Iconic club brand Miss Moneypenny’s may have been conceived in Brum but its appeal quickly spread across the UK. We caught up with founder and DJ Jim ‘Shaft’ Ryan ahead of Moneypenny’s 30th anniversary
The inception of Brummie institution Miss Moneypenny’s goes back to the late eighties with humble beginnings in a clothing store. Founder Jim Ryan says it was a case of ‘right time, right place’, but he deserves more credit than that. Along with his brother Michael, Jim created a space that became the epicentre of the rave scene in the form of their clothing shop, Depot which is where the kernel of an idea started to grow into something that would touch the lives of an unimaginable amount of people.
Jim says: “Kids would buy their tickets for raves, purchase DJ tapes, videos of the rave and collect flyers of up and coming raves. So, we were in the middle of that cultural phenomena.” The brothers, realising they had an audience, started organising small events on the River Severn inviting the shop’s customers, friends and family which evolved into what became known as Chuff Chuff parties.
BAND OF BROTHERS
The events gained legendary status where hedonism reigned and people could just completely let go. Clocking the popularity of the parties, they moved from small boats to stately homes and hotels to accommodate larger crowds. In 1993, the Chuff Chuff parties morphed into a weekly club in Birmingham and Miss Moneypenny’s was born initially attracting 800 people rising to 1,500 in its heyday.
Moneypenny’s success was in part due to Jim’s right place, right time philosophy but also the brothers were active members of the club scene not just in Birmingham but also in Nottingham and London building a network of people. Location had something to do with the appeal of Moneypenny’s too. Ideally placed in the middle of the country, it was easy for people across the UK to travel to. “It pulled a diverse and very glamorous crowd. We had a large gay following. It was a place where people could express themselves. A sense of freedom if you like.”
The club would be packed by 9.30pm with coachloads of clubbers bused in from as far afield as Scotland. Jim remembers the celebrity following, too: “It soon attracted pop stars such as Robbie Williams, Boy George, The Pet Shop Boys, Mick Hucknall, Heather Small. TV celebs such as Zoe Ball, Melinda Messenger. Sports stars such as Lennox Lewis, Martin Offiah, Shaun Edwards to name but a few. It made a huge national impact, capturing the imagination of the national celebrity columns, all from a club on the outskirts of the city in Hockley.”
The concept toured the UK and then went global. In Ibiza, Miss Moneypenny’s residencies were legendary running for 15 seasons, first at Pacha then El Divino which led to the launch of record label Miss Moneypenny’s Music. A top 10 hit with Tom Novy’s Your Body followed as well as other releases including 21 compilations.
Jim says: “As a club brand, the amount of people we touched is just phenomenal. And that doesn’t take into account the tours, the international gigs, the magazine articles and the column inches and TV appearances. For a while Miss Moneypenny’s was everywhere.”
A big part of the pride Jim has in Moneypenny’s stems from the diversity, acceptance and freedom it fostered. He says: “I am proud that a concept such as Miss Moneypenny’s came from my home city of Birmingham. It incorporated what is the best of our city, a diverse audience, before the notion of diversity was even conceived. We put Birmingham on the map in terms of clubbing because of our values.”
Today Jim is busy penning Ibiza The Musical and is in talks with a number of Birmingham theatres about production partnerships as well as being a published poet. He’s also working on a project creating a platform to publish photographs and videos from gigs, albums and artwork which Jim’s hoping will be completed in 2024 – plus there’s a documentary in the pipeline focusing on DJ life on the road in the 90s and early 2000s. Despite having travelled the world DJing, Jim’s never played Brazil or Argentina so that’s on the bucket list along with a Glastonbury set – we’d love to see that.
The 30th anniversary celebrations kicked off with a gig at Crooked House last month, but in relation to the actual big bash Jim’s staying tight-lipped – but you can bet your bottom dollar it’ll be one heck of a party!