The DJ’s set began at 9:30pm. The Disco/House/Techno beats are banging and as lively as the DJ himself, whose body ripples and pulses in time with each track. Wine in hand I join the dance floor early, standing alone in the centre of the dark room I begin to move along with him, mirroring his movement and motion. Pretty soon I forget that I am standing in my living room.
Like the majority of the world right now, who are dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, I have been in isolation for weeks. Weeks which have slowly bled together, the time becoming a seemingly tangible barrier between myself and the people I love.
Like many I have turned to technology to return to the world outside of my own isolation and in so doing found ‘Isolation Booth’ a new and exciting online nightclub run by Lewis Wardrop on Twitch. By day Lewis is a 30 year old Film Producer from Edinburgh, a new father and with the help of his brother Jamie is working to bring a little bit of the club culture into the lives of all those isolated souls who feel cut off from the world, while helping to make Friday nights feel special again.
When I spoke with Lewis and his brother Jamie after last weeks event Lewis was able to tell me a little bit more about the project. The idea for ‘Isolation Booth’ “came during the first weekend of the lockdown…[my friends and I] had a conversation…on my birthday that really was a great indicator of how we can use technology to still feel connected even during lockdown”. The idea to stream live music sets is not entirely new; online services like ‘Boiler Room’ which give people around the world the opportunity to stream live DJ sets that they would otherwise never get to see already exist and do well. Isolation booth seems to emulate the idea that you “can be at home and still feel like you’re at the club.”
But why go to all the effort? “That’s the power of music really…why gigs are so important, why clubbing is so important because you are all in the same room at the same time listening to the same music and getting that same experience and obviously [with] us all being isolated that’s not possible, but then it is because with technology we can replicate that to an extent…It’s something that we all really understand having all visited clubs and understood how important they are as an experience and how it makes you feel. It’s about escapism as well; it’s about getting out of the current situation for a little bit and for us all to forget a little bit about all of the negativity which is going on in the world right now.”
“What I wanted to achieve with it, was to bring people some temporary freedom and joy and just be open and relaxed and not worried about what is going on in the outside world. That is really what clubs are: you go into this space and you leave all of your baggage at the door, you can hopefully just be free in that environment. Without being together it is hard to replicate, but then at the same time maybe this experiment has proven that you don’t always have to be in the same room with people to have that same sense of being united and celebrating.”
Lewis’s brother Jamie added “It really tired us out, but that was actually really good right now…there are different types of exhaustion that we are all experiencing; the exhaustion of anxiety and fear are obviously very tiring, but what our brains aren’t doing, but what the clubs or ‘Isolation Booth’ can allow [is for] the brain to just be parked a little bit in whatever music is playing…like a trance space.”
For Lewis sharing music and dance is like tapping into “something that is a bit more primal within all of us, dancing like that does block out a bit of the modern day noise that we all have going on in our heads” an admirable cause in and of itself, however ‘Isolation Booth’ is about more than just distraction. It is a marker. It is something to look forward to and it brings with it a sense of community and togetherness. Lewis added that “we are creating it on a Friday night to try and replicate that Friday night energy. When everyday feels the same…there is no definition for the days. What does the weekend really mean when four days a week I’m home anyway? Having Isolation Booth… or that moment to look forward to [on a Friday is] important.”
For me I don’t know what the world is going to bring at present, and each day brings with it a certain uncertainty; but I know where I am going to be tonight at 9:30pm. With everyone else at ‘Isolation Booth’ dancing on my own: https://m.twitch.tv/isolation_booth/