In Residence – A retrospective look at Belfast clubbing institutions

The esoteric art of the resident DJ is one that has felt somewhat lost in recent years, due in some part to the illusion that the often overpaid guest DJ is something of a lottery ticket in clubland – guaranteed crowd-puller and guaranteed hype. Our mindset is shifting somewhat – what better way to learn what makes a dancefloor tick than to play said dancefloor religiously week-in-week-out as opposed to a flash in the pan two hour gig in a venue unbeknownst to that particular guest. Any influential clubbing establishment has been fuelled by a core team of residents, dedicated to their craft – Think Fabric, think DC10, think Sub Club – and that’s the crux of what we are trying to develop with our residents party. Here are three Belfast based parties that were fuelled by this mindset.

The Art College

Naturally, a conversation such as this would be unfair without starting with Belfast’s Art College. The now seminal ‘Sugar Sweet’ nights curated by David Holmes & Ian McCready which our own resident Timmy Stewart credits for his house music schooling. Orbital famously wrote their anthemic “Belfast” after a loose weekend in the city. It was Sugar Sweet which blurred the lines between dub, house, techno and all things electronic. In an era were genres were a mere technicality and the sound system was of utmost importance, Belfast’s left of centre youth came together to soundtracks from the likes of Andrew Weatherall, Ivan Smagghe & The Advent. All who were lucky enough to have frequented the haven will sing from the same hymnbook in respect that it was Ian & David’s role as resident DJ’s that maintained the level of quality control, and built the consistency that the punters grew to expect from the party.


More recently, it has been Belfast house & techno institution, Shine that many of our regulars and friends earned their clubbing stripes. Whilst the Mandela Hall housed some of the world’s leading house & techno acts, it was the Bunatee bar that nurtured the housier end of the spectrum. Timmy Stewart enjoyed a reputable residency for years here alongside “the two Johns” – John McIver and John Craig – now seeing success under his JC Williams alias. As a younger Seth Troxler & Jamie Jones played in room 2, it was the residents that laid the foundations for an ever-reliable atmosphere each month, and in turn contributing to develop the Bunatee the rave status it deservedly enjoys today.


Being dead young, the tales of Vicos are heard through clubland folklore and the hazy memories of older brothers, sisters and cousins, but we felt it would be unfair not to mention a spot that was, in it’s own right, an insitution for many. With three floors covering techno, drum & bass and hip-hop, it harks back to that genre freedom which we mentioned briefly in the Art College section. The ground floor doubled up as a cafe, masking the true rave intentions in a city were licensing is always up against you. Large toilet queues, occasional police raids and watery booze didn’t spoil the mood, as DJ’s Nik Muzka, Pete Donaldson & Colin Shields set the tone with a ballsy experimental approach.