Get under the skin of Closer, Kyiv’s legendary creative hub, with the people who make it

15 May 2019

“Think Kyiv, think Closer” has become a slogan synonymous with the Ukrainian capital. The city has long been known for wild techno parties, and in the beginning, Closer made its name as one of the city’s best nightclubs. Today, the complex is one of the most close-knit communities in Kyiv, operating more as a creative hub than a nightlife venue. There are galleries, shops, bars, showrooms, and a radio station, not to mention Closer’s major festivals such as Strichka and Brave! Factory.

As the saying goes, behind any great idea is a great team. For Closer this rings particularly true. We caught up with nine people that bring one of Kyiv’s most vibrant hubs to life.

The Music

Andrey Shakolin

founder of Closer Record Store, resident at Closer

I opened Closer’s record store because of music — it’s my passion and my joy and I want to share it with other people. I basically manage this place by myself. I was collecting vinyls long before I started DJing. I travelled a lot, visited cult vinyl shops around the world, such as Rush Hour and Hardwax, and realised it’s something that was missing in Kyiv. So I decided to open a vinyl store specialising in house and techno music here at Closer, and the guys lent me a space for free. I’m really grateful. It’s a nice opportunity to escape, to feel like you’re not in Kyiv, but some kind of utopia. Come and explore Closer yourself!

Roma Krymsky

resident at Closer, SMM

Some people come to Kyiv just because of Closer. They might not know about Kyiv but they do know about Closer. I see foreign people wearing our party bracelets. One of them was a DJ in Berlin who had a Strichka festival bracelet on, he came up to me to say thank you. That was something! Closer reaches far beyond its address, it can be anywhere where its people go. There is no need to leave though: now that we’ve got a shower installed, we can be here always, waiting for our other friends to join.

Sustenance

Raving does not always go together with sophisticated drinking or eating, but Closer is again proving an exception. Savage Food, once an experimental veg station inside Closer, has grown into a proper gastrobar serving Ukrainian vegetarian food and elaborate cocktails. The holistic attitude does not end with the menu, though. Major recycling initiatives are taking place at Closer, where straws have long been replaced by spaghetti and the bar is moving towards a plastic ban.

Olya Bezdvornaya

admin at Savage Food

I’ve been managing Savage Food for half a year now, and I’m glad it’s becoming part of the entire Closer experience, even at night. Veganism is growing in Kyiv, but Savage Food might be the only refined veg restaurant with a bar. Closer was the first to believe that both things — sophisticated vegan eating and alcohol — can coexist. Our summer terrace is the best! Imagine chilling out with a forest view, birds whistling idly as you sip one of our exquisite cocktails without a care in the world.

Rostislav Lysoviy

head of the bar at Savage Food and Closer club

Closer is not what it may seem at first sight. You need to spend a year here to get to know it. And I give you my word, you’ll never get bored. Our new aim is sustainability. We’re switching to recyclable products and are going to ban plastic soon. We already use spaghetti instead of straws. And this is just the beginning. I’m sure we can be zero waste in two years. I care about my people and ideally we try and manage the team in a way that distributes responsibilities equally. I’m trying to arrange everything behind the bar in such a way that the bartender can join the party after his shift instead of leaving totally exhausted.

When the sun’s up

The team proudly claims that Closer is a city within a city. After having entered, one should be able to operate here comfortably for at least 48 hours: switching between the main and riverside dance floors of Lesnoy Prichal, refuelling on Savage food, changing outfits at the 24.00 Showroom, going for a tea ceremony at Lada Garden, or even catching an art exhibition at 4am on Sunday morning. Even when the party is over it’s still worth paying a visit for lunch, shopping, or events — the Closer art centre is open every day to treat you to talks, screenings, and other art events. If you spot a crowd at Sofa Store on a Tuesday, you can bet it’s the Closer team making plans at their impromptu office.

Lada Nerezova

founder of Showroom 24.00 and Lada Garden

Parties go on for a long time here. I used to come with a set of clothes to get changed into before I realised I can actually open a showroom that would stay open during the party. I started my own brand of basic, one-size T-shirts that are long-lasting on the dance floor, before opening Showroom 24.00 in 2013. In time, my “dressing room” evolved into a proper concept store featuring 60 Ukrainian designers. It’s unique, quality clothing. Another thing I do is Lada Garden, a chill, green tea room with flowers and hammocks. It’s a kind of shelter — from the heat in summer and from the noise and fuss on a wild night.

Ksenia Malykh

founder of Closer gallery

I run the gallery together with my partner Daria Shevtsova. Our artists are mainly young Ukrainians who appreciate the freedom we offer. Closer provided space for anything we could dream up. There was no place like this in Kyiv, somewhere that’s as accepting and tolerant as it is encouraging and inspiring. It helps you to grow. Do you know any other gallery that would be open at 4am on a Sunday?

Dina Bagaeva

owner of Sofa Store

People kept asking about the sofas in the club. I guess they liked them and so wanted to take them home. We realised it was actually a great business idea — we make money selling sofas and simply buy new ones every so often. The sofas come and go, meaning the look of the place evolves quite often. There was a vacant space behind the cloakroom, previously occupied by the gallery, which we took over to set up a proper store there in April three years ago. Closer is a city within a city and we all work hard to improve its infrastructure — from building elaborate decorations for parties to providing essential facilities at a high level. But still, first and foremost, it is a place to relax and soak in the best music in the city.

In the driving seat

Inna Shupko

admin and door policy at Closer

I started here as a bartender, then took on more work managing security, cleaning, and working the cloakroom. Closer is the best music school you can imagine. I do door policy for the club, so I meet with so many people who’ve crossed the whole country for one particular DJ. Their dedication to music and the community they have long wanted to encounter is inspiring. It’s really precious to see how powerful the thing we’ve created is, and that it keeps bringing in the most faithful audiences.

Alisa Mullen

PR for Closer Art Centre

Partying out in Berlin helped me to embrace the power and beauty of electronic music, and when I came back to Kyiv, I was intent on joining Closer in whatever role might be available. From the beginning, our PR was more about education — we posted about the music itself and the artists we were inviting. The next thing was to explain that Closer was not just a club, but an art centre that’s always open for lectures, exhibitions, cafes. Our image was damaged after a few police raids and accusations of drug dealing. It took quite a while before local journalists responded to our invitations and for them to appreciate what had long been acclaimed abroad as a major contribution to the local cultural scene.

There’s also been a rise in quality music journalism. It used to be that only a few writers could distinguish between various electronic styles , but now there are many. Their professionalism is really helping to push our local electronic scene forward. It’s inspiring and I’m proud to have been part of initiating that.

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