“I believe that visibility is key in challenging people’s perceptions of disability.”
On the back of Club Tropicana in the Black Box, which has been running for close to a decade, Bounce Club Night was born. It takes place every month in the Roisin Dubh, Galway, but now Dubliners will be able to get a taste of the night.
At its core, it’s a club night for adults with intellectual disabilities that “creates a fun, safe and accessible space for people of all abilities to socialise with their friends and dance the night away in a mainstream club environment”.
Bounce is led by That’s Life, “an arts programme which offers people with intellectual disabilities opportunities to discover and realise their artistic potential through working with established artists and participating in high quality arts programmes”.
We caught up with widely-loved Galway DJ Laura O’Connell, aka Lolz, who leads the DJ workshops at Bounce. She tells us how she got involved and gives us the low-down on what music and vibe to expect on Friday May 17 in Button Factory.
As Natasha Lydon, aka DJ Vixen, puts it, “It’s a great disco that anyone can come to”. Check out her B2B hip hop and R&B mix alongside DJM and DJ Mikey below, exclusively for District.
It’s Bounce’s second birthday this year, what did you want to achieve when you first started working with the crew there?
The main goal for setting up Bounce was to provide a regular club night in a mainstream environment for young adults with intellectual disabilities where they could socialise, meet new people, have a drink, and a dance. We also wanted to give our DJs and VJs and the band Electric Dreams more opportunities to play out. When I first started working with That’s Life there was only our annual club night Club Tropicana, so it has been really amazing to see how much Bounce has grown in the past two years, our nights are always packed out, and we have people who travel from all over Ireland to be there. It has also been amazing seeing how much the DJs skills have progressed in that time, everyone has developed their own individual style. Our VJ facilitator has also developed our own interactive visuals which incorporates a web camera and audience participation.
How did you first get involved with That’s Life?
I have been working with That’s Life for about four years now, I first came on board as a DJ facilitator for their annual club night Club Tropicana. We soon realised that there was a demand from both the audience and DJs and VJs for a more regular event and that is when we decided to set up Bounce.
Natasha Lydon (aka DJ Vixen)
That’s Life had focused a lot on live music, when did you decide to make the move into DJing and clubs?
That’s Life had in fact been providing DJ and VJ training for a number of years before I came on board. Club Tropicana has been running for over 10 years at the Black Box now. I suppose one thing I brought with me was the experience of playing in clubs and using club standard equipment such as CDJs and a Pioneer mixer, now all our training takes place using this equipment as opposed to laptop/iPads, which was what was being used when I first came on board. It means that our DJs can play in pretty much any club or venue now as they are well versed in how the gear works.
In the Journal interview it said “We had been trying to put on music events for people with intellectual disabilities for many years”, what were the main stumbling blocks or challenges?
One of the main stumbling blocks is the lack of accessible venues, in Galway, in particular. It is incredibly difficult to put on events such as Bounce in mainstream club environments as a lot of venues aren’t fully accessible and do not have the right facilities. This was definitely one of the main challenges in finding a suitable venue for Bounce. Thankfully the Roisin Dubh welcomed us with open arms and have continued to be amazingly supportive of the night.
Why was setting Bounce up in a mainstream club environment an important part of the evenings?
A lot of social events for adults with ID take place in the back room of a pub, a school hall or a function room in a hotel. We wanted our event to take place in a club because a lot of our audience members had very little opportunities to go out and socialise in this type of environment. We really felt that this was an experience, particularly younger people with ID, were missing out on. We also wanted it to happen in a venue where anyone else goes for a night out and for it to have a proper clubbing atmosphere.
You’re part of Gash Collective with the excellent ELLLL & co, was encouraging intersectional visibility for DJs a reason why you started working with That’s Life?
I’ve actually been working in the area of disability longer than I have been part of Gash but I definitely think that the two are connected, promoting female/lgbtq/and gender non-conforming people in a male-dominated industry definitely correlates to promoting artists/ DJs with disability in a society that favours people without disabilities. People with intellectual disabilities are still marginalised and often face discrimination and social exclusion, especially in the area of education and employment. That is why the work that That’s Life, and similar groups, do is so important, it provides a platform for people with intellectual disabilities to work with professional artists and musicians, to develop their own creativity and to create art to a high standard. That’s Life also provides people with ID an opportunity to showcase their work which is hugely important as I believe that visibility is key in challenging people’s perceptions of disability
Like yourself I’d imagine, I’m part of house and techno groups on Facebook and the outpouring of support from the club scene for this event has been amazing. Is there a way people can manifest that support online into real support?
Yeah it’s been really great and overwhelming to see the outpouring of support from the electronic music scene online.
There is a lot that people can do to turn that support into real life support, first off they can spread the word to anyone they know who might like to come along to one of our events. As well as that there is definitely a demand for more events like this in Ireland, so another thing would be to set up a similar event or DJ workshops in their city or town.
One of the main goals for what we do is inclusivity so I would really love to see our DJs and VJs and the band Electric Dreams get booked for more mainstream gigs, events and festivals.
Can you describe the atmosphere at a Bounce night for people who are thinking of coming along, what’s the buzz like?
The buzz is really amazing, from the minute people walk in the door they are dancing and smiling, people are just out for the craic and the dancefloor is never empty from start to finish. If anyone is looking for a fun night out with plenty of guilty pleasures they should definitely pop along!
What type of tunes can people expect at Bounce?
Our DJs are serious music nerds who love all types of music so our nights can feature pop hits from every era, rock, hip-hop and R&B, as well as some dance and electronic music.
For our gig in the Button Factory our DJs have picked their favourite genres so the night will be a mixture of hip hop, pop, and club classics as well as the excellent synth-pop band Electric Dreams.
Click here for more about Bounce in Button Factory this Friday May 17.