Sunday, 9 October 2016

Space: The Final Frontier


Whatever your preferred pronunciation, most people who visit The White Isle never go just once: the island is a magnet. If she were a woman she'd be a fearless rubber-clad dominatrix, mercilessly reeling you in then spitting you out; she eats guileless tourists for breakfast.

My first foray to the island was as an impressionable 17-year-old schoolgirl, astounded and delighted in equal measure that my parents, along with those of my eleven closest girlfriends, had permitted us to go. Hence followed an annual pilgrimage to get our 2 week fix of fun and frolics - until two weeks just wasn't enough anymore. Like an addict, I'd built up a tolerance and required ever-more hits to get my sun-drenched kicks. In 1997 I decamped to Ibiza for the season, filming Ibiza Uncovered and working at The New Star. I spent May til October in my happy place. Ditto '98. The trips continued thick and fast and in 2005 I was married in Santa Eulalia to the Englishman I'd first met on the island in 1998.

Fast forward to 2016. After 15 years together the marriage is finito and I'm instead returning to the island with my fella Andy and our gang of trusty party devotees for our pal Keith's 40th birthday celebrations at the big one: Space closing. Only this is not just the annual end-of-season shindig, this time it's closing FOR GOOD. Terminado. Even typing these words brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. (Or is that just the post-party blues?).

Space, my favourite club on Earth, is no more. Get a grip, you might say. It's only a nightclub. But those that share my passion about the island's club scene will understand my dismay. The heartbreak. Because Space is (was!) not just any club. It was a meeting of minds, a coming-together of individuals from all walks of life, united in our love of top-quality house music.

I remember the first time I stepped over the threshold. It was 1994, I was eighteen, and on my second jaunt to The White Isle, the first having been largely centred around the West End of San Antonio. By the second year I was a bit more clued-up. We'd been to another club until it closed and then taken a taxi to Space. It was around 7am and I instantly fell in love: with the "freaks" as they were affectionately known, the music, that "anything goes" freedom. As I'd just starting working in the City, reluctantly joining the rest of the grey, suit-clad rat-race, this was a welcome relief from the humdrum conformity of the dull workforce of London town. Gazing around me in awe, I greedily drank in the scene.

The open-air terrace was bathed in warm sunshine, blissful house tunes carrying across the dancefloor like manna from heaven. It was fairly empty at that time, having recently opened at 6am in order to catch the after-hours crowd eager to continue the party. Peacock-like transvestites mingled with androgynous types in 6in black platform boots, piercings and bondage gear; a blur of wild wigs and brightly-coloured make-up as they strutted around to the beat of the music, whilst hippy types lounged in white robes and tie-dyed smocks, draping their dreads over the backs of wicker chairs as they smiled lazily through fugs of blue smoke. The atmosphere was of relaxed hedonism, a laissez-faire attitude making you feel instantly at ease, despite the bewildering array of crazy outfits and huge kohl-lined eyes. The interior of the club was altogether darker in all senses of the word: heavy pounding beats and a pitch-black dampness as the sweaty crowd gyrated to the beat.

It was in 1997 as a fully-fledged "worker" that I became a regular at the club. My boss Juan, the moustachioed and mischievous owner of The New Star (and well-known on the island), would take us to the club after our shift and the door staff would wave us in for free. Particularly memorable was the opening party, when what felt like the entire San An workforce were doing the "Ibiza Shuffle" in time to the uplifting sounds of "You're Free" by Ultra Nate. I can clearly remember looking around the club as we danced, high on the terrace steps, giant fans blowing our hair back, planes soaring overhead due to the proximity of the airport, as we chinked our vodka shots with cries of "Salud!"'
"This is awesome!" I shouted to my girlfriend, Kez, over the music. "I love it!" she agreed with a high-five. Judging by the Cheshire-cat grins and wide-eyed awe of my fellow party-goers, we weren't alone in this sentiment.

Tuesday mornings were always eventful. Manumission, a weekly party held on a Monday night at Privilege (formerly an aircraft hanger, then Ku), was a vast club regularly attracting upto 10000 revellers. I had a "job" of sorts with the Manumission entertainments team, the vague description of which involved dressing up in various outlandish costumes and performing random tasks such as peeling potatoes on the dancefloor or using a plastic lizard as a phone - the more random the better.

The shenanigans would then continue at Space Carry On, where the weird and wonderful would crawl out of the woodwork to party at the club. Even on those busy mornings there was plenty of room to dance, with vast fruit platters being passed around and groups of people relaxing on double beds, chatting. Props such as beachballs and inflatable toys were volleyed about: it was basically a playground for carefree adults who'd raided the fancy-dress chest. We Love (held on Sundays) was another favourite - in part due to the novelty of full-on partying on the sabbath, whilst everyone back in Blighty was munching a roast or slumped on the sofa, slippers on, watching the footy in a near-catatonic state.

Over the summers I've been to Ibiza countless times, with a hiatus in recent years as I travelled to South and Central America and Asia instead. Whilst the island has always been a favourite destination of mine, I love discovering new countries - and besides, for the price of a long party weekender in Ibiza you can live like a queen for two weeks in Thailand.

Regardless, as soon as we heard that Space was closing for ever, it was a no-brainer: we simply had to go. Like visiting a dying relative, we knew it would be nostalgic, sorrowful and bittersweet, as we vowed to give it a good send-off and say our last misty-eyed goodbyes. We weren't the only ones: apparently there were around 16k other people with the same idea. It was touch-and-go as we raced to be amongst the first 4000 to secure one of the coveted online tickets - with each limited release selling out in seconds.

Once in possession of those Willy Wonka-style golden tickets, we set about choosing our outfits and cramming our carry-ons with glitter and heels. The excitement built day by day, as we ticked dates off the calendar, counting down the sleeps until the party to end all parties. After a 27-year run, this would be the final farewell, a 20-hour extravaganza featuring over 100 of the world's top DJs.

Eventually the big day arrives....

We're careful not to go too hard the night before, which is no mean feat in Ibiza where parties are in abundance and temptation is at every turn. When we awake the sun's already shining on our shenanigans: it's a glorious day. We gorge on the hotel breakfast buffet - it could be a long time before we get our next meal - which includes complimentary jugs of sparkling wine to get the party started. Easy tiger! I've got to get my Space Face on yet and those 2 inch false eyelashes are fiddly as hell. A sozzled Barbara Cartland is not quite the look I was aiming for.

There ain't no raver like a wrinkly raver, but fortunately us girls are a dab-hand with the warpaint: soon we're glossed and bouffed to within an inch of our lives. You can't polish a turd....but you can roll it in glitter and stick a bindi on it.

Early afternoon, and we're just revving up into 5th gear at Bar 45 where Brandon Block and Alex P are getting the party started, when suddenly the killjoy Policia Locale rock up and flip off the music, slapping the bar with a whacking great fine for good measure. Bastardos!

By now we're chomping at the bit to get to the club and trot happily along the Bossa streets, excitement building with every step as we approach Space. To our joy, there's barely a queue (we're lucky, it's over 2hrs long soon after) and we step into the pumping Flight Area, instantly bumping into some familiar faces. We say our hellos with a hug and a high five and have a dance, before heading to our favourite part of the club, and where we'll spend the majority of the day and night: the Sunset Terrace.

Unfortunately Jon Ulysses has just finished his set, which you can listen to here, but at least we get a chance to chat to him and a few other old faces, before getting down to business on the dancefloor. The air is filled with the sounds of tune after classic tune, accompanied by singing, laughter and the unmistakable blast from an air horn. The sweet house music is like food for the soul. Kez and I dance up by the fans for old time's sake; if we close our eyes for a moment it could be our nineties heyday all over again.

It's busy, but not uncomfortably so, and the atmosphere is electric: hands-in-the-air happy clappers determined to make this final Space mission a memorable one. It's just a sea of toothy grins and crinkly-eyed smiles as far as the eye can see. The energy is contagious.

Barbara Tucker belts out funky feel-good melodies, then we check out the other rooms before returning to the terrace for Smokin' Jo's cracking set. Next up are the legends Alex P and Brandon Block: these dudes created the terrace and there's no way we'd miss their lively set. As expected, they deliver tune after bouncing tune, served up with their characteristic cheeky style and a side-helping of charisma.


The freaks are conspicuous in their absence, which is a shame. I miss marvelling at the old woman with the eye patch in a tatty wedding dress, battered plastic kid's doll held aloft. Or the guy who dances with a full-size shop mannequin. There's no sign of Metal Mickey either, with his hundreds of chains and piercings. That's not to say people haven't made an effort: there are plenty of decorated hats, sequins and sparkly pimped-up outfits, beaming faces adorned with gems and glitter. I'm sure I catch sight of the huge-hatted Vaughn and pals from the Funky Room at Pacha.

The club is filling up now so we escape upstairs to the Premier Etage for a breather - space to dance, chat and relax in the huge padded chill-out tube. It's out to the Flight Area for Carl Cox, then later the pitch-black Main Room for Josh Wink, Sasha and Erick Morillo. Wink plays Higher State of Consciousness; the smoke cannons chuck out huge gusts of cooling dry ice as the beat drops, the force of which is almost enough to blow you over. The beams of the lasers light up the crowd, which, as you'd expect, is going completely wild.

By now it's almost 6am and we've been in the club for 13 hours. Due to some areas closing, it's uncomfortably full and exhausting trying to move around the club in the scrum - dangerous even. Wearing spike stiletto heels was a rookie error: my balls are killing me. As much as we planned to stay til the final dance, Andy and I decide to drop the shoulder and head home. Kez follows close behind. Our most hardcore buddies stay till the very end, including Keefster the birthday boy, and turbo-birds Jenny and Katherine. I must admit to being a tad disappointed in myself for being a lightweight and not hanging it out when I see this awesome shot of the final moments...

photo credit: Tatiana Chausovsky

It's a marathon, not a sprint....fortunately we sprint marathons. After a quick pit-stop at the hotel to shower and change we get a second wind and head back out to continue the party: first at Tantra, then at Bora Bora, which is nothing like the dancing-on-tables extravaganza of the old days, but a nostalgic treat nonetheless.

Soon we're surrounded by our fellow Space cadets, whose impressive stamina saw them dance til the very end and listen to Carl Cox and (the owner) Pepe's speeches and the final tune of the night: Angie Stone's Wish I Didn't Miss You...

They pull up a seat and we excitedly compare notes...and memorabilia, which is mostly varying-sized chunks of the famous Space terrace wall. Everyone who attended got a ticket to collect a free Space tote bag filled with goodies: a cd, Space tags, a Space t-shirt and history-filled memory card - annoyingly we lost our tickets and missed out on these. Amateurs! Hey ho. We spend the day drinking and chatting to friends old and new at Bora Bora before jumping a taxi back to the hotel to grab our bags and head off to the airport, Blighty-bound...

The Burger King in Departures doubles up as Ibiza's second A&E: battered-looking clubbing casualties are slumped on every available surface, half-heartedly chomping on a Whopper (likely the first thing they've eaten in days) and vacantly gazing off into the middle distance.

It's time to go home.

Ibiza. This island leaves you fragile as a china doll that's been smashed into a hundred tiny pieces, then haphazardly glued together by it's seven-year-old owner. But Beefa, like our first love, you'll always have a special place in our hearts...and we wouldn't have you any other way. So, until next time, it's...

¡hasta luego, mi amiga!

Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at:

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