Capturing the Essence

LITTLE over two years ago Essence launched itself on the clubbers of Ipswich at Attic nightclub. It steadily grew in popularity pulling in the crowds on a monthly basis.

By Jo Macdonald

LITTLE over two years ago Essence launched itself on the clubbers of Ipswich at Attic nightclub. It steadily grew in popularity pulling in the crowds on a monthly basis. When the Attic closed, however, it was forced to find a new venue. As it settles into its new home at Kartouche JO MACDONALD met up with the team behind the club night.

ONE month ago 1,300 clubbers packed into Kartouche nightclub.

They were there for one reason only – Essence.

The persistent hard work, dedication and passion of the team behind the club night had at last paid off.

Promoter Jon Coxon and DJs Ben Sargeant and Louis King could sit back and momentarily wallow in the success of the monthly event they had launched two years previously and which only a few months ago faced an uncertain future.

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Essence was born in Ipswich at the Attic nightclub on December 29, 1999. On that occasion less than 200 people paid to enjoy what it had to offer.

Jon said: "The three of us used to live together in Woodville Road and we weren't satisfied with the nightlife in Ipswich.

"We like hard house and trance, so we decided to go to the Attic and see the owner. He let us do an event and we started it up on the eve of the millennium.

"We got together a group of friends to help out, doing the posters and flyers, and we drew in a crowd of just under 200 people. It was quite good for a first event."

Steadily over the next 24 months word spread about Essence and its popularity grew until they could guarantee to pack the Attic almost to capacity every month. Then they were told the venue was to close for good

Essence found itself homeless – some bad news that was to turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

"We were pretty gutted when we heard," Jon explained. "It was a lovely little venue, quite a personal little club.

"We had nowhere to go. However, we did need a bigger club – we had a good following at the Attic but it was getting too crammed and hot."

He continued: "We had tried broaching Kartouche about six months before. And we spoke to Sound Academy before it closed and they were going to let us in.

"We chatted to Kartouche again and they decided to give us a go. It was quite good timing, what with the Attic closing and the fact we needed a bigger venue.

"We had our first event there on March 1 and got just under 1,300 people in there.

"We were hoping for about 800 people and were so nervous about whether people would come. Then we saw the queue outside.

"We even had three coaches travel down from Norwich."

It may only be gearing up for its second event in its new home at Kartouche but Essence is already fast making a name for itself as one of the best club nights the town has to offer.

And comparisons to Pam's House are already being bandied around. Jon, Ben and Louis find these complimentary but are keen to stress they are two very different nights.

"Quite a few people have said we're the new Pam's House which is quite a compliment," Jon said. "They're the benchmark for East Anglia.

"We do differ from them quite a lot though. They tour quite a bit whereas we're going to concentrate on Ipswich. And our music styles are different."

The Essence team have turned their love of hard house and trance into the music policy for the night.

While this music blares out of the sound system in Kartouche's main room, drum & bass vibes fill the blue room.

They believe they have cornered a much needed market in the town.

"There's just nothing like this round Ipswich," Jon said, when asked why he believes Essence has proved such a success.

"People in Ipswich probably haven't heard of many of the DJs we're bringing in to Kartouche. They're from London and the Midlands and are the kind of DJs clubs haven't pulled here before.

"At our first Kartouche event we had Andy Farley playing. He's Britain's number one hard house DJ.

"At our next night tomorrow we've got Godskitchen resident, AJ Gibson. He's been with the Birmingham club for four years and is the top trance DJ."

Continuing his explanation as to what makes the night, which incorporates dancers and entertainers into the mix, Jon added: "It has a wicked atmosphere and the dancefloor is packed.

"It's cutting edge music with a friendly atmosphere. There's no attitude at all and is a really good night out.

"A lot of weekly and monthly nights you go to play the same tunes each time. We've got fresh vinyl and classic tunes, something different from the commercial side that's been far too prominent in this town for a while."

As a result of the success of Essence last month, Jon, Ben and Louis are aware they've got a hard task ahead of them to repeat their achievements but they are confident that, with the continued support behind them, they'll be able to do it.

Jon said: "We're always worried about the next event and we're always packing it a little bit.

"But if we keep up the effort, I don't see why it can't get bigger."

He added: "We'd like to say thanks to everyone who's supported us over the last couple of years. We'll keep putting on good nights for them."

n Essence is at Kartouche tomorrow night from 9pm to 3am. Entry is £6.

Godskitchen resident AJ Gibson heads the DJ line up in the main hard house and trance room. Spirit and Flapjack are among those playing drum & bass in the blue room.