In a spin: why this DJ believes music can bring people together and also inspire them

As part of its 18th anniversary celebrations, the Local & Live festival, which takes place over the August bank holiday weekend at Calverley Grounds and various satellite sites, is featuring its first DJ set, courtesy of Marcel Mendez. Eileen Leahy spoke to the local DJ, who works on a global stage…


So Marcel, when did you get started in music and why?

My love of music came from growing up in Uruguay surrounded by local rhythms and my parents either performing or playing music in the house. I have always been fascinated by percussive sounds, and in Uruguay, we are heavily influenced by Latin and African music, which, in turn, has played a significant role in shaping the way I love the perform.


When did you move from Uruguay to Tunbridge Wells?

I came to the UK when I was quite young with my brother and sister. My father came to work for the airline, Varig, managing logistics for Lotus Formula 1 and my mother worked at Amnesty International and was also as Head of Languages at Beechwood Sacred Heart School in Tunbridge Wells. My parents also owned a shop in The Pantiles called Macchu Pichu which sold Latin American artefacts so there has been a connection with Tunbridge Wells over many years. Recently I bumped into Carlos who owns the Grey Lady in The Pantiles who said that he remembered their shop and especially the music that was played in it. He said it always made him smile and reminded him of Chile!


Have you always been a dance-orientated DJ or do you dip into other musical genres?

When I was younger I played in a number of semi-pro covers bands which gave me an appreciation of performing with live musicians. I was really lucky to work with a number of talented musical directors and artists from Sylvia Young theatre school and the Brit School of Performing Arts quite early on. One of the most exciting gigs I first had was performing at the Perugia festival in Italy. When I was eighteen I held my first DJ residency and back then it was very much about soul and the emergence of house music. Coming to live in the UK exposed me to so many different genres from reggae, soul, disco, house, indie, ska and rock, which made me become obsessed with collecting music and trying to learn to mix different genres, styles of music known as open format DJ’ing.


Where do you tend to DJ most? Is it in Ibiza, London or Tunbridge Wells?

It’s a mix, really. I enjoy playing abroad and also locally. I have DJ’d at everything from private parties, to performing at corporate events for the likes of Sir Richard Branson. I’ve also played at the Sweaty Betty fashion show and at the legendary Cafe del Mar in Ibiza. My last overseas gig was in July at Space Eat & Dance, also in Ibiza. I’d describe it as a fusion of sunset, soul-stirring music, and amazing food, all set against the backdrop of San Antonio’s iconic sunset strip. I love being a part of special occasions. Whether it’s a club night, a festival, a wedding, or a private party, being a DJ allows me to be a part of people’s most memorable moments. Providing the soundtrack for these events and seeing everyone having a great time is truly fulfilling.


What do you enjoy most about your job?

One of the best things about my job is connecting with people. Music is a universal language, and as a DJ, I get to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. It’s amazing to witness how music brings everyone together and can create a sense of unity and joy. I love discovering fresh tracks and artists, keeping up with trends, and surprising my audience with different sounds. As a DJ, I love the ability to control the energy of the crowd and create moments on the dancefloor. Seeing people react and connect to the music I play is incredibly rewarding. Being a DJ allows me to express my creativity and musical taste. With today’s digital DJ’ing I can curate unique sets and experiment with different genres, remixes, and mashups to create a distinctive sound.


You’re next playing at Local & Live and will be the festival’s first DJ set. How did you get involved? 

I have been collaborating with a number of local musicians for a few years now and have played at a number of festivals including working with headline acts such as Toploader at Pub in the Park. So I think I was on Local & Live organiser Paul Dunton and the trustees’ radar as a possible candidate. Paul then got in touch to say that they would like to get me on board as the DJ for Local & Live in order to bring something new to the event.


When are you playing and what do you think your set will add to the three-day festival?

I will be performing on the festival’s main stage, Calverley Gardens on Saturday August 26, and Sunday August 27. While I’ve been asked to bring my Summer of Love set that debuted in Ibiza in July, I am keen on injecting some eclectic surprises and my own exclusive summer edits into the mix for the Local & Live festival. This means spending time in the studio, rehearsing and testing out new ideas to ensure that my set is fresh and tailor-made for the event. I will also focus on the audience’s reactions. So instead of sticking to a predetermined playlist, I continuously gauge the crowd’s response and adapt my music selection accordingly. I am continually striving to deliver exactly what the audience wants but I am conveying it in my own style. If I can make people smile, I know that I have done a good job!


How will you prepare for your Local & Live sets and do you let the audience guide the playlist?

I thoroughly research all the acts that will be performing on the main stage at the festival. I make sure to spend time at the event itself, observing the crowd and understanding their musical preferences. As the one responsible for setting the tone on both days and building excitement for the live acts, I take the time to delve deeper into the acts’ styles, genres, and popular tracks. My ultimate goal is to create a set that not only complements the performers’ styles but also establishes a distinct separate vibe that gradually builds in energy, ensuring a seamless flow throughout the event.


What do you think you will enjoy most about Local & Live?

The festival is an incredible platform for artists to share their passion and connect with music enthusiasts from all walks of life. I am truly honoured to be a part of this event and bring my Summer of Love set to the main stage. I am looking forward to working with the amazing team and talented musicians involved with this event.


And finally, you were interviewed on BBC Radio Kent earlier this year where you spoke about how dance music and mental health are connected. Can you tell me more about this?

 Yes, it’s something that I’m passionate about and I want to support in order to help others, as dance music can help people in so many different ways. Earlier this year DJ Cookie, AKA Jaime Cooke founder of SPN, and I transformed Salomons Estate into an immersive Ibiza-Tulum styled club to help raise funds and awareness for Tunbridge Wells Mental Health Resource. It is a local charity that provides safe spaces and person-centred mental health support in West Kent. Any donations would be really appreciated! And you can make them through their website:


Follow Marcel Mendez here:

Instagram: @marcelmendezmusic



To find out more about Local & Live visit:

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