- After more than two decades, one of the UK's best-loved clubs shuts its doors.
- Major UK cities are in the midst of a crisis when it comes to cultural spaces. No venue seems safe from the authorities, who are happy to let everything slip away unless it has protected heritage status or multi-million-pound corporate investment. Countless vital spaces across the country have been buried under soulless apartments and office blocks. Few will be as lamented as Leeds' Mint Club, which shut last weekend after 20 years.
At Sunday's final-ever event, fittingly presented by the club's flagship party, System, I wasn't the only one fighting back decades of memories from a dance floor that hasn't faltered since 1998. When I got there some time in the early evening, it was already chaos. Many people had been there since 2 PM, when doors opened, with some even having attended each of the four closing parties across the weekend. The atmosphere was intoxicating, the air thick with heat and sweat.
Artists were split between the main room and a courtyard space, meaning no corner of the club was calm. The focal point was the main booth, which catered to a rotating door of residents and regular guests. All of them played with a purpose that showed they understood the significance of the impending loss. Seth Troxler and Craig Richards' back-to-back set the tone as night descended, a performance full of sharp and techy rollers, plus the odd crisp curveball. Zip's grooves were warmer and more infectious. This is what Mint has always been about: specialist music with enough universal appeal to satisfy both the heads and the weekend ravers.
Unsurprisingly, Ricardo Villalobos's five-hour set wound up running well beyond the proposed 6 AM curfew—not that time bore any relevance by that point. Standard club etiquette had also gone out the window, transforming the dance floor into a free party. Villalobos's seamless weaving spanned everything from Noemi Black's "Destiny" to his own remix of "Behind The Mask" by Señor Coconut, a carnival of brass flourishes and tropical percussion that the crowd absolutely loved.
Mint Club's final moments, though, belonged to Craig Richards, who returned to the decks to bring the story to an emotional close. Just before the sound cut at around 10 AM, his heavy electro bounce descended into a smoky cut with ghostly melodies and a feeling of wistful melancholy. (This final ID has evaded me, though the second-to-last track was Random Factor's "Convergence.") Hairs stood on end. Those still standing were encouraged by Troxler and various staff members to pose for one last photo.
"It's been a whirlwind five months since we announced Mint Club was closing," said the venue's head of programming, Stuart Forsyth, after the smoke had cleared. "Our whole team have worked so hard to make sure this was the best send-off possible. I'm so sad to see the place go. That building has some tales to tell over the last 20 years. Congratulations to Shane Graham for taking on a struggling club ten years ago and making it into one of the best in the world."
Photo credit / Will Calder