From grimy parties in the Arlington Hotel on Dame Street to hosting the biggest Pride party on the Isle of Ireland at the National Museum of Ireland – Mother is a prime example of what can be achieved when a party strives to create a safe space that puts the dancers as the focal point of the night.
The history of Dublin’s club and dance music culture can be a divisive topic as to where its roots and origins trace back to, and truth to be told it’s not a linear question nor should the answer be anyway clearcut. Ireland’s infatuation with dancing and rhythm dates back to the 17th century, and the lust for escapism through a unified groove remains as important today as it did to our ancestors. Whether it’s through a bodhrán or a 909, the hunger for movement runs deep in our veins.
Nightclubs and festival can be viewed as contemporary alternative to the historic dancehalls that were scattered across Ireland for centuries. These were crucial spaces to Irish culture and acted as a breeding ground for creativity, community and escapism. Modern day Ireland looks and sounds very different, but it’s impossible to escape our heritage, and as we swap flat caps for bucket hats, and aran jumpers for tracksuit tops – it’s nearly impossible to mistake the historic significance of social gathering through music has had on every fabric of Irish culture, and how it’s beautiful simplicity unites us.
While the link between traditional Irish dancing and rave remains slightly ambiguous, the history of club culture can be traced back to Sides on Dame Lane, which was notably the first true dance club in Ireland, and was notably a queer club. The original venue is arguably known as the birth place of dance music culture, and rested just a stones throw away from the the Arlington Hotel – the first space for Mother parties to call home.
Although the geographical locations of both Sides & the Arlington Hotel boils down to coincidence, it’s quite striking that the birth place of club culture was in touching distance of one of the most important contemporary club nights in Ireland, and both have been havens for Dublin’s queer communities in different generations. Both parties have been respectively fuelled by the sounds of disco & house, and have inspired new generations of club nights.
This desire & goal for club nights in Ireland remains utterly simplistic, but often this gets lost in translation. Mother are one of the few parties who view dance music parties in a simplistic manner. Operating since 2010, the party is one of the longest running club-nights in Ireland as of now. The team have worked meticulously hard to create a space that spawns a unique & comfortable atmosphere for Dublin’s LGBTQ+ community, yet they remain adamant that the magic stems from those who inhabit the dancefloor. The secret to their success belongs to the community.
We speak to the team behind Mother ahead of their Pride Block Party this weekend.
Was Mother the first party you had ever run or did you have some experience promoting events prior to the inception of Mother?
I’d run a good few parties before we started Mother, from parties in Pantibar to Prhomo, a student queer club that ran for about a decade.
How would you describe Dublin’s queer party scene in 2023?
I think it’s pretty vibrant, there are lots of fun new club nights and collectives starting all the time, some last the distance, some don’t, but as with all creative endeavors they’re pushing the boundaries of queer events and bringing something new to the scene. I’d still like to see another dedicated full time queer dance venue in Dublin though, but that might be a while off yet.
Dublin’s club scene, like many cities, is deep-rooted in queer parties. Early sounds of Dublin dance clubs were steeped in disco and synth-pop, which is in a very similar vein to the music policy of Mother. Is there a sense of bringing Dublin’s club scene back to its roots with Mother or have you always been focused on the future of Dublin’s nightlife?
I think we’re always looking forward, while having huge respect for storied history of the Irish LGBTQ+ club scene. Lots of those people are our friends and their creativity inspired us. Our tagline from the start was “an old school club night for gays and their friends” so we definitely wanted to emulate some of the amazing nights that had come before us.
Mother was set up in the midst of a recession in 2010. What was it like trying to start a club night from the ground up at this time?
I think it forces you to be more creative in the approach. There isn’t a lot of money around, but people want to dance. I think especially during something like a recession people need the escape of the dance floor.
Can you give us an insight into the early days of Mother – where were the parties, what was the crowd like, what did it sound like ?
We started in Copper Alley, a dingy little breakfast room under the Arlington hotel off Dame St which we transformed into a nightclub every Saturday night. We brought in speakers and some old cheap lights ‘flashy and blinkey’ which we cello-taped to tables either side of the couch we were using as a DJ riser…
The crowd was great, we had a really loyal regular group of queer clubbers who came back again and again, descending into the basement chaos every Saturday to Sylvesters ‘You make me feel” and Joubert Singers ’Stand on the Word’.
Persisting at anything for 13 years is a difficult task, what has kept you motivated to keep pushing the boundaries with Mother?
It’s not hard going to work everyday when your colleagues are some of your best pals. The job is definitely tough and the industry can be hard sometimes, especially the last few years, but we’ve always loved creating queer spaces and working together to pull off bigger and bigger parties.
In 2019 you hosted Love Sensation, one of Ireland’s biggest ever LGBTQ + festivals as well as hosting your first Pride block party at the National Museum of Ireland. Do you think this was a landmark year for not just Mother but LGBTQ + music events in Ireland?
Yes, that was a particularly fun summer! I don’t know about landmarks for queer music events in Ireland, but that summer holds a special place as it was the last summer of fun for a good few years while we all locked down and reopened and locked down again.
There’s something symbolic about a Pride party taking place at the historic ground of Collins Barracks, a space that symbolises Ireland’s struggle for independence and recognition as a free state. Do you think there’s an emblematic link between Ireland’s struggle for autonomy and Ireland’s LGBTQ + community’s battle for recognition in a country that is still bathing in the influence of the Catholic Church?
Occupying spaces that historically served a very different purpose and audience is always interesting. Much like the Irish constitution as a living, breathing document of life, the struggle for independence absolutely reflects the global LGBTQ+ movement and closer to home in the Irish context. Fighting for your rights requires bravery and courage so that i guess, the queer community shares that with the people (many of them LGBTQ+ themselves), that fought for our recognition as a free state.
The influence of the church now and then casts a long shadow. There is still much work to be done to remedy this but the people of Ireland responsible for making positive social change all contribute to lessening the damage done by the church.
Do you have a message for anyone attending the Mother Pride Block Party 2023?
Happy Pride! Come early, gates are at 6pm Friday and 4pm Saturday. Mind your mates, mind yourselves, and have a great time.
How long have you been involved in Dublin’s queer party scene ?
Long before I was involved with running events and parties, I was an enthusiastic clubber and loved LGBTQ+ club nights. Dublin has had a lot of great nights for the community for the past few decades. In 2010, we conceived of Mother to raise funds and to try to build the kind of night we’d all like to enjoy attending ourselves.
What was Dublin’s queer scene like prior to Mother and what made you want to start your own party?
I think that Dublin has a great track record of excellent clubbing and the LGBTQ+ spaces and nights traditionally we’re always leading the way in terms of offering an exciting and forward looking vision of clubbing and night culture. There is a long relationship between the LGBTQ+ community globally and creating exciting safe spaces for us to meet each other, be together and express queer joy.
Historically, that was also a very important act of resistance and visibility in the face of widespread societal homophobia, transphobia and racism. I’ve long believed in the transformative and affirming power of the dance floor and am proud to contribute to that scene in some small way.
Mother has been running since 2010, how have you noticed the Irish scene change since then for better or worse?
In 13 years, we’ve witnessed a lot of change in Irish society. There have been huge changes in the lived reality for LGBTQ+ folks on the island of Ireland. Two massive people led campaigns in the Marriage Equality and repeal referenda and advances for our trans siblings in the form of Gender recognition legislation.
In terms of the clubbing and night culture space, we’ve seen a lot of change too. The cycles of recession and ‘recovery’ of the economy leaves an indelible mark on clubbing and events, the closure of venues and dance spaces being one of the more damaging aspects of this time and ultimately, the lack of regard for and support of nightclubbing and club culture as a valuable asset of our cultural expression. Our archaic licensing laws don’t help with this either but there is good work and advocacy being done to change this and that gives me cause for hope.
Mother has become an institution of club culture in Dublin City, and the party now boasts some of the most important events across Dublin’s club and festival calendar. How have you managed to keep the ethos and spirit of Mother alive for over a decade?
We all feel really lucky that we’ve been able to stick around as long as we have and the people that come to the club, that come to the parties and events are a key ingredient in that. We are so grateful for their support and enthusiasm and that keeps us energised and motivated to continue working hard to produce really fun and exciting parties.
Our ethos and spirit is really simple and that is that we want to bring people together to express themselves and let loose while listening to amazing DJs in exciting, well produced settings. In our weekly club, we try to never be complacent and strive to make the club the highpoint of someone’s night out.
Our resident DJs Ruth, Rocky, Ghostboy and our regular guests contribute massively to that by being gorgeously creative skilled professionals who care about the experience that the people on the dancefloor are having.
We also have a resident lighting tech, Cian in Lost Lane who is so wonderful at what he does, that it all gels together to create a most gorgeous few hours weekly.
Mother is one of the great clubbing success stories in contemporary club culture in Ireland and a lot of this stems down to the D.I.Y. foundations the party is built on. How important has the D.I.Y. aspect of carving out your place in Ireland’s dance music community?
The DIY aspect in clubbing is so important to creating space, trying out new ideas and innovating in that space. We started Mother with no budget and so had to be really creative about how to create the space.
When a club night / collective is new, there is so much hard work and commitment that goes into making the kind of night you want people to enjoy and encourage them to keep coming back.
Creating the right vibe will win out over setting and production every time. Yes, it’s wonderful to have all the technical support of lighting, great sound system, perfect location but if the vibe isn’t right for your audience, none of that matters. We all can feel the difference when there is heart and soul in a night and a party and we put that front and center from night one.
Mother holds down the biggest Pride party across all of Ireland on the grounds of the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks. I want to go back in time a little and ask about your first Pride block party and how it came about?
Well, that’s a funny one. Mother first launched in June 2010 and our first ever Pride Party came three weeks later on the street outside the club and was a little bit of an accidental block party. We innocently decided to put a set of decks out on the street and were stunned when so many people showed up. It was so much fun.
We had no idea then that you are supposed to let Guards and councils know when you plan to set up shop on the street but i’m glad to say, they were relatively good humoured about our naivety!
Year on year after that, our Pride party grew and grew, being hosted in a range of other spaces including Meeting House Square, The Tivoli Theatre and eventually The National Museum of Ireland.
Fast forward to 2023, and you’re hosting your third Pride party at the National Museum of Ireland which is a massive achievement but also a lot of work. Can you give an insight into the preparation that goes into an event of this scale?
Our annual Pride Block Party is now the biggest event we run throughout the year and takes a massive amount of work and preparation. It’s not an exaggeration to say that as soon as we’re done with one Block Party, we are literally starting to plan the next one. We work with an amazing wider team of industry professionals who assist in producing a safe and exciting event that will cater for 8000 people a day and we feel so lucky to work with such brilliant people to do so.
What can punters expect at this year’s Mother Pride Block Party?
Well, across two days and multiple stages, we have the most wonderful array of local and international artists, musicians, Drag Queens, DJs and acts. We love programming the block party in such a way that there is something for everyone as we know the LGBTQ+ community is a gorgeously diverse mix. We try to reflect that from the stages too.
Aside from the talent, the National Museum is a gorgeous venue and we work hard to build out a festival site that is fun and accessible and caters to all of your potential needs for a great day out.
We have bars aplenty, food stalls, places to chill and this year, we’ll have newly installed chairoplanes which I am personally very excited about.
You’re a longstanding contributor to Dublin’s dance music scene. How do you feel the scene is at the moment ?
It feels like we’re in an underground phase at the moment, which is no bad thing. I’m constantly seeing younger DJs and performers forming collectives and trying things out in smaller venues, just like it was when I was younger myself. The lack of dedicated venues is a well discussed problem, but it is forcing real creativity too, everything from Foggy Notions excellent events in the National Concert Hall to the proper last minute text message for the location and probably illegal raves!
There are a few music-first bars around town now too doing interesting things, like Big Romance, The Magnet, and Lucky’s. Izakaya and Ukiyo constantly have great DJs on. And there are new places popping up that I haven’t even had a change to check out yet like Pawnshop and Row Wines.
For all the problems I’d love to see solved (shoutout to Give Us The Night!) I’m pretty positive about things at the moment, and looking forward to seeing how the scene continues to evolve.
How did you first meet Cormac & Lisa?
I think it was Conor Wilson who worked at GCN at the time who invited me to meet with himself, Kelly-Anne Byrne and what would become the Mother team to talk about running a weekly music club aimed specifically at the LGBT+ community. We all had a quick chat about music policy, a vibe check between us all, and it was up and running in the blink of an eye.
With Cormac and Lisa, at this stage we’ve known each other so long we’ve all been through thick and thin both in terms of club events and life in general, and I’m lucky to count them as friends. There’s no way the club would have lasted nearly this long without their tireless work in the background keeping everything running so smoothly.
Obviously over 13 years a few people have moved on to other things but we’re all still in touch and work together when we can on other things, most recently with Conor at Mayo Pride in Westport.
You’ve held down a number of residencies across Dublin City, how does Mother compare to previous residencies ?
It’s been much, much longer! A lot of the other clubs I’ve been resident at were associated with specific music scenes (nu-disco, electroclash, etc) so they had a natural shelf life really, but with Mother there is a vibe but no specific genre associated with the club which means it can run and run. It’s the ongoing hard work of the other residents Rocky & Ruth, and our regular guests like Billy Scurry, Claire Beck, and Kelly-Anne that keep it fresh all the time, and push me in interesting directions when I play with them.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how the second room at Mother evolves too, giving us a chance to try out different styles, get in new DJs, and continue to experiment musically.
Can you describe the atmosphere at Mother parties?
Honestly, I’d say hedonistic. I should probably clarify that I’m not talking about the common interpretation of the word to mean taking a boat load of class As and booze, but the idea that it is not just OK but good to pursue pleasure in your life.
I’m a firm believer that really letting loose now and again is good for you, and Mother is a place where we work hard so that whoever you are you can do that safely with like minded people around you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a weekly regular, a visitor to the city or someone who comes across Mother by mistake in a field at a festival, that subconscious sense of the pursuit of pleasure draws you in and keeps you dancing until the end.
Why do you think Mother has been so successful and prolific?
The short answer is that we bring a bit of joy into people’s lives, whether that’s for a few hours once in their lives, or more regularly. I remember in the early days of the club we knew half the venue by first name and it was like our own private party. Fast forward a couple of years and thousands of people who’d never heard of us would be at our stage in Body & Soul having the time of their lives, and those people would tell their friends and seek out the weekly club for a visit.
And at the heart of all that joy, the seed that it grows from, is the love and respect of the team at the centre of it all, which I hope I can bring as a DJ to every Mother event I play at.
How long have you been playing with Mother & how did the residency come about?
My first set with Mother was in 2010, so 13 years. I was a regular on the dance floor and a regular guest for a while before becoming a resident. I think that was May 2012 when I joined the crew full time.
As we approach Pride 2023, do you have any highlights from previous Pride parties in Dublin?
So many! From running between the old copper alley club venue to meeting house square to play sets throughout the day, to our first Collins Barracks Pride, it gets better and better every year. I can’t wait for this year’s lineup.
Mother has become the cornerstone of Dublin’s LGBTQ + dance music scene, how do you think the party has achieved such success?
I think from day one it felt different. Its primary focus was to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ people and their friends, but it always felt like more. The music played there, the guest DJs and the atmosphere. It was like a breath of fresh air on the Dublin club scene. There was a full dance floor and smiling faces on day one and that’s never changed. Bringing Mother to festivals meant we got to play to different crowds all over the country. Our festival family are as loyal as our club regulars and it feels special to know we’ve been the highlight of lots of people’s weekend.
Mother parties seem to effortlessly provide a safe space, what about the parties makes them so welcoming ?
I’m not sure. It sometimes feels like we trapped lightning in a bottle when it comes to our spaces and the people we attract. Our “be sound” policy has been in place from day one. It’s helped by the amazing front of house people we’ve had over the years. People in the club look out for each other. They champion each other. There’s always a feeling of love there.
This year’s Pride marks 40 years since Pride 1983 also known as the Fairview Park March which saw 800 gay men & women march to Liberty Hall following the murder of Declan Flynn. Dublin City now seems like a world away from that time, although attacks still occur they are becoming more of a rarity. You now get to play at The National Museum at Collins Barracks, is there a certain amount of fulfilment when you think about how Dublin has progressed 40 years later?
There is. But we also have a long way to come as a city when it comes to violence against the community. It’s rare, but that doesn’t make the attacks less horrendous. Having said that, from 800 people at the first March to the thousands we’ll be seeing this year, it does feel like we’ve come a long way. It feels amazing and it’s hard not to feel proud of our city and our country.
You’ve played a number of venues under the moniker of Mother DJs, what venue encapsulates Mother’s atmosphere?
To me Mother is a weekly club, it’s on at the same time in the same place every week. Sure, we have our Pride Block Party and we appear at festivals and guest in other clubs and they are all fun things but much more random, but for me the club is where the magic is made.
A club isn’t just about the music played in it, or the DJs playing it. It’s about the people who come to it and their experiences and energies. And it’s about a space too where we all have the freedom to express ourselves and be ourselves. To lose ourselves or find ourselves.
Our current home in Lost Lane is a joy to DJ in and really works for the dancers. We’ve had previous homes, some more loved than others, but this one is my favourite place to play in ever. The lights and the soundsystem create an intense and unforgettable experience. We’ve created a perpetual motion machine of infinite and expanding energy. If you don’t like naked flesh and fluids you probably shouldn’t come to Mother. It’s hot. If you don’t even think about taking your top off, you’re probably already dead.
Do you have any standout memories from playing Mother?
November 2021 was a particular highlight. That window where nightclubs were allowed to open again after being shut for 18 months. It couldn’t be that easy though, we couldn’t be trusted to stay out late: we’d have too much fun and break the country. Again.
So clubs were allowed to reopen but with a midnight curfew imposed. Pre Covid, the only people who’d ever been in a nightclub in Ireland before midnight were the people who worked there. Opening for an hour was out of the question, it would be over just as you’d got everybody in. So, there was only one choice: the early opening. 8pm till midnight.
And it was crazy from the get go. Fully crazy. Full and crazy. We were so used to queuing back then, that it didn’t seem that weird to be queuing at 7.30pm to get into a nightclub. We had to have reduced capacity too, so if you didn’t get down early enough you didn’t get in. The queues went all the way up the street, security fencing too. Doors at 8, full by quarter past, tops off by half past. The absolute scenes. The sweat. The tears. The intensity. The proximity. Of humanity. The fucking release. Full on Rave exorcism.
Maybe five weeks of it. Maybe four. Y’all had too much fun. You licked too many people and too many people licked you. The clubs were shut again by December. In 2022 I played maybe 47 times in the club that year, and each time was in my Top 3 gigs of all time. I am prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, clearly, but each was a moment more outrageous more queervacious, transgressive and transformative. Energies and ecstasies spiralling spectacularly.
Pure joy multiplied by a million. Time is infinite, energy too. But not our actual existence. I dunno if I’ll ever have a year like that again.
Festivals and outdoor spaces are quite different from basements and dark dancefloors. How do you manage to keep the energy at your DJ sets consistent across festival spaces and nightclubs?
Yeah. There are a lot more variables at festivals compared to nightclubs: the weather, the time of the day or night you’re on, the time you’ve been allotted, the day of the week it is. Outdoor or under canvas. But most people who have made the decision to go to a festival are there to have a good time. They’re not looking to be won over, they’ve chosen happiness. Make ‘em happy.
Also, it’s DJing. It can be more complicated than understanding the advanced physics of rocket science or you could play one song and then play another. I DJ on the daily. I don’t take breaks or vacations. I played every day through lockdowns. Doesn’t matter if there’s no one there or a thousand people. I’m ready. Drugs and alcohol are just accelerants. The music is what gets you high. My headphones are on and I’m jacked in and ready to go. Let’s go…
This is Mother’s third time at Collins Barracks for Pride, does that space feel like home now?
We’ve had one Pride there before Covid, one last year and this year makes three. But we also had a Block Party there in September 2021. It was supposed to be one of those limited capacity socially distanced tester events that happened in that year. Y’know 500 people in bubbles at picnic tables. No dancing, no interacting. But we got a reprieve and were allowed to open it up to a capacity just below 5000. It was fun and emotional and very different.
We also did two other events there as part of the St. Patrick’s Festival. In 2022 we did the most joyous and riotous show in the Spiegeltent on Paddy’s Eve. And in 2022 we effectively had another Block Party on Paddy’s Eve, Cultúr Club as St. Patrick’s Festival Quarter opening party. I get a little bit teary about the honour and pride of Mother being a part of the St. Patrick’s Festival. It’s hugely important for the LGBTQ community to be championed and celebrated as part of the greater national identity.
It’s wonderful that the National Museum is making it open to do these sorts of events, and create the opportunities for other types of interactions with the site.And that they wanna work with a bunch of queers and weirdos to make that happen. Every event is different and they are all learning experiences. Creating and curating festivals is a huge challenge and it takes an enormous number of people to make them work. We’ve had a great time here in Collins Barracks and have an enormous respect and gratitude for everyone who’s made that happen.
How will you be soundtracking this year’s Pride?
I’m gonna serve and work and turn and h-h-honey xxx
You can purchase tickets to the Mother Block Party HERE, with tickets for Friday night’s afterparty with Absolut in the Button Factory available HERE. Saturday’s afterparty in Here&Now is currently sold out. Wishing everyone a very happy and safe Pride!