Nestled away in a small corner in the North East of England lies the university city of Durham, it’s not a place that’s famed for it’s involvement in dance music, and hasn’t exactly got a good reputation for clubs. Widely regarded as having one of the best universities in the country, the city has become a desirable destination for students, but it’s music scene has failed to develop up until now.
When Jamie Murray first arrived at uni in the city he was disappointed, the music that he loved felt sorely unrepresented and the club culture was more based around suits, drinking competitions and getting the best possible photo for Facebook/Instagram/WhateverSocialMediaYouUse. He stuck with it for a while, enduring with a grim smile the endless monotony that is every city’s standard student night, drinks deals and cheesy tunes were all he had, I almost feel sorry for him.
Having been to Notting Hill Carnival and Outlook Festival back in 2014, Jamie returned to uni with a drive to try and do something different in Durham. It was this drive that spawned General Gyro’s Soundsystem.
“If you spend 3 years at Durham, chances are you’ll have gone to the same 3 clubs well over a hundred times”
Aside from the music, one of the main focal points for the Gyro’s founder was the venue, it was intrinsically important to him to use a different space than the university students were used to. After some searching he settled on The Fishtank, a minuscule 50 person room above a fish and chip shop normally reserved for metal gigs attended by the locals.
With a couple of nights under his belt that had gone relatively well, Jamie scheduled a party for the end of spring term, again at The Fishtank. The turnout for this one was unprecedented. As dissertation hand in day it was always going to be a big night amongst the student crowds, on this particular evening though the normal haunt had massively oversold their tickets and the queues were too much for many to bare. Disgruntled punters decided to give Gyro’s a shot, and they turned up in their droves. “The whole place was packed by 11:30, they had to stop letting people in”. Jamie views that night as a turning point, word about Gyro’s spread fast and every event they’ve done since has sold out.
The boat party that they put on following that night sold out in 2 minutes, despite the limited capacity Jamie was astounded by the response. “It made me realise that there was a definite market for this kind of thing in Durham, I wanted to push it as far as I could.” Looking back at the event page you can see the kind of angry posts normally reserved for super exclusive shows that sell out in minutes and leave fans out in the cold, they’re not normally associated with a night that up until this point had never even booked a DJ, with Jamie being the only person that had ever played.
Another resident joined them at this stage in the form of Agrippa, who’s career has blossomed alongside the success of the night. He had been at one of the early parties and approached Jamie asking if he could play a set, after giving his work a listen the Gyro’s founder agreed to try him out. “He’s definitely influenced our musical direction,” says Jamie of the Cambridge born producer and DJ, the influence that he’s had on the night is not to be underestimated, having played a large proportion of the closing sets. His brand of UK Techno has not gone unnoticed further afield either, having been picked up by the likes of Swamp 81 and Kaizen, his profile is also on the rise.
Jamie puts the night’s success largely down to the city it’s based in and the fact that he doesn’t have to worry too much about what other nights are doing, Gyros operates in it’s own sphere with nobody really trying to do what they are. It’s also massively about the vibe though, they don’t use official photographers, no ticket reps and only minimal lighting, with a focus on the music and the soundsystem.
“I just wanted to create a party where the music was so loud that you couldn’t talk, and it was so dark that you could just close your eyes and have a night completely to yourself”
To someone who’s used to serious parties in larger cities this all seems a bit obvious, but in Durham it’s one of a kind, and understandably has had an amazing reception.
Gyro’s soon outgrew The Fishtank, but instead of moving to a pre-established club Jamie wanted to find a space that was unique. He settled on Alington House, which is nothing more than a community centre, one that they have to clear up and clean methodically when the event is done so as to leave it in an acceptable state for the Sunday morning Quakers meeting that takes place.
It’s incredibly important to Jamie that they maintain a DIY feel to Gyro’s, he loves having the DJ and the crowd on the same level, using a venue full of long corridors and secret rooms and a bar ripping cans of Red Stripe straight from the plastic rings that hold them together. The main hall is decked out in camo netting, with a few lights and a big system at one end, it’s simple but incredibly effective and seems to consistently have people coming back for more.
It took more than a year for General Gyro’s to book anyone other than Jamie and Agrippa, but this year was full of sold out nights with rave reviews. Events with Cousin, Alex Coulton, Mssingno and Batu have followed, but the vibe and the purpose have always remained the same. It’s a night that wants to stay true to it’s roots, and puts the music first above anything else, in this sense it is entirely unique for Durham, and it’s without a doubt a winning formula.