Hyponik

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In conversation with the owner of new north London venue, Five Miles

Co-owner Deano (Real Gold) discusses the launch this month, the space, the sound system, the Seven Sisters community and dispelling the potential for any “gentrification” backlash.

Since 2006, Deano and the ‘Real Gold’ collective have been contributing to the cultural landscape of east London. Prominent figures in the creative scene of Hackney, as well as the broader community, they run the Pamela and Rita’s restaurants as well as popular night haunt The Alibi on Kingsland Road – one of east London’s most popular strips.

Although some may argue that these venues are contributing factors to an east London that’s become sanitised, in my personal experiences, and based on the opinions expressed in my discussion with Deano, this is far from the truth. Their venture north to Seven Sisters to open the new nightclub Five Miles – like their previous pursuit, The Alibi – aims to become a fixture that serves the community it inhabits, as Deano will explain.

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OK, firstly I’ve got my own personal guess for why you went with the name ‘Five Miles’…

I wanna hear your guess…

It’s ‘Five Miles’ away from where you (Real Gold) did you first party at the Macbeth…

No…

Ah! What’s the real answer?

Basically, we had this theory that the real magic in London happens in the pockets of London. From the front door here, we’re five miles exactly from the centre of London. So it kind of riffed on that idea, and it also happened that I was trying to lose some weight. I was going to the gym a lot, and I could run four miles, easy. But five miles always eluded me. So it was one of those things when we worked out we were five miles away, suddenly it pushed me a bit further and I actually ran five miles for the first time without dying. So, it ticked a lot of boxes.

That was a far more poetic answer than I ever expected, but surprisingly enough it’s actually 4.3 miles via Kingsland Road from Seven Sisters station to Hoxton station which is near the Macbeth, the home of your humble beginnings.

That is true, and that is amazing that you worked that out. [Laughs] That would’ve been a much better way of connecting it to ‘Real Gold’ so thanks… I might steal that! [Laughs]

Now, let’s talk about the club itself. What’s the capacity looking like?

Well for the club space, it’s 250/300. For me, when you have high capacity spaces, I think you kind of have to play this game of big DJs…

You lose that community feel.

Yeah, I just feel like with that number of people you can kind of make sure that everyone in the room is nice, and there’s some level of connection. I think once you start talking about seven or eight hundred cap places you lose that a little bit. I definitely think there are different venues for different needs. But for us, we had this gigantic warehouse and I think it says something about us that we’ve separated a corner of it and turned that into the space. It could’ve been five or six hundred [capacity]. We chose that room at the back which is going to be the dance. That for us needed to be around 250 capacity.

I hear that completely. Moving on to the sound system, how’s the sound shaping up for the club?

We’re aiming to make the best sounding space in the UK. Circling Five Miles there are like 25 recording studios and these little recording pods that our landlord has built. They’re there to be incredible sounding small spaces. All this care and attention has gone into these tiny rooms. But, so many times people in bigger rooms and in bigger spaces the attention to detail goes. We’re still deciding on bits of the PA. So for us, we just built the best room that we could; that a Fisher Price sound system would sound OK, and an amazing sound system would sound even more amazing.

So there’s been a real focus on acoustics…

Yeah. We’ve got three different acousticians working together, and they’ve managed to all sign off on the same thing as well! So we really have made the effort. For instance, there’s a raised platform which is a dancefloor on stilts – for acoustic reasons. None of the walls face each other – for acoustic reasons. But it’s actually ended up dictating an interesting shaped room.

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So Five Miles will have a distinct look, as well as a distinct sound that will hopefully be unparalleled?

That’s the aim. If we aim for that, even if we shoot a little bit lower we’ve still done well.

Great to hear that so much thought has been put into these crucial elements! Anyway, Seven Sisters, what’s the story behind securing the spot here in South Tottenham?

Rob from ‘Ten 87’ who we met through a mutual friend came to us and said, “would you guys be interested in doing a Cafe?” We came down, and in typical Mark style – he;s the guy I own The Alibi with – he managed to negotiate a nightclub out of it instead. He just basically said, “hey, you see these recording studios you’re doing? Why don’t you build a giant version as a club?” Why these guys ended up in Seven Sisters I can’t answer… but why did we? There was an opportunity there. I mean, I’m a north London boy, and it felt like a really nice time to be doing stuff up here. A couple of people have had this tone of “Daltson being over” or “Hackney being past tense” and I don’t agree with that. That’s one of the really ugly parts of gentrification. What happens after the cookie crumbles. I love Hackney and we will stay doing The Alibi, Pamela…

Despite what some people may say.

Yeah, yeah. For us, Seven Sisters is an amazing neighbourhood and if we get to be part of it; wicked!

Perfect. The fact that you mentioned people saying Hackney and Dalston are passed it etc. They may be the people who don’t necessarily identify with the community.

Exactly! I can’t see it. When I go to Dalston in the daytime…

You see Femi (Owner of NTS Live) about.

Yeah, I see Femi, or I see Dan from [Dalston] Superstore, or whoever… I think it’s maybe people who have a disconnect from that who possibly feel that way. I mean, I remember in 2012 when it had more of an Essex vibe; it was over then! And then it was too “road”, so it was over then! We’ll be there after it’s “cool”. I just wanna be there, I want to make these things that can survive all the bullshit.

I hear you. That brings us onto the tough question, which you already touched on, around that idea of people and businesses moving into areas and informally shunning the direct community that originally populated it. That seems to be a large part of what frustrates people about gentrification. ‘Real Gold’ is about community. That’s a big part of the what you guys represent. Have you thought of, or are you doing anything to prevent any possible backlash from the people who will make the assumption that you’re “culture vultures” or taking something away from the existing Seven Sisters community?

D: Ultimately, I think that if you go in being aware and act with respect, that is probably enough. It works on a personal level, and probably a business level too; you employ locally. That’s something we want to do. Let me put it this way. The Alibi is empty for 20 hours a day and I hate it. It’s in a smelly dark basement and offering it to someone as somewhere to have a meeting; it’s maybe more of a punishment than it is an offering. [Laughs]  We’ve spoken to countless charities and local community groups and just said, “we’re going to have a spot here, come and use it. We wanna make sure there are workshops we can run, wall space for artists… it’s just about making people aware that there’s a place where they can fit in.

Hey, as long as you’re inclusive and you make people aware, that should be enough. You can’t expect people to be knocking on doors locally saying, “we’re opening this, please be involved because I don’t want to offend anyone”. [Laughs] You’ve informed the local community and that’s what counts. I can imagine that’s something you’re quite concerned about?

It is, because as I say, it’s one of the ugly sides of things. London is obviously a very tough city to live in for many reasons. And you want to help as part of the solution, rather than the problem. But at the same time trying to do something new and interesting.

I’d say you’re doing both. You mentioned the surrounding studios, and in my opinion by doing this you’re contributing to the culture that already existed before you got here and you’re not taking anything away.

I mean, also, this was a fabric warehouse. Literally just shelves full of fabric. I’m hoping at least we’ll offer more to the area than a fabric warehouse.

[Laughs] You should be alright in that case…

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Anything else you’d like to add about what you’re doing that’s going to make Five Miles special?

Yeah, there are a lot of stereotypes about nightclub spaces. That they’re dark, a bit unwelcoming etc. So, we’re thinking, “OK, not just for the sake of being quirky or alternative, how can we try and turn those ideas on their heads?” Can it be a brighter space? Can we sell amazing beer rather Carling?

And that will be your own beer, right?

Yeah, brewed on site. I dunno if you’re even aware, but Tottenham is becoming an incredible space for beer. Beavertown’s here, One Mile End brewery is here… all the breweries are moving to Haringey.

I suppose there’s a lot of industrial space, isn’t there.

There’s a lot of empty industrial space as well, so we wanna make sure that’s part of what we’re doing from the get go.

So who, if anyone, has already been booked in to do events at Five Miles, or is that under wraps right now?

It’s schtum for now but put it this way: I’m interested in emerging artists, emerging genres and alternative music in all its forms. So many venues do that traditional house and techno thing so, so well, that like, “why would we even bother?” No shots fired, but as someone who was a young Londoner trying desperately to get a break as a promoter, I think venues going more and more in-house is very dangerous. With that in mind, we’re – touch wood – doing absolutely nothing in-house. We are just using outside promoters. I think there needs to be spaces for people to throw nights.

Another example of the space giving back and serving the community. It’s very easy when you have financial leverage to have complete control of the culture and inadvertently sanitise it.

Yeah… I mean, I know all their socials are looking neat and uniform but I like it a bit messy. I like it that one promoter might have a bit of a crap poster or maybe the address is wrong or something. At least there’s a little bit of life there.

Five Miles will be opening next week. Open Hours will be: 10am – 2 am, Sunday to Wednesday & 10am to 4am Thursday to Saturday. For more information and to stay up to date you can check the Five Miles Facebook, Instagram and Website.

Words/Images: Timi Ben-Edigbe

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