“It started in the back room of a pub, now we’re selling out nightclubs”

img_1659-1 Case File No.2: Hannah Jago.

File under: #events #graft #drive #passion #festivals #dance #music

What would you do if you moved from London to another part of the country but wanted to take some of the night life with you? Well, if you were 25-year-old Hannah Jago and you noticed a gap in the market, you’d start throwing the kind of parties you wanted to go to, and create a dance scene with such infectious passion that, a couple of years later, you’d be putting on your first festival. ‘With Kitchen Klub, Hannah has developed not only a scene, but a unique and brilliant brand,’ says Stephanie Alexander-Jinks who has watched her friend’s events snowball over the last five years. ‘In 2012 she arrived in North Devon and created something that galvanised like-minded people with something they all love. I’m ever impressed with her achievements – and her modesty – on top of having a full time job. The greatest part is, stress aside, she’s just as excited as the punters before one of her gigs. But she’s so down to earth I don’t think she realises it’s all her doing.”

Tell me Hannah, do all the best parties really end up in the kitchen?
They do. It’s like some primal instinct to congregate there. It’s where Kitchen Klub’s name comes from.

What came first the name or the idea?
The idea, then I needed a name. It was pure fluke chatting to friends that it came about. Literally a lightbulb moment.

So how did it grow from a seed of an idea to the orchard of trees it is today?  
I grew up in Essex; I never went to university and went straight from school to working in London, eventually becoming a multi-media executive for a top media firm, and in 2012 I fancied a change. I had family in North Devon and loved the area so I handed in my notice and moved in with my aunt and uncle. The problem was I love dancing, I love house music but it was all drum’n’bass there. So, for my own sanity, I decided to start a night of my own.

How did you go about it?
Two weeks before I moved I was down there in this bar and met a DJ, Ben Casey, who was actually playing house music. But he turned out to be from Romford. When I asked if he wanted to collaborate on a party he was up for it, and he became key in helping build what we have.

Was it easy to generate public interest, get people through the door?
Once I found the venue, friends I’d met helped create a buzz. Even though it was just in the back room of a pub it was important everything was done professionally — there was a thought process behind everything from ticket-printing to branding. Of course I was nervous about people showing up but it was a huge success and I got a real kick out of it.

Top Left: Kitchen Klub’s resident DJ playing The Bus Station (2013). The rest, Ben playing to much bigger crowds at The Venue, Barnstaple in 2014

So you threw another party and it grew from there?
Actually, no. The next few parties were a struggle. Numbers dropped off and, at times, I questioned why I was doing it. Especially as I was working full-time freelancing for a wedding venue. But I got some good advice: I was told if you keep doing it long enough people will have to take notice. So I changed tack. There was a bank holiday at the beginning of May so I thought: ‘Let’s do something North Devon hasn’t seen before,’ and we threw an Ibiza-style day party.

Game changer?
Game changer. I swear someone was looking down on us that day because the venue was by the river and the sun was out. I got caterers in, there was a pizza burner, a face painter: it was perfect. People still talk to me about it now. During that summer we did another three daytime parties and it put us on the map.

What do you owe its success to?
Meticulous planning: I had pages and pages of lists plastered to my bedroom walls. And marketing: getting people excited. Facebook accounts for a lot of the promo, but I got posters made and we did flyering. And I got in touch with local newspapers who did interviews and photoshoots with the DJs.

Kitchen Klub by day at The Old Bus Station in 2013

Do you get the chance to enjoy the events when they’re in flow?
I do, but I enjoy the atmosphere in the run up just as much – the pressure. People always say when there’s a party due there’s a huge buzz in the area, and that’s why I do it. I’m usually on the door but I feed off the energy — as soon as those doors open people are dancing. But I do like to stay in the background. For a very long time no-one knew who was behind Kitchen Klub because I kept my face hidden, preferring to push Ben as our resident or any guest DJs we booked.

That explains why I’ve had trouble getting pictures out of you for this piece. Who is your typical punter; can you describe them?
There isn’t one. They’re all ages from 18 to 65 and they all just come together and dance. The last couple of years we’ve sold out parties a month before they’re due, it’s a really mixed crowd.

What numbers are we talking?
750-800.

It must be satisfying quoting stats like that.
I hate sounding bigheaded but I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved. We started in the back room of a pub; now we’re selling out nightclubs and looking to throw our second festival. But I couldn’t do it without our followers support. That’s what drives me.

Branching out into festivals was quite a leap.
Well, in North Devon you’re surrounded by countryside, so in 2014 I thought: ‘let’s do one’. It was single handedly the most stressful thing I’ve ever done, especially as I’d moved back to Essex to pursue my city career so Ben had to do the leg work. He has a carpentry business as well as being a big part of Kitchen Klub, so he could go back and forth meeting the stage people (a team that did staging for Glastonbury), security and the land owner, while I concentrated on the admin.

Kitchen Klub’s Summerdaze festival, 2014, in full swing

What made it stressful?
Oh God, the day before the festival, Ben was at the site setting up but I couldn’t collect the sound system from Wapping until eleven o’clock at night. Bearing in mind I’d never driven a Luton van before, let alone this big old thing into London to pick up £100,000 worth of equipment, I had to pack it up and drive to Devon through the night, in the rain. When I arrived about 6AM I could have cried: the place was flooded, all the flags had come down, it was horrific. Soul destroying.

So what did you do?
It was still raining so we had to start putting hay bails down where the floods were. I remember sitting on one wanting to cry because the gates were opening at half one for this 12 hour party and it was still chucking it down. By some miracle, the sun came out at one-thirty and it stayed out all day. We were on our last inch of energy by then, but the adrenaline somehow carried me through and it was amazing. I get goosebumps just thinking about it?

Were you able to party with the crowds?
I was doing everything but! At one point I was even a parking steward. There’s a six minute promo video that I’m only in at the end wearing a high-vis jacket saying: ‘we need to cut the music!’. Watching other people enjoy it is reward enough. The feedback has been unbelievable. Relationships have formed, two guys even have tattoos of the logo. It’s worth it for that alone.

That’s so flattering. But it’s a business at the end of the day, would you do it if it didn’t turn a profit?
We’ve thrown over 20 parties now but we’ve never charged the earth for tickets. [£4 when we started out], the most expensive was £15. Now it makes money, it’s a bonus, but for a long time it didn’t and I was close to giving it up. But I’ve always said if we had a pound for every time someone said: ‘please do another festival’ we wouldn’t have to do another one again.

Top right: clubbers Nathan Hutchins and Sam Murphy with Kitchen Klub tattoos. Bottom left: Hannah drinking to her many successes

But you will though, right?
I’d love to. But I want to make it even bigger and better than the last, I just need to put time into planning of it. Finding the right bit of land is crucial.

Would you ever hold one outside Devon?
We did do a party in London but it didn’t work. Didn’t have the same vibe, so I just put it down to experience.

What advice would you give someone wanting to start their own club night?
Always be professional with branding and marketing, and be nice to everyone because you never know when you might need them. If you have a great idea and see a gap in the market, just go for it, but have fun. Kitchen Klub was never about the money. It came off a genuine love of house music and throwing parties; I think that’s why it’s so successful. In my current job as Marketing Manager for Carnaby Street in London, we had an event for International Women’s Day where I met Debbie Moore, the Pineapple Dance Studio founder. She was mesmerising and glamorous and talked with such passion. I was lucky to have a quick chat with her but could have stayed listening for hours. Loving what you do is vital.

Can you see yourself ever ditching the day job to run Kitchen Klub full time?
One of my first ever jobs was in a balloon shop in Upminster. I used to go out decorating venues for parties and weddings and I loved it. Even now I help out occasionally. So maybe if I could open a balloon shop and work on Kitchen Klub at the same time that would be the dream combination.

Good luck with the next one – and don’t forget to send us an invite!

For more info about Kitchen Klub’s events go to www.kitchenklub.com or visit the Facebook page @kitchenklubhouse or instagram: @kitchenklub. Professional photography by Matt Fryer www.mattfryer.co.uk.

The She Can & She Does Case Files are stories of ordinary women doing extraordinary things. Every fortnight a new one will be introduced to the She Can & She Does Facebook page. If you, or someone you know, would like to feature please contact me via the page, or email me at lyndseygilmour@gmail.com.

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Lyndsey Gilmour

Lyndsey Gilmour is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist. She's also a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, feminist and ex-procrastinator.

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