UK silent disco's a roaring success

UK silent disco's a roaring success
Dancers attend a 'Silent Disco' in the "Shard" tower on the south bank of the river Thames in central London.

London's nightclubs, where sweaty revellers move and shake to thumping beats, are legendary. But now a quieter, more polite clubbing experience is gaining fans - the silent disco.

At silent discos, partygoers don headphones and dance to the music they are listening to. Thanks to the headphones, there is no thudding bassline to shout over - those who are not dancing can talk, laugh and clink glasses as if they were in their own home.

One recent Saturday, London's Shard - the iconic glass and steel spike which, at some 310m, is the European Union's tallest building - hosted a silent disco.

A few hundred people gyrated on a dance floor with breathtaking views across central London. Streets and buildings stretched out below them, seemingly infinite. Dancers could choose their soundtrack from three channels. Their headphones lit up red, blue or green to show others which one they were listening to.

"We think it is the highest silent disco in the world," said Alex Rochford, DJ for the green channel. "We can have three separate gigs, so that no one in the building will have the same experience because they're always changing to different music."

On the dance floor, people with the same coloured headphones clustered together. Near the turntables, four young women wearing miniskirts and stylish make-up danced to R&B anthem No Scrubs by TLC on the green channel.

Nearby, a 30-something in a flowery shirt was getting funky to That's The Way (I Like It) by KC and The Sunshine Band, playing on the blue channel.

"I think it's brilliant. You need to come with a group of people, it's better that way," said 53-year-old Geraldine Copley-Smith, one of the revellers. "It's not that I'm bored - I like going to normal nightclubs - but it's a novel thing to do."

The silent disco concept dates back to 2002, led by Dutch producer, DJ and performer Nico Okkerse. He says he was the first person to run an event and call it a silent disco, and now runs www.silentdisco.com

Okkerse saw a growing appetite for the concept, predicting that new technology would fuel growth.

"On the horizon, I see strong Wi-Fi capacity and new-generation smartphones which will make it possible to offer exclusive events without the need to bring tons of equipment," he said.

At the top of The Shard, the silent disco was reaching its climax, with Rochford dropping the needle on Afterglow by London producer Wilkinson. There may not be the euphoric roar of the conventional nightclub, but despite the relative quiet, the partygoers have had a great night.

"I look around me and all I can see is a number of shared experiences," said Stuart Taylor, a 35-year-old management consultant. "Everybody is so lost in their music, everybody lost their inhibitions."

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