|| tales from nightlife @manchester

a bouncer at daytime.

It’s 8.30 p.m., I walk through the Northern Quarter in Manchester and one guy is pissing in a corner, while some steps away another one throws a bottle against a wall, both brawl and are drunk. Already?, I ask myself. It starts raining and I seek shelter under a roofed forecourt that turns out to be the entrance to an art space and nightclub. I discover a half-full bottle of water and a coke standing in a hole in the wall – obvious signs of a bouncer, who is absent at the moment. As I leave some minutes later I see a bouncer coming upstairs and outside of the nightclub. I decide to come back later.

||

One British researcher commented on my presentation: “German bouncers seem to be pretty nice compared to the British ones.” which surprised me after a talk about the ambiguity of the occupation. He then tells me that the situation in Britain has changed a lot in the past ten years, which is an interesting information for me since the major study on British bouncers is more then ten years old. I ask him what has changed and he talks about ID cards, good bouncers and black sheep, and a new perception of bouncers in the eyes of police officers. And here I am, standing in front of a bouncer on a rainy Saturday night in Manchester. It’s the nightclub I had discovered earlier. I don’t quite get what he says to me while he’s smiling down on me. I think it’s something like “This weather is nothing for you, isn’t it?” but I’m simply not used to the local accent. He’s at least 1,90m tall, more chubby than beefy, dark cloths and sturdy shoes, and has an armlet on his right upper arm that shows an ID card with a photo and a number. His colleague is smaller, similar clothes and also an armlet, standing some steps away and not paying attention to me. The bouncer still smiles at me, I smile back and mumble something and he waves me inside the nightclub: “Have fun.”

I go downstairs, buy a beer at the bar, and walk around in the club, pretty artsy stuff hanging on the walls. The place is still quite empty but gets fuller during the next two hours. The guests are mostly somewhere in their twenties and Caucasian, but diverse in their styles. The DJ is mixing electronic music with funk and some vocals, nice. I see the tall bouncer doing rounds once in a while, i.e. he slowly walks through both rooms of the nightclub, lets his gaze wander over the guests without looking at a particular one, goes into the men’s toilet, talks to the bar staff, and goes back upstairs. He comes back, goes without any visible reason to a pretty drugged guy, and talks to him without any eye contact. It looks like he asks him to leave. They have a very short discussion, then the guest follows the bouncer outside without any signs of further discussion or resistance. The bouncer hasn’t even had any physical contact to the guest. Oh yeah, that was really rough.

It’s 1.30 a.m. and most guests are already fairly drunk. I decide to leave after the second guy desperately tries to hit on me. Things really seem to be earlier here, this phase starts at about 3 a.m. in most German nightclubs I’ve been to so far. I go upstairs and say “bye” to the bouncers which they both talk back. While I walk away, I realize that they didn’t search my handbag in the beginning.

||

I go to another nightclub that seems to be known for electronic music and excessive parties, no bouncers at the entry, I walk downstairs, no electronic music but indie – ugh! I spin on my heel and leave. I wander through the streets to take a look at the bouncers out there. They are in front of every nightclub and almost every bar, mostly two of them, sometimes more. Some seem to be not more than twenty years old, others in their early forties, some are Caucasian, others are people of colour, some seem to be quite sporty, others not. I discover only one female bouncer and I’ve to look twice before I’m sure that she is a woman. Even though the bouncers are very diverse from their features, they have one thing in common: they all wear either an armlet with an ID card and/or yellow high visibility vests. It is easy to detect them as bouncers.

||

I stand under a small roof – it’s still raining – and observe the bouncers in front of the bars across the street. There are three bars next to each other, the entrances of the middle and the right one are even side by side. The bouncers of these two doors are chatting with each other, two are in front of the middle door, one in front of the right one. It looks like they don’t pay much attention to the guests who enter and leave the venues at first, but then the bouncer of the right door suddently stops a single guy who wants to go inside by shortly putting his hand on the chest of the guy. The guy stops and starts to discuss with the bouncer, he points inside several times, it looks like he wants to go in to look for something or somebody. The bouncer stares expressionlessly at him, shakes his head several times, his next-door colleagues slowly approach but stay in the background, the bouncers of the third bar also have noticed the situation and observe. The guest doesn’t give up, the bouncer leans back, and shouts something inside the bar. Another bouncer appears after a few seconds and joins his colleague. The first bouncer says something to him and the guy starts to talk insistently to him. The second bouncer listens to the guy, then exchanges a short glance with the first bouncer, gives a short answer, and shakes his head with a dismissive smile. The guy tries to say something, but the first bouncer slightly shoves him one step away and says something. The guy turns around, goes some steps away, turns back to look again at the bouncers who observe him, then he turns around and finally leaves. The two bouncers shrug their shoulders, they exchange a few words with their next-door colleagues, the second bouncer goes back inside, and the others lean against the wall and chat again.

||

People are queuing at the entrance of a nightclub in another street. Two bouncers stand directly in front of the entrance and allow one or two persons access every now and then. It might be about fifty persons standing in line, very close to the wall. Perhaps because they try to avoid the rain, perhaps because of the third bouncer who stands on the forecourt and waves people back in line as soon as they leave it, e.g. while fouling around with friends. The third bouncer goes inside and comes back after some moments – with a huge multicoloured umbrella that he opens. Looks like a colourful mushroom with black legs, I say to myself, but he’s right, the rain got stronger. I’m fairly drenched by now and decide to call it a day.

||

I wander through the city the next day and realize that some bars even employ bouncers at daytime. I take note of that and – enjoy my day off.

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