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You don’t have to look far to see where Canberra’s dance music and DJing scenes are growing. We clubbers in the capital have for years kept our ears close to Box Cutter, Pickle, Department of Late Nights and uniVibes to know where the party’s at. These event organisers (or ‘party people’, to use the technical term) are committed to hosting fresh talent, showcasing the best in underground dance music and putting on a good night; they keep it about the music and shun the sexist booze culture that can sometimes infiltrate more mainstream events.
As Canberra’s dance scene continues to grow however, we have a responsibility to ensure that we keep the momentum, that the scene won’t wither and fall flat during the winter months and that we’re consistently welcoming new promoters and DJs to cater to every genre niche. Where can we direct aspiring event organisers and disc jockeys to get in touch with the key players in Canberran dance music? How do you even throw a party in the first place?
Enter WIND IT UP. It’s a two-day dance music festival set to take over Canberra’s CBD, bringing in local and interstate performers and industry insiders for a weekend of workshops, discussion panels and parties. Attendees can expect inside info on the art of DJing, event photography, promo for your next party and best of all, an insight into Canberra’s unique and evolving dance scene.
“We want to help people who want to put on events, or people who like partying, to get on the other side of the party.” That’s Isaac Dugdale, Wind It Up’s founder. The recipient of an In The City grant, Isaac is putting on Wind It Up to help grow the Canberra scene, or as he puts it, “contribute to the nightlife scene.”
“Especially in the Canberra scene, we’re really focusing on gender equality in DJing.”
For a city that cops so much flak for its nightlife, Isaac is committed to building on Canberra’s strengths. “The difference between Canberra and Sydney is super striking, for promoters, DJs and clubbers,” he explains, noting that Canberra’s relaxed stance towards its nightlife is a strength rather than a weakness. “There’s less aggression; it’s a much nicer, more chilled out attitude. Putting on gigs in Sydney is really hard because the political climate over the whole state is pretty anti-party at the moment. And venues are often really expensive to book, whereas in Canberra, you can start your own thing a lot easier, because there’s a lot more room to get things going.”
Even Canberra’s DJing community is starting to rival the other cities’. Isaac says we have a tight-knit group that isn’t afraid to welcome in newcomers and give everyone a go. “It’s a very cooperative rather than a competitive scene. Even if people are putting on parties on the same night, there’s never any anger or beef with that,” he says. “What I really like, especially in the Canberra scene, is that we’re really focusing on gender equality in DJing. All the promoters for major parties in Canberra are focused on not having all-male line-ups and creating a more gender inclusive scene.”
It’s for that reason that Wind It Up will emphasise the importance of feminism and inclusive attitudes in Canberra’s dance scene with a discussion panel about gender issues in club culture. Isaac says this panel will set the overall tone of Wind It Up. “Going clubbing, especially when I’d just turned 18 and was just hitting up mainstream clubs, the culture in there was just really confronting,” he says. “As soon as you get into a club and these dudes are all drunk, they seem to have absolutely no problem grinding on girls from behind without asking them if that’s okay. It creates an environment that’s really unpleasant for guys and girls … it shouldn’t be normal.”
“When I started going to the more underground parties like the Box Cutter parties, it was so refreshing to not have to feel the pressure to be a gross dude and hit on people … The vibe at those parties is so much better because people can dance by themselves and not turn away guys every five minutes.”
With Wind It Up, Isaac wants to encourage event promoters to counter this sexist culture; they’re even setting an example at their own parties over the weekend. “We’ll have a text-in line, which is something that we’ve seen in Melbourne’s Cool Room series. We’ll post a phone number on our Facebook page and put up signs around the event, saying if you see anything [that makes you feel uncomfortable], just text it in to this line. Then we’ll send in volunteers or security, depending on the situation, to make sure that people are not doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”
As for the parties themselves, Isaac says the Saturday night in Verity Lane will be an opportunity for aspiring producers, DJs and promoters to meet industry insiders on the lookout for new people to know. It will also be a chance to get down to some underground tunes from outside the mainstream. “Earlier in the night, it’ll be disco and disco-influencing stuff like soul, funk and afrobeat. As the night progresses, we’ll go heavier and harder, it’ll be house and techno … It’s going to be something Canberra doesn’t see very often and will be a really good, big party.”
Wind It Up takes place in various locations around the CBD, Fri–Sat March 3–4. Tickets are $10 for a two-day workshop pass, $10 for the Friday Night Party at Suke Suke and $10 for the Saturday Night Party at Verity Lane. There will also be a record fair at Garema Place on Friday March 3 from 12pm-6pm. Tickets are 16+ and available from winditupcbr.com.