "Protechtion" evolved into a new promotion later the same year. The following year, Chris Coco brought his Saturday nights to an end with a packed and extended house party. From the late 80s to the early 90s, 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 which was later further developed by DJs such as Dave Clarke, and Powell's Bush Records label; a happier, British house sound, played by London DJ Paul Newman (better known as "Tall Paul") Smokin Jo, John "double O" Fleming and DJ Paulette. Additionally, Chris Coco's Saturday night showcased a more American style of dance music, predominantly Chicago house and then US garage. The success and popularity of the Coco Club was due to a combination of the music and the hard work and dedication of Chris Coco and his wife Helene who developed a unique relationship with their audiences, taking time to talk to and welcome clubbers to the venue.

Late 1990s[edit]

Having ridden the acid house wave and added its own chapters in the story, the club continued to showcase emerging DJs and newer styles of electronic dance music, during the 90s. While other acid house clubs like The Haçienda in Manchester hit trouble after the heyday of acid and early rave, the venue adapted and thrived, well into the era of the newer, larger type of dance club known as the Superclub. All this despite the club only having a maximum capacity of 500 people.

While the club continued the previous policies of tech-house, and Techno (Red) on Fridays, and House music 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 club 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 performed at the club around this time.

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

In the mid nineties, Danny Rampling was invited by promoters Wayne Seven-Kurz and Sdaegh Al Hilaly to hold a monthly residence at a new promotion called "South" which showcased his new, trancey, Euro style. This led to the now familiar long queues outside the club. Rampling often commented on the positivity and friendliness of the club's crowd during his BBC Radio 1 show. Saturday nights also adapted, bringing a more "pumped up", Superclub style of House Music to the Club. This led to the club becoming popular with superstar DJs such as Paul Oakenfold and Jeremy Healy who both played in the club during these years.

The club closed for a week and re-opened under new ownership and management in December 1997 following the sale of the venue 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.

2000s 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 The Zap. It was closed and refurbished yet again and re-branded as Digital[11] in 2008, reselling again in 2014 and being re-branded as Coliseum and then The Arch.[11]


  1. ^ "Brighton seafront arches to be rebuilt in £10m two-year project". Brighton and Hove News. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d "A timeline of Zap". My Brighton and Hove. Retrieved 4 July 2020. 1984
  3. ^ "Zap Club". Resident Advisor. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  4. ^ Scott, Robert Dawson (12 August 2014). "Obituary: Ian Smith". The Scotsman. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  5. ^ "A timeline".
  6. ^ Brown, Mark (15 September 2014). "Ian Smith: an appreciation". The List. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  7. ^ Max Crisfield (ed), Zap: Twenty Five Years of Innovation, Zap Art/Queens Park Books, 20076,p.49
  8. ^ a b Max Crisfield (ed), Zap: Twenty Five Years of Innovation, Zap Art/Queens Park Books, 20076,p.66
  9. ^ Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie (eds) Anarchic Dance, Routledge, 2006, p172-179
  10. ^ "Club Shame, 1989-1996".
  11. ^ a b Scott-Delany, Finn (19 February 2015). "Brighton nightclub Coliseum – which was previously The Zap and more recently Digital – to relaunch as The Arch". The Argus. Retrieved 5 February 2016.

See also[edit]