Simma Down: A social club makes the leap to sustainable festival

In the How Music Works series, Niall Byrne talks to people about their work in music. This week, social club, promoters and festival organisers Sim Simma

Sim Simma

Sim Simma

 

Putting on a good club night rests on getting the music right. Putting on a great club night that lasts rests on getting the music right and providing a space for a community to grow around the music. That’s something the organisers of Sim Simma, a Dublin-based “social night club” understood from the get-go.

While most club promoters will say they started a night to represent something that was missing, Sim Simma’s Tadhg Byrne says that Dublin’s open music scene helped Sim Simma form, as its various members (Tadhg Byrne, Johnny Carroll, Tim Nairn, Damien Allen, Frankie Grimes, Ben Bix, Josh Burdon and Reeta Cherie) were involved in similar parties like Junior Spesh, Manma Saor, Toejam and Not Saying Boo. 

Formed around an interest of global music genres – dancehall, reggae, grime and music of Caribbean, Latin, African origin – Sim Simma’s intention since it was formed in 2014, was to create a social family of open-minded culturally-interested and an engaged audience that went beyond the music to include reggae, yoga and dancehall dance classes. 

“We live in an experience economy where people want to do more than just go drinking so we knew we needed to live up to that,” says Byrne. “It felt great to teach people who were unfamiliar with dancehall how to dance to the music we were playing, and how to feel comfortable dancing rather than learning all moves. 

“From there, we began creating experiences that moulded to the needs and spaces we were in – from food, to drumming to different types of dances, they’re all efforts to make people more comfortable and excited about this world.”

The club started on a Sunday in the Twisted Pepper and the lack of established rules around Sunday events helped develop the social aspects of the club 

“It became a place for people to just come and hang out all day,” says Byrne. “By 11pm everyone knew each other, so it had this house party atmosphere.”

Sim Simma DJs recently went to Brazil to play and participate in Carnaval in Salvador and Recife. “It is such an amazing place where indigenous music cultures come together and celebrate diversity,” says Byrne. “This feeling is what we always try to achieve when we play any party. We also wanted to show that genres like reggae, afrobeat and samba weren’t warm-up music. If you do it right you can play it at peak time in a club and have it go off.”

No one questions an Irish crowd’s love of West Coast hip-hop or German techno but when it comes to music of a more international persuasion, it’s often marked under the “world music” tag, which is infuriating to Byrne and co.

“There’s an ‘otherization’ of non-Western music and music from the global south. The phrase ‘world music’ perfectly encapsulates this: South American, African and Asian music all go in the same bin, even though they’re wildly different.”

With a community and a momentum around Sim Simma, the team wanted to do something bigger to cement the community so enter Simma Down, their 500-capacity festival in Grangecon in Wicklow on July 8th. 

Fitting with the ethos of Sim Simma, the music will be drawn from all corners and features artists such as Irish reggae artist Cian Finn, Sierra-Leonan Irish soul singer Loah, Congolese-Irish guitarist Niwel Tsumbu and a host of globally versed DJs, including T-Woc, Colm K, Donal Dineen and Lex Woo.

Sustainability is a key part of the festival’s offering and it will offer talks on waste management and self-reliance and workshops for repairing old appliances and building sustainable objects. 

“This year, the aim is to teach more people how to be sustainable in everyday life,” Byrne says. “Next year the aim is to dedicate a significant percentage of our budget towards sustainable resources, and the eventual plan is a fully sustainable, off-grid, carbon-neutral festival.

Reggae Yoga and dancehall classes are a given for the festival but Simma Down will also be offering workshops in West African drumming, foraging, meditation and pranayama breathing. All food and drink is locally sourced and supplied.

“Having taken over areas at Life, Knockanstockan and The Beatyard, we saw first hand the potential to create something really special,” Byrne says. “We create a place where people can experience zen levels of calm with yoga and mindfulness workshops to hyped levels of fire with DJs and MCs bringing the party.”

Simma Down takes place on July 8th in Grangecon, Wicklow. See simmadown.eventbrite.ie

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