Updated: Sep 25, 2019
(Article written for Mixmag. Can be found at https://mixmag.net/feature/door-picking-uk-lost-art)
“When you build a club what you are doing is exactly that, you are building a place where people come together with the same mindsets and the similar interests and share a similar kind of views about fashion and music.” says Toni Tambourine, a door picker in some of the most notorious parties of the 90s.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the door policies of clubs in the UK. From them being disregarded as exclusive and racist to being the only solution to the deteriorating nightlife, this issue has been on party-goers’ tongues. Toni definitely had something to say on why having a door policy can improve the nightlife experience and is necessary when trying to create an atmosphere in which people, maybe ironically, feel welcomed in.
Toni has doorpicked for well-known parties such as We Are You at Scala or Sign of the Times, which were attended by celebrities by the likes of Alexander Mcqueen and Bjork .He reiterates the importance of people looking a certain way. “When you are inside you can feel like you are part of the group, like a special place for your people.”
A good venue should try to create a little alternative universe offered only to those sharing the dancefloor. Having a door picker can greatly contribute to the creation of the right atmosphere. Some of the best nightclubs from the 90’s like Turnmills, The Cross and Scala had firm door pickers, which is part of the reason they are now considered as landmarks. They offered intimate and exclusive nights to those who made the cut.
Cozette Mccreery is of the same opinion. She has doorpicked for parties like Boombox at Hoxton Bar and Ponystep at Regine’s in Paris. “Richard Mortimer (Boombox party host) wanted a club we could all just hang out and have fun at and where someone famous could do the same and be welcomed and not hounded. On the flip side any famous person giving attitude and demanding VIP areas and the like was quickly shown the exit”, chuckles Cozette.
Door picking, apart from being important is an extremely tough job. If they’re not chosen on a random basis it could lead to problems such as racism and discrimination.
“Jesus I’d hate for someone to think that’s how to police a door. Although I know it exists.”, said Cozette about people disregarding door picking as racist or sexist. “My policy goes along the lines of ‘will this person enjoy being here’ and ‘will the regulars welcome them?’ But I’m not about this (excluding based on sex and race) I live a diverse life and would only wish to be in a club reflecting that.”
Door Picking in a way is about being very inclusive towards people in a community and very exclusive towards those who aren’t in it. If a door policy is imposed by seeing how people are dressed and interact with each other, the goal of creating the right space for that community can be achievable. It is also important to reiterate the fact that people can always work their way in if they actually want to be part of that club. They can notice the kind of atmosphere the club is trying to achieve and play by the rules next time.
Tony insists that the door picker should be “somebody within the industry, in the club universe, someone who goes to clubs, who works with music, who works with people, someone who has an understanding of the kind of people who should be coming in but also somebody who has got a good attitude to stand up to people who aren't desirable.”
Although being subjective,door picking is about trying to offer the best night possible by leaving out the troublemakers and anyone who would not be inclusive towards the club’s mentality. It’s important to offer a safe space, as Toni explained, “You want an openness in those clubs and to people to be who they want to be without fear of people who don't really understand your sexual preference and culture.”
Other clubbing meccas like Berlin, where door policies are still being enforced, make UK clubs seem like “pubs in the corner that you can just dip in and out”, says Tony. The mentality around the ticket pre-sales and about fashion and partying in general has made London lose that feeling it used to have in the 90s, the feeling of creating something special.
The main aim of events and clubs nowadays seems to rely more on filling the venues and making profit rather than offering a full and intimate experience. This is partially due to the rise of licensing and renting costs.
A Berghain-like door policy is welcome towards the people looking to enjoy the music and building an intimate connection with a like minded crowd. It also protects them from those who are there to show off, look for trouble or don’t care about the DJ.