Profile: Robin Kershaw - Dancefloor Couture
When I first started out back in 1996 I never saw myself getting into wedding work or bespoke events. I was 15 years old, passionate about music and keen to learn, but I craved the energy and atmosphere of clubs and bars rather than the formal and, dare I say it, predictable environment of the wedding reception. Later, this would change, but back then I was a teenager growing up in Preston (Lancashire) and I wanted to get involved in the dance scene that was thriving in night-time venues across the region…
One of the earliest signs of my passion for music and commitment to the dance records I loved was around ’96, when I sold all of my mum’s tapes and used the money to buy my first vinyl. She grounded me for it, but I was too chuffed with my copy of Robert Miles’ ‘Children’ to care!
Not long after, I was first introduced to the local DJing scene through a man called Adrian Ross, a bit of a local ‘celebrity’ DJ who played for his fair share of rich and famous clients. I offered to be his roadie over the summer holidays, happy to carry his records and help out in any way possible. I’d also bought myself a pair of decks – everything was turntables back then, of course – and I was starting to build my record collection.
After cutting my teeth with Adrian for around four months – an opportunity for which I’ll always be grateful – I decided to try and branch out on my own. Aged 17 and having just started college, I walked into what was Jazz Bar in Preston and asked for a gig. They asked my age, so of course I told them I was 18, and then they invited me back for a trial. My mates all came down to support me, despite it being a Tuesday night, and I got offered to work the bar’s Monday night. The down side was that I had to work for free, but I guess I was just happy to get the gig! I spent around six months DJing Mondays at Jazz Bar, before moving to a paid gig (£50 + free beer) on Sundays and eventually taking the bar’s peak nights, playing R&B, dance and trance.
The next Preston bar to stick me behind its decks was Café Manyana, where I was given the Monday night slot. But it wasn’t long until I branched out with my first Manchester booking, at a house music bar called Soft, where I knew the manager. I explained to him that R&B was going to be huge and would soon replace house as the preferred music in bars. I got the residency, following my trial, and soon enough we turned what was a house bar into an R&B venue. My recollection of those nights is that there were lots of footballers and local celebrities coming in (which was great) but things would often end in violence; the staff were always cleaning blood off the floor after closing time and the doors would be ram-raided by police on a fairly regular basis!
Now, by this point I was doing well for myself, working Sundays and Mondays in Preston, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Elemental in Leeds, and Saturdays in Manchester. It was great to be DJing six nights a week, not only because I wanted the work but because I got to play out different genres each night. I wasn’t restricted because I wasn’t a niche DJ, so I soon learnt to play to a broad array of people, from students to footballers, which put me in good stead for my future endeavours.
After working across these three bars for two and half years, I was earning decent money and I’d also taken on a few minor mobile jobs. I was 21 when I had an argument with the owner at Soft over the direction of the club. That’s when I decided to pack up shop and move to Australia for a year, where I spent all my hard-earned savings and worked in a cocktail bar to fund the rest of my trip, (almost) mastering the art of flair bartending in the process.
Of course I arrived home one year later with no idea about what to do next! So, my mum – who by this point had forgiven me for the incident with the tapes – decided to help me out by getting in touch with Elite Entertainment, a DJ agent based in Manchester. A guy called Duane took me on, providing me with three jobs each week, some of which were in bars while the rest were mobile gigs. This was a productive time for me and it was during my three years with Duane that I learnt to properly host an evening reception; by the time I left Elite I had not only honed my craft but also worked 200 weddings.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 76, Pages 19 - 24.