Reclaiming the beats

It’s opening night at Catwalk and the dance floor is heaving. A jazz saxophonist plays a solo beyond the leather booths of the bar while the DJ’s decks are wheeled towards the back wall to open up more space for clubbers keen to throw a few shapes. Formerly a pedestrian underpass littered with rubbish and dirty needles, today this sealed-in, subterranean club is home to Rotterdam’s beautiful crowd sipping mojitos and grooving to urban soul tunes.

It’s also the latest opening among the city’s new breed of eco-clubs recycling old public spaces for cool new nightlife.

Rotterdam is already The Netherlands’ premier clubbing city, with 10 000 revellers hitting the dance floors each weekend to catch house and electronica sets by local DJs such as Speedy J and Michel de Hey. Every summer, about 400 000 attend the Heineken Fast Forward Dance Parade, Rotterdam’s answer to Berlin’s Love Parade. But, more importantly, Rotterdam is the first European city to embrace the idea that clubbing can promote sustainability.

“Rotterdam is a great breeding ground for sustainable projects as it has a young population and a culture of collaboration between different groups,” says Michel Smit, founder of the Rotterdam Electronic Music Festival (www.remf.nl), held annually in November. “People want to go out but not be lectured about how to live their lives. By making sustainability cool, we can get the message across to a wider audience.”

Across town in Delfshaven is Worm (www.wormweb.nl), a multipurpose arts space with a club, cinema, record shop and creative studio. I’m met at the door by Mike van Gaasbeek, a squatter turned eco-visionary with an electric-shock hairstyle and a business card that reads “Chef de ping ping” (Dutch slang for “cash”).


“We opened in November 2005 with a plug-and-play construction to slot into disused buildings using 90% recycled materials and without even knocking in a single nail,” he says. Today, the walls at Worm are made from recycled estate agents’ boards, the toilets from oil drums and the door handles from bicycle handlebars. The only non-recycled items are the fire safety doors and emergency exit signs. “This is the pièce de résistance,” says Van Gaasbeek, ushering me into the cinema. The room is filled with car seats recycled from Volkswagen Passats. “Really comfy,” he winks.

What will really put Rotterdam on the map as the green clubbing capital of Europe, however, is a project called the Sustainable Dance Club. From a nondescript office block in a suburb of the city, developer Enviu (www.enviu.org) is drawing up a masterplan to take eco-clubbing to the world.

The project is the brainchild of Stef van Dongen, who founded Enviu as a community of young professionals to facilitate start-ups based on environmental principles. Working with architects Doll and Professor Han Brezet of the Delft University of Technology, he unveiled the project at Rotterdam’s Off Corso nightclub last October. Enviu has allocated â,¬55 000 to develop a pilot dance floor for an existing venue. It then hopes to take the template to major European festivals, such as Roskilde in Denmark and Glastonbury in the UK.

“A nightclub uses 150 times the energy of an average household and produces around 12 000 litres of glass to recycle from bottles and glasses each weekend,” says Van Dongen. “I was out clubbing one night when the idea came to me to make a self-sustaining club that is mobile to plug into existing spaces.”

Alijd van Doorn, Doll’s social architecture project manager, says: “At the launch, we had intelligent LED lighting systems, rainwater-flush toilets, a water-purification system to turn urine into drinking water [a system developed specifically for the project], a cafe using recycled food [they use leftovers from the previous night to make vegetarian-friendly burgers and stir fries] and an electricity-generating dance floor, whereby the more people dance, the more energy they produce.”

There are three pilot dance floors in development, each using different technology to generate energy. The finished product could work according to pneumatic, mechanical or sensory principles.

“This is not recycling, it’s upcycling,” says Van Dongen. “It’s about finding ways for consumption to generate positive benefits via the interaction between clubbers and the club itself.”

Back at the Catwalk (www.cat walkrotterdam.com) opening party, the dance floor is a mass of designer labels and vodka cocktails. Former record company executive-turned- club owner Raymond Contein sinks into one of the booths and smiles. “We’ve recycled a dirty space to give people a place to enjoy themselves,” he says. “Now that’s what I call green clubbing.” — Â

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Is Heineken brewing a better Africa?

Multinational corporations are considered motors for development in Africa and the Dutch beer giant Heineken is often cited as one of the best examples. The reality is different and distressing

Heneiken workers prepare to march against ‘sex for shifts’

Workers say the company is turning a blind eye to alleged abuses by managers at its Sedibeng brewery

Labour court judges block workers’ right to strike

In recent weeks, three cases have come to light that clearly show that labour court judges are issuing court orders forbidding strikes

Heineken issue ferments: Labour-broking shows few signs of disappearing

Workers want permanent jobs as the company allegedly tries to evade new labour-broker laws

Drawn-out affair expected for SABMiller-Foster deal

In the absence of any other bidders, SABMiller's bid for Foster's is expected to take months to resolve, as it tries for a better deal from SABMiller.

Heineken buys five Nigerian breweries

Heineken has acquired controlling interests in five breweries in Nigeria, expanding its capacity by nearly a third in the fast-growing African market.
Advertising

Subscribers only

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

ANC’s rogue deployees revealed

Despite 6 300 ANC cadres working in government, the party’s integrity committee has done little to deal with its accused members

More top stories

Finance probe into the Ingonyama Trust Board goes ahead

The threat of legal action from ITB chairperson Jerome Ngwenya fails to halt forensic audit ordered by the land reform minister

Ailing Far East Rand hospital purchases ‘vanity’ furniture

Dr Zacharia Mathaba, who purchased the furniture, is a suspected overtime fraudster and was appointed as Gauteng hospital chief executive despite facing serious disciplinary charges

Eusebius McKaiser: Reject the dichotomy of political horrors

Senekal shows us that we must make a stand against the loud voice of the populist EFF and racist rightwingers

Seals abort pups in mass die-off

There are a number of factors — a pollutant, virus or bacteria or malnutrition — may have caused the 12 000 deaths on Namibia’s coast
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday