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@ibiza_past
Courtesy of Nick Mellett

Documenting the hazy, hedonistic decades of blissful Ibiza club culture

Instagram account @ibiza_past looks back on the technicolour memories of dusk-till-dawn hedonism that define the ‘White Island’, with help from ravers’ submissions

In the grip of a pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, we’re thirsty to reminisce about the pre-COVID past. Nostalgia offers an enchanting escape, and even the memories of others become irresistible. @ibiza_past is the Instagram account sharing joyful images from bygone decades of partying on the “White Island”, and it feels like the perfect moment to look back at these golden times, when the Balearic sun rose and sweaty bodies collided in the steam heat of a packed dancefloor.

Famed for its bohemian past as well as its reputation as a clubbing mecca, Ibiza has become an idyllic enclave for non-conformists, hippies, party animals, celebrities, and wealthy yacht-owners alike. Having visited the island regularly since the 1980s, Dirk Queens began sharing his personal archive of photos on Instagram last year. Since then, the account has grown rapidly as followers contribute their own pictures to the growing collection. From club life, hotel rooms, bars, and poolside, @ibiza_past takes it all in; there’s shots of legendary nightspots such as Café Del Mar and Pacha, and unforgettable club nights including Manumission, offering us a snapshot of the renowned party destination’s golden age through the eyes of its revelers. 

Scroll through the gallery above for a glimpse of Ibiza's hedonistic past, while below, we talk to Dirk Queens about his wildest nights out, his most memorable encounters, and whether or not we’ve experienced the end of an era. 

Could you tell us about your personal relationship with Ibiza?

Dirk Queens: I was lucky enough to visit Ibiza with my family when I was younger two or three times in the eighties. I remember sneaking out to a club with my sister one night in 1985 called Idea – people may remember it as the metal structure beside Es Paradis, which was demolished back in 2011. It wasn’t long after midnight, so it was quite quiet, but I remember hearing Paul Hardcastle’s “19” and “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys. I was 14 at the time, so couldn’t hang about that long but that was certainly my earliest memory of Ibiza at night. I would then look on with jealousy at the people recovering from nights out beside the hotel pool during the day and I promised myself that would be me one day.

Me and my mates then got into acid house in 1988 and ended up partying all across the UK, but I never got to Ibiza again until 1995. I will always remember our second day in, when we visited our first cub night at Ku – the infamous Manumission – and it just blew me away! We visited Café Del Mar for the sunset every night for two weeks and went out to a club every second night. It took me about two months to fully recover. I’ve visited Ibiza every year since.

How would you describe the island’s allure?

Dirk Queens: Ibiza is a lot more polished now than it was back in the 90s. There was a real raw edginess to it all. It was still a time of backhanders and we were mostly left alone to do what we wanted to do. To me, the allure is being able to leave normality at home and live that rock ‘n’ roll life for a while. That has always been an attraction.

Ibiza has long been known as an island for the outcast and non-conforming, from people escaping Franco’s Spain, to the draft-dodgers trying to escape the Vietnam war and, more recently, people running away and escaping from troubles back home.

Ibiza is cosmopolitan and multicultural, yet can still appear rural. There are some amazing hidden beaches, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Ibiza Town has to be one of the coolest places in Europe and you can get to know most of the island relatively quickly.

Ibiza is more than big clubs, the island is beautiful and you meet some truly amazing people. However, if you want to party, it is like nothing you’ll ever experience anywhere else in the world. Ibiza has it all.

“Ibiza has long been known as an island for the outcast and non-conforming, from people escaping Franco’s Spain, to the draft-dodgers trying to escape the Vietnam war and, more recently, people running away and escaping from troubles back home” – Dirk Queens

Can you share any memories of your wildest times on the island?

Dirk Queens: It has got to be those early days at Manumission. I have seen some crazy shit at Berghain in Berlin, but nothing beats the things you used to see at Manumission. 

One year Manumission banned white socks and anyone wearing them had to take them off before they entered the club. There was a massive pile of white socks left at the entrance. You had all these random things going on, like someone sitting on a toilet in the middle of the dancefloor reading a newspaper, people peeling potatoes, girls sitting on the floor with colouring in books. You never even batted an eye lid when a couple of girls would walk past hand in hand completely naked. You also then had the notorious explicit shows that went on. I remember seeing a dwarf snagging a 6ft-tall blonde model-type at the back of the dancefloor that had nothing to do with the show. It was before camera phones were about, but a few people were pointing and I remember him shouting and swearing, ‘Mind your own fucking business’, during the vinegar strokes.

There was also a special drink you could buy if you knew about it from the Coco Loco bar with all sorts of special ingredients in it. I can’t, unfortunately, say any more than that.

There was a true open-minded spirit where anything goes, the madness was that intense. Because the authorities turned a blind eye to what was going on, the vice-consul from Britain opted to resign from his post at the time as the behaviour was “degenerate and out-of-control”.  It certainly was and I loved every minute of it!

Why did now feel like the right time to share your photos?

Dirk Queens: I started sharing some of my own old photos and it was obvious that a lot of people could relate to these times. It’s also positive for people to look back on moments that they remember as happy. We can certainly all do with a little bit more of that this year. At the start of lockdown, I started sourcing more photos and then people started asking me if they could send some of their own for me to post.

I read an article on pandemic-induced nostalgia where you get nostalgia for things that you didn’t think twice about six months ago; like visiting Ibiza, going to a nice restaurant or a club. There is nothing wrong with people going to a past place for coping, I am just happy that these photos have really helped a lot of people's wellbeing during these difficult times.

Could you talk us through a classic Ibiza night out?

Dirk Queens: We have a crowd that meets at Pikes in September each year for a long weekend. We will normally start with a night at Destino, Pacha’s early evening outdoor venue in Talamanca. This really reminds me of the old days when you could dance under the stars. We would then return to Pikes and join the party at Freddie’s, a small-capacity club in the heart of the hotel that is always like a really good house party. When that finishes, we head to one of our rooms to continue the party through to breakfast and then move to the pool area for cocktails and a debriefing on what happened the night before. Early evening we would head out for a meal at a tapas restaurant before catching the sunset at either Hostal La Torre or Kumharas. We would normally then head back to Pikes and start all over again!

Which famous faces did you meet while partying in Ibiza?

Dirk Queens: We have met all sorts, from British soap stars to A-list Hollywood celebrities, and famous fashion designers and models. At Pikes, it’s a who’s who of famous DJs. Tony Pike, who sadly passed away in 2019, was the true Ibiza legend. I have spent many a time listening to his stories involving lots of famous people and most of them aren’t to be repeated.

How has the island changed over the years?

Dirk Queens: As I mentioned previously, Ibiza is a lot more polished but you can still find that rawness if you need it. I don’t personally think the island has necessarily changed for the better. If you look back at some of the old photos, you see people with genuine joy and happiness on their faces, lost in the moment. Nowadays, you’re more likely to see photos of someone pouting with a bottle of champagne standing in a faux-VIP area.

“To me, the allure is being able to leave normality at home and live that rock ‘n’ roll life for a while” – Dirk Queens

How do you envisage the post-coronavirus future of clubbing? Is it the end of an era?

Dirk Queens: We have seen a whirlwind of change over the last six months and I believe the post-coronavirus future of clubbing will provide positive change by way of necessity. I am hoping that DJ fees will level out. If you are a top DJ, you shouldn’t be getting paid anything more than £2,000 a gig. If you are playing 200+ gigs a year, that is still a serious wage. We really need to focus on supporting our local clubs with all money going to them and to local DJs that have been most affected during these times.

High-profile DJs playing illegal ‘plague raves’ across the UK is also extremely selfish and only pushing things back further for everyone else. I get that young people want to party, but everyone needs to stick together with this one and see it through – a positive end will soon come to all of us.

Do you have any future plans for your archive? 

Dirk Queens: We have a few ideas for a podcast where we will be sharing various Ibiza tales and interviewing some key-players from over the years. We also want to interview workers and punters who have spent many years in Ibiza and have a few tales to tell. We can use pseudonyms if anyone’s now more-cleaner lifestyle wouldn’t fit with some of the things they have got up to previously in Ibiza! 

You can follow @ibiza_past on Instagram and YouTube, and submit your own Ibiza photos or videos to ibizapast@gmail.com if you'd like to be featured