INTERVIEW: Man Power | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The name Man Power has been synonymous with the North East clubbing scene for almost a decade. Initially as a DJ, producer and latterly as an all-round creative, Geoff Kirkwood, the Clark Kent to Man Power’s Superman, is entering the second act of a distinguished career. The break enforced by the Covid lockdowns brought a period of introspection and a renewed focus on collaboration and giving back to his local community. I caught up with him to discuss the projects that have reinvigorated his love for music.

Around the time of the lockdown I found that I was really struggling to do anything that didn’t have some sort of meaning or wider purpose to it.” He explains. “When I first started the Man Power project there was a lot of newness behind it. The first ten years have been me living out my dreams, and then you start to think about what comes next. Having this break let me realise I was doing stuff I wasn’t interested in, things that were meaningless, so I’ve jettisoned that. Community is a big thing to me. Now I’m not really playing to customers, but to peers, people that think and feel the same as me.”

This fresh look at the Newcastle club scene would lead to night-long DJ sets in bars along the North Shields Fish Quay, as well as b2b sets with some of dance music’s finest under the Are You Affiliated moniker.

I’ve been blessed to be put into this position, like being able to bring Paul Woolford to play a social club in North Shields. My great granddad actually used to own the general dealer’s shop that was there before the social club, and went bust because all of the people who owed him tic moved away. There are so many parts of my life that feel like they’re coming full circle.”

It’s an approach which has manifested itself in projects across the North East, including the forthcoming Novum Festival (of which Geoff is the consultant music curator) and a series of intimate club nights. He’s also working with the North East Autism Society and autistic young people to explore clubbing culture and the night life industry. Lately, his focus has stretched far beyond geography, and looks to showcase talent that may not always be afforded the spotlight.

The first ten years have been me living out my dreams, and then you start to think about what comes next

World Headquarters and I are doing a project called The Jump Off, where we’ll be looking for three DJs from under-represented backgrounds and helping them progress in the industry. As a 43-year-old, it would be quite prescriptive for me to decide how to help a young person with their career. We’re going to do an online consultation first and I really want this to come from the ground up. I think the whole basis will be access to networks, which you don’t really have if you come from a disadvantaged background. You only really have one chance to mess something up, and sometimes you don’t really have the resources to try again.”

A decade on the circuit hasn’t made his own productions or DJ sets any easier to pigeon-hole. Having released tracks on the likes of Hivern Discs, DGTL Records and Optimo Trax, the one constant throughout his career has been the range of styles at his disposal.

The one thing I am now is a guy that’s been doing it for ten years. I’m just seen as a fixture now, which I hadn’t planned, but I think it helps. When I first came back to DJing I had a rule that I wouldn’t take a booking from anyone unless I knew the club, the promoter or had it recommended. I’ve relaxed that a bit, but I’m still fairly protective.”

His role as one of the more renowned musicians on the North East scene is one that he doesn’t take lightly, and the next generation of North East based musicians offer much to be excited about.

We’ve just done a release with Beyonders, who are a local collective who seem destined to become big. Jacklyn has also really stood out, and there’s a new younger DJ called Bunny whose impressed me a lot with her productions. I’m doing a release in September with Diz, Megan Leo and Ben Caldwell, which is as good as anything else we’ve released in seven years of running the Me Me Me label. They’re all incredibly talented. I’ve always been impressed by people who manage to bend the world around their sound.”

This year’s inaugural Novum Festival looks to celebrate creatives from across the region and beyond. Geoff has worked with the council to curate the musical elements of the wider artistic and cultural programme.

With it being the pilot year, there is a heavy emphasis on personal connections. Some of the artists performing are close friends like Louisahhh, and others are amazing ambassadors for the region like Hannabiell. Lindstrømis one of my absolute disco heroes, and I’ve been a fan of Lou Hayter for years. It’s all taking place in the Civic Centre, which is the first time it’s ever been used for anything like this. It’s fantastic that the council have got behind it, we’ve even been given the chance to use the council chambers for acoustic and smaller sets. I’m really excited to see how I can build on the ways in which we’ve managed to showcase the North East at the same time as bringing unique talent to the region.”

It’s another aspect of Man Power’s career that looks to be coming full circle. He was once arrested for breaking into a dilapidated old building in Wallsend as a teenager, and it seems occupying places you shouldn’t has been a theme ever since.

Novum Festival takes place at Newcastle Civic Centre from Friday 11th-Sunday 13th August. For those interested in being part of The Jump Off, keep an eye on World Headquarters’ social media for more info on how to apply in the coming weeks.

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