Interview: 2 years of Groundwork

16 May 2019

Sheffield born-and-bred collective, Groundwork, have been quietly progressing from strength to strength over the past two years. Their night at Shakespeare’s, which runs from 7pm-midnight on the first Thursday of every month, has gained city-wide attention for its leftfield and open-minded approach to club music. We caught up with the team ahead of their recent two-year anniversary gig at Shakespeare’s, to discuss the successes (and failures) of the last two years, their upcoming Hatch takeover as well as their plans for the future..

Explain how Groundwork came into being and what you guys are all about

Isaac: Me and Ol and Alex are childhood friends, basically. We just liked playing tunes in our bedrooms. We’re from Sheffield originally - Bradway, which is the South side of the city. We were all playing tunes and chilling, and we just thought ‘we need to take this further’, so we bought some speakers and some decks and we started putting little events on at the Harley and DINA.

Alex:  We were all sort of in my bedroom, and really it just came out of seeing other people that we know - especially the Pretty Pretty Good residents. We thought, ‘we want a bit of that’. It was also born out of wanting to push local people because there’s not a lot that focuses on people who are doing things locally. You want to put confidence in people doing good things and give them a platform to express themselves somewhere like this. It’s small enough for you to make a mistake and it not matter, but enough of a platform to expose yourself and get great experience of what it’s like to play out.

I was quite struck by the idea behind hosting a night like this at Shakespeare’s, and also the fact that it’s such early doors and such early close. Why Shakespeare’s and why those times.

Isaac: It just gives people another option rather than going out at the weekend. It’s midweek, so a lot of people are in work at 8:30/9:00 the next morning. People don’t feel the pressure to get some drugs or spend 30 quid on drinks.

It’s your two year anniversary coming up later this month - what do you think your greatest achievement has been over the past two years?

Isaac: I would just say the increased crowd numbers recently. It’s popping now. Obviously, we’ve been at Shakespeare’s since the start so we can see the difference, but there’s been really good crowds recently. Now, it’s so much better.

Alex: I think it’s been about consistency. Just doing it every time, even when we felt like no-one would come. We’ve got a nice relationship with Shakespeare’s where the nights aren’t expensive for us to put on, so the more the merrier, but if no-one turned up, we’d still have a good time. It’s difficult to pinpoint a highlight when every time we come away from Shakespeare’s, we feel like that was the best one yet.

So what’s the plan for the next two years?

Jamie: Just keep doing what we’re doing. People seem to like it. It took us two years to get a proper crowd down and have everyone actually enjoy it. We’ve managed to be successful by not changing it up too much, so I think slow and consistent sustainable growth would have to be the aim.

Alex: Yeah, 100%. I think the worst thing would be if we looked back in two years and said ‘we sold out’. We want to keep it real, so to speak, and keep doing what we’re doing and enjoy it. Sort of running nights and booking people is something we’ve all had an interest in individually.

Isaac: Maybe in two years time, Shakespeare’s will be able to afford a new soundsystem.

You’ve mentioned before that it’s important to you guys to be able to play all different types of music in you sets. Have you noticed that’s a trend that people are picking up on recently.

Alex: The days of people being a one-genre DJ and a one-genre night are dying out, well and truly. Now, I think the newer people coming through are far more interested musically in taking influence from everywhere. We don’t feel bound to anything and we enjoy giving ourselves that kind of platform to play different sets and play whatever we like. You’ve got to have an open mind. We ask people to come down to do what they feel like doing. There’s never anything that says ‘you’ve got to play this when you come here’. I think people stray further from what they would usually do because they feel this is the place to do it.

Do you feel that the success of the night has impacted on people’s ability to experiment freely, seeing as there could be more pressure to perform well?

Alex: I think yeah, definitely.

Jamie: We’ve said recently, if we want this to be successful, we need to put the time in to be good at DJing. It needs to be a space where people can enjoy the music. You get quite complacent when things are working out. It’s embarrassing if you mess up, and you don’t want to ruin everyone’s night by playing a shocking set.

Alex: We want people to come here and we want the standard to be good, obviously. That’s the core of it. If someone’s clanging every tune it’s difficult to enjoy it.

Jamie: It’s a safe space, though. Not everyone’s perfect and we don’t expect them to be. Everyone’s always learning.

Alex: When we say it’s a good place to make mistakes, that’s true. But a lot of what we mean by that is it’s a good space to do something you wouldn’t do if you were at a place like Hopeworks and see if it come off.

Isaac: When you’re fucked in a club, you just want to keep dancing to the same beat, but when you’re here, no-one’s in that state of mind, so you can take turns that people might not be expecting.

What’s in store for the upcoming Hatch takeover?

Jamie: It’s good because it’s not something we usually do. Here, we invite friends and locals and that down, but we’ve never booked someone properly. We’ve all booked acts before individually but to do it as Groundwork is really nice.

Alex: Just to touch on Pandora’s Jukebox, who we asked to come down - whilst we’ve all got different interests and styles, she epitomises that so well. She’s such a versatile DJ. There’s something in it for everyone, and in terms of a booking, it’s a really good representation of what we’re about musically, just taking left turns and seeing what happens.

You can keep up with Groundwork by giving their artist page a follow.  Grab your ticket for their takeover of Hatch on 25.5.2019 now via PFTP

Words: Harry Gold