10 new UK clubs opening in 2021
As venues begin to reopen in England, there are also a plethora of electronic music event spaces launching. Martin Guttridge-Hewitt spotlights 10 new UK clubs opening this year
The last 16 months couldn’t have been worse for music venues. As Covid-19 arrived on British shores last March, scenes and businesses descended into turmoil, shuttering spaces indefinitely. In 2021, while delays to the reopening of UK society in the wake of emerging variants have left established clubs on the brink of collapse, the ongoing vaccination programme has created new hope, and many music venues are finally reopening their doors.
Among the debris of a club scene in crisis, there is a plethora of new venues, ready to welcome dancers for the first time. In the process of mapping these new destinations, one thing becomes clear — there’s a space here for all tastes. Whether it’s Northern Irish collectives creating DIY artist hangouts in tiny lofts, purpose-built ballrooms made for A-list headliners, high-tech, multimedia destinations programming cutting-edge experimental work, or outdoor courtyards developed as a direct response to the pandemic, there are venues capturing every corner of the clubbing experience, from the intimate to the overwhelming.
Their differences aside, to some extent, every team involved shares similar traits and attitudes. Each owner, manager, promoter and artist reflects a passion for British club culture, and a unified determination to rebuild its infrastructure in order to bring back what we have all missed for so long.
Here you’ll find a roundup of 10 of these new clubs. We hope to see you at one of these very soon.
Capacity: 1,200 (indoor); 5,000 (outdoor)
Key dates: 28/8 — Drumcode with Adam Beyer, Joseph Capriati, Rebuke, Yasmin.
A hotspot for hedonism in Northern Ireland, Derry suffered big blows to its nightlife before the pandemic, losing two cherished venues in Sugar and The Bunker. The Boneyard hopes to make amends, with the Jika Jika! team throwing their extensive experience promoting festivals and raves behind hosting large-scale events at this huge complex: a warehouse and massive outdoor courtyard, ideally suited to mammoth, one-off showcases.
“Everything is still under construction, but we’re hopefully going to be unveiling it in a couple of weeks,” says Jika Jika!’s James Crossan. “Between now and the end of the year, we’ve got our August Bank Holiday outdoor festival and our Halloween festival, which will also be outdoor-indoor. Then, leading up to Christmas, we’ll be doing four or five other shows over that period. It’s more of a project for these individual dates rather than a weekly club,” he says, “and then the full site take-overs for key holiday weekends.
“We’ve never really had a regular venue, everything we’ve done over the years always involved finding new spaces. The Bunker, for instance: that was just a car park that we took over,” he continues. “Now, this is that amazing space we’ve been after for so long. After the year we’ve had, it’s nice to start fresh with something new for everyone.”
Key dates: September - Opening party (date and line-up TBC)
While UNESCO deliberates on Liverpool’s World Heritage status, the waterfront is gaining a new historic asset. One of the city’s famous ferries, MV Daffodil, has been transformed into a cultural hub for arts, dining, drinks and club events. It also has one of Merseyside’s most prolific promoters on board, in MODU:LAR’s Josh Boyd.
“The vessel can be used in different ways on different levels,” says Boyd. “You come from the quayside down a gangway onto the promenade, then walk into a cocktail bar space, which through the week will be a meeting place where you can get a bite to eat in or takeaway. The main deck, in the middle, has a full restaurant. The event space is in the engine room, with a really high ceiling. It’s essentially a blank canvas where we can do lots of things.
“We dry docked the boat for the work, which meant towing it to a slipway,” he continues, citing a budget of £1.5million for the project. While the belly of any ship is a unique venue, Daffodil offers something truly spectacular. “Part of the club is below water level, so you can step up and look through portholes on the starboard side and get the sunset, with light refracting into the space.”
Key dates: 6/8 - My Panda Shall Fly; 13/8 Sunwax Records launch party; 18/8 - Margate Modular; 28/8 - Mr. Beatnick
Faith In Strangers, a small venue with big ambitions, was co-founded by Jeremy Duffy, who moved from London looking for a new business venture. He quickly found inspiration. “I discovered this site called Frank’s, which was an old nightclub from the 1950s,” Duffy says. “Before that, there was this ridiculously regal, central London-style hotel there, which burned down in the late 1940s. It’s right on the seafront, and everything had been bricked up and dilapidated for years. We were unsure about bothering to look inside, but thank God we did, as it’s an amazing place.”
The setting is remarkable; the sea views from its dancefloor are made for sunset partying. But, as Duffy explains, the venue is also a technological marvel. Funktion One and Full Fat Audio sound, lights and installations react to crowd activity, and there are plans for RFID membership cards.
“We wanted to build a venue that didn’t need to have a big act, a venue that people trusted,” says Duffy. He describes the venue’s programming, which runs from house and disco to drone: “I know what I don’t want... essentially, it will be experimental. A lot of it will be electronic, and live stuff will be some electronic, but also jazz, psych rock. For me, it’s really about creating another world to step into.”
Key Dates: 24/7 - SNO; 31/7 - Young Marco; 7/8 - Peach; 14/8 - Dr Banana & Jossy Mitsu; 21/8 - Bradley Zero; 29/8 - Yasmin Lacey’s House Party
Nottingham’s beloved Wigflex parties turn 15 this year, so what better way to mark the occasion than by opening a venue and commissioning a hand-built, quadraphonic soundsystem? “I think a lot of the venues in the city are aimed at students,” Lukas Wigflex explains, about how Fisher Gate Point hopes to stand out. “It’s going to be a space to dance, aimed at people who want a good soundsystem, decent drinks and DJs playing extended sets. The concept is people playing all day, or for like six hours.”
The site includes a new production studio thanks to sponsorship from the charity Youth Music, and music industry-focused courses are also being taught in the building. Meanwhile, a mezzanine, which is currently under construction, will house small businesses, positioning Fisher Gate Point as a DIY opening with broad potential.
“In the foyer there will be installations, lighting rigs, weird bits we always do for our parties and festival. We’ve got two massive floors and a giant underground car park, which will factor into Phase Two of our plans. The events space right now can hold around 150 people, and will soon increase to 200. The venue as a whole could probably hold close to 1,000, but I don’t really want to smash it out like that.”
Key Dates: 6/8 - Opening Party (line-up TBC); 10/9 - &Friends w/ Lenzman, Fox, SATL, Blindside; 11/9 - Foliee; 24/9 - &Friends w/ Barely Legal, Anastasia Kristensen; 25/9 Honey Dijon, Palms Trax, HAAi, Disco Pussy
Forum is a forthcoming venue from two partners who know Birmingham nightlife inside out — the Chauhan brothers. Formerly behind the legendary Q Club, the pair drafted Percolate Live and Dreamland alumni Thomas Ranger as Head Of Events for their new project, who explains how this purpose-built club aims to set event production standards in the Midlands.
“D&B have made us a custom VA SL series, and there are SL subs going in as well,” he says. The cavernous main room and smaller 350-capacity second room plan to offer incredible visual experiences for attendees. “It’s the highest spec in Birmingham and the West Midlands, that’s for sure,” Tom continues. “The clarity you get on those systems, the engineering there — it’s just ridiculous.”
Thanks to its past lives as Top Rank Ballroom, Hummingbird and Carling Academy, Forum has excellent facilities, including merchandise areas, several toilet blocks and numerous bars. The sprung dancefloor, which dates to 1964, has also been refurbished, which Billy Chauhan says shows the care and attention in the building’s resurrection.
“That’s what we do as a family, we go into these places and rescue them from development. We’re born and bred Brummies, music is what we know and what we’re about, and we want to save the heritage of Birmingham.”
Key dates: 23/7 - opening party; 30/7 - Arapu; 31/7 - Animal Crossing x Infuse After Hours; 7/8 - Janeret; 21/8, 22/8 - Summer Of Love Festival After Party; 29/8 - Subb-an & Makcim; 30/8 - Oden & Fatzo live
“It’s a little 200-capacity haven, all white walls, colourful ceiling beams,” says Olli Ryder of Animal Crossing, promoters behind The Loft, a fresh venue on the edge of central Manchester, powered by Funktion One Evo 6. “When we started our parties, we looked at what was available in Manchester and there wasn’t really that community-driven space for combined arts and culture, so we put our heads together.
“We actually took The Loft on in February 2019, then things obviously got postponed due to Covid-19. So we just used the time to perfect the aesthetic. Now we’ve taken the downstairs unit as well,” Ryder continues. In-house programming will include Sunday afternoon parties, which will take advantage of the venue’s ceiling windows, while ground floor offices will house two labels for residents and locals.
“We also want to host exhibitions and a photography studio,” he continues, “to try and launch a creative hub. That community element is something we’re gonna pay a lot of attention to. At the end of the day, everyone’s experience of clubs is different, but I think we want to keep surprising people. We want them to walk in and feel timeless — that, suddenly, 12 hours have gone.”
Key dates: 27/8 - Opening party w/ Pete Tong, Horse Meat Disco, Charlie Hedges, Mighty Mouse, Frankie Foncett, Natasha Kitty Katt
Situated next to The Gate, ‘Newcastle’s premier leisure destination’, when crowds finally see The Lofts at the end of this month, they should expect anything but glitzy chrome and glass balustrades inside the three-room venue.
“It’s more scaffolding and mesh, a real industrial feeling, but still quite high-end,” says resident DJ and co-founder, John Dance, before getting into the specifics of the club, which he’s set up alongside partners Marty Smith and Rob Seaman — the latter a former director of Ibiza’s Cafe Mambo and Mallorca Rocks. “The DJ booth will have a full LED wall in front, and then there’s a rear LED wall curving into the ceiling and projecting onto the dancefloor.
“The whole venue has a new K3 L-Acoustic soundsystem,” Dance continues, revealing that two smaller rooms come with their own aesthetic themes, including Harlem, which will be loosely based on the aesthetics of a 1980s disco soiree. “We had hoped to be the first installation of this soundsystem in Europe, but I believe there’s one going in already in Denmark. That’s just one of the drawbacks of Covid-19, missing out on that accolade, but a lot of sound design has gone into the place, not just filling it with high-end kit, so the acoustics work as best as possible for the space.”
Capacity: 250 (seated), 400 (standing)
Key dates: 30/7 - Abandon Silence; 7/8 - Queen’s Yard Summer Party; 15/8 - Into The Woods
“It started off as a bar in Hackney Wick, HWK,” says manager and booker James Cooper of how The Lot was born. “The inspiration was very minimalist — the owners are Swedish — but they were also influenced by Japanese micro and DJ bars. When Covid-19 happened, the bar was so small last summer that we couldn’t have anybody in.
“There’s a little interior courtyard, so we put tables in there and started serving food and having DJs and acts playing. A little later, there was an opportunity to take the space next to the building, which is basically a scrap yard that the landlords owned,” Cooper continues, referencing Glastonbury Festival’s Block9 bar, Maceo’s, as a gauge for what The Lot looks like.
“The makeshift bar became a permanent structure. The builders who own the space put a roof over half of it. That’s classified as a temporary structure, and is really just scaffolding with a metal top,” Cooper says. Events have been taking place in the venue since lockdown started easing, but summer 2021 will be The Lot’s first run as a functioning dancefloor. The addition of a custom soundsystem built by Izaak Gray (one half of production duo Earthboogie), permanent courtyard toilets, booth seating and a second outside bar will add to The Lot’s appeal, alongside a packed diary of quality visiting UK artists.
Capacity: 70 (indoor), 150 (outdoor)
Key dates: 31/7 - Timmy Stewart & Jordan Nocturne; 7/8 - Stephen Porter; 14/8 - Jay Kay / DeFunkt Records 100th release party; 21/8 - Steve Boyd & Ryan Dornan; 28/8 - Sonar Bliss Records
Before the pandemic, Brett Kydd and crew threw sessions in a subterranean space called The Rave Cave, 20-feet beneath Antrim’s streets. Investing significantly in live-streaming equipment to showcase sets, plans changed when the world closed down.
“We moved to a studio space which is not too far away. It’s basically a shell of a building,” Kydd says of the relocation: what has since become Spiral Studios, an attic with a downstairs courtyard that maintains their output. “This is now the venue we’re going to be running nights from.”
Spiral Studios is about community and nurturing domestic artists, like Caoimhe, who’s become an established name for the island’s ravers. But this goes beyond bookings. Production workshops welcome hopefuls from deprived backgrounds. Last winter, 100 vulnerable people in isolation got free Christmas dinners. It’s an attitude the team wants to define the space, alongside their 10,000 watt rig.
“We have a main office area, a second room for streaming and recording podcasts, and that’s also going to be a studio space to work on productions. Then there’s the upstairs, with equipment for DJs and bands, like an all-rounder live performance and rehearsal venue,” Kydd says. “In the day-time, we’ll be hosting DJ meetups and feedback seminars, things like that.”
Key dates: TBC
54EP’s timing wasn’t ideal. Efforts to turn this Edinburgh warehouse into a venue finished before Covid-19, but a year on, the owners still haven’t welcomed audiences. Despite being inoperable, the team have survived on rent from businesses leasing units on site and revenue generated from their own distillery, which will soon begin supplying the venue bar. “Tenants include a soft drink company, chair producer. We’ve got guys doing canned cocktails, someone making cider and grappa...
The actual event space of the site is the third phase of the building,” says 54EP manager Jamie Wightman, explaining how they knew his 10,000 square-foot hangar deserved to be used for more than brewing artisanal booze. “We just installed a massive custom-made ATC soundsystem from the late 1970s. It sounds incredible. You need something to really fill that space.”
Although public events have been impossible, 54EP hosted a live stream from Glasgow selector Rebecca Vasmant in collaboration with Worldwide FM earlier in the summer, giving a clue as to a booking policy that will eventually cover everything from jazz to techno.
“Scotland’s provisional timeline is a bit behind England’s, so reopening is mid-to-late August, but 54EP will take longer than that. We’re using the time to further improve the building. When we do open, we’re aiming for a New York loft party vibe, a place you come for a real experience, stay all night and leave with something to remember.”
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