FestivalsFilmReview

Don’t Ever Stop – BFI Flare 2024

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Director: Stuart Pollitt

Of all the legendary queer clubs in London – Blitz, Taboo, Kinky Gerlinky – it surely has to be Trade that induces the most nostalgia. Opening at 3am on a Sunday morning and raving to noon, Laurence Malice’s club night was ecstasy-fuelled hedonism to the sound of hard house and techno. Although, memorably, DJ Smokin Jo once tried to slip Michael Jackson’s Black or White into her set. But Don’t Ever Stop doesn’t tell the story of Trade – perhaps a little disappointingly for the BFI Flare audience; instead, Stuart Pollitt’s intimate documentary is concerned with one of its most revered DJs; Tony De Vit.

At the start of the film, Danny Rampling proclaims De Vit as the best DJ there has ever been. Worshipped by straight and gay clubbers alike, De Vit brought an energy to his sets that only Carl Cox was able to match. Getting his break in Birmingham’s The Nightingale, by the mid-90s De Vit was a world-famous DJ with a regular programme on Kiss FM. He worked up to his death from AIDS, collapsing at his decks, in 1998 at the age of 40.

Pollitt and his fellow producer Phil Smith have worked hard in collecting footage from the clubs where De Vit played. The bacchanalian scenes – gurning faces and the euphoria of raised hands – are accompanied by some of De Vit’s banging mixes. Together they evoke a sense of joyful community that has never been seen since. If only we could transport ourselves into the screen to relive those nights of rapture.

Ensuring that the 90s aren’t entirely viewed through rose-tinted spectacles, Don’t Ever Stop also focuses on the bad things, too. AIDS, of course, but also the three deaths at club Sundissential and the queer-bashing that continued after Thatcher’s Clause 28. The film has interviews with club promoter Madders who talks frankly about his drug addiction, which spiralled out of control.

As much as Don’t Ever Stop is an elegy to De Vit and the club scene, it is also the story of DJ Fergie, whom De Vit took under his wing when the two met in Larne, Northern Ireland. Within months Fergie had moved to Birmingham, living with De Vit and De Vit’s boyfriend, Andi Buckley. When De Vit died, Fergie was called in to replace him at the clubs. Fergie, now a superstar DJ with a residency in Las Vegas, candidly admits that he wouldn’t be a household name if his mentor hadn’t died so young.

Pollitt hopes that a younger audience will also watch his film to witness the exhilaration of the 1990s club scene and with a revival in hard house, Tony De Vit’s music hasn’t dated at all. However, Don’t Ever Stop will find an audience in those who remember the riotous partying, so elegantly recalled in Everything But The Girl’s recent song No One Knows We’re Dancing. It’s those who were there who will most value this film such as the man, who, so overcome with nostalgia, shouted out “Thanks for the memories!” as the screen went black to signify De Vit’s death at the BFI Flare screening.

Don’t Ever Stop is screening at BFI Flare 2024 from 13-24 March.

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Thanks for the memories

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