Ask a bunch of different work colleagues what their favourite nights out in London are, and it’s more likely than not that you’ll be met with an array of different events. Depending on the mood, or the type of person they are, a huge majority of Londoners can choose from blurry nights out in Soho, to upscale evenings out in The City, and get to do so freely. This isn’t always the case with the Black community in London. Tensions with venues and the music played at events are just some of the issues that event organisers in the Black community have faced in previous years. It meant there was a huge gap in the events market for something that felt truly fun and truly worth it, whilst maintaining ‘Blackness’. Enter, DLT.
I meet with MK and Anthony, two of DLT’s founding members, and Misha, their lead publicist, in a bar in Southwark, South London. It’s worth noting that MK arrives in a suit, with Anthony a little more dressed down, and it’s instantly clear to me that they have full time jobs outside of work – but it’d be patronising of me to dismiss DLT as a secondary pastime. The brunch and day party event started in 2016, and has grown to be a huge phenomenon, with tickets selling out almost instantly every time. DLT Brunch, which stands for Days Like This, has effectively gone from an event for those that moved in the same social circles as the founding team, to a household name amongst the Black community in London and beyond. “Throwing the first event was hard. Finding a venue that got it, every time, it was “why would it be bottomless?” or “who would come to this?” – it just didn’t make sense to them. The first one was a lot of immediate friends and family, and it was good numbers cos we’re quite lucky in that we have a pretty good network. It was at Luxford Bar on Old Kent Road, and people were literally driving past, seeing hella black people, and asking what was going on. It had around 250 people at it, and we did another one once people started to ask about it a bit more. From there, we moved on to Canary Wharf. We sold out 28 West, Proud Embankment and then were like “hold on – we got something here”.
It’d be easy to focus on the now, but I speak to the guys about how it all started, and they explain the inspiration behind DLT came from across the pond. “DLT started off with just us and our friends – literally. We used to live and work out in New York, for a year, on an internship. We noticed that there’s a massive day party and brunch scene out there, and New York is like London on steroids. There’s always something going on, something to do. Things like Hennypalooza, Made in America, we experienced all of this first-hand. And its everyday people, people you recognise, people from the same background as you, and we’re all just enjoying ourselves, right?”
A two-time visitor of New York myself, I can attest to their experiences in the city, and they go on to describe how they came back with the idea of implementing similar vibes but tailored to their home city. “So, we got back to London a year later and we were like “oh… it’s dead”. Like there’s not much for us. I’m not a culture specialist or anything but I didn’t feel like I was represented in London, especially back then. They play our music but it’s not for us, so we were just like “ay – let’s try and throw this party”. Like on a “why not” sort of vibe”. There are gentle chuckles from both when they cover this part of our conversation, and it’s the kind of muted laugh that only appears when you’re forced to take a humbling moment to realise how far you’ve come.
The growth and progression are something that people not privy to this inception story have maybe missed – to some, it may seem as if the event popped out of nowhere, suddenly taking over their Twitter timelines and WhatsApp group chats. My conversation with them only confirms what I already assumed – that their position within the London events space is not that of luck, but entirely a result of years of hard work. But their passion for the event is evident when they discuss how much work is put into planning it. With a full team of nine, they effectively run everything themselves – venues, logistics, promotion, ticketing and more. There’s an ease with which they talk about this; it’s not that they downplay the sheer amount of work that goes into running their events – it’s more so that they embrace it. “There was a point where we had to sit down and just ask ourselves about what we were doing – what is the brand, you know? One day, me [Anthony] and MK just sat down and started thinking about getting it cracking, making it real, making it proper. We changed the branding, the logo, changed the tone of everything and we just started selling out.”
I ask about the missing members of the team that I’m unable to meet, and the structure is broken down for me. “So there are four of us that are co-founders – myself, MK and then Ife and Bosun. Then we’ve got Will – he’s the talker, we get him to speak to brands, he knows their language and how to speak to them. Then we’ve got Aura, he helps us book the DJ’s and deals with other bookings, a bit of social media too. Alex does the music management, and there’s Feji, he helps with the operations on the day, making sure things are working swiftly. We’ve got Rami, she is everything digital marketing. She plans and organises all the marketing on our Instagram and Twitter, she does all that stuff, and yeah – that’s the team. I think we saw everyone’s strengths. At first, it was definitely a lot of chefs in the kitchen kinda thing, but we got to a point where I [MK] was like ‘you’re good at this’ and ‘you’re good at that. It just made everything work a lot better. At times, it feels like a second family”.
The events industry is a notoriously difficult industry to work in – the hours are long, it’s multi-faceted and nowhere near as glamourous as people think. Speaking on the difficulties they faced, it’s obvious that the ups and downs they faced in their earlier days are viewed as a stepping stone on the journey they’re still on as a team. “We’re not from the events world – we’re still trying to figure things out. When we wanted to move out of Luxford and expand, there was all this pushback.” MK explains that to get sit-downs with venue management, he would often use his work email address. “They thought it was corporate. But got there, explained what it was, and luckily, the guy at 28 West, after a bit of convincing, was on board. He saw how tight the team was, and how we basically made his life easier, so we had a good relationship there. Once we moved on to bigger venues, it was different. We needed purpose-built venues that know how to handle large audiences, but that meant dealing with a different type of management. Even now, as big as we’ve grown, there’s still pushback. Caps on attendees, timing, things like that”. The complexity of having a so-called ‘side hustle’ like DLT is evident here – there’s an acknowledgement of the scale, yet the enormity of it all doesn’t seem to really phase them. They chat about it with a straightforward confidence that probably only manifests itself when you’ve pulled off as many successful events as they have.
In addition to the hurdles within the industry they already mention, there’s also the idea of competition to consider. With DLT events, the addition of bottomless brunch acts as a differentiating element when compared to other day parties. But when DLT is mentioned, there are a few other events that people speak of in the same breath. London is the largest city in the UK by far, but it can often seem small to those of us who live here, particularly within the Black community, and so I ask, does it ever feel like they’re competing for the same audience? “I feel like we’re all closely linked – Recess, No Signal, we all know each other and speak to each other. We go to their parties, and they come to ours, and we do share best practises in a sense, things like venues and contacts. It’s probably way more connected than people realise. Everyone definitely supports everyone”.
Cocktails arrive and I quickly admit that my fixation on DLT’s inception and working dynamics are down to astonishment more than anything. Just the concept of adhering to deadlines for work is enough to give most shivers, yet here is a team in front of me, speaking with ease about this event that’s grown exponentially over the years. DLT is certainly a name that holds weight amongst Londoners, but you’d be wrong for thinking that it’s contained to the UK. In 2019, they collaborated with Ibiza Meltdown to host a special event in the acclaimed hotspot, Ibiza Rocks. Later that same year, they hosted two events in Africa, with a brunch taking place in both Lagos and Accra. “I [Antz] got made redundant at work and so I had a lot of free time. I messaged MK at night one time, and he must’ve woken up to bare messages from me like “we should DLT in Ghana” and “maybe in Nigeria too” and all these thoughts and justifications. MK was like “you know what, you ain’t been wrong before. So, I hit up my contacts in Nigeria to sort things like venues. We spoke to one of my other friends about Ghana, trying to do something small, maybe like 200-300 people, something small. We said we’d put out the flyer for Ghana and just see. It got 1000+ likes on Twitter… after about a week, the team at Bloom Bar wrote me a letter of recommendation to come to Ghana and see the space. I came back and just knew, yep, we’re doing this… On the day, it was crazy.”
So, what’s next for DLT? The response isn’t instant like the answers to some of my previous questions, and the answer I’m given is a genuine combination of keeping cards close to their chest and aiming for the top. “For us, we always try to elevate – there’s no point if it’s not gonna have an impact, whether that’s culturally, or experientially, for the people that are coming. There are moments where we’re tired, because everything goes so fast. We deliver this stuff, and our instant thought is “how do we top this?”. We had Rema performing at Boxpark and we were discussing how to top it, whilst he was performing. It’s a constant what next for us…. We’ll be doing DLT in Ghana again this year – that’s an exclusive. We wanna do something strong in Europe again – something that can just exist.”
It’s clear that there are no signs of slowing down for DLT, “We wanna exist to be more than a party. We wanna be a household name in the culture, not just the parties – we’re trying to exist outside of that. We wanna be on your minds, from January to December.” I get the feeling that with DLT, the best is yet to come.