This week, a year ago, one Dr Earth – AKA property millionaire Andrew Charalambous – gave clubland an ethical shot in the arm by launching Surya, the world’s first eco disco, in King’s Cross, London. The launch party, hosted by A-list socialite Jade Jagger and headlined by Coldcut and Queens Of Noize, went down a storm and earned appreciative reviews in the press.
Charalambous had, it seemed, slapped a great big stethoscope on clubland’s loud, beating heart, listened closely, and worked out a course of treatment - in Surya - that would further revolutionize the industry. Dance music was (and remains) in a rude, pioneering state of health but Charalambous, a one-time Tory Party candidate and ‘hardcore’ promoter, quickly recognised its potential in the fight against climate change.
Surya, financed with £1 million of Charalambous’ estimated £100 million fortune, boasts a unique dancefloor which harnesses the movement of clubbers to generate power via the concept of piezoelectricity – where two materials, in this case quartz crystal and ceramics, rub together to create charge which is fed into batteries powering everything from the club’s lighting to its air purifiers. The club also uses wind turbines, solar panels, waterless urinals and recycling to support its operation.
One year on and still successful, the business model has proved itself to be viable, but has it made a difference? “The club circuit is one place where you have the convergence of different cultures, creeds, backgrounds and a stronghold for the young generation” Charalambous, readily adopting his Dr Earth tag, outlines. “Green has got to become mainstream if we want to do something constructive; Surya is a springboard; and things are going more than well so far. Week in, week out we’re attracting clubbers and positive headlines – we’re incredibly busy right now.”
But perhaps a little less hectic following last month’s successful license extension application at a packed Islington Council meeting – local residents had complained about late-night noise, but the expansion of Dr Earth’s green agenda was given a massive vote of confidence. “The local authority is taking its green responsibilities seriously” he said at the time.
And so, evidence suggests, are other parts of the club scene. Preceding Surya by around 12 months, Rotterdam’s Sustainable Dance Club (SDC) launched with similar dancefloor technologies, as well as a consultancy business advising nightclubs around the world on ways of making their parties more sustainable. SDC has recently been in Shanghai and Sydney to discuss possible new eco-venues.
Earth is also behind a 10-point ‘green’ manifesto which club owners and promoters around the world are “quickly and comfortably” adopting for the good of the planet. It pivots on simple, affordable strategies such as low-voltage lighting and bar glass recycling.
It doesn’t end there either. Earth is still on course to launch two new Surya-style clubs in Johannesburg, South Africa and Houston, Texas in 2010. “We were planning to launch a Club4Climate island off the coast of mainland Greece” the good Doctor confesses. “But a luxury eco-resort seemed distasteful in the current economic climate. I think the focus on pioneering new clubs is far more appropriate.”
Earth adds: “We’ve deliberately picked our sites; Johannesburg has a history of conflict, for example, and it’s thrilling to think we’ll be going in there with a unified, positive message. If billions of us around the world make just tiny green changes to our lives then I truly think we can keep making a difference. People really can save the world dancing their hearts out on a Saturday night.”
That sounds like the perfect prescription Doc...