This week’s London Promoters’ Society blog embarks on its first interview, with the infamous Jon Alan.
As a former promoter for ALAN & Elysian project London parties, Jon has been running events for over 15 years. He is now the creator of Evolve Wellbeing Retreat, a retreat that focuses on mental health, as well as recently stepping back into a key mgmt role at the LPS.
Time to grill one of our own!
Sum yourself up in three words.
Haha ok…kind, determined, unflappable.
Sum your events up in three words.
Interactive, energetic and inclusive…I’d like to think.
What was your first experience working in the night-time industries? Tell us about it and name one thing you hated, and one thing you loved.
My first experience was genuinely my events – I went to a lot of clubs but I’d always had other jobs full time. I found the first illegal warehouse party working for FedEz near Heathrow and I dragged my friends along to the one the very next weekend after that – we were 17 and loved it from the get go, so by the time I reached 21, we had partied a lot and knew what we liked and wanted. I approached Hidden nightclub in Vauxhall (one of the venues under the railway arches that got shut down by network rail pulling the lease) and a young woman worked there called Chloe who liked the proposal and I guess saw potential…she said yes to the very first ALAN event. I learnt everything about nightclubs from Hidden until a few years later when they started getting worse to deal with (they changed staff a few times and it was never the same when the night manager Scott left). I didn’t realise at the time but it was actually still relatively good there though and I always wished we never left. ALAN was built with that nightclub in mind and it was never fully the same after that. From the set up of the layout, to the outside garden we could put live bands in and the energy we brought to it, it was truly something special in the early years.
What was the first album you ever obsessed over?
This is easy, I’ve always loved music – my Dad made that happen by playing the likes of Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden loud on his own speakers, but my first album obsession has to be Blink 182’s Enema of the State. I was in year 9 when I heard All the Small Things and I remember turning round to my best mate Nial (he was already into this stuff) and saying ‘what is this, I must have it’. From there I drove straight into the pop-punk genre and listened to a lot of The Offspring, Blink, Sum 41 etc. On the dance music side of things, I had started going to a few clubs for a friend of mine we all called ‘Linus’ (Steve Harris) who I met when the freerunning craze started (the first time lol) around Windsor. He was running the only Drum and Bass nights around Berkshire back then called Bassment and I went to a few club nights with him around Windsor and Reading, slowly getting into the scene, but when Sub Focus’s tune X-Ray came out I had the same reaction to the Blink 182 song…I had to know what it was. I loved DJs like Andy C, Friction etc but it was Sub Focus that got me into DnB and thus the rave scene as a whole.
Who inspires you in the events industry? This changed over time – what pushed me into doing ALAN was an event put on by my mate Ashley called Cirque Electrique – she essentially just booked Corsica Studios for a private party in the January of 2009 and this put the idea in my head that it was possible for someone my age (21 at the time) to book nightclubs. But definitely my friend Linus’ event Bassment was a huge inspiration, this guy was putting on huge events all the time in Berkshire and really
Introduced the whole country to DnB, booking major acts like Andy C in local nightclubs back in the early 2000s. Then it was events like Braindrop, put on by 3 guys called Chris, Kumar and Doug, who are now friends of mine – Braindrop was super eclectic and proper festival vibes in places like Fridge in Brixton and Coronet, so big nights! Very shortly after that it was Bangface which still goes on today…I have a love hate relationship with Bangface – I love parts of the event but it brings out a reckless side to partying which I don’t always agree with and some of the jokes and music played can be a bit tasteless sometimes (it’s designed this way). More recently it is LPS actually – being able to help and seeing that I have value to give back into the scene, by helping others, has inspired me to crack on with everything again.
What’s your tagline, most favoured phrase, or most used sentence in your promotions?
It’s either one of these 3…
The 6 P’s (Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) which I got from my brief stint in the army
Who Dares Wins (which is the SAS motto, but I got it from Only Fools and Horses)
“It’s so bait, it’s unbait” – which stemmed from a joke my friends and I had when we were raving at illegal parties and festivals, where we would do things under people’s noses (e.g. doing fun stuff on the dance floor out of sight of the bouncers in clubs. Silly really, but it was fun at the time.)
What do you look for in a good event space? Well everyone has different needs when it comes to room sizes and features of a club but for me, it has to have 2 rooms – being able to have different music playing in each room is key for me so people don’t get bored or just want a change. And then it’s got to have a good outdoor area, I used to hate being cramped out on the street in between some heras fencing at places like SeOne or the Rhythm Factory. A good outside area meant we could do interactive stuff and maybe put on live acts, which was always key in adding to the vibe. Also, finding somewhere tha
t didn’t rip you off on the bar and allowed you to put decor up was always big too.
What sounds and styles of music do you/did you promote? ALAN played all sorts as it was based on my friend’s music a lot of the time so everything from DnB, bassline, house, dubstep (when that was a thing lol), techno, Jungle, Breakcore, live music, folk, indie, dub, reggae and anything in between. Really whatever I had available to me in terms of what my friends were DJing, or the bands and artists they were linking with, I put into ALAN. We were known for our electricness, our decor and our music.
Our first flyer:
Some Elysian Flyers and Posters:
Some later ALAN flyers:
From your experience, what has been the most effective method you have used to promote your parties? Well, I was always fascinated by the art of promotion and marketing to other people. I thought up many theories on what people would like and how to attract them, so i did multiple things – the first and most important thing though for me was being out amongst the scene, going to events and speaking to people about my party and then retaining that in data form after the event..so giving them a flyer but more importantly taking their details and adding them on Facebook – I either did this manually or gave them a card after taking their photo for said events. I would get booked by other friends hosting parties to take photos as I taught myself to take pics for my own events – others liked that I took pics of the decor and got an overall vibe to show, so they wanted that on theirs – I made a card which said something like “your pic will be shown ‘here’” that would ultimately lead them to tagging themselves or adding me as a friend. I now have just over 6,000k friends on Facebook, across 2 accounts, which I used extensively to promote my own events too. After that it was the stickers – we put stickers EVERYWHERE and I mean everywhere…it was a game for my lot in the early days, a lot of people heard about ALAN but weren’t sure why – it was because they were seeing our name everywhere. Yes we used to shout ALAN but it was constantly seeing our name everywhere that got us over the first hurdle of ‘who are you’ and conversations usually started with ‘oh ALAN, yeah I’ve heard about you’… which IS the open door in conversations.
I also put a lot of time into flyering – flyering was something I could personally do that didn’t cost loads of money (unlike stuff like postering) and online Facebook ads weren’t a thing then so I used to get up at 2 or 3 am, drive an hour into London to whatever club, and flyer outside. Often in the cold and rain but I always saw friends coming out and I always thought at least 1 or 2 people would now know about ALAN and take note kinda thing so in my head it was worth it. With me and flyers I had spent the money on them and I had a duty with myself to not let them go to waste so I made sure they were distributed well. Other than those, I guess just my friends and being out and sociable, spreading awareness of the event (by being colourful and fun in the scene, making friends). And then word of mouth through the amount of friends that all came to my events in the early days who then started bringing their own mates along to the next one.
What drew you towards the London Promoters’ Society? Hayley initially asked me to be up on stage with her at the first events as emotional support I guess – she’d seen me interact and be the face of my own events and whilst no one really likes it, I found it easy speaking to crowds on stage and always used confidence as my go to emotion (taught from an early age due to b being the son of a car salesman and a bit of a show off). Whilst there I realised the potential of the group and what really helped was the support I got whenever I spoke. You get lost in your own doubts sometimes and being told I added value to a group I was passionate about really helped build more confidence that I had more to give. If my own experiences can help others in their own ventures then that’s what it’s all about for me. If I knew what I know now I don’t think I would have started a club event, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I had some truly amazing times and I think now I’m just a bit older, I’m more cautious and unsure if I could be so bold like I was as a young 21 year old back then, wanting to make a dent in the scene.
Is there a memory that stands out as an epiphany point that completely changed your perspective? ← re you know when you see something that completely blows your mind and changes how you think! I remember my first rave experience – cycling to my first job at 6am after being medically discharged out of the army, not knowing what to do with my life, and my Dad telling me to find work at Heathrow as it would ‘always be there’ (he was right lol) and discovering the aftermaths of what appeared to be a banging warehouse party…I was totally bewildered by what was happening. Asking someone what it was and being given a number to call after 11pm on Saturdays I will never forget.
Cirque Electrique – my friends’ event that I mentioned earlier really also changed my perspective as I didn’t realise it was just so easy to book your own nightclub.
Another time that springs to mind which I’ve only just remembered – I remember being at Glade festival in about 2005 listening to an Andy C set and at the end of the set it was getting light so you could see everyone in the marquee and I started shouting ‘one more tune’ over and over (I was 18, give me a break lol) and everyone joined in with me and he actually played 2 more tunes afterwards…it sounds silly and insignificant but at 18 it felt like I had started this movement and he played those extra songs because I got the crowd going and it was a bit trigger in my mind that I could influence others around me. What is Evolve Wellbeing Retreat? Why does it matter? I am a bit of an ideas man and I’m very strong-minded – but it gets to a point where your friends stop listening to your crazy ideas and it starts to really plague one’s mind I found. Being strong-minded means I have the ability to highly focus on things, both good, and sometimes bad. I’d come up with what I thought were amazing ideas but never had the time or resources to do them and it really started to get to me. I’d hate ideas and get defeatist about not being able to do them and it got so bad I thought the world hated me and I wanted to end my life. I very nearly did! But I had a revelation in that moment that I just had to choose 1 – choose 1 idea and see it through. I said to myself ‘come on Jon, you’ve been successful in the past with ALAN and Elysian – people know you’re not a TOTAL shit chatter, you’ve just fallen out of love with the rave scene and just need to pick a new challenge. I then had this idea that I thought nothing much of at first – it was a festival but it focused on really helping people out…the more I thought about it the more the idea grew into a purposeful retreat that could really change people’ lives. It slowly started to feel like the ray of hope that I needed from my position of darkness. So I decided to go with it, knowing that having chosen something to commit to, I would no longer plague myself, constantly left wanting more.
Evolve Wellbeing has now launched – it exists to help you overcome your personal mental hurdles and learn how to navigate around those obstacles that you face in your daily life. It’s a new type of retreat, one that doesn’t just focus on one craft but focuses on combining multiple techniques through engaging workshops and activities which develop awareness and core principles in mindfulness (mental health), fitness, nutrition, overcoming anxiety, and building confidence.
Set in the beautiful Herefordshire countryside, over 3 days it combines yoga, meditation, nutrition, talks and personal coaching. Whether you want to discover more about yourself, overcome challenges or simply learn in a relaxing environment, everything we do is done with the sole aim of making a genuine, long-lasting difference to your mental and physical health.
So for me it matters because it’s part of my own struggle with mental health and how to overcome it, but I think it’s so much more now – if what I’ve learnt over the past 15 years can somehow help others better themselves then this gives my life meaning again. I don’t really want to give the full sales pitch on here but if you are interested in learning more, head over to https://www.evolvewellbeingretreat.com/.
What did you learn from the rave scene?
I learnt the value of connecting with others, I learnt the fine line between having fun and being out of control, I learnt what friends can mean, I learnt that sometimes you need to take yourself away from your normal life and let go a bit to see a different perspective but most importantly, I learnt a lot about myself.
How has your audience changed over time?
Yes – I used to run music parties for 18 – 30’s (roughly) that were all based around my age but now I run events that cater to all age groups and actually a lot of people that want to better themselves that are older.
What have you learnt from generations that have come before you?
I often heard stories about successful and failed ventures my Dad did and often compared myself to how I would have done things differently or to watch out for the same pitfalls he had. When I first started ALAN, I remember reading old happy hardcore articles about promotion with flyers and how they worked. I often saw older generations putting on huge events that I aspired to be like, so I learnt so much from previous generations on where to start and information on what might go wrong etc.
What do you want to pass onto future generations?
I wish to pass on help and information that wasn’t available to me when I started. I want to pass on encouragement to follow your goals and dreams and tell them that ultimately, it’s never too late – if you’re good enough, you can do it and whilst your original goal might fall by the wayside sometimes you will evolve and change your mind along the way…that will only benefit you in the long term. Just go for it, ask if you need help, chat late into the night about crazy ideas with friends, but most importantly, just have fun whilst you do it. I didn’t always enjoy what I had created because I didn’t stop trying to always do more. I’d also reach out on a personal level to anyone reading this that if you wanted to talk to me – you can. My contact details will be at the end of this article, I’d like to help and where I may not know the answer I could definitely point you in the right direction. Remember it doesn’t matter how big your steps are, just as long as they’re going forward.
Do your events have a political perspective?
ALAN stood for ‘Awareness & Love All Nighters’ and my initial goal was to build a crowd to spread messages – we regularly had NGOs and charities involved with flyers and people to speak to. We always raised money for charity at all of my events too. I have since learnt though that you should help others help themselves so they can make their own minds up rather than pushing your own agenda. I dislike politics and find it pointless at the best of times, but it’s what we have so you have to play the game sometimes.
Where can everyone find out more about you and your projects?
Evolve is my focus now – https://www.evolvewellbeingretreat.com/.
If I start promoting music again you can find out about it on the LPS site for sure and I may dip my toe in the water again after lockdown as there’s so much more I can bring to the scene.
If anyone wants to connect with me – do it through Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jon.alan.davis