The story of legendary UK music venue The Que Club, which hosted global superstars, opera performances, punk all-dayers and underground dance events during its lifetime, is to be revealed through a new community heritage project.
In The Que will celebrate the heritage of the imposing and popular central Birmingham nightspot, home to performances from major acts including David Bowie, Blur, Massive Attack, and Daft Punk, as well as pioneering club nights and rave experiences between 1989 and 2017, thirty years on from its opening.
Thanks to National Lottery players, the Birmingham Music Archive has been awarded a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £42,000 to tell the recent life and legacy of the venue.
The Que Club's thirty-year history will be pieced together over the next 12 months with contributions from former staff members, audience members, artists, bands, DJs, MCs, promoters and other music and heritage industry representatives.
Led by music historian and researcher Jez Collins of Birmingham Music Archive C.I.C. alongside film producers Pretty Hate Productions, In The Que is a long overdue exploration of a key performance space that played a crucial role throughout the Techno, Acid House, Jungle, Drum n Bass and Britpop eras of the 1990s and 2000s.
Pulp, The Bluetones, Space, Shed Seven, Primal Scream, Tricky, Edwin Starr and Underworld were amongst the chart-topping acts who took to the stage soon after the building’s repurposing as a music venue in 1989 after the redbrick and terracotta monument’s previous 90 years as the Grade II-listed Methodist Central Hall on Corporation St, in central Birmingham.
Following the explosion of dance music and rave culture across the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s, The Que Club became the home for Birmingham and the Midlands’ burgeoning new DJ and MC community with events including Atomic Jam, Flashback, House of God, Drop Beats Not Bombs, Spacehopper and The Bubble Club, amongst others, attracting thousands on a weekly basis.
The venue went on to achieve further national recognition following BBC Radio One’s use of the venue to host Essential Mix nights, with the likes of Carl Cox, Sven Vath, David Holmes, and Paul Oakenfield DJing to an audience of tens of millions via the station’s Saturday night broadcasts.
French electro stars Daft Punk’s Alive 1997 album (released in 2001) features 45 minutes of their 1997 set recorded at The Que Club as part of the Daftendirektour - the duo’s first tour of the UK.
Memories and material collected – such as old photographs, passes, merchandise, flyers, posters, ticket stubs and any other promotional items associated with the venue – will be digitised and published on the Birmingham Music Archive website as well as forming the basis for a series of exhibitions.
The project will also offer a series of ‘ghost gigs’ – famous recordings taken from the venue such as audio or footage of David Bowie’s infamous gig in 1997, or a House of God set played back to an invited audience.
In making the announcement, Jez Collins said, “The Que Club was home to many different communities irrespective of colour, gender or sexuality and this was reflected in the mix of artists and club nights that performed there. Its labyrinth of corridors and rooms allowed for innovation, exploration and experimentation for DJs, MCs, promoters and clubbers whilst the incredible main hall, with its raked seating and imposing organ, offered the perfect space and backdrop for large-scale events and superstar DJs.”
“In The Que is not only about the music. It’s also concerned with what The Que Club tells us about the social, cultural and political history of the city and club and youth culture."
"It's hard to imagine now, but rave and dance culture were subject to government legislation, police crackdowns and hysterical tabloid headlines. To those who went there, the Que Club was somewhere they could call their own, where they could listen and dance to music, meet new friends and express themselves."
"2019 marks 30 years since The Que Club opened its doors. Like a lot of other important music venues across the UK, the building is now destined for change. This project will celebrate the pioneers of rave and dance culture in Birmingham and shine a light on a hidden history of Birmingham’s music heritage and culture."