BOOK REVIEW: CLUBBED — A visual history of UK club culture

LINK: CLUBBED  |  PRICE: £45 plus P&P

My book renaissance continues unabated. Not that my love of books ever went away you understand — it’s just that via crowd funding, there are some amazing projects seeing the light of day. Not having to navigate the minefield and potential world of rejection that is dealing with publishers allows for niche projects to flourish.

BOOK REVIEW: CLUBBED — A visual history of UK club culture

We’ve previous covered the wonderful PUSH TURN MOVE, but now it’s time for a very different subject, one that appeals to me on many different levels. “Clubbed”, compiled by Rick Banks with editorial from Bill Brewster is, to quote the first page of the book, a visual history of UK club culture. 

Specifically, I was drawn to it as a graphical journey through an era that this old designer and DJ missed in club land. Having given up playing out live in 1989, the era covered in this book (82 to the present day) fills in a great many of the blanks in my knowledge. I knew the names, and outside of the Factory section that fills a substantial part of the book, I had just a sketchy idea of the history of so many of these household names. Well household if you happen to be a clubber or DJ anyway. 

BOOK REVIEW: CLUBBED — A visual history of UK club culture

Coming in at a tactile, heavy, and sumptuous 384 pages, Clubbed takes us on a graphical and historical adventure through key moments in UK clubland. When you flick through the many pages of retro graphics, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a brightly coloured skim-and-forget affair. But it’s only when reading the background to the clubs and events, and seeing how some of them are progenitors of others that the whole thing comes together.  It’s at this point that Clubbed becomes a rich archive of the names and places, and for an old designer and DJ like myself becomes an important reference for the graphical language used.

BOOK REVIEW: CLUBBED — A visual history of UK club culture


It’s important to remember that flyers (the focus of the book) are more than just a handy note about who is playing and when. It’s all part of building a brand, and developing a large and loyal following. For me, it was interesting to see the various versions of the Ministry of Sound logo (I didn’t realise that it had been through so many subtle changes), and to see how different clubs appealed to different people though colour and fonts. The language of design is being employed to make clubbers feel part of something — of a tribe. They can if they wish wear the logo on a ridiculously expensive official t-shirt of their chosen clan with pride.

Personally speaking, I view this as a reference guide for designers first, but also as a historical document for people like myself not immersed in the club scene. As a guide, I read the book in a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon, and got an instant hit of UK clubbing knowledge. But know that I’ll frequently dip into it for design inspiration, and at times what not to do as well. One designer’s magnum opus is another’s anathema.

Bottom line — as a book, it is expensive, but it is niche and exhaustively researched. I’m not alone in wanting the colours to pop more, and as the son of a bookbinding family I do see small issues in this respect. But the content is exemplary, which is what 99.9% of people want. You are unlikely to find a better book on this subject.


I have books in my DNA. I cannot get enough of them (more so than vinyl these days)  and loudly applaud those who choose to give up a significant amount of time and money and frankly their life to make them happen.

As someone who has a couple of book projects planned, I urge people to support those  who take on such a monumental task. I know exactly what goes into every stage, and can attest to what a feat such a thing is to complete.

Don’t look for ePubs or PDFs — you need support the authors and get a physical copy for your book shelf. The experience and ritual of buying, reading, and cherishing a hard copy is akin to buying vinyl, except that you come away with more knowledge than you had before. It’s a great feeling.

So do yourself a favour — get a bookcase, and fill it will projects of passion like Clubbed.


Clubbed book review Bill Brewster Rick Banks (3)
BOOK REVIEW: CLUBBED — A visual history of UK club culture
Anyone who experienced the birth of dance music and the club scene back in the day will love Clubbed. Designers tasked with making flyers or even building brands in the scene will equally love it too. In fact anyone with a passing interest in the birth, growth, and evolution of clubbing will get something from this book.
Ease of use
Value for money
Brilliant for old and new clubbers
Equally brilliant for designers
Exhaustively researched
Minor niggles that nobody else except the son of a bookbinder would notice. But for £45, these are things I look for. Sorry.
Reading about clubbing = oxymoron
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