Going against the grain: student-run club nights

With the continuous rise of club nights set up by students seeking to bring something different to Dublin’s nightlife, Alice Whelan speaks to some of those involved on what is involved and why they think it’s worth the risk


Student-run club nights are a particular favourite of Trinity students, with nights both run by and targeted at Trinity students packing big venues to their capacity. It is not easy to gather this kind of support and successfully an independent club night, but student-run events such as BoraBora, the Midnight Disco and Wrekt have garnered huge support not only from the base of Trinity students the teams draw from, but equally for becoming recognised in their own right as distinctive club night experiences for those outside College. These nights can offer students a taste of something different, with the added entertainment of seeing your peers behind the decks.

The entrepreneurs behind these nights have tapped into gap on the scene for nights entirely different to the homogenous Harcourt experience, and the evident demand for live DJ sets provided by music students. Deep house and techno nights have really come to the fore and student-run club nights are able to provide for this trend. Starting a club night is, in many ways, both a business venture and an outlet for the passion some students possess for music. It can be rewarding on both these fronts.

For students wishing to kickstart their own events, there is a lucrative market due to the increasing popularity of house and techno nights, or ‘alternative’ nights, and the lack of offerings to fill that vacuum. Trisha Cusack, a SF BESS student in Trinity, is one of six behind the creation of the new and much talked about night, the Midnight Disco, which has sold out every night it has run since its inception in October of Michaelmas term. Cusack believes part of the appeal of these nights is that “it’s run by students, aimed at students. We’re not some company like Nightlife who own every club in town – we’re just six second year students who wanted to put on a good night for our friends, and people appreciate that.”

“You need to be adventurous – be willing to experiment with new ideas and to think outside the box”

It is no mean feat to plan and run a night that students will show a genuine interest in, and requires a keen business sense. The teams behind these events must put huge amount of thought into the branding of the night and creating its unique feel. Careful planning has to go into the orchestration of promoting the event. Students are notoriously hard to please and would be wary of the unpredictable quality of nights in Dublin. Getting a ‘crowd’ to attend that will enjoy the night’s offerings demands the creation of a strong brand.

Cusack argues that “to set up your own club night, it’s necessary to have a vision and know what you want from your club night. [For] us at the Midnight Disco, [we] wanted to emphasise the progression of light to dark with the music that we play (the transition from disco to house and eventually to techno). If you don’t know what you want to happen with your night, then it won’t go anywhere.”

Jonah Craig, Trinity JS Computer Science and Business student and the sole candidate for the role of SU Ents Officer this year, was one of a group of four to start the club night BoraBora, which runs interchangeably between clubs such as Hangar, Søder and Ko, Opium Rooms and the Button Factory. Craig explains, based on his own experience, “[that] in any business, the hardest part of establishing a successful club night is the launch period. It requires much thought of what your brand is and what group of students you are marketing it towards. Creating a strong brand image is essential.” Students are uniquely placed to understand how to cater to the needs of fellow students and how to maximise social media in promotion efforts. Students are hired as reps by clubs precisely for these reasons.


“We’re not some company like Nightlife who own every club in town”


The club nights that survive the initial launch period will need to maintain the hype on social media and work consistently to develop the night’s brand. Techniques to do this could involve collaborating with other events, for instance the Midnight Disco ran alongside Hangar’s Techno and Cans last weekend. Collaboration was also important in the development of BoraBora, Craig explained: “Just after the inception of BoraBora, we ran a collaborative event with another club night where we brought international act BAKERMAT to Dublin.”

“…at the end of the day it’s our own money that we are investing into the night and you need to be savvy about how you spend it”

For Craig, entrepreneurial skills are also key, as well as creative vision. “In terms of being entrepreneurial when running a club night, I have found that you need to be adventurous – be willing to experiment with new ideas and to think outside the box when establishing a club night. Doing little things like creating a funny, well-read event description goes a long way too!’”

Similarly for Cusack, the fact that students are using their own finances to kickstart their nights adds risks: “Being entrepreneurial definitely helps because at the end of the day it’s our own money that we are investing into the night and you need to be savvy about how you spend it.”

The commercial side of these events is important, but what really shines through as an attendee of these events is the passion of the students for their craft. The quality of the DJing is exceptionally high and comes at a cheaper price than the non-student nights currently saturating the market.

Secondly, it’s a chance to be sure of seeing students from your own year at the event as well as running it, providing an ideal setting in which to socialise outside of campus. It makes for a notable change from the Harcourt experience but also from a lot of students experiences at home, as Cusack suggests: “These club nights are something you’d never find back home.” For many students, the Dublin “scene” is a radical change from that of home, and can be a privileged chance to listen and play music you’re not normally in a position to.

Given the remarkable success of these nights as of late, student-run club nights will definitely continue to appeal to the student population. There is little reason why a group of students with the right vision and business sense cannot hope to be successful. However, not all nights have managed to maintain regular crowds.


This may be because, although there is a market there, it is proving increasingly difficult to find appropriate spaces to host such nights as many clubs which have traditionally hosted such nights have shut down in recent years. Students will have to be particularly driven to gain exposure for their music and work hard to maintain the traction of their ventures if they are to stand the test of time.

Alice Whelan

Alice Whelan is a former Comment Editor and Deputy Comment Editor of Trinity News. She is a Sociology and Political Science graduate.