Inspired by running a late-night club during the Dublin Theatre Festival, Fergus Murphy and Paul Rooney launched Saturday Night at the Gaiety in November 1993. Colm Walsh, who at the time was managing Irish band Rollerskate Skinny, returned from London and joined the team. The club became Velure and quickly established itself as a refreshingly different but dependable destination for a quality Saturday night out. I asked Colm to tell us more about Velure, the club and its productions.
Why was Velure at the Gaiety so successful?
Velure had the tagline ‘Jazz Cabaret Soul’ and with it an open-door policy with no VIP area. Nights were all about music policy and creativity. The diverse nature of the areas, often with three different live acts and two different themed DJ/dance areas, meant one could move around and find a niche. The auditorium showed full feature classic films, and the beautiful Gaiety building had so much space and areas to meet. I would say its diversity, unique location, and poly-musical offerings meant there was something for everyone in the audience. It most certainly was responsible for the ‘Pope’s Children’ creating networks and relationships, that are now the families we see around Dublin today.
Velure was a cool name, who choose it?
It came from Fergus’ brother – Caomhán Murphy. It embodied the ‘fin-de-siecle’ plushness of the Gaiety, the mystique of cabaret, and smoky jazz.
What kind of crowd did Velure attract?
We usually had 500 through the door but reached 800 on exceptional nights. The crowd included all sorts: visiting tourists, regular Dubliners, new-to-Dubliners, young and old could find their level (literally) with the variety and eclectic music policies.
How did you secure the all-important late bar license?
Fergus and Paul had been awakened to the ‘Theatre License’ which meant you could serve alcohol ’til late, before and after a show, with a ticket sold in advance to a ‘performance’. This was tested by jealous publicans: we sold pre-printed tickets at the box office, the doors opened at 11.30pm, first ‘performance’ had to be within 30mins of bar opening, bar ran until 2am, lights on 2.30am. Venue clear by 3am max.
With the theatre ending at 10.30pm, how did you get the club ready by 11.30pm?
It was really tight, DJ decks, lighting, film projection and screen. Between crew, door, cloakroom, bar and ushers Velure created employment for 40 people, never mind the 3 x DJs per night and 2 -3 bands. It was a big operation by any standard.
Tell me about some of your other ventures with Velure.
We set up Mambo on Friday nights, as both the Gaiety owner Gerry O’Reilly and ourselves saw the potential. Fridays were trickier, as people didn’t have as much stamina after a working week, but soon developed its own niche with latin, salsa and samba music.
O’Reilly also owned Lillies Bordello where we came in with ‘Lost in Music’, a new club night on a Sunday with a house band and Velure DJs. The club became the go-to night for service industry and retail crowd after finishing a week’s work.
Velure then got embedded into the Thomas Read group during their heady period of expansion. We collaborated on projects and ran club nights in the likes of Searsons, The Morrison, The Bailey, Life Bar on Abbey Street and The Harbourmaster. We also united with Strictly Fish for a couple of ventures including Ultralounge at the DA club and for some wrap parties including the Michael Collins film.
How did it end?
All great bands go on to make solo albums and other projects… The Gaiety nights were hard to follow once the licensing laws changed, and the new owners tried to run it themselves. We opened a bar and restaurant which had their merits, but we were under-capitalised, and fell off a steeper than expected ‘learning curve’. It was time to part ways, and an amicable line was drawn under Velure Productions (1993-2001).
So where are the Velure team now?
Paul Rooney is a restaurateur and owner of The Green Hen, Exchequer Street, Dublin 2.
Fergus Murphy has been resident in Copenhagen for over 15 years, he is a DJ, promoter, and music consultant for various bar groups and ventures. I live in Dublin and own yogadublin.com a chain of yoga & pilates studios in Rathmines, Ranelagh and Balally.
Words: Brian McMahon
Images: Various Velure Productions flyers.