Sundance Kids are a new London-based music events collective run by Felix Harvey-Jefferson and Kiran Kumar, two UCL medical students. They are holding their first club night, ‘Dancing for Mental Health’, on the 11th January, 9pm-2am, at The Book Club in Shoreditch, London. All proceeds go to mental health charity SANE. Blueprint Arts Editor, Sophie Buck, speaks to the duo.
CN: discrimination, depression, suicide
So, how did ‘Sundance Kids’ and your idea for your launch night, ‘Dancing for Mental Health’ come about?
[Kiran] Felix and I (both medical students at UCL) have wanted to start a club night for a while, as we both have a passion for dance music and have always felt we could create something fresh in a scene that we have enjoyed since moving to London. Earlier this year, we got involved with the mental health charity SANE and we thought it was the perfect time to launch our project in association with such a brilliant charity.
Tell us a bit about your launch night?
[Kiran] The launch is taking place at The Book Club in Shoreditch (London) on the 11th of January, with doors opening at 9pm. We’ve got a line up of super talented DJs including JD Feva and DJ Fruit-tella, who will be selecting some disco and electronic tunes. We are also very lucky to have JUBA headlining and she will be playing an afrobeats set to round off the night. The proceeds of the night will be going to the mental health charity SANE, who aim to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourage people to seek help early, rather than suffering in silence.
At Blueprint zine, we strive to maintain awareness of the social factors, e.g. discrimination, that impact on mental health, rather than solely viewing mental health problems as isolated individual illnesses. How would you say your club night fits with this?
[Felix} I think we’d agree, mental health definitely does not exist in a bubble. For instance you’re at a higher risk of mental illness if you experience racial discrimination, only furthering the already large ethnic inequalities in health. As mentioned before, dance music can a form of resistance to this and often some of the most progressive attitudes are held by groups built around music.
This being said, there is unfortunately a streak of damaging intolerance in some groups of electronic music (e.g Ten Walls‘ homophobia, and Konstantin‘s sexism) and so all communities need to be able to self- criticise and grow. Whilst we’re focusing on mental health at Sundance Kids we’re holding ourselves to a standard across the board when it comes to discrimination in its many forms. Specifically, we’re operating a zero-tolerance policy to behaviour that intimidates, judges or discriminates, and so hopefully will be able to maintain a space in which everyone can be happy.
“Dance music can a form of resistance to [discrimination] and often some of the most progressive attitudes are held by groups built around music”
What are your motivations for choosing SANE as the mental health charity to send your proceeds to?
[Felix] A few of our friends are closely involved in SANE, especially its black dog campaign (below). We first learned of the charity earlier this year through our friends’ work and it struck a chord with us in quite a personal way. People can feel incredibly isolated at university and the feeling that there are other people out there having the same conversations and wanting to change the way in which we talk about mental health is amazing. When you start to open the conversation up, you suddenly realise that a lot of people, including your friends, have had or are having similar experiences, which can make you feel a lot less alone.
Other than raising money for SANE, in what ways do you intend for your club night to break down stigma towards mental health problems?
[Felix] The environment we are trying to culture at Sundance Kids nights is one of positivity and openness. We want to build a space in which people who are experience or are impacted by mental illness can lead the conversation and hopefully open the door to changing the way in which people talk about it. Our approach to this has been to wear our heart on our sleeve when it comes to describing what we want our night to be like. A lot of the people interested in our first night are in our friendship circles and so we feel that we have been able to cultivate a positive crowd for our first night. SANE are providing us with some flyers about the work they do and so providing people with some information will hopefully stimulate this.
“We want to build a space in which people who are experience or are impacted by mental illness can lead the conversation and hopefully open the door to changing the way in which people talk about it”
What do think about the power of music and club nights to benefit mental health?
[Felix] You only need to take a look at the house & voguing scene in New York in the 80s to see the power of dance music to allow marginalised peoples to create spaces in which they feel safe. (I would recommend watching Paris is Burning, which is all about this.) Dance, and dance music as a ritual, is both expressive and relieving. It can be an escape from reality for many, giving a time and place in which the pressures of real life can be forgotten. Smaller or fringe genres often have a real sense of identity – look at psytrance today or the d&b scene in the 90s. For people who suffer from mental health problems, this acceptance can be really important in building an identity that doesn’t have to revolve around their suffering.
Do you find music is particularly accessible for men to address stigmatised topics like mental health?
[Kiran] I definitely think that music can be a good outlet for men to express their difficulties with mental health. It gives men a medium in which to express their emotions and share their experiences with others, whilst allowing other men who are listening, to hear something relatable in which to identify their own mental health issues. With suicide being the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 30*, it is unfortunately still proving that there are limited outlets of men to address mental health issues though, with stigmas persisting.
Do you have a favourite song/album/mix?
[Felix] Difficult to say! Have personally recently discovered Harvey Sutherland who is making some very nice stuff. And anything that lies in the region between house and jazz is good: Session Victim and Folamour are both hitting the spot.
[Kiran] At the moment I’ve got Mina’s Carnival Boiler Room set on repeat. She’s an incredibly talented afrobeats DJ/producer.
What else do we have to look forward to in the series?
[Kiran] We would like to continue with the mental health theme in our following nights as it’s a cause that we care a lot about. We hope to grow the brand further with the aim of putting on parties at some of our favourite venues in London!
Sundance Kids’ first club night, ‘Dancing for Mental Health’, is on Thursday 11th January, 9pm-2am, at the Book Club in Shoreditch, London. Advance tickets are £4 earlybird or £6 standard – buy here. For more information, see their Facebook event.