Madonna is one of the biggest selling recording artists of all time. Champion of the gays and singer of some of the biggest dancefloor anthems the world has seen, she is quite literally our glorious leader, and this week she celebrates her 60th birthday. To mark this fabulous milestone, DJ and Madge mega fan David Robson has teamed up with south London dancehall the Clapham Grand, plus a load of DJs and performers, for a glittering ‘Celebration’ – see what we did there? Here, David explains more.
Hi David, you have been organising Madonna themed parties for a few years, can you tell us the history of the events?
LUVMDNA was born out of another Madonna night called Madonna Celebrate, which I used to work on with a guy called Kurt. It was very much his baby and back in 2014 I wanted to step out and start hosting my own. We’ve tended to do them as one offs around her birthday in different venues across London – Retro Bar, The RVT, the Black Cap – but we’ve also done them to coincide with album releases and tours. My approach to the event is to take a period of her career and, like the woman herself, reinvent that through performance and live music. The show element of the night is just as important to me as the music.
When did you first become a fan?
I have a very early memory dancing around my gran’s front room to Like A Virgin and really hammering that album alongside Thriller. I don’t think my gran quite forgave Madonna when I asked her what a virgin was, but it was because of her album! It’s hard to remember a time not being a fan. She’s just always been there, but I think what really cemented my love for her was when Music came out in 2000. I was 16, just starting college, working in a vinyl shop and having my gay awakening. In fact I fell in love with London through Madonna when me and my best friend ran off to see the Drowned World Tour the year after. She’s the soundtrack to my life really.
Madonna is 60 this week and she’s still making headlines – why do you think she has managed to keep this level of profile and success for so long?
She once said the most controversial thing she has ever done is stick around and I think that’s largely true. She’s outlived most of her peers and is still largely in a league of her own. I think she is very self-disciplined and a bit of a square away from the stage. She has no vices (other than adopting children) and hasn’t fallen into the traps celebrity can lay down. She has to stay focused in order to deliver. I think she feels the weight of the world watching her and there’s certainly those (sexist) critics who are still waiting for her to fall.
This Friday is your biggest event yet, what can we expect?
I want it to be a spectacle. The thing about Madonna is that she comes alive on tour. No one quite does a show like Madonna. So, I wanted to have that feeling of her live shows, which often feel like a giant dancefloor. I’ve been planning it with the mindset of whether it will be up to her standards. I don’t have a Madonna budget, but I think we come pretty close. The venue is absolutely stunning and it’s going to look like one giant mirror ball. I wanted to add that Confessions disco feel but turn it into something that marks her entire career.
Tell us about the performers you have lined up.
I don’t want to say too much but there will be pop up performances throughout the night. None of this stop and start. It will all flow with the DJs and the lights as one piece. I have to say though that some of the cabaret performers coming through now absolutely blow me away. They are taking drag/cabaret to the next level here in London and I am so pleased they’re doing the show. It’s wonderful to see Madonna hasn’t lost her appeal across the generations and especially in LGBT+ community. There’s a reason we call her our glorious leader.
And what about the DJs?
Yes! Well first off, I guarantee there will be NO repeats. Madonna has enough of a collection to never play the same song twice. We want to mark her entire career with the hits, fan favourites and some surprises too. Johnny Kalifornia is part of the in-house LUVMDNA residents. This man knows his pop and his Madonna. It takes a lot for me to leave the booth and host the event, but I know he will cause a commotion.
And Lloyd? Well I’m sick of losing to her in the Boyz Awards so I thought I better book her and see what all the fuss is about. It helps that she’s a huge Madonna fan too and Lloyd brings great energy to the party. We’ve known each other for longer then we’d care to admit. She used to scowl at me at the Soho Revue Bar. Or maybe she was flirting?
What is it about The Grand that made you choose it?
I wanted somewhere that wasn’t an obvious choice and that would be a creative challenge. I used to DJ at the Grand back in my student days and was always struck by the feel of the building. It’s a beautiful venue that dates to 1900. It has a feel of the Astoria about it. It’s been a cinema, music hall and even a bingo hall. As soon as you walk in you feel this sense of history, but also it commands your attention. What really sealed the deal for me was my first meeting with the venue manager Ally Wolf. I really like his ethos and what he’s doing with the venue, particularly in hosting LGBTQ+ events. It’s becoming a much-needed space in south London for queer creativity.
And will Madge be swinging by on Friday for a cheeky sherry?
Well it’d be so like her to not show up at her own birthday party but if she does she better bring her backing tracks to do a few numbers. So if you’re reading this Madonna (and why wouldn’t she be), consider this your orders.