This article originally appeared in Time Out in August 2011
By Kate Hutchinson Posted: Thu Aug 18 2011
As FWD>> celebrates its tenth birthday, co-founder Sarah Lockhart chats to Time Out about being ahead of the game for a decade
To many clubbers from across the UK, FWD>> is a religion. Plastic People in Shoreditch is its church and its best loved hymns are underlined by the pulsating sub-bass throb of electronic wizardry. It has achieved a legendary status in clubbing history for being the first night to embrace the now world-dominating sound of dubstep. And, as part of the Holy Trinity of London street sounds with pirate-turned-legal radio station Rinse FM and record label Tempa, it forms a cutting-edge network of the capital's freshest electronic DJs.
This week they are celebrating their legacy with a retrospective of Rinse and co's artwork from their 17 years courtesy of Give Up Art and Shaun Bloodworth, topped off by a warehouse party to celebrate FWD>>'s tenth birthday. The latter, which falls on the last day of the exhibition on Saturday, features ten DJs, each representing a year in the club's history, stretching all the way from DJ Zinc to Ben UFO.
In a rare interview, we speak to FWD>>'s high priestess Sarah Lockhart - who started the club night and Tempa - and co-manages Rinse FM with Geeneus, about the club and station's history and why it matters to London's young community.
What was that first FWD>> like?
'It wasn't a million miles from what's it's like now: there was a real family atmosphere and everyone knows each other. And if you become a regular punter then everybody's treated as equal. We've fiercely tried to maintain that ethos, sometimes to the point where we've emptied the club out for six months because it's turned into something popular and generic. We've had to destroy and rebuild it to hold on to the focus on music-obsessed people, and not those who are coming to get pissed.'
Would Rinse FM and FWD>> be the same without the other?
'I would say: after 2005, no. Myself and Geeneus were on the same path, so where he was Rinse and I was FWD>> it merged. We just didn't stop collaborating and we haven't since. It's nice to do a few parties together with a couple of thousand people, but I like the small room thing. FWD>> is different to Rinse in that way: I want Rinse to be as big as it can possibly be, whereas we've tried to keep FWD>> underground. We're always starting from scratch by putting on new music, even though it's a regular Thursday night. It's like with this warehouse party for our birthday: all we've done is a flyer ten days before. If it was only half full, I would still feel better than trying to approach it in an orthodox way.'
Why is it important to young people?
'It wasn't until we were writing the applications for our official Rinse licence that we tried to define what we do. But now I think it is an open platform for people who are a little different, particularly younger people who are making music or doing their thing. It's like punk.'
It's for outsiders?
'Maybe a little, yeah. I think that young people in London in general are considered outsiders. It's a nightmare for them - they're disengaged and they don't have much to do. We're the club they turn to. And we always will be because we don't want to grow old as a brand and we'll keep doing whatever is new. Everyone is going on and on about dubstep and it's in great shape but, in a way, we are over it. The success of dubstep has produced a creative surge into the genre because the possibilities are far greater than they were ten years ago: then, the chances were that you may have sold 50 records, had your record played at FWD>>, and that's it. But we're clucking for something new now.'
In light of the riots, do young people need more places to connect with?
'We were going to make an advert about it, actually, but we didn't define it enough. We wanted to put the message out there that it wasn't the way to go. But something that I've thought for a long time is: how long is the state of the people living on council estates and kids in shit schools going to be ignored? I've banged on the Mayor's office door to ask for any information to go on so that we can influence young people in a positive way. I've been quoted as saying “Come on, Boris. Come and check us. We can get messages across, bruv.” But so far, no good. There used to be this DJ on Rinse called Dubplate Boris, and every time I say Boris, people go, “Who? Dubplate Boris?” That's how significant Boris Johnson is in the Rinse camp. It's like: you need to get your reputation up in our area.'