Club Chat: Magic Door Co-Founder Jit Coulter-Patel
Whilst at another installment of the joyous Magic Door events – this time their 5th Birthday! – I managed to bag myself an extensive moment with co-founder Jit Coulter-Patel… “the taller half of Jukes Of Hazard”. Accompanied by a small posse, which included one of the night’s guest DJs, Mr Doris, we all headed up to one of Lab 11’s secret spaces, where Jit and I got to talking about the last five years…
What was the initial concept behind Magic Door, where did it come from?
We had this underlying idea for a night which stemmed from putting a smile on people’s faces, and being in control of it. The initial idea was a strange party we could put on, and if everyone brings to the table things that they do then we can effortlessly have a fun party with our friends – which is what it is! It’s become a lot more work now than it was when it first started, but essentially it was four different people that bring different strengths to the table and everyone gets on with the things that they do.
There are various different reasons why people have a good time on a night out: you’re on the dance-floor, the DJ plays a great track, and you have a moment. I strongly believe it’s those moments in a night that make you walk away and think you’ve had a brilliant time. All you need is one moment, and when you think back, it’ll be that moment which affects your whole thinking. As an event, we wanted to take charge of being in control of that moment, and with Magic Door, coming through, you get a magic bean, you have to get past God (the Guardian Of the Door), and you come into a secret area which is hidden away, and the twenty-odd girls are fussing over you, and you come through as a different person!
I remember when I first came here, when I walked in, it felt very close-knit, very familial.
That’s exactly what it is. There’s four of us involved with Magic Door: me, Will, Megan, and Deano. There’s no room for pretention, or hierarchy, or anything. Everyone’s hanging out, everyone’s comin’ to our party, so everyone’s a part of that. On a night, there’s about fifty to seventy people working on it in different capacities; everyone is friends of friends of friends. It’s grown from five/six of us, to ten/fifteen, to numbers we’re at now. That goes down to the line-ups as well: we have loads of amazing DJs play, everyone is interconnected, and we all like hangin’ out together.
It definitely seems that way.
The policy is, we don’t book anyone we’re not connected to. Everyone’s here because they wanna be here. Tonight, we’ve got PBR Streetgang, Norman Jay, Mr Doris, Tristan Da Cunha… none of them are strangers.
From its inception to now, on the dawn of its sixth year, as someone that’s been bringing this to the people, how has it been for you?
I’m actually an old club professional, it’s what I’ve done for over twenty years, and this was always set up as a very special unique project: lots of friends having a good time together. I only ever wanted it to be what it is today in a way, because it’s a personal party. We’re not trying to be a brand, we’re not trying to roll it out all over the world, we’re not even trying to roll it out all over the country. Anything we do is on us, so we’ve gotta manage how much we wanna go out, and how much we wanna party. It’s not like, ‘here’s a our name, put it there. Here’s a few of our DJs, we’ll send you some glitter in the post.’ Even if we absolutely streamline, it’s gonna be ten/fifteen of us who are integral to any party we do. We do Love International in Croatia, and that’s fifteen/twenty of us who fly over and do a boat party for a couple of hundred people. Anything we do, that’s the smallest we do it, to get the effect.
In that vein, what’s next, what’s more? Are you even thinking of upping it?
It’s actually the opposite. We’re at a point where we do six/seven parties a year in Birmingham, we try to squeeze three London dates in a year, and there’s festival stuff. So if you put them all together there’s about fifteen/sixteen dates a year, and every single party we put loads of energy into it – we don’t hold back. We like to go to things too, so if we do sixteen big nights in a year, how many more weekends have we got left?! Either we change the dynamic slightly, or we rein it in… to make sure we enjoy it still. This isn’t a business for us. None of us are in this for anything apart from having a good time, and we spend the money we make back into other events. None of us are trying to take any money out. We’ve all got other things that we do, and we take that into account as well, because with sixteen parties a year, you’ve gotta be sensible too.
Wow. You say you’re not a brand, and you didn’t wanna be a brand…
Well, I define a brand as being recognisable, and having definition in what you do – because if you don’t define what you do, you don’t mean anything. And we are recognised, and we are defined, but we don’t operate like a brand in the sense that it’s not ‘growth-growth-growth, do more, do bigger’. You end up having idiots more now in today’s ticketing culture, so what we’ve tried to do is have a little balance to how we are, so it narrows down who would be interested in coming.
How d’you do that?
Glitter. Every so often you have people that are not right for the party. Some of ‘em, by the time they leave, become right for the party, and some of ‘em won’t… but they’ll never come back again. The thing is, we’re not elitist we’re inclusive. We don’t block it at the door, but if you’re not open to be inclusive, you might as well not be here.
So we’re here in Birmingham: why Lab 11?
We’ve done events all around the city, but Lab 11 works for us on a few different levels. You’ve come here twice now, and as a space, as a venue, you’re confused about the layout because we’ve changed it all. It’s a warren of rooms and railways arches, and outdoor things, and we can adjust and change them to feel different at every event – I’ve always loved when you go to a party, and you don’t know where what is, and you find another secret little bit here & there. There are people who come to Magic Door all the time, and for them, the way we switch things around really works. There’s a lot of things we can do in this venue that we couldn’t do elsewhere, and there’s an absolute freedom.
Definitely. From when I walked in, to when I hit the dancefloor, to the moment I went to the bar and realised how cheap your drinks are, to the moment I turned around and I had loads of space despite the place being packed: that’s crazy. You don’t get that anywhere!
The thing with Magic Door is, it’s not just one room, one big DJ, all focused and crammed into one tiny space. Part of the attraction is the warren of things, where you wander around. The whole magic bean thing as soon as you walk in, the going through the magic door itself, it’s a great leveler. It puts everyone into the same experience, the same frame of mind.
The second day of Magic Door, a couple of big meat-head mates of mine – unconnected, never met each other before, didn’t know they both knew me – came in, had the glitter done, and sort of laughed at each other. I came back to them later on, and they had their arms around each other’s shoulders, dancing; and I thought to myself, you’d never see those two people in a space together like this – the night has connected those two people. There was a lot of things we did think of trying to achieve, but we never thought we were gonna connect people who’d never normally meet and that through this process, this joint experience that they’d had, suddenly all barriers were gone. At Magic Door, everyone feels comfortable: speaking to complete strangers, hangin’ out, and having fun.
One of the most beautiful things about this place, and I mentioned it after the last time I was here, is that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
Well, you say that, but we do… just in a round-about way. If we did a party, and people weren’t happy, they weren’t enjoying themselves? We’ve failed. We think about what we do a lot, and we massively focus on achieving that.
Going back to the vibe, I opened my last write-up with how great it was to see people here for the rights reasons: to dance, and have a good time. What do you think it is about Magic Door that draws that kind of crowd?
I’ve been involved in running clubs for twenty-odd years now. I dunno if you’d ever been to Miss Moneypenny’s, but I oversaw all the marketing for about ten years as well – all I’ve ever done is parties. It’s escapism here, everyone gets on board with what we do, what the party’s about.
It was true. Everything they had set out to achieve, I had already experienced for myself. We high-fived triumphantly, and while respite from our conversation was sought, I turned to Mr. Doris to get his perspective on things…
Mr Doris, how are you?
I’m very well, thank you. Very nice to be back with my ‘familia’ here.
Fantastic! Forgive the cliché, but what does Magic Door mean to you?
Well, I’ll be perfectly honest. I didn’t really know too much about it until this year. Before a mutual friend of ours, the PBR boys – and Jit and I have many mutual friends – we didn’t really know each other, aside from sharing some moments together in Croatia in the Garden Festival about three years ago. It was a boat party that both PBR and myself played at, and we kinda hit it off at that party where we met, and built up a friendship from there. This year, through Tom and Bonar (of PBR), Jit contacted me saying he wanted me to be involved with Magic Door and he’d been following my mixes online, and that they’d been playing at their after-parties etc.
Since then, the first party I did for them was at the start of the year, in March in London, and he called me up and asked me to help out last minute. I told him I could do it, but I was flying out to Istanbul the next morning, so logistics needed to be worked out. Of course, the gentleman that he is, he worked it out, and the party was amazing! Immediately after that, he said he wanted me to become resident, and it’s the first residency I’ve had in the UK since living outside of it [in Ibiza] – and what a residency to have! I met Jit initially, and then his wife, and then the rest of the gang, and they are a family. They’ve welcomed me in, and it’s great to be a part of something and feel a part of something great.