Welcome along to the very first entry in our ‘Unsung Heroes’ series. Every week millions of people go partying in London to see their favourite DJs, to have a dance with their mates to the music they love, to drink, get merry and have a great time. At every venue there is a team of people who are working while you, I and everyone else is letting their hair down. These people are the unsung heroes of our city’s nightlife, the ones who make sure everything runs smoothly, they ensure that the bar is always fully stocked, the sound system is tuned up, that your coat doesn’t get lost in the cloakroom and many other aspects of the night that we almost always take for granted. So Deep House London thought we should shine a light on the people who work behind-the-scenes at some of our best-loved clubs and parties, because they deserve it. We kick off with Oval Space’s cloakroom attendant extraordinaire, Solomon Wilkinson.
Senior Sartorial Storage Technician.
How long have you been working at Oval Space?
Too bloody long!. I started in 2012 and the staff turnover has been very low, even for bar staff, which I think is quite unusual in this industry. We’re a nice little family.
Previous experience in the nightlife industry?
I spent a lot of my youth in the clubs of Bristol, destroying my braincells at Lakota, The Black Swan, Timbuk2, Thekla, Clockwork and various disused warehouses. I did various stints on doors and bars and got involved with a bit of promotion here and there. At the risk of sounding like a complete twat I was there when dubstep was more Skream and less Skrillex, and when breakcore actually existed as a genre. Aaron Spectre will always be the first artist in my iTunes. I used to come up to London for Bangface and FWD.
Tell me a bit about what you do each night?
My main job is to run the cloakroom, which is a lot more complicated than people think. Oval Space is nice because the cloakroom is shared with ticketing and is right at the entrance – we’re not tucked away in a little cave somewhere. We work right next to all the security and ticketing staff, so we catch some jokes, and mostly vibe out to 90s R&B – Mariah Carey’s ‘Fantasy’ is a particular favourite. The punters love it. I also do a bit of FOH management which is running the guestlist and working closely with security, ticketing and promoters to ensure ingress and egress is safe for everyone.
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What’s the best aspect of your job?
Getting to blast the tunes out in the Shutter Space which is where everyone enters before heading upstairs to the main space. Having a good bassline is the only requirement – we’re not genre Nazis. Also working as part of an amazing, creative and dedicated team – this place has grown so much both logistically and creatively since I’ve been here. It’s been a steep learning curve but the management team work so hard to make sure we constantly evolve and adapt as both a nightclub and an arts and events space. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but you’ve got to take the risks to be truly innovative. You can’t beat a summer sunrise over the gasworks at 7am when we’ve kicked out and having a well earned drink.
Anything that winds you up?
Some nights I’m more tolerant than others. I love a bit of friendly banter and I always try and deal with everyone the way I would like to be treated, but when someone tries relentlessly to get a discount for entry, blag their way in, get back in when they’ve been ejected or pick up their coat without a ticket by describing it as “the black one”, I’m likely to politely request that they desist before security have to point them towards the exit.
What can the general public do to make your job easier/better?
Prepare your shit before you get to the cloakroom… And don’t lose your ticket! Take a picture of it on your phone (and don’t lose that either).
Any funny/weird incidents you can tell me about?
There are so many stories that could not be repeated in print… but we once had a gospel choir harmonising TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ in the cloakroom queue and there was also a time when Johnny Depp was supposed to come and see Atoms for Peace and the whole staff practically wet themselves. Every night is full of funny and weird incidents. People are fucking weird.
Hopes/dreams for the future?
I’ve just started at the BBC developing TV shows so my weekday 10am-6pm doesn’t really work with my weekend 10pm-6am anymore… but somehow I still manage to end up there at least once a week either having a sunset cocktail on the terrace, checking out the OS cinema nights or having an Allpress coffee in Plump, the in-house café. Also really excited about the OS Music x Sushitech night in September. OS is evolving all the time and I know there are some big plans afoot- can’t wait to see what they pull out of the bag next and I’m sure I’ll be ringing them up begging for a shift those weeks when payday is so near yet so far. In the words of pretty much everyone at OS – “You’ll never really leave- one ever does”!