Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Shine of the times

An the Belfast club turns 20, an interview wth Shine founder Alan Simms

Mon, Nov 2, 2015, 14:36


As anyone involved in any aspect of the nightclub business will tell you, 20 years is a very long run for any club. That’s the landmark anniversary which Shine celebrated in Belfast at the weekend. To mark the occasion, you’ll find an interview from The Ticket with the club’s founder Alan Simms here, where he talks about the impetus behind the club, the state of Belfast nightlife back in 1995, the club’s various wins along the way and what the success of the club has meant for him in terms of other ventures (see below for this, as the panel on Simms’ post-Shine business dealings appeared in print but not online).

Speaking of 1995 and all of that, I came across Dancing on Narrow Ground: Youth & Dance in Ulster over the weekend which was made the same year Shine opened. It’s a fascinating if rarely seen documentary about the mid-1990s’ rave scene in Northern Ireland directed by Desmond Bell. The documentary is below and there are interviews with Bell about the film here and here.

Shine is just one of the ventures involving Alan Simms and his partner Phil Donaldson. They’ve bought a number of venues (such as The Limelight in Belfast), launched the Belsonic festival and opened bars and clubs like the Stiff Kitten.

“When Shine became successful, we didn’t run around spending money, we were always saving”, Simms says. “At the time, venue ownership in Belfast was a complete closed shop, as I’m sure it was in Dublin. That’s not the case anymore and both cities are far better for it.

“Venues are much more competitive, the security have to be more polite, the service is better, the pricing is better and the experience for people going out is better.”

Their purchase of the Limelight involved a joint venture with MCD boss Denis Desmond, who was recently appointed the head of Live Nation in the UK.

“Denis is OK to work with”, says Simms. “When you work with someone of such stature, you’re always slightly nervous but we found him to be good. He’s that busy that he tends to be hands off, but we keep doing more stuff with him year after year. To be honest, we wouldn’t be doing that if we didn’t find him and his organisation good to deal with.”

Simms and Donaldson took over the reins at Dublin’s Academy from MCD a year ago. “Dublin’s a tough market with its own idiosyncrasies – the margins are smaller on the products and while the city is doing, it’s tough out there for young people who don’t have much money.

“We’re only really at the start of it – it took us three years to get the Limelight right. We do things fractionally and methodically and don’t up the ante until we have it working. If you try to do everything all at once, it can go horribly wrong and you can end up looking very silly.”