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Boost for Manchester nightlife as new venue opens

A brand-new, socially distanced outdoor events space is preparing to open in Manchester city centre this weekend, as news comes that two of the city’s music venues – Gorilla and Deaf Institute – have been saved from closure.

Escape to Freight Island, the brainchild of veteran Manchester DJs Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford (The Unabombers), together with Gareth Cooper of Festival No.6/Broadwick Live, Jon Drape of Engine No.4 and venue operator Dan Morris, is a large, socially distanced food and entertainment complex launching at Broadwick’s 10,000-capacity Depot Mayfield site this weekend.

The space can hold up to 600 people while complying with social distancing rules, with plans to bring the capacity up to 2,500 once measures relax. Platform 15 is the first part of the complex to open, with the full launch to follow.

DJ Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy will perform at Platform 15 on its opening night on Friday (24 July), with Mr Scruff, Mikey D.O.N. and Jamie Groovement playing the following evening. Norman Jay MBE and Mass will close out Escape to Freight Island’s inaugural weekend on Sunday.

Other acts scheduled to play at Platform 15 include Gilles Peterson, Erol Alkan and Greg Wilson, with events organised in conjunction with Manchester Pride, Festival No.6 and We Out Here Festival, and venue Band on the Wall, among others.

The space is all seated, with all food and drink ordered via an app and QR system. Fans must book in advance, with groups of up to 12 permitted. A staggered arrival system, managed queuing and toilet areas and extra hygiene precautions all form part of the complex’s social and safe manifesto.

“Platform 15 will give a flavour of what is to come when we launch the full Escape to Freight Island experience, so let’s all meet at Platform 15 to begin our escape to freedom,” comments Cowdrey.

“Let’s all meet at Platform 15 to begin our escape to freedom”

The opening of the new venue comes as many around the UK, and the world, struggle under the financial pressures of Covid-19.

Manchester venues Gorilla (600-cap.) and Deaf Institute (260-cap.) last week announced they were closing their doors permanently due to the pandemic. However, it emerged yesterday (22 June) that the venues have now been acquired by venue group Tokyo Industries (TI).

TI founder Aaron Mellor says the group has been working together with promoter SSD Concerts – which is launching the UK’s first socially distanced arena next month – and the Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess, to come up with ways “to help save both venues and their existing operating style in a post-Covid world.”

“So, looks like the story is out Deaf Institute and Gorilla have been saved and will be kept as live music venues as we know and love them,” writes Burgess in a Twitter post.

“I’ve been talking with the new owners over the weekend and we’ll be doing all we can to help with the next chapter.”

Manchester night-time economy advisor and Parklife founder Sacha Lord thanked mayor Andy Burnham for “helping to raise the profile” of the two venues’ plight.

“Great news…all done within four working days. Jobs saved and two of the city centres best live music venues kept alive,” tweeted Lord.

Bookings for Escape to Freight Island can be made here.

 


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Coronavirus: Numerous UK venues close in single day

A number of UK venues declared they were closing for good today, as the insolvency of two companies making up UK event and venue management specialist VMS Live leads to the shuttering of Hull venues the Welly and the Polar Bear, and Mission Mars-operated Gorilla and Deaf Institute in Manchester also announce permanent closures.

Hull Live reports that VMS CEO Bert van Horck and non-executive director Kate Forster yesterday (15 July) transferred their authority as directors for the VMS Live companies VMS Live (2011) Ltd and VMS Live (Venues) Ltd, with the expected loss of 20 full-time jobs..

As a result of the insolvencies of the two companies, Hull venues the Welly (600-cap.) and the Polar Bear (200-cap.), which VMS took on in 2018, as well as ticketing outlet Hull Box Office, are closing down.

The remaining four VMS Live companies, which operate/book venues including Eventim Olympia Liverpool (1,960-cap.), Asylum in Hull (1,100-cap.) and the William Aston Hall in Wrexham (1,200-cap.), will continue to operate as before.

“I am deeply saddened that we had to make this decision, following the completion of the yearly accounts, the announcements of the government and the bank reconciliation, which lead us to be at immediate risk of trading whilst insolvent,” comments van Horck, who has served as CEO of the company since 2019.

“I am deeply saddened that we had to make this decision”

“I would like to thank all of our staff on behalf of Kate and I for the magnificent efforts made to try and save these two companies, both between September and March during normal trading and beyond into the Covid-19 enforced closure.”

The news comes as two other well-loved UK venues, Mission Mars-operated Gorilla (600-cap.) and Deaf Institute (260-cap.) in Manchester, close under the pressure of Covid-19.

“The Deaf Institute and Gorilla have been at the forefront of the music scene in Manchester for many years and it is with great sadness that we announce that we will not be reopening,” says Mission Mars CEO Roy Ellis.

“This difficult decision has been made against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the enforced closure of all of our sites and with continued restrictions upon opening of live music venues.

“We appreciate that these music destinations are well loved and have provided an early stage for many acts in the North West and are therefore well known in the world of music.

“We would encourage any industry and music entrepreneurs who might be interested in this as an opportunity to please get in touch.”

 


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