The Canton Disco revival will go down as one of the wildest nights of the year. Melissa Twigg meets Andrew Bull to find out how he made the ultimate ’80s party go off with a bang in 2015
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Turn back the clock to a Friday night in 1985 and if you were young, cool and good-looking, you were in Canton Disco. This intoxicating, cavernous nightclub in Harbour City was the place where love affairs blossomed, hearts were broken and good resolutions were thrown to one side for a night of sweaty, heady fun.
Andrew Bull, the ebullient man who started Canton Disco and went on to become a music producer, is a Hong Kong legend. But the decision to revive his most famous nightclub was never in his hands. The Canton Disco group was created a year ago on Facebook—and within weeks of its formation, it had more than 2,000 members. “Everybody was sharing their memories from the ’80s,” says Bull, on the phone from Shanghai. “So it was inevitable that some bright spark would eventually propose reviving the night.”
The idea proved so popular that Bull quickly realised he had no choice but to return to Hong Kong from Shanghai to stage the party of the century. “My marketing budget was zero because I sold most of the tickets in a couple of days. The only worry was how I was going to create a night that lived up to everyone’s expectations,” he says with a chuckle.
Bull considered using Watermark at Central’s Star Ferry pier as the venue, but quickly realised that the 11pm curfew wasn’t going to sit well with a crowd that had memories of tumbling onto the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui at dawn. “I looked around for a while, but as soon as I spoke to the owners of Lupa on Queen’s Road Central, I knew I’d found the right location,” he says. “I liked the fact there was an indoor and outdoor area, so people could move about and mingle with different groups like they used to in the past.”
On the night itself, Bull brought the decor of the ’80s back to life with pink, blue, green and yellow lights, neon tablecloths and a giant multi-coloured letter C at the entrance to the restaurant. “Walking in was an incredible feeling as it took me back to my youth immediately,” says Michael Ng, who spent many a teenage weekend dancing in the Harbour City party spot. “I went there constantly with my friends, and I can still remember the excitement of coming back from the UK on school holidays and planning our first night out at Canton Disco.”
Ng wasn’t alone in feeling a rush of sentimentality—pansy Ho arrived with an entourage of 12 people, who all cheered with excitement as they walked in, as did Gilbert Yeung and his friends. “The energy was incredible from the very start,” says Bull. “Simon Choi was the DJ for the night and he got people dancing right away. It was fascinating watching old groups re-forming— and seeing how power and relationships have shifted as people have aged and become successful in different fields.”
Although everybody loves nostalgia, Bull knew that the Canton Disco revival couldn’t wallow in the past. “We wanted to stay relevant, not be a bunch of oldies playing disco classics and high-fiving,” he says. “I wanted it to be the most amazing party in Hong Kong for 2015—on a 2015 basis. The original nightclub was very tied up with Hong Kong’s identity at the time. It was a creative crucible for people at that time—and reviving it 30 years later felt like a celebration of how much this city has evolved since then.”