Clock Strikes 13 at Hackney’s St John’s Church


St John at Hackney Church, Pic: Mike Massaro

I consider London to be the key territory on the planet for electronic music.”

A valiant statement, considering Berlin’s ever growing reputation for being the music capital of the world but Ajay Jayaram, if anyone is to declare it, rightly can.

Jayaram is co-founder of London’s popular event series The Hydra, which has hosted Bonobo and Tale of Us to name-drop just a few. Now the promoter, come curator, is running a new and innovative event series Clock Strikes 13.

The series which will run until the end of December, is set to unite influential artists from a range of musical genres with some of the capitals most revered venues including the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Village Underground and newcomer to the scene The Pickle Factory, a subsidiary to Oval Spaces in East London.

Clock Strikes 13 will span bass, house and hip hop through to grime, techno and as they describe it the ‘myriad hybrid genres in-between’.

 Jayaram’s sights are set on building on the success of The Hydra, which is now in its fourth year. Clock Strikes will reach out to a new spectrum of music lovers and partygoers that the two-room Studio Spaces and home of the Hydra, limited to some extent, as Jayaram puts it:

“The way the Hydra has evolved is that its focus has become straight up House and Techno music.

“I think the catalyst for this new series is that my own personal interest in music extends beyond that. I think right now there are lots of interesting and forward thinking artists and genres emerging, which wouldn’t naturally fit into the programming at the Hydra.

“As a result I felt a need, creatively to programme and book different music I was into.”

This need is embodied by the series’ selective line up and the venues they’ve been coupled with, no more so than buddying up with an unlikely hero of electronic music, St John at Hackney Parish Church.

This flexible approach to programming is something that Jayaram attributes to the freedom the concept of the series allows:

“Now I can do an event at Dance Tunnel or I can do an event at St Johns, venues that can take a greater capacity,” says Jayaram  “So there is a flexibility there that was missing at Studio Spaces and musically there is a new kind of diversity.”

The 1400 capacity space within this humble Hackney Church is slowly being transformed into a reverberating music hub. With Clock Strikes 13 all set to host the iconic music label Ninja Tunes 25th Birthday party on 30 October within churches grandeur, the question on everybody’s lips is: how has it became the ‘coolest church in Hackney’?


St John at Hackney Church at Night, Pic: Mike Massaro

As a parish church it holds the highest status within the Borough. As a popular music and arts venue it must balance both activity. Kate Walters, Director of Venue at St John’s see’s each enriching the other, as she says:

“I try to make sure that there is a good balance across the week as both activities including the gigs are important for the churches wider ethos. We want to encourage more young people into the church to engage with the building.”

There definitely seems to have been a positive response to the varied activity and in 2014 40,000 people went through the church’s doors, to watch Jamie XX, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay among others.

All this talk of famous artists and music gigs could make it seem like the church is a new development, in fact the church has been around since the 17th century, surviving extensive fire damage in 1955. It is now firmly embedded into Hackneys landscape, working devoutly to establish connections with every part of the community.

This achievement is something that has been driven since 2007 notably by Reverend Father Rob, described as having ‘real energy and verve’ and who has recently become Area Bishop of Edmonton, overseeing 100 parishes across North London.

“He was very visionary and for the best part of a decade he wanted to make the building sweat, making sure that the doors were open not closed and he worked to convince the parishioners and church warden that this is something we should be doing,” Kate explains.

This interesting approach, has allowed the church to connect with some of the biggest music names and now it will engage in Clock Strikes 13’s play of people and places.


St John at Hackney Church, Pic: Mike Massaro

“I’d like to think that there are people out there who follow what we do, who might tend to drag people out who might not know anything about what we do,” Jayaram says. “If that happens, they visit a new place and have a good experience, they might dip into more of what we are trying to achieve.”

And this is something Kate at St John’s see’s as a positive for the churches aims to engage further with young people: “No day is ever the same, there is always someone different coming in to engage with the building.”

Using The Hydra as a benchmark, which took 3 years to gain its popularity, Clock Strikes 13 is on a similar uncertain ground when it comes to ascertaining the popularity of the series but as Jayaram says: “I like to think that what we are doing is endued with a spirit of adventure – It’s not mainstream, it’s not necessarily conventional stuff.”

And it is this spirit of adventure that see’s St Johns’ invite partygoers into there beautiful church and believers like Jayaram throw caution to the wind and seek out an ‘uncompromising vision for the future of electronic music’.

So let’s see how this vision unfolds, either way London can firmly mark its territory into the electronic music turf and of course, boast of its cool churches.

See what’s happening at Clock Strikes 13:

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