It was with huge pride that Birmingham Civic Society honoured Tony de Vit, legendary DJ and music producer, based in Birmingham and who’s distinctive sound was at the forefront of the 80’s and 90’s club scene. The Godfather of ‘Hard House’ and ‘Hard NRG’, Tony, a true superstar DJ, had a Blue Plaque unveiled at the Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham. This is where Tony’s V2 recording studio was based and was also home to TdV Records. Unveiled on the same weekend of Birmingham Pride, celebrating the LGBTQ+ community was a wonderfully poignant time to celebrate Tony’s achievements.

More than 100 people travelled from all over the country to come and remember their idol. Tony’s family, his partner and his close friends were also there to watch the Lord Mayor of Birmingham unveil one of Birmingham Civic Societys first contemporary Blue Plaques.

Tony’s story is a wonderful example of passion, talent, determination, creativity and hard work. Born in Kidderminster, Tony quickly showed himself to be a superior DJ-ing talent at Birmingham’s legendary gay nightclub, ‘The Nightingale’ in the 80’s. His success saw him headlining at ‘Heaven’, London’s iconic nightclub. Tony went on to experience worldwide success and was very much the DJ’s DJ.

“He was really influential, probably on a par with Carl Cox,” said Jez Collins from the Birmingham Music Archive. ‘’During his career, de Vit was nominated for many awards including DJ of the year three years running and it’s wonderful to see his influence and talent recognised in this way.’’

Standing in the courtyard of the Custard Factory, on a beautiful autumnal day, with the sun shining in. A wonderful platform for a poignant and historical moment for Tony, his family and for British House Music.

As more and more people crowded into the courtyard, the excitement and joy amongst fans was substantial. People came ready to party. Talking to his family we know Tony would have loved this. All the chatter, smiles, laughter, warmth and a strong sense of how inspiring it would have been to know Tony de Vit, to experience one of his DJ-ing sets live and be part of his journey into super stardom.

The glitter, sequins, rainbows, club wear and cacophony of colour that filled the courtyard are testament to the energy, vibrancy and joy that Tony’s music gave his fans.

Fans came with flowers, they wore his t-shirts,  were full of fantastic memories of Tony as well as enjoying glasses of celebratory bubbles to toast his amazing talent and empowering legacy.

Andy Buckley, Tony’s partner said: “Tony’s story is massive. Tony hasn’t just been an inspiration to me and other people, but to our generation on the scene of house music and club culture. Tony is the first DJ to be recognised with a Blue Plaque. There have been many historians, poets and artists that have been honoured, but this speaks to our generation now.  It’s a legacy we’ll celebrate all the time and we will continue to celebrate Tony’s legacy every day.”

 

 

Mark Hanley, a huge fan said: “I have the biggest collection of Tony’s mix tapes in the world, around 250. I’m a massive fan and I came up from London to share this special moment. There is a kinship within the Tony de Vit fan base. The vibe is beautiful and buzzing, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from Tony’s fans will always welcome you into the fold.”

 

 

Michael Trim had travelled on a 7am flight that morning from Belfast to honour Tony. “I’ve been a huge fan of Tony since 1996. I love his music and I had to be here today to celebrate this great moment.”

 

Sadly, Tony passed away 24-years ago, but his fan base is still huge and continues to grow, from eight-year-olds to eighty-year-olds, that was and still is the appeal of his music. His fans, lucky enough to celebrate his DJ creativity on the dance floor all those years ago, still share the dance floor with his musical legacy and with new generations of fans who were not even born when Tony was DJ-ing all over the world.

It’s not often that people use the words, legend, pioneer, mentor, genius and legacy as well as kind, caring, generous, loving and inspirational all in the same sentence.

But at this Blue Plaque unveiling these words were repeated again and again and again…

With every new conversation about Tony came a wealth of warmth, joy and happiness remembering their mentor, their inspiration and their friend.

Christopher Adams, a Trustee of Birmingham Civic Society and Chair of the Society’s Heritage Committee said: “We are delighted to hold this Blue Plaque unveiling for Tony de Vit. We seek to remember and celebrate people like Tony who have excelled in their career or made a significant contribution to the city. We seek to connect the past with the present and ensure future generations have a reminder of those who went before them.”

Jayne Parks, Tony’s sister said: “Tony was an unassuming, kind and generous man, he’d be slightly embarrassed by all this attention, but secretly very honoured by this. Myself and the whole family are bursting with pride. He was only 40 when he died, but he did more in that time than many of us do in a lifetime and would want to be remembered for his music, it was the biggest love of his life. He is credited with crossing over from being a DJ in gay clubs to playing in all the major clubs, here and all over the world. Therefore, opening the doors to many other gay DJ’s. He was a pioneer, but always remained humble and would always help others in their DJ-ing careers.”

 

 

So, we celebrate one of Birmingham’s finest artists, whose legacy lives on and whose influence can still be heard today as a new generation of artists embrace his talent and influence. When everybody eventually left the Custard Factory, it was to party the day and the night away in a DJ set dedicated to Tony – make no mistake this was a historical moment for British house music, for club culture, for Birmingham’s musical heritage, for Tony’s family, friends, his massive fan base and for Birmingham Civic Society as we embrace a civic pride in a new generation of pioneers – Thank you Tony de Vit!