Vent finally opened its doors to the public on Friday 22 November after much anticipation and some misconceptions about what the place does.
Before talking to the people behind it, we heard numerous descriptions that did not do the place much justice. Some described it as an art space that had a bar, others as a club that was “open to art”. Though the place was built with such flexibility in mind, an explanation of what it aims for will go a long way to ensuring it draws the right audiences and does not alienate potential customers.
“It’s an art space with a business model; we do club nights with our resident DJ Ahmed Samy, as well as visual arts and installations,” co-founder Seif Abdel Salam told us. “We have a film program one night of the week and we also have a bar and kitchen.”
Abdel Salam co-founded Vent with Asem Tag, Ahmed El Ghazoly who are both musicians and part of Kairo is Koming (KIK), as well as Arabesque owner Nabil Shaker,
“I had this idea for a theatre space and they were looking for a music space,” said Abdel Salam. This fundamental dimension in the founding of Vent is what helps clear up the misconception that Vent is just another club; live electronic music is a major part of what the venue offers as an art space and the music programme is planned with just as much care as the theatre and film programs (which are yet to come) to showcasing independent music.
“We want to have these different crowds, people who come to see live music may have never been to the theatre. One of the major issues is we don’t think that artists should work for free. As an actor, I have been asked to do what I do for free and so have my partners as musicians. We believe artists should be well compensated for what they do and invest in themselves as artists because this is their source of income,” said Abdel Salam.
“Generally, we want the place to be flexible, so it can host anything. We have changed the place completely to this end; the walls are white for neutrality, and the stage is removable. The only thing we couldn’t strip down was the columns because they support the entire building.”
Abdel Salam studied theatre in London and said the theatre program will aim for smaller but bolder productions.
“We are going for new and exciting productions that are no longer than 30-50 minutes. We have an upcoming performance that is interactive and utilises the whole space.”
Abdel Salam said they are developing other programmes for Vent, with Yazaan El-Zo’bi in charge of visual arts and Menna El Shazly hosting poetry slam nights. He added that the founders are unfased with government bureaucracy and remain determined to offer a space for artists to showcase their talents without restrictions
The concept behind Vent is bold and fresh and could either lead to a new kind of art space in Cairo or prove to be the biggest obstacle to the venue’s success, depending on execution. Either way, Vent definitely has our attention now.