The music is loud but not jarringly so. It sounds almost like a high-end home hi-fi. When I leave hours later, despite having stood right by one of the stacks, my ears don't ring in the slightest. On the decks—as at just about every party—is Mike Greenwell, a friend of Smith's since they were teenagers and a trustee of the charity since day one. He's a journalism lecturer at Nottingham University, and teaches in higher and further education, so he helps MAP with policy and helps decide which qualifications the charity should offer. Tonight he's playing back-to-back with the cult crate digger Kelvin Brown. Smith also hops on and off throughout the night—Slop is too informal for set times, even when a guest plays.
You might wonder: if the party is so popular and ultimately funds a charity, why doesn't it happen every week? "It takes real discipline," Smith says. "People say I should have gone to a bigger venue, should be doing this or that, but this is a long-haul thing. I want to be here for 50 years. Seven years in is still credible. Seven years in, we've not commercialised or commodified it. We haven't dispelled that air of mystery. I think that's important if we're going to have a culture that's worth fighting for and don't just crumble at the slightest whiff of financial gain, even if it's for charity. I could say, 'Why don't we do other events that aren't Slop?' It's not just about milking something dry until it can't function any more. That would be very easy to do. If we had a big guest every time, it'd distort it out of shape and it wouldn't have the essential thing that has kept it going."
As well as the soundsystem, the music policy at Slop is unique: there isn't one. On the Saturday I visit, there is dub, jazz, dancehall, Afrobeat and reggae, psyched-out guitar tracks, political spoken word monologues and many different changes in tempo that would usually clear the dance floor but instead just make the intimate room even more atmospheric. People dance all night long, no matter what's playing. The biggest reaction of the night arrives around 2:30 AM, as Greenwell drops Freddie Hubbard's jazz number "Red Clay." Cuts from Wiley, John Martyn and Shackleton's "Death Is Not Final" all follow.
Days later, Greenwell recounts the night. "Everyone reacted really well to whatever we played, and we're lucky in that respect. We've nurtured that music policy since day dot. It's always been eclectic in the true sense, and we play as many artists and genres and musicians as we can that we feel are saying something political or relevant for today."
During the preceding week, Smith and a new recruit, Raf Bogan, who was taken on to deal with spreading the MAP message and raise awareness of their fund raising plights, show me around the rest of the building. It's on two floors, with a vast, dingy, low-ceilinged basement. Down amongst the damp is an independent screen printing workshop. The staff are outside in the rain smoking rollies and a dog is curled up on a sofa under a blanket. There is also a dimly lit wood workshop, and the guy who runs it makes desks for the classrooms upstairs; the students used the place to make speaker cases, which they sold to Floating Points (the money, of course, went to MAP). This exchange of skills between artists, craftsmen and students is at the heart of the plans for the future, should they succeed in buying the building.
"Not many charities engage in the type of activities that we do," says Smith. "And there is a lot of advantage to the fact we deal in music, and that is seen as cool. We stand a chance of doing this, but I also want to prove it is a model for others to do the same thing; to prove artists can really achieve things if they organise their voices."
Elsewhere, there is a space with a vinyl lathe and an electronics workshop where the soundsystem gets repaired, amongst other things. There are also many derelict rooms with wood-beam ceilings, ripe for conversion into more educational facilities. When we enter one, pigeons scatter from the rafters. One wall is encrusted with years of bird shit, obscuring some Chinese characters from when the space was used as a dojo.