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Ministry's Comeback

Ministry's Comeback

Ministry Of Sound has been fighting to remain credible in the last few years. It's been struggling, but a change in its Friday night's music policy could help the club's image.

A lot has happened at Ministry Of Sound since it first opened its doors inLondon in 1991.

During the early 1990s, Britain's original superclub turned clubbing into acorporate enterprise and became the most recognisable and successful dancemusic brand in the world.

But by early 2001, the venue became seen as little more than a shop frontfor its global merchandising - mainly dad house albums - because it simplybecame too well known to be considered a cool nightclub.

Whilst Ministry's many record labels and subsidiary projects continued toflourish, the club seemed stuck somewhere in 1999.

After a prolonged period of bad press, including articles in DJmag, thingshave recently started to improve.

Encouraging signs of a regeneration appeared when Smokin' Jo & Tim Sheridanwere brought in to host their Ibiza party NastyDirtySexMusic at the Elephant& Castle venue.

The underground house night breathed new life into the club, and helpedattract visits from a wider range of dance music enthusiasts.

After years of being a commercially viable, but unashamedly mainstreamorientated mega brand, it was always going to take more than a coupleof underground promoters for clubbers to respect the venue once again.

Ministry's new Friday night music policy - called Switch - could be thevital kick-start that the club needs.

"It's a daily challenge balancing credibility and financial success," admitsAmy Thomson, the lady in charge of Switch.

"But for the last two years, we've definitely hit the right balance and theclub is really rocking," she says.

Ministry Of Sound Revival
The clue to Ministry's new Friday concept is in its name.

Each week, the club will switch music genres and DJs, and the only rule ithas, is that there are no rules, especially when it comes to music policy:Switch's line-ups are the most wide-ranging the club has had in years.

At the launch party on 30th September, Groove Armada, DIY, and GillesPeterson will be playing a sound that treads somewhere between house andfunk, but the following week Jazzy Jeff and other urban DJs will play hiphop and breaks.

On 14th October, drum & bass DJs Bryan Gee and Shy Fx will play alongsidedark breakbeat jock Zinc, whilst the following Friday will be very much ahouse and techno affair with Christian Smith, Billy Nasty, and KevinSaunderson spinning.

"People have wide music tastes nowadays," says Thomson.

"The days of superstar DJs filling venues is over, and clubbers now expectmore variety.

"Switch is our experiment, but lots of different music genres in one club isnothing new - it's what clubbing used to be about.

"Now that dance music is back underground, Ministry has to cater for it,"she adds.

Of course, many will be quick to point out that whilst Ministry's clubdirectors have every intention to move towards a more diverse andunderground musical policy, its CD compilations and record releases arepulling the opposite way.

Ministry Of Sound Revival
The gap between Switch's line-ups and Ministry's shamelessly commercial CDsis musically monumental.

"There's a team ethos at Ministry," says Thomson.

"The club people and the label people work together, but there's always roomto experiment with things like Switch.

"That trend is going to continue - we're planning to bring live music andbands to the venue, and to do some burlesque-style club theatre shows onSaturdays."

Within the next year, Ministry will launch a new style of club night, thatwill see circus freaks, midgets, and magicians entertain clubbers whilstthey party.

However, Thomson is quick to dispel any suggestions that it sounds similarto Ibiza's infamous Manumission parties at Privilege.

"It's going to be a lot more interactive than that," says Amy.

"The performers will be part of the crowd and not on stage, so it's morepersonal - they're sure to create a raucous atmosphere and we're reallylooking forward to it."

So is it possible for Ministry Of Sound to go full circle, and rekindle theashes of its glorious past as the world's number one club cultureambassador, to force its way back into the hearts of a completely newgeneration of clubbers?

"I'm certain we can do just that," says Amy Thomson.

"I used to work at Ministry about eight years ago at its peak, and the vibenow amongst the team here is very similar to it was back then.

"There's a tremendous spirit in the air, and we've made huge steps in thelast couple of years.

"Ultimately, we want the club to have a reputation for excellent,underground music no matter what night of the week it is, and when thathappens, we can support the underground and give relatively unknown DJs andacts the props they deserve."

There is a lot of truth in what Thomson says.

If Ministry sticks with Switch, and with its other underground dance musicpromotions, even if they aren't all financially successful, its reputationfor supporting good music will surely develop.

Dance music has certainly gone full circle. Ministry still could.

Switch, Every Friday at Ministry of Sound from 30th September.

10pm- 5am£10/12 entry.



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