For this edition of Behind the Night, we had a chat with Rosy Morris, the founder of the club night NAFF.
Rosy’s passion for dance music runs deep and flows wide. She got her start in the industry interning at Phonica Records, and following a few years of hard graft, she now co-runs Lobster Theremin and Find Me In The Dark with Jimmy Asquith and manages Percolate’s record label. NAFF came into the mix exactly a year ago. Following a burnout that saw her retreat and turn inward, the much-needed rest left her feeling inspired to finally start up a project she had been toying with for a while: a club night of her own with a community-minded focus.
NAFF is Rosy’s opportunity to craft a club night that has personal meaning to her and aligns with her ideal vision of nightlife. The lineups reflect the version of dance music she strives towards in a space that prioritizes the safety of party-goers. Curation is key and where NAFF excels; every lineup hosts a stellar spread of dance music’s most talented artists: Mama Snake alongside Shyboi, Umfang next to Nkisi – need we say more?
The next event takes place this Saturday 7th March and will see B. Traits, Claire Morgan, DJ Bus Replacement Service, Alexis and Angel D’lite hit the decks in celebration of NAFF’s first birthday. Ahead of the party, we caught up with Rosy to chat about the pressures of running a night, crafting strong lineups and what makes a good party.
How did you get started throwing parties in London?
I was working with Jimmy Asquith at Lobster Theremin who also runs Find Me In The Dark and he needed someone he trusted to help him fulfill his nights at Corsica. That was nearly three years ago. I remember the first night I ran was the Lobster Theremin and Friends party in May 2017. We had 11 artists and Jimmy was actually in Nottingham that night so I was definitely thrown in the deep end. Will never forget that one though, it was so much fun!
What made you want to start NAFF outside of running Find Me In The Dark and can you tell us a bit about your vision behind the party?
The idea actually came off the back of having to take time off work completely due to burnout. I’d been playing with the idea for a long time but having that space to think definitely gave me the clarity i needed and the assurance that this was something very important to me.
I’ve always wanted to keep the vision quite simple but ultimately it was to create a safer space whereby anyone could come and enjoy the music without feeling threatened – I have a one strike rule so if anyone behaves out of line they are out.
It’s also about proving to the industry that booking all diverse lineups is possible, you just have to do your research and push yourself.
Was it scary or difficult starting something new on your own that has so much meaning behind it, or did you feel prepared having worked in nightlife for a while?
Yes it was definitely scary and to be honest, it still is sometimes. I want to do the best by people – whether that’s the artists, the crowd or the staff working at the club. It can sometimes feel like a lot of pressure, especially when things do go awry. But I feel I have developed the skills to deal with this. It’s so important to me to push women of all backgrounds that I’m constantly motivated.
Now that NAFF is turning one, what stands out to you as highlights from the past year?
Every night I’ve done so far has been special and unique in its own way. I think the last party I did with Umfang, Cera Khin, Nkisi, Lockhart & Ifeoluwa was really special. Each artist brought something fresh and inspiring to the table.
Running a night that prioritizes safer spaces and inclusivity and trying to mould a crowd that aligns with that is often hard and an ongoing learning process for party-throwers. How do you personally manage it and how have you worked through any issues that have perhaps compromised the vision you have?
It definitely is an on-going learning process. I think it’s important to recognise that we are all still learning and therefore mistakes will be made. My priority is to deeply reflect on those mistakes and do my best to learn from them before the next event. Whether that’s being more strict on door policy, digging deeper for a wider variety of talent or being very present on the dance floor to look out for people. I’m always around, chatting to people, checking on people who might have a bit too much to drink, giving them water and just being someone to take care of them. I think these things are as important to offer party goers as it is to offer artists too.
On a broader level, throwing parties in London can have it’s difficulties, eg – council issues, Brexit concerns, developments etc. Is there anything in particular that concerns you as a promoter at the moment or are you feeling generally hopeful about how nightlife in the city is progressing?
London is always changing and therefore so is its nightlife. There is a lot of having to face new problems as they come and as a result of this, it’s important to have a thick skin with these things, otherwise they could really start to eat at you. I’m a bit of a problem solver and quite enjoy problem solving so I try to apply this to issues that are important to me too.
What are some of the key elements that you think make a good party?
I think a blend of different tastes is always good. I think also just ensuring that your lineups are diverse is key – I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes to the crowd and general vibe of the party. There’s something really refreshing about entering spaces that showcase a variety of talent and backgrounds.
Your lineups are incredibly well curated and have been solid from the get go. What’s your process behind crafting a good lineup?
Haha thanks! I like to ensure that the NAFF nights are always pushing 2-3 local and underrepresented artists. To do that, you’ve got to have 1-2 strong headliners. It sounds quite simple and perhaps business orientated but that’s just how I make it work.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to get started throwing parties in London, especially those that may feel underrepresented in the scene?
I’d love to say just do it but I think that can land people in some pretty ropey situations. Mostly because there are lots of people you have to deal with that will try to take advantage of you. I’d say the best thing to do would be to try and work for someone else first. There are sooo many problems that can arise with running a night and being exposed to as many of those as possible to start whilst being mentored by someone, I think best prepares you for doing it on your own.
What else is in store for NAFF this year?
I can’t say too much about this unfortunately but I will say put the 25th July in your diaries NOW ;)
What are you most excited about for NAFF’s first birthday and what can we expect?
I’m so pumped to have DJ Bus Replacement Service. I’ve only see her play once before and I know she can throw in some real curve balls so I’m really excited about that. I think also seeing B.Traits out of her usual larger club environment is going to be really interesting too :)