clubs

Ibiza has been a focal point for those of a bohemian and hedonistic predisposition for decades. With a vibrant mixed-gay scene during the 1980s, the Balearic spirit, in terms of nightclubbing and music, was one of internationalism, tolerance and high spirits. British interest in Ibiza exploded with the advent of acid house, and has been growing ever since. This year it would seem that the sublime - a haven for cosmopolitan, laissez- faire clubbing - has indeed become ridiculous, with all but a few English club promoters pitching up for a slice of the action.

Criticisms are manifold: that it will be no different from England, with the same DJs and club nights; that the English will ruin the scene - our greedy promoters exploiting both clubbers and the island for a fast buck, or merely out for PR for their winter seasons in the UK.

However, while the self-appointed cognoscenti are busy turning their noses up, Ibiza is still a thriving party playground, with licensing laws to match. (Warning: drink prices in the nightclubs are astronomical, averaging pounds 5 each - but the measures aren't shy.) I approached the island in search of the fabled Ibizan spirit, ready to run in the opposite direction at the sight of coaches with 18-30 stickers in their window.

I glimpsed the Balearic spirit on arrival, after dumping my luggage, and heading for Space. Sundays here are legendary; the club's interior is usually devoted to techno, while the terrace is the home of Alex P and Brandon Block, who whip up a party, punctuated by incoming planes at the nearby airport. The crowd here epitomises the eccentric mixture that makes Ibiza special: trannies in rubber hosiery and platforms, club babes freshly kitted out at Sign Of The Times, Spanish boys with ponytails and a healthy crop of those still out from the night before.

Activity centres around midweek nights, weekends being turnaround time for the package holidaymakers that are bread and butter to the Ibizan super-clubs. The loudest buzz to reach London this season has been the magnificence of Manumission's Monday nights at Ku, a mammoth venue with swimming pool and terraces, currently regarded as the ruling club in Ibiza.

This is the second Ibizan season for Mike and Andy Manumission, who run events across Europe, taking a carnival atmosphere with them. Bar M (aka the Coco Loco) is their base and the locus of much pre-clubbing pageantry (right). They claim that the secret of their success is their internationalism, involvement with the island, and respect of its spirit. Rather than simply exporting their English night, they have created a party for the people of the island.

Ku is a cavernous edifice of steel and glass, its walls lined with gleaming Mapplethorpe torsos and its dancefloors heaving with 9,000 happy hedonists. Following an ignominious descent down a flight of stairs, and heeding threats of a dunk in the pool, we decamped for Pacha to get Back to basics.

Back to basics's promoter Dave Beer also feels that "everybody's bastardising the island", and has "played it fairly low-key" - doing their party for the fun of it, rather than great profit (Nevertheless they hit the island in style, a veritable blizzard of their Jamie Reid inspired posters appearing overnight, presaging an outstanding party).

Situated in Ibiza Town, Pacha combines bohemia and glamour. The crowd are an appealing if incongruous mixture of Euro glitz - an excess of jewellery, Versace and ponytails - and English clubbers dressed to dance. It has possibly the best sound system on the island - put to exemplary use by Jon Pleased Wimmin and others. The roof terrace, with its opulent cushions, immaculate waitress service and charming view of the backside of the package hotel across the road, instantly became my favourite spot, especially as the sun rose above my vodka tonic. What was that about the spirit of Ibiza?

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