Above: A selection of some classic 1990’s Dublin flyers from Nuggy’s shoe box.
Aoife Davis chats to Ciaran Nugent, Power FM broadcaster, DJ and flyer collector about his experiences with clubbing in Dublin and his ongoing research around club flyers. Providing her with a glimpse into a pivotal moment in Ireland’s recent past told through the medium of flyers, posters, goodie bags and teaser packs.
You’ve been accumulating posters and flyers from the beginning of the Irish electronic music scene and have been putting together research since 2010. From a design perspective, can you comment on what makes a brilliant flyer?
Since I began my research I’ve looked at several thousand flyers. Most of those were from the period from 1990-1999 and most related to Dublin clubs. There’s a huge variety in their design but the ones that appeal most to me are those that are hand-drawn. I find them far less formulaic than flyers designed on a computer.
The hand-drawn ones may not always be as effective a communication tool as their computer-generated counterparts, but the naturally creative element about them leaves a greater impression from an aesthetic perspective. I suppose that the ideal flyer needs to balance the informative and the aesthetic elements. It should contain all the relevant information about the event but will also reflect contemporary cultural elements, be they fashion, music, or drug related.
Creativity blossoms in times of social and cultural upheaval. During the 80’s, Ireland was experiencing one of the worst recessions it had ever seen and homosexual acts between men were still criminalised. Can you comment of how the design of these flyers and posters for clubs like Flikkers and Sides may have been a direct response to this upheaval?
As a teenager in the late-eighties I felt there was actually lots of positivity in the young people I knew. It seemed Dublin’s youth were a bit more optimistic about their future than they’d been in a while. The city was seeing regeneration in certain pockets – Temple Bar being the best example – and unemployment levels were beginning to fall.
There were increasing numbers of events being promoted by people from different backgrounds and your social class, religion or gender seemed to be less of a big deal.
The Hirschfeld Centre and Flikkers had been a direct response to the social and cultural upheaval. Even though the Flikkers flyers would now be considered quite tame in terms of the imagery used, at that time they would have been considered quite racy to many. You have to remember that the clerical abuse scandals hadn’t really surfaced yet and Catholic morality still held sway.
There is definitely a strong DIY essence to the flyers and posters being circulated around the late 80’s – early 90’s as minimal design resources existed. Can you comment on the aesthetic of years before and after the introduction of design software?
Artwork photocopied on coloured card was the primary medium for promoting events back in those days. I recently found a series of flyers and posters I’d designed for a band I was in as a teenager. The flyers featured pictures of random individuals cut from newspapers with speech bubbles coming from their mouths, all singing the praises of our band. This DIY approach had been utilised in the music scene for years.
The early Horny Organ Tribe flyers stand out by virtue of the fact that they were hand-drawn designs. Their early flyers (created by Purple and Tonie Walsh) feature primitive imagery and Celtic references and some were painstakingly hand-cut to the correct shape. The advent of design software didn’t kill creativity. It was just another design tool, but one that many people had yet to master. In fact, that’s probably still the case.
In the documentary Notes on a Rave in Dublin, you speak about the commoditization of clubbing at the turn of the millenium and how clubbing went from a free spirited rave ethic, to eventually people being fed this tacky concept of what the promoters thought a club was supposed to be. Can you comment on how poster and flyer design changed to cater for this new Superclub?
1996 was the point when the commercialisation of the dance music scene in Dublin became very apparent. Two ‘super-clubs’ opened towards the end of that year – The Temple Theatre and The Red Box. They were two very different venues but both were good examples of the new face of clubbing – the branded and marketable version, not the dirty raver version. Clubbing had moved into the mainstream – MTV had been over to film a piece on Dublin clubbing in the summer of ‘96.
Corporate logos began to appear on flyers and posters for dance events. Nevertheless, the influx of brand sponsorship did have some positive effects – one of them was the higher quality design ethic in some flyers.
These posters and flyers are one of the only lasting tangible artefacts of this scene in Ireland. In 2018 when club flyers are a distant memory with social media taking over, what does your research mean to you?
For the purposes of my research I contacted a variety of people; friends and strangers, and asked them to dig out any flyers they still possessed. It turns out there remains a wealth of Dublin club ephemera lying in old Nike shoeboxes or in ‘the Ma’s gaff’.
Over the years, I’ve managed to appropriate many such shoeboxes (most have since been returned to their owners). I scanned about one tenth of the many thousands that have been through my hands and I filed them away on an external hard drive.
That’s why I have to publish a book on them, so I can have something tangible for myself.