Launched in 1992 as a weekly club night at Venue 44 in Mansfield, in the Midlands, Renaissance has since grown into one of the world’s most respected electronic music brands.
The emphasis from the very beginning was on quality. Classical imagery derived from the paintings of the Italian Renaissance were the trademark of the clubs advertising and immediately stood out in stark contrast to the identities of its competitors.
Sasha was announced as weekly headliner and resident, with Ian Ossia as his apprentice and, a few months later, a then unknown John Digweed was chosen by founder, Geoff Oakes, to join them as Renaissance’s third resident DJ.
Sasha and John went on to shape a distinct musical direction through their legendary back-to-back sets at the club and the ‘Renaissance Sound’ was born.
In October 1994 Renaissance released its first compilation album ‘ Renaissance The Mix Collection‘, mixed by Sasha and John Digweed. It chronicled the musical evolution of Renaissance over 3 CD’s and was married with the stunning imagery which was now synonymous with the club’s identity.
This was the moment that defined the brand!
Still recognised as the benchmark for all club compilation albums, for many it has never been bettered, and was once voted ‘Best mix compilation of all time’ by Muzik magazine.
The brand’s first U.K club tour, in 1994, incorporated all the elements which had made Renaissance such a success; stunning décor was installed in each venue by a dedicated production team, with complementing projections of beautiful Renaissance imagery. This, coupled with the distinct Renaissance sound, gave clubbers throughout the country a true taste of all things Renaissance.
Around that time, Renaissance embarked on a series of larger one off events. The idea here was to take Renaissance out of the club environment and transpose it into a venue that reflected what the brand had become. The Magnificent Colwick Hall, a Grade 2 listed stately home in Nottingham, became the first backdrop for such a venture on New Years Eve 1993/4. This was closely followed by regular, spectacularly produced events at the Que Club, a cavernous, converted church in Birmingham. The resulting blend of music and production, in a venue dripping with class, set an unprecedented standard and sent Renaissance’s domestic profile rocketing.
The demand for Renaissance events rapidly spread across the UK and in early 1995 the brand took up residence at London’s Cross nightclub, carving out another piece of clubbing folklore with one of the capitals most successful and longest running monthly nights.
Not limited to the UK, the demand took Renaissance much further afield as calls flooded in from promoters and venues worldwide, all wanting to replicate the Renaissance experience for their audience. Soon there were residencies and shows in all corners of the world, from Singapore to Cape Town, Tokyo to Sydney, Budapest to Miami.
The brand’s international profile continued to grow throughout the 90s. From the label there was a constant release schedule of top name DJ mixes and Renaissance artists toured relentlessly, conquering Europe, Asia, Australia, South America and the U.S.
The standards have always remained uncompromisingly high, with a roster that has seen Renaissance work with a broad spectrum of established artists including La Roux, Sasha, Faithless, John Digweed, Steve Lawler, Sander Kleinenberg, Hernan Cattaneo, David Morales, James Zabiela, Satoshi Tomiie, Hercules & Love Affair, Deep Dish, Danny Tenaglia and many more.
The obligatory weekly summer shows in Ibiza commenced in 1996 with a residency at Pacha that initially ran for four consecutive years. Then, in 2000, Renaissance were the first club to bring weekly live acts to the island with a series of shows at Privilege that saw the likes of Moby, Leftfield, Kylie, All Saints and Moloko play alongside the world’s DJ heavyweights including Deep Dish, Carl Cox, Laurent Garnier and John Digweed among others. Renaissance then returned to and remained at Pacha, the brands spiritual home on the island.
The next milestone, in 1999, was the launch of a new Midlands home for Renaissance. Media, in Nottingham, was a converted Grade II listed theatre. Described by Deep Dish at the time as, “The most beautiful venue in the world”, the club was voted best venue at the Muzik / Ericsson Club Awards 1999/2000. Carl Cox and Danny Howells were monthly residents for a period and regular guests included the likes of John Digweed, Paul Oakenfold, Deep Dish, David Morales, Seb Fontaine, Frankie Knuckles, Timo Maas and Dave Seaman.
After a brief period in a joint record label venture with Ministry of Sound, Renaissance took full control of its own label in 2003 and started to develop long-term relationships with a new set of artistes that would become synonymous with the brand through their compilation releases and touring with Renaissance. Sander Kleinenberg, James Zabiela, Hernan Cattaneo, Steve Lawler, Danny Howells, Nic Fanciulli and Satoshi Tomiie all joined the new era.
An unprecedented run of big-selling compilation releases saw the 10th Anniversary re-release of The Mix Collection in 2004, the platinum-selling Renaissance The Classics the following year and 3D:Faithless in 2007.
Wild in the Country at Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire in 2004 saw the launch of Renaissance’s boutique festival brand, with the pairing of Sasha and John Digweed together for the first time in 10 years at a Renaissance show. It also included Scissor Sisters first UK festival appearance.
It was 3 years before Wild in the Country would be staged again, this time at legendary concert location Knebworth House. Underworld headlined the 3-arena, 10,000 capacity festival, which suffered heavy financial losses in what turned out to be the wettest UK summer ever recorded.
The following year, the stakes were raised with Bjork headlining the festival and the addition of an outdoor stage and several more arenas. Renaissance’s partner in the festival pulled out just 4 days before the event, forcing Renaissance to cancel Wild in the Country due to insufficient funding to go ahead and put on the festival, despite having already built the entire site. The losses were huge and set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to Renaissance going into administration in September 2010.
The founders and original owners lost control of Renaissance, which led to a year of inactivity, then in July 2011 it was announced that Renaissance had been reborn, with founder and original owner Geoff Oakes once again guiding the brand…just in time for Renaissance’s 20th Anniversary year in 2012!