With popular venue ISIS closed by Nottingham City Council, Nottingham University’s official Wednesday night is set to spend two years based at Rock City under the ‘cr-ISIS’ moniker in a move described by its promoters as a “massive opportunity.”
The change follows a tumultuous period for the Nottingham nightspot. A fight involving around fifteen men broke out just outside the club in April, with gang members swinging broken bottles of Moet champagne at each other in a scene described by one police officer as “a bit like the wild west.” At the end of August, a serious altercation left one man in a critical condition after he was stabbed thirteen times. Others were also wounded in the incident, which led to the initial suspension of ISIS’ licence. Police also complained of “blatant drug use” at the club. One officer described the club as “on a par with a cannabis factory,” whilst also claiming evidence of “several plastic bags with traces of white powder in them” were found in the VIP area.
Following the hearing, licensee James Eftekhari insisted that “I have done everything in my power to do the risk assessments and control that venue.” Eftekhari, who has been a licensee in Nottingham for 25 years, is set to appeal the decision.
On the other side of the city centre, however, official Wednesday night promoters Jol Maltby and Andrew Smith were relishing the prospect of a fresh start at one of the UK’s premier live venues. The transition from ISIS needed to take place rather quickly however, as their former venue could not operate while the summary review took place: “The second we knew there was a review, we were obliged to look for another venue,” Maltby told Impact. As a result, the promoters – who are also responsible for Thursday nights at EQ and the popular event ‘pubgolfuk’ – moved quickly to secure a two year contract with Rock City, forming the ‘cr-ISIS’ event. Smith envisioned the move as “like a crane – taking ISIS and dropping it on Rock City”.
For returning students, however, the first night seemed determined to live up to its tempestuous reputation. In a series of events labelled “an embarrassment” by Smith, staff struggled to control a crowd surge, which left several queuing students injured and many more traumatised. One girl spoke to Impact after having suffered a panic attack in the crowd, saying “I couldn’t breathe, and everyone was looming over me. We were all stone cold sober by this point, and there were a lot of tears that night.”
Following a profuse apology from the organisers, subsequent events have seen much improvement in crowd control, and with attendance reaching around 1600 on October 14th, cr-ISIS has certainly made some recovery from the poor start. It needs to. With Gatecrasher reopening after being damaged by fire in February, cr-ISIS is set to face stern competition. It is competition which Smith relishes, though, remembering that ISIS began life as an unofficial night: “competition means we need to improve all the time, and provide better prices for students. Monday nights have been boring for a while now because of a lack of competition.” Maltby was similarly optimistic: “The sound system and lighting are unbelievable, and we’re planning on integrating much more live entertainment into the experience. Using two other rooms as well, we think Wednesday will be the biggest night of the student week.”
It remains to be seen how Nottingham University students will respond to the new venue and it is clear that there are some who remain to be convinced, even those who regularly enjoyed ISIS last year. “ISIS was like junk food,” argued a regular ISIS attendee, “it was good because it was so bad.” Concerns about the venue’s suitability for club nights have been raised, with one student telling Impact that “If Rock City is the future, we’ll just find alternatives.”
With the promise of more live music, a superior technical spectacle and three varied rooms, cr-ISIS now faces the challenge of moving to the next level whilst also retaining the distinct character of its predecessor.