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The great nightlife shift: how concept-driven club nights are leading the way

UK nightlife is evolving in many ways. Conceptual club nights are transforming the industry and welcoming in a whole new generation of clubbers. native takes a closer look at the concepts that are getting Gen Z back into nightlife. 

In June 2021, clubs across the country re-opened their doors for the first time in over a year – creating hotly-anticipated demand. Two years later, the picture is very different. Speculation about the death of nightlife is rife – particularly in the capital. 

London, in particular, has been plagued by numerous nightlife woes. From licensing issues and closing venues to extortionate prices, it’s become impossible to be spontaneous on a night out: partygoers are forced to either plan weeks in advance, or face price hikes and huge queues for nights that turn out to be lacklustre anyway. While other cities across the UK fare better, there’s growing concern that gentrification and rising prices could spread to the likes of Manchester and Leeds, too. 

Quoted in MyLondon, 25-year-old Matt Spivey calls for a solution: “allow bars and clubs to be more experimental in their approach and be brave in switching up their format, like the new wave of queer pop-up clubs have been able to do.” 

There’s no silver bullet to fix a nightlife scene in decline. But a new wave of experience-driven, conceptual club nights are certainly injecting some life – and some creativity – into the clubs. Highly specific, unpretentious and hinging on common ground, these experiential events are a breath of fresh air. 


Limitless imagination

Creating conceptual nightlife for Gen Z was always going to be a gamble; they’re known for being skeptical and rumoured to be sober (although our research found that 73% of UK Gen Z students are regular drinkers, so this isn’t a universal truth). 

Flash back to lockdown – when an entire cohort of young people were brought together by platforms like TikTok, avidly consuming the same memes or following each other down the same digital wormholes – it’s clear that this generation has no problem uniting behind a single cause. But would jumping from meme to club night be too great a leap? 

Turns out, it’s a gamble that has paid off. Post-covid, TikTok trends have become nightlife concepts – and Gen Z partygoers are totally here for it. Remember in lockdown when everyone was learning to rollerblade? You can take that one step further and hit paradise skate world in Manchester. Are you a particular fan of the Karen meme? Check out her Diner in Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and London. Huge Taylor Swift fan with no way of getting tickets to the Eras tour? Dance away your envy at Swiftegeddon – an international club night that only plays Taylor Swift songs. Slowly, but surely, we’re seeing Gen Z-fronted concepts rendered as fresh, playful nights out. 

Concept-driven events often push the boundaries of what a night out should look like. They ask impossible questions: what if we made a club night that played Taylor Swift, and only Taylor Swift, all night? What if everyone in the room/restaurant/boat was single, and actively looking to mingle? What if we ate brunch to the backdrop of drag performers, or played Monopoly on a giant, lifesize board? And while some events are new kids on the block, others have been doing this for years – such as global phenomenon Elrow, or Hot Dub Time Machine, a night popularised in the UK by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which takes attendees back in time through the best songs of each decade. 

Nights like these have dedicated fans and advocates; people who show up again and again to find like-minded people centred around the weird and wonderful. In a world where nightlife is unpredictable and hit-and-miss, it’s great to have a few options that you know are going to go down well. 

Alcohol has a place at a conceptual club night – but it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Usually, the concept is the beating heart, with the drinks and the party flowing flexibly around it. Sober partygoers are more likely to feel included, and are united – rather than divided – from less-sober guests, because everyone is focused on the concept. 


Bringing it to students 

There’s a huge place for events like this in the lives of students. This is a demographic that’s already self-organising into clubs and societies based on what they care about – creating nightlife experiences that match their interests is just the next step. And for cohorts of students who have just landed on campus and are looking to bond with others, a conceptual event acts as a supersonic icebreaker; bringing everyone together around a common activity or theme. 

Take Bingo Lingo, for example. The conceptual club night merges everyone’s favourite game with a packed programme of music, dance-offs, lip sync battles and prizes. It’s brought a light-hearted, gamified energy to venues across the country – and now it’s eyes down ahead of Freshers 2023. 

Also embracing Gen Z’s love of crowd participation is House of Dinosaur, with their innovative concept “Bangers V Clangers”. Pitting Britney against Beyonce and Boyband vs Girlband, the night is a DJ-led quest to find the best banger – aided by the audience themselves, who can vote for their favourites with interactive signs. 

These kinds of events represent a new type of nightlife – one that lets attendees be part of the story, as well as grouping like-minded people together to enjoy genres and games that truly resonate. As UK nightlife is weathering a crisis, concept-driven events could be a way for the scene to evolve and revive. 

native is bringing a series of conceptual events – like Bingo Lingo and Bangers v Clangers – to campuses this Freshers. Sign up to our newsletter to be the first to hear when packages go live.