It’s not being out of step to say Plymouth isn’t famed for its nightlife. It’s own tourist website claims the city has both the oldest gin distillery and oldest commercial bakery in the world, but when it comes to advocating new music and club culture, it’s somewhat lacking, compared to UK competitors. One person working hard to try reverse that is Simon Scullion. For three years he’s been running and programming Factory, one of the city’s only independent clubs, and also runs the Vivify parties there. Their guests over the last three years include Sassy J, Francis Inferno Orchestra, Eliphino, Moxie, Al Zanders, Dan Shake and Medlar, which seems especially ambitious in a city with half the population of Bristol.
Before Simon welcomes Philou Louzolo and our own Aaron L to Plymouth on 7th October, we’ve found out a bit more about the city Simon is trying to put on the map. He’s also contributed a mix that sums up the Vivify parties.
As someone who’s been trying to change Plymouth’s quiet reputation for nightlife, why should our readers do away with misconceptions and pay it a visit?
Unbeknown to many Plymouth once had a thriving nightlife, with our own strip of ‘super clubs’ all on one street. The likes of The Warehouse and Dance Academy used to regularly host the likes of Laurent Garnier, Goldie, Carl Cox and many more throughout the early nineties, only until our city council intervened and closed them down, leaving Plymouth with no real venues by the mid 2000s. After this it was almost like the city became scared to put on nights and it hasn’t been until the past five years that this has started to change and now there is a great diversity of nights across a variety of genres offering quality shows.
Probably my favourite thing about Plymouth is the growing community that comes with our nightlife scene; everyone here works together really well and supports each others projects. There is a great family feel and this is something anyone can easily get immersed into.
Where’s your favourite spot to by records in town?
Despite not being blessed with many record shops we are very fortunate in having Really Good Records. This store is an absolute must for anyone visiting, boasting a superb collection of second hand treats at non Discogs prices; a real gem of a record shop.
At the time of writing I am in the middle of beginning to sell a carefully curated selection of new releases at Minerva, we have just had our first delivery and will be expanding over the coming weeks with an online shop to follow.
The best sound system?
Slightly bias perhaps, but Factory. An exceptional Funktion-One system suspended from the ceiling!
Favourite place to listen to live music?
The Junction and The Bread & Roses both do some great live gigs and are two of the few really pushing it in Plymouth.
Favourite place to eat?
Best coffee and cake?
Has to be The Hutong Cafe, these guys have recently opened and not only offer the best coffee in town but have also started a variety of music events, a great team behind it too in the Harman family!
What do you miss most about Plymouth when you’re away for a while.
You’ve co-owned Factory, one of the only independent clubs in Plymouth, since you took it over three years ago. Bold move! What prompted you?
I was actually approached by Tom Costelloe, the former promoter and manager for the Dance Academy to begin a night at what was at the time a gay club of 24 years called Kiss. Prior to this I’d been DJing for a few years and found myself frustrated at the lack of opportunity to play the music that I enjoy in my home city, when Tom approached me we came up with Vivify which became a staple night for the venue and after four months took the venue on and re-branded it as Factory. At the time Plymouth was severely lacking in venues and nights, so our main aim was to give Plymouth a space that could accommodate for the majority of electronic music sub genres and not only bring ‘headline’ artists to the city but nurture the fantastic talent we have.
It has been very important to us to maintain a level of integrity with everything we do, as everyone involved behind the scenes at Factory comes from a musical background we’ve wanted to ensure whatever night we have is something that we would enjoy ourselves. In doing this we do a lot of our own shows, but also have entrusted a mixture of external promoters whom we trust to put on a good show.
What are some of the challenges you face, that are unique to a place like Plymouth?
With everything we do in Plymouth there is always two main challenges; costs and getting the artists here. As a 400 capacity venue our budget isn’t as big as we’d like, which in fairness I find makes it more interesting in doing bookings. For the Factory I have to think about who others would like to see as well as myself which can be quite fun, it’s a really important balance.
You also run the Vivify parties there with Joe Darch. What’s been your aim with those?
Our main aim with Vivify has always remained the same; to bring the artists we’d most like to see to our home city.
Do you have a focused music policy, or do you have to widen the net a bit to catch the hearts and minds of the locals?
We’ve always been quite selfish with Vivify and kept it as mentioned as to who we’d like to see the most ourselves, fortunately however the locals seem to trust us and come along knowing they are going to have a great party and hear great music.
And as a resident, how does your own DJing fit into these parties? Is it a pound for pound reflection, or do you have outlets where you entertain other interests?
At Vivify I find it very important to play to my time and to consider who else is playing on the night, I think meticulously about this when programming the parties and out of our residents who will fit what slot on the night.
I’m fortunate enough to play regularly across a variety of nights which allows me to play other aspects of my record collection, for instance I’ll sometimes be booked to do straight Hip-Hop sets or UKG, however my favourite sets are always the ones that allow me to be more diverse and play aspects of everything.
Speaking of DJing, could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve made for us?
So with this mix I tried to make it a reflection of what to expect at one of our parties, with a variety of genres and tracks that I’ve absolutely loved playing at Vivify throughout the years. I recorded it in the Factory’s Warehouse room using a pair of 1210s and a DJM900.
A lot of tracks in this mix are quite personal to me as they are Vivify favourites, but one that currently stands out is Mattiik – 400 TX. This track is a debut release from our resident and for me is a really moody end of the night jam that gets me going, forthcoming 6th October on Mint Tea.
What’s in the offing for Factory and Vivify in the coming months that’s getting you excited?
We have our next series of Vivify parties all at Factory over the coming months and have the likes of Or:la, Phil Banks, John Gomez and Bradley Zero all reaching not to mention a couple of surprises along the way – it is looking to be a good year!