- This Tribute Obituary to Giles Sawney is written by his close friend Colin Butts.
- Direct Contributions from Andy McKay, Ferry Corsten, Judge Jules and Sarah Pooler.
- Images as referenced plus Marilu Marlene.
- Compiled by Nick Gibbs [email protected]
By the time we reach 40, most of us have long since made our lifelong friends.
We meet them at school or uni, growing up on the same manor, working together at the start of careers, playing in sports teams… and a fair few have been made on this magical island.
It is very rare for anyone to have more than a handful of such friends. Most of us do well to have 2 or 3.
So to meet someone who you know is going to be a lifelong amigo at an age when you’re probably trying to cull friends rather than acquire more, requires a special kind of individual.
Giles Sawney, who passed away in the early hours of July 19th 2017 aged just 52, was a very special individual.
I doubt many people could claim to have managed Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto and Ferry Corsten at the same time. Or to have been jointly responsible for what will probably always remain San Antonio’s biggest night, Judgement Sundays.
Yet it wasn’t so much his achievements that made him special, more his unique and often contradictory personality and take on life. And if ever there is the true measure of a man, it is not just how he has lived his life, but when everything else is stripped away, how he faces death.
I was privileged enough to be with Giles in his final days. He had many qualities of which I was aware but the one I never realised he had in spades was bravery. Perhaps there was a glimpse of it when he was the only one who stuck his head above the parapet in the farce that was Gatecrasher taking over Eden a few years ago, where he was brought in to run things but foolishly on the part of Gatecrasher, had his advice and expertise roundly ignored before being (like many) royally shafted. He was not intimidated by bully-boy tactics and was very vocal in his condemnation.
That bravery manifested itself even more in the last few weeks of his life. Once he realised nothing could be done, not only did he approach things in his usual phlegmatic and pragmatic way, but he had a stoicism and selflessness that I thought had disappeared with the generation who went through the second World War. In a society where we have a tendency to share and bleat about everything, he didn’t even share the full extent of his suffering with those closest to him, simply to spare them that pain. Nor did he feel the need to tell everyone about his illness, deciding to only let those know who were in touch with him at the time.
A classic example of this was a very attractive girl who fell for Giles’ considerable charm over a decade ago. “He was the one who got away, I would have married him,” she told me, after introducing herself on hearing of his passing. “I hadn’t seen him for years and was going to come over to Ibiza this summer so I rang him in May to tell him. He never even mentioned that he was ill.”
This typifies the way he accepted his impending demise with an, ‘it is what it is’ shrug and attitude. There was no fuss, no virtual signalling, no search for meaning or introspection, despite being an incredibly deep thinker.
He was in Pilgrim’s Hospice in Margate for the last couple of weeks of his life and once he knew he wasn’t coming out his only wish was to slip away peacefully and without being in too much pain. Thankfully, that wish was granted.
Bon Viveur, The ‘Judgement Years’
Giles was a bon viveur who lived life to the full. For several years he resided behind Amnesia in what was referred to as the ‘Judgement Villa’ and its walls could tell tales that would have given the old Manumission Motel a run for its money.
Famous DJs, the sexiest of girls and music industry bigwigs stayed or partied there and Giles’s easy going manner, lust for life and generous nature meant everyone felt at ease and had nights they still talk about now and will no doubt continue to do so for decades to come.
It was a base where the great and the good gathered to start a night and more often than not, to carry on the after-party, watching the most incredible sunrises from the amazing vantage point around the pool.
Giles spoke fondly of those days, including being the most regular customer at the nearby swish and expensive Las Dos Lunas, where the staff referred to him as “Mr. Giles” and observed borderline sycophantic discretion when Giles turned up with varying glamorous consorts during the season.
This was the halcyon Judgement Sunday days of the early noughties, where he brought in the aforementioned now superstar DJs as well as tapping into the then uber cool worker culture with DJs such as The Stanton Warriors and Plump DJs.
He was a generous and gracious host at the club, exemplified by the numerous tributes on social media, from people stating how fantastically he looked after them and several saying he gave them a night they still remember now (do you sense a theme developing?).
Giles put this youtube video on his facebook page in 2013, with the simple comment ‘memories’
And here a Judgement Sunday mix from 2003, during the reign of Jules and Giles as the biggest night in Ibiza’s clubland.
Kasbah & Apolo
After Judgement, he took sole ownership of Kasbah in Cala des Moro. Despite having no experience of running a restaurant he became an accomplished restauranteur and had fate been kinder to him then I feel that one day in the not so distant future it is something he would have eventually returned to.
Giles had an inner belief and confidence that made him able to take on challenges, which others would have been riddled with self-doubt over accepting. He had no experience of running a hotel yet the last position he took on was setting up the Apolo workers’ hotel, which he ran for two years.
He had a sharply analytical brain but more than that, he was incredibly well-organised. A lot of the older business owners in Ibiza have got by with a seat-of-the-pants, finger-in-the-air approach but it was only in recent years I appreciated Giles’ forensic book keeping and that his business knowledge was both structured and formulated, the result of many years study and experience.
Shaker & Mover
During his last days he voiced that one of his frustrations was how he made whatever he did look easy and as such, partners bosses or subordinates undervalued or underestimated just how important his input was to a business. It was a recurring theme for him. It was simply that he was smart enough to find the most efficient way of doing things and never felt the need to broadcast his method. As long as things worked, he felt that was all the vindication he needed. One of Giles’ more annoying traits was the conviction that he was always right, made more annoying by the fact he usually was.
For someone who wasn’t really active on social media, an incredible 1000+ people reacted or commented to news of his death. As well as those thanking him for his hospitality an equal amount were thanking him for helping them with their careers. From some who now occupy senior positions in Ibiza and the world’s leading venues, who Giles saw something in and gave a break to when they were youngsters, to Dave Lewis, manager of Armin van Buuren, who one night, sitting at Kasbah, announced to the table, “I owe this man my career…”
So many people have had similar things to say. I have included some of those who wished to contribute a personal tribute to the memory of Giles Sawney.
Founder and owner of Manumission and Ibiza Rocks
“Giles was one of the great Single White Males of San Antonio.
He was a reassuring constant over the decades who I greatly enjoyed swapping opinions and humour with.
His presence so often made me feel a little bit more at home and a little bit more comfortable in any social setting.
Now there is a hole in almost every gathering that sadly cannot be filled, and every time I fall in it I shall remember Giles with great fondness.”
“Giles was my first booking agent when I first entered the dance scene.
He took me under his wing and introduced me to the scene as a DJ. I will always thank him for that.
Before this, I was only a music producer. Over the years, his roles with regards to me as an artist evolved from agent to promoter but one thing always remained constant which is that of a friend.
Giles was a good man with a kind heart. I’m sure all those who knew him will say so too. I have so many memories with him but the ones I remember most fondly are those late nights at Judgement Sundays, BBQ’s at his villa in San Rafael, and in the later years at his restaurant Kasbah.
Rest In Peace Giles. You will be missed.”
“I worked with Giles for 6 years as my business partner, setting up the hugely successful Judgement Sundays clubbing brand in San An, as well as a short spell together running the restaurant Kasbah in Cala Es Moro.
Giles’s dark wit, energy, vision and ‘get things done’ mentality ensured that we made a substantial mark on San Antonio and Ibiza in general.
Giles also managed some of the world’s best-known DJs, cultivating their careers from unknowns to household names. One cannot overstate Giles’s importance to both their and my careers.
Without Giles I would not have established even a fraction of my foothold in Ibiza. Giles, I thank you so much for that. May you rest in peace, confident that you left your mark on the White Isle, and of course on my life.”
“Giles looked after me and was so selflessly kind to me throughout our friendship.
Some of his antics whilst running the Apolo were hysterical. Last summer, some of the boys were constantly breaking the pool table by stuffing tissue in the pockets to avoid having to pay for the next game. Giles hid the pool cues and they were only allowed to get them back if they correctly guessed his age… he was so happy when one of them said 42 that he gave them back anyway.”
We spent many days and nights moored up at Espalmador or Formentera and Giles was a classy and witty conversationalist; qualities he also knew he had .
What he didn’t know is how brave he was and only found out shortly before his time arrived, as did I when I went to see him for a couple of days the week before he passed.
Giles has left a huge hole in the lives of many. It is a hole that quite a few people will only slowly become aware of as Giles was the kind of person friends and acquaintances might not see for a couple of years but then pick up with as though they’d never been away, such was his conviviality and easy going nature.
He was one of those rare people who you could sit and talk with for hours about a breadth of subjects and issues, rarely straying into the banal or “he said, she said” territory. He could hold his own intellectually with the best and he was never intimidated by wealth or status, so counted many who fall into that category as friends.
It seems weird to think I can’t just pick up the phone and for him to answer with a sing-song like “Buttssssyyyy…” or pop around with my dog Chani, who he used to moan about all the time but secretly loved and used to affectionately call ‘Dopey’. In that final fortnight in the hospice, a strange thing always happened. Chani/Dopey would perk up when she knew where we were, would excitedly greet him, have a sniff (still talking about Chani, not Giles) and then settle at the foot of his bed as peacefully as I have ever seem her settle anywhere. Dogs pick up on energy and even close to death, Giles’ energy was as balanced as anyone’s could be.
I started this obituary by saying I knew that Giles and I would be lifelong friends. I actually envisaged us in our 70s, like Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets, moaning about everything and criticising everyone.
Alas that wasn’t to be but at least it was a friendship that from our first meeting can now accurately be described as lifelong, as it stretched the remainder of his life.
Which if you knew him, is actually typical Giles… He’d go to pretty much any extreme to be proven right.
RIP Giles Sawney. You were hugely loved, immensely gifted and will be missed by so, so many.
03.05.65 to 19.07.17
Rest In Peace