Although its most famous form can be found on the Balearic Island of Ibiza, the story of Pacha nightclub actually began in 1967, in the Spanish town of Sitges. When Ricardo Urgell told his wife, Marisa Cobos, that he intended on founding a nightlife venue, she joked that the riches earnt would allow them to live like “pachas” – meaning lords in Turkish – and the famous club was born. After the runaway success of that first location, Urgell opened a second in 1973 on Ibiza’s white shores, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, the iconic nightclub is ringing in its 50th year, and to celebrate the milestone has invited us to take a look through their expansive photographic archive. On first glance, what’s striking about the images is the radical transformation that the nightclub has undergone since it opened its doors in the early 70s. The club was originally designed to look like an Ibizian farmhouse, with a restrained white exterior, sitting on a patch of land with not much else on it. It was an idyllic escape, located on a fantasy island where revellers who came would submit to a night of unabashed hedonism.
Today, however, the outside of the club looks markedly different. Its outside is adorned with glowing neon signs and a huge plasma screen advertising that night’s DJ. The venue itself sits nestled within a bustling town, full of hotels, restaurants and casinos. Despite this superficial change, the nightclub is still committed to those 1970s, bohemian ideals. When we spoke to Jessica Capaz McCarthy, Pacha’s current artistic director, she maintains that, despite tasked with the job of modernising the brand when her tenure began in 2011, the nightclub’s core values have always remained “creativity, glamour, and the bohemian essence of Ibiza – based on community, music, and inclusivity”.
The huge range of images within the archive is a testament to the strong values that Capaz McCarthy speaks of. Images of sepia-toned, 70s hippies sit alongside those of 1980s new romantics, with their aerosol bouffants and chalky skin. Paris Hilton lets loose on the dancefloor in a shot from the 2000s, while Mark Ronson and Jade Jagger also strike a pose for the camera. Rewind back to the 80s, and Grace Jones is enjoying the company of a male friend; fast forward to the 2010s and Kylie Minogue lights up the stage while performing to a crowd of thousands. Elsewhere, Pacha’s famed costume parties bring together a host of drag queens, dominatrixes and feline fatales, all coming together in a place where pleasure and liberation combine. These images may have been taken over five different decades, but they all capture what it means to be young and free under one, glittering disco ball.