Ballantine's goes on Marrakech adventure with Beat Hotel

The Beat Hotel has been a fixture at Glastonbury since 2011. This year, it took its concept that bit further, teaming up with Scotch whisky Ballantine's to stage a four-day event in Marrakech, Morocco.

Glastonbury may be over for another year, but for the Beat Hotel – which started life as a small cocktail bar at the Worthy Farm festival in 2011 and which has since grown into one of its most popular venues – the next phase is just beginning.

The concept – staged by Kingdom Collective and created by the agency’s founder and director, Nick Griffiths, alongside Dan Baxter, managing director of Gorilla Events, and Giles Looker, owner of cocktail bar and consultancy Soulshakers – was inspired by and takes its name from the Beat Hotel in Paris. The rundown property was located in the French capital's atmospheric Latin quarter in the 1950s and early 1960s, and served as a regular haunt for writers and artists from the Beat Generation, including Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and William S Burroughs.

The Beat Hotel first appeared at Glastonbury in 2011, located just a few minutes from the iconic Pyramid stage, entertaining the masses with sets from leading DJs, eclectic drinks and food from guest chefs.

However, its most ambitious iteration yet took place earlier this year with a festival in Morocco, inspired again by the Beat Generation, with Burroughs et al having previously gathered in the Moroccan port town of Tangier.

Taking place in Marrakech during 28-31 March at the Fellah Hotel, a 27-acre boutique resort, the Beat Hotel Marrakech brought together live music, DJs, one-off culinary collaborations and a series of talks over four days. Guests enjoyed sunset live shows, daytime poolside sessions and late-night house parties.

The Beat Hotel also hosted a number of cultural partners, including club promoters Bugged Out! and Low Life, record labels Casa Voyager and Moshi Moshi Music, and media/publishing platforms Munchies, Crack and Faber & Faber. All curated parts of the programme. In addition, it partnered Pernod Ricard Scotch whisky brand Ballantine’s to stage an activation to accompany the festival. 

Griffiths, who also oversees partnerships and programming for the Beat Hotel, says the tie-up with Ballantine’s resulted from a "shared interest in showcasing and celebrating local scenes". Ballantine’s launched a global music platform called True Music in 2016 and had already produced several music events in other African markets, including South Africa, Kenya and Cameroon, through its partnership with global music broadcasting platform Boiler Room.

"Ballantine’s added huge amounts of value to our marketing campaign, too, giving the Beat Hotel visibility through global channels and via local on-trade promotions," Griffiths says. "Drinks have always been a central part of the Beat Hotel offer, so to collaborate with such a great global brand already doing interesting work in music made perfect sense."

Music for the masses

For Tom Elton, head of music at Ballantine’s, the partnership also seems an ideal fit, with the whisky brand sharing a similar commitment to championing emerging artists. The event with the Beat Hotel enabled Ballantine’s to showcase its True Music Africa platform, featuring music from electric afro house ti Nairobi nu wave.

"Music is incredible in that it can transcend societal silos and geographic borders," Elton explains. "It has the power to bring people together in times of celebration and also hardship; it is a universal passion point that brings diverse experiences to people and encourages them to be their true selves – and there’s no denying that great music and great drinks go hand in hand.

"As a brand passionate about authenticity and staying true to what we believe in, this resonates with us, and is why music, specifically True Music, is something we believe is very much worth taking a stand for."

The performances, which featured a mix of local and international acts, were live-streamed on Worldwide FM and broadcast to an audience of more than eight million fans around the world from countries as diverse as Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania, the US and the UK. About 2.5 million people tuned in live.

Such has been the success of the inaugural Moroccan event that Griffiths has already set his sights on a similar event one in 2020 – and is looking at other destinations beyond Morocco.

"With the different areas of the event – food, drink, literature, film and well-being – there are lots of possibilities and we’re open to working with brands who share our vision and values," he says. "Our dream would be for the Beat Hotel to travel to different destinations over the next few years, combining a mix of international and local programming to become a cultural travel brand."

Such an undertaking will inevitably take up much of Griffiths’ time, so it’s little surprise that 2019 also marked the Beat Hotel's final appearance in its current form at Glastonbury. Rumour has it, though, that all those who worked on the projecet will be returning to the festival with a new concept, albeit one that continues the crowd-pleasing formula of food, drink and music.

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