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Venue Lab, Broadwick Live talk “disrupting” London venues

Vibration Group CEO and Broadwick Live director, Simon Tracey, talks to IQ about the concept behind their "unique" spaces and why London needs more live event venues

By Anna Grace on 19 Sep 2019

Venue Lab: disrupting London's venue marketplcae with Magazine London

Magazine London


Magazine London, a brand-new, multi-use venue in North Greenwich, opened its doors last week, as the latest event space in the fast-growing portfolio of Printworks operators, Venue Lab and Broadwick Live.

Venue Lab’s and Broadwick Live’s first purpose-built destination features a 3,000-capacity indoor, industrial-style space, adaptable to cater for live shows, corporate dinners or conferences. A mezzanine floor and terrace form a “ready-made” VIP area and outside, a 7,000-capacity showground offers a versatile space for brand activations with views across the river to Canary Wharf.

“We wanted to take all the difficult aspects of putting on an event and find solutions in advance,” Venue Lab chief executive Simon Tracey tells IQ. “The idea is to be really versatile, so this can be the right space for any kind of event, on any day of the week.”

Venue Lab is a Vibration Group company, a collective of creative event businesses, specialising in venue management and ownership, production services and event brands. This allows the Venue Lab team to plug their own services into the venues they operate, meaning everything from set design to production to staffing is done “in house”.

Broadwick Live, operator of venues the Drumsheds, Exhibition London and Depot at Mayfield and promoter of festivals such as Snowbombing and Field Day, acts as Venue Lab’s “ticketed culture partner”.

Venue Lab started working with Broadwick Live for the programming of London event space, Printworks. The phone rang “off the hook” with promoters wanting to use the space once Venue Lab took it over, says Tracey, but the team wanted to manage it “properly”, avoid negative impact on the surrounding area and ensure they could rely on those they worked with.

“We wanted to take all the difficult aspects of putting on an event and find solutions in advance”

“We could have booked content from lots of different promoters but we wanted to have more control over what happened at the venue,” explains Tracey. “If someone comes to a ticketed event and doesn’t enjoy it, they immediately think it’s the venue’s fault. We wanted to make sure that every experience someone has in one of our venues is a good one.”

Broadwick Live’s background in destination-based, immersive festivals, such as Snowbombing in the Alps and Festival No.6 in Portmeirion, Wales, made them the perfect fit for Venue Lab. “They’re about more than just a stage in a field,” says Tracey, “they excel in creating interesting experiences, so culturally it was inevitable we’d work well together.”

The content at Printworks is not all wholly owned by Broadwick Live, adds Tracey. “Broadwick Live works with lots of different promoters, but they manage the overall programming and operations, so we know they will always deliver.”

The success of Printworks, which has become a “phenomenon” since opening in 2017, has led to the development of a “brilliant” collaborative relationship between both Venue Lab and Broadwick Live. “Collectively, we can do it all,” says Tracey, “and that makes us really unique.”

Another aspect that allows both Venue Lab and Broadwick Live to stand out from the crowd is the companys’ aim to build “brands” or “spaces” rather than venues, creating something more special than “just another nameless box”.

Tracey points to their current portfolio of spaces – such as disused train station Depot at Mayfield, former printing press Printworks, old gasworks The Drumsheds or more traditional corporate venues Landing Forty Two and grade II-listed The Pumping House – stating they are all “very different from a branding perspective”.

“I genuinely believe there’s a lot more capacity in London for all sorts of venues”

Situated in plain sight of AEG’s O2 Arena and sharing the same underground station, has the creation of Magazine London not led to tension, with worries over competition and accessibility for fans?

On the contrary, says the Magazine team, we are “good neighbours” with the O2 and meet regularly.

“They know we are not running the same kind of venue as them, the only challenge is transport but we have meetings to plan for this and have developed a really coordinated approach,” says Tracey.

In other areas, people would be “more protective” about the space, comments Tracey, but one of the benefits of being part of the Greenwich Peninsular development is that it brings everyone together and diffuses this, with businesses forming partnerships to make the Peninsular as desirable a destination as possible.

Even the impending creation of the 21,500-capacity MSG Sphere, which has caused tension with AEG, does not faze the Magazine team.

“I genuinely believe there’s a lot more capacity in London for all sorts of venues,” says Tracey in reference to a possible saturation of the market. “It’s such a multicultural city and London is actually quite behind in terms of event spaces.”

“People are craving experiences, and as they do, there’s ever more evolution of what that experience is”

Following the success of Printworks, Venue Lab and Broadwick Live have launched three new venues this year – Magazine London, the Drumsheds and Exhibition London, which opens in November – and plans to work collaboratively in opening three to five more venues each year, “for the next three years”, in London, other major UK cities, and across Europe.

Although the old-school nightclub is becoming more challenging and it is getting harder for festivals to “make it work”, the demand for venues that offer interesting experiences to fans and a versatile space to organisers is far from satisfied.

“People are craving experiences, and as they do, there’s ever more evolution of what that experience is,” states Tracey. “Events are getting bigger, better and more immersive – everyone is raising their game.”

Magazine London has already attracted a wide variety of public and private events ahead of 2020. From brand events, awards dinners, conferences, exhibitions, fashion, the arts and ticketed culture; there are 22 events confirmed between September 2019 and the end of the year.

Upcoming events include sold-out Michael Bibi Presents Isolate, World Travel Market’s International Travel and Tourism Awards and Stylist Live LUXE. The venue hosted Desperados’ ‘Epic House Party’ last weekend (Saturday 7 September), in which 3,000 attendees crossed its threshold to mark Magazine London’s official opening.

 


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