Rathaus has quickly established itself as one of Dublin’s most prominent parties due to its non-conformist attitude to techno showcases. Leave your coat & ego at the door, and surrender yourself to the fearlessly fun energy that oozes through the Rathaus crowd.
Rathaus was born out of the desire to showcase a transgressive approach to techno parties in Dublin City. The radically frivolous party takes pride in its fun-loving attitude to nightlife, and the party’s ethos mirrors the radiant atmosphere that rave was built on. Rathaus founders Michal Mencnarowski & Kenya Dempsy wanted to create a community that acts as a resistance to an otherwise earnest techno scene in Ireland’s capital. Rathaus is definitively nonchalant in regard to the parties’ intent, but their indulgent attitudes to no-holds-bared events are rather potent in their delivery. Their tongue-in-cheek style events have captured a new generation of party-goers that simply want to dance, and it’s guiltlessly refreshing.
Michal Mencnarowski & Kenya Dempsy have been accumulating inspiration from divergent parties across Europe and Ireland to build the foundations of what would become Rathaus. The name Rathaus was derived from Rathausstraße in Berlin where Michal & Kenya began forming the initial ideas for a dissenting techno party in their hometown of Dublin. While the pair found great influence in Europe’s techno capital, Berlin was far from the bedrock of Rathaus’s ideologies. The two friends relished the unconstrained structures of Berlin’s club culture, but somewhat resented its nonsense approach to partying. Rathaus was built on nonsense, and lots of it.
We spoke to the team behind Rathaus ahead of their 12th edition of the party.
Can you describe a Rathaus party for people who may not have been before?
Rathaus is a techno and pop party with each event having a different theme. Our aim is to provide clubgoers with a safe space and we have a strict no-discrimination policy – It’s a party where everyone is welcome. Rathaus isn’t an exclusive party, it’s a space for all; an inclusive event free from binaries and restrictions. It always is just a really nice wholesome vibe – Our crowd is very diverse, it’s one of the few places where you’ll see drag queens, techno heads, queers, yup bros, sex workers, and college students all just celebrating music and having a buzz under one roof.
Dublin’s techno scene seems to be reaching a tipping point of over-saturation, but Rathaus has done an excellent job of honing in on a dedicated crowd. How have you managed to build a community-style atmosphere at your shows?
Thank you, I think by working with local DJs, visual artists, and performers you kind of naturally create a sense of community, there’s nothing better than people coming together to do what they love in a fun, welcoming environment. Since day 1 we’ve been blessed with the best crowd, there are a few people who haven’t missed a single event. Between the DJs, regulars, etc it really does feel like one big family.
If I’m not mistaken the name Rathaus is derived from an area in Berlin. Did past clubbing experiences in Berlin help shape Rathaus in a way?
Yes, Rathaus Neukölln was actually one of the stops on our underground line when myself and Kenya lived in Berlin! ‘Rathaus’ also translates to town hall, which historically has always been a place where communities would come together – so we thought it is a fitting name for our club night. We were definitely inspired by the freedom etc you feel in clubs over there but in many ways Rathaus is very different – Berlin techno parties can be quite serious whereas Rathaus is very camp and over the top. We just have fun with it and don’t take ourselves too seriously.
Each Rathaus party follows a different theme, making the party seem radically unique from show to show. Is there any rhyme or reason for the various concepts?
We both studied design in college so we treat each party like a little design challenge and always have brainstorming sessions over pints – we both like the same things so it’s actually very fun and we just buzz off each others ideas.
Do you have an end goal in mind for what you want to achieve with Rathaus or are you just taking each show as it comes?
One of our goals from the start was and is to diversify the dance floor – we always prioritise female, queer, and marginalised artists. We also want to give up-and-coming artists a platform to showcase their talent.
Kenya Dempsy [Founder]
Your background is in illustration and design, which seem to be very much at the core of Rathaus’s brand. Do you approach your work with Rathaus differently from other clients?
I’m definitely able to experiment a lot more with my work for Rathaus. Usually, I’m concerned about clients’ tastes and needs but I really have the freedom to go as out there as I want with the artwork for our nights. I usually take the opportunity to try new techniques but the main thing is to express our tone of voice and push the overarching theme in every poster. I also try not to place a hierarchy of names with DJs. To me, it’s important that each artist is held to the same standard and that we don’t prioritise one over the other.
Rathaus has been merging club music and art exhibitions in the past. How important is it for you that Rathaus breaks down barriers between these two creative communities?
For me, art exhibitions can be quite serious and don’t always feel like a welcoming space for a lot of artists. The hope is to make these events more accessible and with each event, we reach out to artists of every medium which adds another layer of fun to the nights. It’s also our goal that this can push some exposure for these creatives.
Does Rathaus have a music policy?
From the beginning, myself and Michal knew we wanted to operate on a two-room system with different vibes in each. We knew that something like this didn’t really exist in Dublin and hoped that this could offer a night out for groups of friends who may not all be into the same genre of music. Our terrace area provides some cheesy pop hits and throwbacks and is in general just a bit gas but is also somewhere to take a breather from the heavier tunes inside. The main room showcases mostly local DJs on the techno scene with a break at midnight for a drag performance.
A large part of Rathaus’s success has come from it being a safe clubbing space and being totally inclusive. Do you have any ethos that defines a Rathaus party?
We consistently try our hardest to provide a safe space for partygoers by educating staff at the venues on the types of parties we throw, providing signage on house rules, and also operating on a no-camera policy for people attending. As well as this we encourage people to give us feedback on events and if there’s anything we can do to make these parties a safer place we will do so. We aim to welcome every type of person to Rathaus and you’ll certainly come across a wide variety of people at our parties that might not usually come together. The only people we don’t let in are the people who might ruin this atmosphere and this is fortunately a very small
Rathaus has largely been championing local talent and managed to build a core group of attendees by booking local talent. How important is it to showcase the talent that you have at your disposal?
This is something that is hugely important to us right now. While we certainly love welcoming international talent, we are really spoiled for passionate and insanely talented DJs in Ireland so it makes more sense to us to showcase this at the moment. Rathaus has never been about big bookings and is much more about creating an atmosphere that encourages self-expression and never takes itself too seriously.
Shannen Blessing [DJ]
As Rathaus’s unofficial resident, you’ve been behind the wheel at their parties from the very beginning. What’s it like playing at a Rathaus party?
From the very first Rathaus event I played, up until now, it’s been one of my most favourite parties to play at, the crowd is always so diverse and fun to play for. They are always so interactive and I absolutely love being able to play at an event my closest friends have created.
Your eclectic style of groove-laced techno seems to match the party’s identity perfectly. Is there a certain freedom to explore various styles while DJing at Rathaus?
Absolutely, I never have to play a specific style in my sets at Rathaus. I have that freedom to dive into tracks that I wouldn’t usually play at other gigs.
In Dublin, it’s a rarity that local DJs get the chance to play the later slots, but you’ve been lucky enough to close the show for Rathaus on numerous occasions. How important are these experiences for young DJs getting to play peak-time slots?
I think it’s extremely important for younger DJs to have the chance to play later slots at events as it gives you that freedom to play what you want and get into your sets more. Rathaus is definitely focused on giving upcoming DJs the opportunity to play peak times so they have the chance to get into their sets and enjoy them.
You’ve been lucky enough to be busy playing across Ireland as of late, but Rathaus is the party you play at most frequently. What keeps you coming back?
Every time I play at a Rathaus event it feels like a family. I always have the best time being able to work with my friends and never take it too seriously. I notice a lot of the same people attend Rathaus which makes it feel more like a family as well, this is why I love playing at their events.
How important are safe spaces like Rathaus for Dublin’s dance music scene?
I think it is so important to have spaces in Dublin like Rathaus where people feel like they can come and be themselves, it is extremely important for people that come to Rathaus to feel like they can express themselves and not be judged. I definitely think there needs to be more events like this where people have that safe space.
Gráinne Smith [Video Editor & Attendee]
You’ve been a key cog in Rathaus since its infantry stages. How has the party evolved since its first edition?
Rathaus has definitely evolved, but I think it’s always been evolving from each event. Rathaus has the ability to attract different crowds each night, so you never really know what to expect until you get there, and that unpredictability makes it really hard not to go to each event. Even though the crowd changes, somehow the energy stays the same. There’s this common desire to just enjoy yourself, and that air of vibrancy carries through into each Rathaus event.
As someone who attends various club nights across Dublin, what separates Rathaus from other parties?
You’ve only got a few queer nights in Dublin but what sets Rathaus apart is that rather than being a queer event, it’s a space that allows for queerness. It’s curated in a way that’s very camp, sure you’re getting a drag performance halfway through a techno set, but it very effectively merges differences, rather than dividing them, which is a tough balance to find.
What Rathaus party sticks out to you when thinking back on previous events?
The event back in June, the one where Narciss headlined, was great. It was the middle of summer so there was already this great vitality surrounding it. What stood out though was near the end, where not only were you dancing away to the music but then you were being drenched by water guns and singing Happy Birthday to Kyle, but at the very end when the set had finished the crowd was chanting “trans lives matter”. It meant a lot to that event because profits were being put towards TENI but it’s still a stand out memory throughout Rathaus.
Do you think Rathaus’s community-driven spirit can be a blueprint for new Irish parties?
Absolutely. You really have to applaud Michal and Kenya for always creating a space free of judgment. It allows people to have this kind of social liberty free from the need of social performance. I think that balance between the melding of diversity can be a great attribute to nightlife in Dublin. To have an event where there’s this collective energy for lighthearted enjoyment can seem kind of scarce in the techno scene, not to say that techno is serious but it can sometimes feel rid of that innocent spirit.
What is it about Rathaus that creates a safe and free-spirited atmosphere?
It’s really in finding that balanced interplay between diversity that helps create an equally safe space for all. I don’t think either party walks into that event feeling like they’re imposing on one another, straight, gay, or queer, and it’s the ethos of Rathaus that allows for that. I’m making it sound so serious but the ethos is fully just liking campy pop and dirty techno (Rathaus was actually inspired by Lobsta B).
Dylatrix [Drag Queen]
You’ve been involved with Rathaus for a while now, can you give us an insight into your role at their events?
I’m there to look truly gawjus and facilitate gawjusnezz on the dance floor.
Drag performance at techno events isn’t overly common in Dublin, how have you found the response to your performances at Rathaus?
It’s definitely been something new for me. I’ve performed in all different situations and surroundings. You show up to some gigs and they don’t even have a PA system so you learn pretty quickly how to work a crowd. I think the Rathaus fam are just there to have a fucking good time and a giggle. It’s pure love in there. The stupider the performance the better, I mean they did do the cha-cha slide with me before. It was a bit funny luvz xxx.
You’ve become synonymous with the Rathaus brand, can you describe the atmosphere at the shows?
I truly can’t describe it as anything other than it’s a bit gas. Where else can bring you from a heavy techno set and at the stroke of midnight transcend into a live performance of Alive-O circle of friends. You just never know what’s gonna go down it’s very mysterious luv but come and find out.
Do you think parties like Rathaus are reworking the structures of queer nights in Dublin?
If there’s one more queer space in Dublin I’m happy, I see the work the guys put into it to make us all comfortable, safe, and enjoy ourselves at the same time. It’s a different nightlife experience for sure, but a bloody good one.
Can you describe the Rathaus crowd?
3 words “Truly gawjuz luv”
You can purchase tickets to Rathaus’s next show on February 9th HERE.