For every beginning there has to be an end.
The End has announced that the club will be closing those legendary metal doors for good in January 2009. The End & AKA will be closing in style, giving the venues the send off they deserve, and the chance for the different DJs and nights to say goodbye. We will be open as normal through autumn, with September, October and November’s parties rocking as usual. The farewell begins with The End’s 13th birthday on December 6th, with long-time favourite Sven Vath headlining. There will follow a series of closing parties featuring The End’s closest DJs and promoters, and then a grand closing weekend on January 23rd and 24th. We talk to The End’s directors, Layo and Zoe Paskin, to tell us about the end of The End.
You’ve announced that The End & AKA are to close, after 13 years of parties. Can you explain a bit about the decision?
Layo – It’s partially a circumstantial decision, and partially a decision of choice. I started working on The End nearly two years before it opened – we’re approaching our 13th birthday, so nearly fifteen years. And one of the great things about The End & AKA is that the same team has remained in essence – Liam has been the manager of the club since The End opened, likewise Ty who now manages AKA. There are other members of staff who have been here for ten or eleven years, and we’ve got to the point where some of the key people are ready to move on. The End won’t feel the same if we aren’t doing it together. This has never been solely a business, it’s a labour of love, and a great part of the charm is the team, and running it with that team.
Zoe – We stopped and thought what The End meant to us around the 10th birthday – we did a lot to celebrate, including putting together a biography of the club. And after that, we started thinking about how we wanted to move on from there.
An opportunity arose that made us think even more deeply about what we wanted for The End in the future. Not just for today and tomorrow, but for several years moving forward. We discussed with the people that make the club what it is behind the scenes whether we wanted to carry the club on, and whether we could all continue to be as engaged as we had been. It was inevitable that people would eventually want to move on, and the chance to do this was in front of us.
Layo – Sometimes you just have to choose the moment.
So it feels like the right time in terms of what the club has achieved?
Layo – We wanted to do something very unique – and we’ve done that. Even though the past few years have arguably been our most successful as a club and as a business, I don’t particularly believe that there’s anything more that we can achieve.
The End & AKA have fundamentally been nothing but a success, and we’ve enjoyed the residencies, and working with the very best in clubland. The End isn’t a club where we over-market ourselves – we attract talent, fantastic DJs and promoters, and we work with that talent to promote certain styles of music and parties. And that’s why after all these years it’s kept such a cool core crowd, because it isn’t over exposed. The music varies through the month, different nights appeal to different people. We’ve had to compete 365 days a year, and we have to run it unbelievably well to compete – I think our standards here are fantastic, but equally, it does take a lot out of you. Plus the option to be able to close on a high appeals to our romantic nature.
Zoe – The End has always been about West Central Street, not loads of different things exploiting the brand. That’s always what we wanted to do, what we were good at, what we were interested in. We feel that we’ve done that, and that part of the success is about the attention to detail, the love that goes into the place, and the team. When we looked at it closely, we felt that our time had come. And so we started to think about ending on a high, giving the club the departure that it deserves.
Did you think about handing over the club to other people to run it for you?
Layo – I’d never believed that other people could run it in the same way. There’s a lot involved, you have to give more of yourself than just doing it as a job, anyone who’s going to run it has to commit for a fair amount of time. You can’t mess around, because it’s built on relationships, it’s built on understanding the scene. I never felt that someone else could – I may have been wrong, but that never felt a natural thing.
Zoe – It’s the first thing that friends ask when I’ve mentioned moving on – “What would happen? Who would do your job?” All of us in our different ways contribute to what The End is, but I can’t really picture The End without the core people that manage it. They really define the place, the environment, the ethos, the mood of working here, which then infiltrates into the whole culture and the creativity of what we do. I just couldn’t picture replacing any of us – not in an arrogant way, but I couldn’t see how you’d bring other people in and it still be The End as we know it.
Was it a hard decision to make?
Layo – It’s still not an easy decision, I’m going through a lot of different emotions. On the one level I want to do other things with my life, and it’s a good moment to start embarking on that – you can stay in something too long. But the loss will be huge on another level – it’s my life. Of all the things I do, there’s nothing that I get as much pleasure from as everything to do with The End. The idea of not working with everyone here, of not being involved with the creation, feels very odd. But I also feel it’s a good thing – I think it’s wonderful to be able to open a place, run it, and close it all on your own terms.
My father and I built this place alongside Mr. C, and my sister and I ran the place. The pride that I feel in doing this with them is beyond words. We did it as equals, but we all learnt from one another along the way. In a very traditional sense it was like a family business, but the business itself was anything but traditional.
Zoe – Of course it was a hard decision – I don’t really remember my life without The End in it. But I also feel quite excited – on a personal level. It’s been a very tough decision, I can’t yet really picture what it’s going to be to close the doors on the last day, it’s an impossible emotion to try and reach. At the moment it’s a really day by day thing.
I do know however that it has ended up being a family affair, by default not by design, and this is one of the things that will stay with me the most. Layo and I will always have that to share – it’s something very unique.
So tell us a bit more about the actual sale…
Zoe – Well it wasn’t a purely financial decision – it was about beginning again for us. We felt that we’d done what we could do here, and we wouldn’t want to be in a position where we’re just repeating ourselves. So the choice we were faced with was either how to develop The End, or how to let go.
Layo – We’ve had offers for the club before, and yes, this was the best one. But I wouldn’t say that it’s so good that it makes this a purely financial issue – it’s a circumstantial issue, coupled with financial. If it was seven or eight years ago, an offer like this wouldn’t have been accepted. It’s a lot to do with the timing.
Can you tell us anything about the closing parties?
Layo – Well you know us, and you know what we do. We’re speaking to all the key people and we’re not going to go out on anything other than the most massive bang. Because of the nature of how we run the club, with all the different nights and promoters, it will be a whole series of parties. They’ll begin with Sven Vath at the 13th birthday in December, and run through to the final party on 24th January. There will be different closing parties for different nights and promoters, with different DJs for different crowds, and then a very grand final weekend.
Zoe – We may be closing, but I see the final parties as one long celebration.
What are you going to miss?
Layo – I’m going to miss the warmth, the creativity and the humour of the office and the venues. I think that the working rapport will carry with me more than anything else, for the rest of my life. I will desperately miss playing at the club. God knows how many times I’ve played here – the first Saturday of the month for thirteen years. I will miss the feeling of being part of The End, with the DJs and promoters, that whole creative energy. I’ll miss working with my sister which I’ve enjoyed immeasurably. And I’ll miss the power to have a meeting, get ideas together with a group of people, and just decide that we’re going to do it. It’s not that easy to do in life. But I’ll miss it all when it’s gone.
Zoe – First and foremost, the people I work with. For me, without doubt, the thing I’ve enjoyed the most here is developing the team and the personal relationships. The rapport, respect and admiration that I have for people like Liam and Ty amongst others, I can’t really find words for what they’ve done for the venues, and the wider team. There are people who aren’t here now that still come back – when we had AKA’s 10th birthday recently people flew in from abroad. It’s very moving for me that it’s captured their heart so much.
I suppose I’ll miss everything – the dynamics, the banter with the security team, the spirit of the place, the street, the atmosphere, the whole culture. Turning the corner onto West Central Street, or standing on any of the dancefloors and seeing people having a fantastic time, time and again. It goes on and on.
Some people are going to find it a great loss to London…
Zoe – It’ll feel like a void but other things will come through though, new venues. The scene is always evolving but I imagine they’ll always remember The End & AKA.
Layo – The End is a very unique place. When The End is rocking, there’s very few clubs in the world that even get close to it. And that’s on a lot of nights, in a variety of different ways – from house and techno, to drum & bass, to nights like Trash and Durrr, to the afterhours parties. That’s very special – I don’t know many clubs that can do that, and I think it’ll be a loss to London.
I’ve only played in a few places around the world where I feel people put in the same level of love that’s put in it here, from reception to the managers, to the bar staff, to the sound guys. It’s very rare that you get that, and there’s almost nowhere in the UK that comes close. I do believe the old saying about nature abhorring a vacuum, and I do believe that someone else will create something. But that’s the nature of it – things come, things go, it’s always moving.
What would you say to the regulars from the club – whether they’ve been here from day one, or joined us in the last few years?
Zoe We set this up as a business, but it’s also about this mad culture of creating a lot of fun for people. The energy to do that comes from the public – we give them the platform in which to have the fun, and we’ve been very lucky, to this day, to have such a fantastic audience. So I hope that everyone will understand our reasons for going, and that The End has moved on. And of course… thank you.
Layo – There is nothing to say but thank you. I hope you will remember some of your time spent here, and that your memories give you as much pleasure as mine do for me.