History of the Culture Club nightclub (Ghent, Belgium)

Back in 2005, Glitterati.be was a popular nightlife-and-fashion webzine yours truly was extremely proud of. Times have changed, life has moved on, but the original Glitterati website still has a special place in my heart. Its most popular post was titled Culture Club: history of a nightlife phenomenon. Now and then people still ask me if they can get a copy. For old times’ sake, I’ve decided to translate and update the article. Please enjoy the complete story of the legendary Culture Club nightclub in Ghent.

Culture Club launch artworkIn order to tell the story from the very beginning we have to go back to the early nineties. Dirk Deruyck and Thierry Bogaert organized the illustrious Eskimo parties, named after the former Eskimo factory where they were hosted. From the start, the events featured a unique atmosphere and drew in very hip and trendy punters.

Around the same time, Philip De Liser, Eric Smout and Rudy Victor Ackaert launched 5 voor 12. This organization would set up 5 concerts to celebrate the 12-year anniversary of Belgian national radio station Studio Brussels, the Belgian equivalent of the British BBC Radio One. A huge success, 5 voor 12 was motivated to organize more events. Ackaert, producer of Stu Bru techno radiohow Teknoville, pushed towards the launch of 10 days of Techno. Part of the yearly city-wide event Gentse Feesten, 10 Days Off (its later namesake) was successful until 2014. 5 voor 12 kept growing alongside and branched out to the Antwerp scene with pop-up clubs like Hospital, Liverpool, Luna, Cuba and Petrol Club, up to 2016.

Ackaert parted ways with 5 voor 12 and teamed up with Deruyck and Bogaert to organize the fashionable Belmondo parties in Ghent’s art museum SMAK. The trio quickly started a quest for a location suitable for a permanent nightlife venue. The city council repeatedly blocked their efforts, because of past experiences with the infamous Boccaccio (one of the pioneering new beat clubs).

Invitation opening

Eventually they settled down in the former Royal Club. With a clear vision for the new venue’s interior, they wanted to focus on architecture, art, design and fashion. Architects Glenn Sestig and Patrick Six were instructed to reinvent the concept of clubbing. The result was minimalist and contemporary, with a dash of luxury. Timeless and elegant.

Culture Club would feature two rooms. One geared towards eclectic house music, the other inspired by R&B. Both were separated by a glass divider. Different ceiling heights would alternate an intimate and big-room impression. Pink, as one of the emphasized colors, contributed to a sense of homeliness and luxury. All very Glitterati indeed.

The design of the light infrastructure was signed by Lux Lumen and followed the minimalist approach. One of the later additions was a green light feature, incorporated into the grooves of a faux-concrete wall. Rather than focusing on the light shows of the past, Culture Club clearly emphasized atmosphere. The Nexo soundsystem would complete the set.

Everything just worked together extremely well. Constantly evolving artwork, initially by Diederik Serlet, would broadcast the look-and-feel internationally. I did/do like the initial artwork so much that it is still part of my living room 🙂

In Culture Club’s success the impact of the deejay line-up should not be minimized. The rise of Belgian turntable heroes 2manyDJs started alongside CC’s growing reputation. As resident DJs, The Dewaele brothers initially received complete artistic freedom, resulting in their signature eclectic style. When they eventually exploded to an international audience, they attracted an international crowd to the Ghent hotspot. The formula was repeated a second and a third time with The Glimmers (aka The Glimmer Twins, aka Mo & Benoeli) and Starsky & Tonic (aka The Subs). The R&B room spawned names as Fredo & Thang and TLP (aka Troubleman).

Culture Club’s reputation quickly spilled across Belgian borders. French hipster store Colette, a jet set favorite, shipped personnel and guests over by means of Thalys and Mini Cooper to celebrate the launch of their music compilation series. When The Times proclaimed Culture Club to be the coolest place on Earth, its reputation was set.

The extensive media attention drew in critics, blaming CC to be recycling nightlife trends of the past. Looking back, that was simply a reflection of the zeitgeist CC operated in. The rejection of past trends in the dark fin-de-siècle late nineties, made way for a post-modern embrace of the roots of popular culture. Culture Club management simply identified and played into this trend.

But eventually the concept grew old. Successful parties as Lunapark, Body to Body and Eldorado became crutches the club became too dependent on. The door policy became more tolerant, the crowd grew visibly younger.

Dirk Deruyck, creative and artistic manager, left. After a few different ventures (remember the lovely Make-Up Club?) he is currently running the respected Eskimo Recordings label. Of the original partners, eventually only Rudy Ackaert remained.

Belmondo bankrupt

In August 2005, the corporate entity behind Ghent’s finest club (Belmondo BVBA) declared bankruptcy. The exact cause was a closely-guarded secret. Rudy Ackaert remained in the bar industry and is currently the manager of popular venues such as Bar Jan Cremer and De Nieuwe Onvrije Schipper. I am defintely going to stop by for coffee, one of these days.

CC’s assets were bought by DJ-matic, a supplier of audio solutions for the hospitality industry. In a strange twist, the legal entity of an MD’s office was acquired and renamed Culture Club BVBA, no doubt because of liability reasons (specifically Belgian situation).

With General Manager Bart Roman remaining at the helm, the club picked up its pace and became moderately popular once again. Eventually success diminished a second time and the doors closed permanently in 2014. For a while there was a rumor that the owner of private club Acanthus stepped in and that former resident DJ Maxim Lany could be involved in a relaunch, but these remain unsubstantiated. The building has since been sold and will become a lunch-time cafeteria for one of the neighboring businesses.

Culture Club’s gate, firmly bricked-up (11/06/2017)

The former Glitterati crew and myself remain thankful to Culture Club management for the fruitful collaboration and lovely memories. Kudos, gents. You are heroes in my book. I raise my glass to you. (well, a cup of coffee, anyway).

Somewhere deep in my archives I should have at least one almost-DVD-quality video of a night a Culture Club. If I ever find it, I will post. In the mean time here is a very crude and early Glitterati vid about CC’s 5 year celebration. This playlist contains nice footage of my personal favorite CC concept: F*ck Lany.

2 Responses to “ History of the Culture Club nightclub (Ghent, Belgium) ”

  1. I took Thierry Bogaert to CC, when it was still ‘Club Royal’ and showed it to him for the first time. When we got there, he looked at me and said, TLP, i’m gonna start my own club in this place…..#jussayin

Leave a Reply