NYE: Mayhem at the Hootananny

Kaye Wiggins reports on a night of chaos at the Hootananny New Years’ Eve party

Brixton’s Hootananny pub isn’t seen as a slick operation whose gigs are organised with military precision – in fact, its laid-back feel is a big part of its charm. But on New Year’s Eve the venue let itself down with a couple of big failures to be properly organised.

The event itself, the ‘Massive NYE Party’ featuring Correspondents, Soul Jazz SoundsystemCongo Faith Healers and Agent Lynch was great. The headliners, swing/hip-hop duo Correspondents, did a brilliant set and lead singer Mr Bruce’s bizarre robot-like costume and wild dancing (where does he find all that energy?) were big crowd pleasers. The atmosphere was good, the drinks were cheap(ish) and there wasn’t the horrendous queue at the bar that you often find at New Year parties.

But there were two big problems. Getting into the pub was the first: my friends and I had arrived at ten past 11 but were still in the queue as the clock struck midnight, so we missed the much-anticipated bagpipes and dancing that welcomed in the new year inside.

A word of warning if you’re going to a Hootananny gig: allow plenty of time to get in. It wasn’t a big queue, but the one person checking everybody’s booking numbers on a handful of sheets of paper was – understandably – having a difficult time.

But this was nothing compared to the chaos we faced with the cloakroom at the end of the night. It sounds more than a little melodramatic to use the words ‘cloakroom’ and ‘chaos’ in the same sentence, but this seems to merit it.

After we and about 100 others, some of them getting violent and picking fights with the bouncers by the stage, had queued (well, crowded and jostled) for more than an hour to get our coats back, it became clear that they had been thrown, in no particular order, wherever there was space. This included buckets on the kitchen floor and worktops next to sinks and greasy pans.

The only way staff could reunite us with our beloved jackets (yes, this could only happen to soft southerners who wear coats on a night out) was to let us find them ourselves. This is what happened…

If the Hootananny wants to be taken seriously as a venue that can host big, successful gigs – and I hope it does, because on the whole it does them well – it really needs to get its act together.

We asked Hootananny for a response to the evening’s events and this is what Sophia Yates, the owner, wrote back to us:

Dear Kaye
I am so sorry your NYE was so badly affected by our bad organisation. We really were shocking on two points.
We should never have left people queuing for an hour to get in to celebrate NYE. We should have had 4 people going up and down the queue with the print outs. We should have had two queues one for those to be ticked off on the ticketweb sheets and one queue for those who had had their tickets posted to them.
Also we made an unbelievable muddle of the coats…which we found so difficult to sort out – quite shocking.
All I can say is I am profoundly sorry to our Hootananny customers. We will never make those two mistakes again. You are right the performance line-up was incredibly good so it was a great shame we marred people’s enjoyment of it.”