An interview with the figure behind the fixture of RHUL’s underground music scene
By Daniel Brady, Co-Editor
Royal Holloway’s music scene hosts, to put it nicely, an eclectic mix of genres. Sometimes making about as much sense as washing a Runnymede Chicken down with 8 VKs and then jumping up and down aggressively to The Chainsmokers in the SU, RHUL’s tenuous links to London have made it a Grime hotspot whilst also being home of some of the country’s best young classical musicians.
Whilst some may see this as a confused yet tidy allegory of our mock-Oxbridge, mock-Urban London lifestyle, such musical diversity should be celebrated. That being said, Royal Holloway’s musical medley certainly has room for more diversity.
I spoke with Francis Woodcock, founder of Scratch, about the club night that is providing something a little different across campus…
For those that don’t know much about Scratch, could you sum up what you’re all about?
Scratch is a club night I started 3 years ago focusing on the underground dance music movement and the genres of house, techno and disco. We put on free parties at Medicine and events in Shoreditch and Dalston.
Why did you start Scratch?
I wanted to emulate the fabled Freakin nights that I frequented when I first started going to raves in York. For anyone not vested in that scene, it was a night run for 17 years by a group of local music fanatics. A real tight group of people who weren’t interested in the glamour and bullshit of most club nights, dance music culture was never supposed to be this commodified.
Freakin’s roots lay in the Northern tradition of losing yourself on a dance floor after the stresses of the working week. It was a refuge of quality house music, fiercely proud of its open-minded attitude.
Within the underground dance music scene, the word ‘vibe’ gets thrown around way too much, but to this day I’ve never experienced a better atmosphere than those parties. I felt if Scratch could fall somewhere in-between then we wouldn’t be doing too badly.
Why do you think a collective like Scratch is important at RoHo?
It’s my opinion that the best student experiences happen when groups of people come together and create things and put things on. We’re a small, campus university in a rural Surrey town which makes it essential to allow students to have varied and authentic arts and nightlife culture in such a small microcosm.
Spotify revealed that we’re some of the biggest Grime fans out of all UK uni’s – what do you think about the music scene at RHUL?
Royal Holloway has a rich history in the arts and music, I believe it’s the 5th best music department in the UK and we see a plethora of talented classical musicians, choirs and symphony orchestras putting on recitals and exhibitions on an almost daily basis within the university which is something to be proud of, however, I feel we are lacking when it comes to nightlife culture.
The SU have been supportive with our endeavours at Medicine, also putting on weekly events in the tent there for student musicians and bands to play out, yet I think it’s essential that we start to see a change in the programming and variety of offerings at the SU venue.
Whilst it would be naive for me to suggest that everyone should be exposed solely to our variations of weird dance music, I still feel like we should be seeing more of an artistic balance. I would love it if we started to see more independent bands and fringe genres on offer.
House party or club night?
We’re happy in any dimly lit room as long as we’ve got a decent sound system, a sound group of people and some banging tunes. We’re just as content playing the back room of pubs as we are at Summer Ball.
I noticed you’ve recently set up a group on Facebook collating Alternative scene events and goings on around campus – do you think the scene at RHUL is a bit lacklustre, or just doesn’t have enough recognition?
One criticism I always heard last academic year was that no-one knew what was going on around campus. I know that most events are advertised actively on Facebook, however, the algorithm on there is gearing pages toward paying for visibility online so consequently people miss out. I thought if all the student groups worked collectively and have a centralised list of all alternative events then it at least takes the argument of ignorance out of the equation. You can find it by searching Royal Holloway Alternative Scene on Facebook.
For more information about what Scratch are up to this year, check out facebook.com/scratchrhul. Their dates for autumn term are:
Friday 20th September – Founders Forest w/ DJ Society + Circus Society
Thursday 12th October – Medicine
Friday 13th October – Kamio, Shoreditch
Saturday 11th November – Bar 512, Dalston
Thursday 30th November – Medicine
Daniel Brady, Ed