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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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2018’s Festival No. 6 will be the last ‘for now’

Festival No. 6, the annual arts and music festival held in Portmeirion, north-west Wales,  has announced today that it will be taking a ‘breather’ after this year’s event.

In a statement released to the festival’s website, organisers said the festival in its current format was ‘ not sustainable’. The statement cites the ‘complex site’ of Portmeirion as one of the various ‘challenges’ festival staff have encountered over the years.

The festival launched in 2012, with 6,500 visitors. In only its second year, this number jumped to 10,000. It has welcomed a host of talent over the years, from Johnny Marr, London Grammar, Hot Chip and Grace Jones, to a number of Welsh language bands.

“Taking a break is the right decision but not all is lost, we’re already thinking about the future”

The event, though well received most years, has not been without its controversy. After its first edition, the festival was faced with a series of excessive noise complaints from local residents. Organisers claimed after this that lessons had been learned.

But 2016 brought more controversy when 200 people were left stranded after the car park for the park and ride service into the festival site was left flooded for a number of days. Organisers were condemned for having located the car park on a flood plain, despite there having been flood warnings issued. This incident caused the festival to downsize in 2017.

Thanking past year’s festivalgoers, the statement says Festival No. 6 will go out with a bang, promising ‘an almighty party’ at their 2018 event. In a final sign off, the statement reads: “Taking a break is the right decision but not all is lost, we’re already thinking about the future.”


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Festival Focus: Festival No6, Roskilde, Hellfest

Festival №6 promoter Broadwick Live has announced it is to reduce capacity, overhaul the festival grounds and move the car park off site after a waterlogged 2016 that saw hundreds of cars left stranded following widespread flooding.

“Next year is the sixth birthday of Festival №6 and we plan to make it the best yet,” it says in a statement. “It won’t be the biggest, as we will be reducing capacity slightly to retain the intimate nature of the festival, and we will redouble our focus on everything that has made Festival №6 an award-winning festival. We are absolutely committed to creating the best festival experience in the world.”

Measures to protect “the history and beauty” of the festival site, in Portmeiron, north Wales, include additional floor covering, a new access and audience flow system and the limiting of footfall in certain areas of the village, which will be reserved for local residents and VIPs.

The slight decrease in capacity, meanwhile, will reduce “bottlenecks and allow the site space to breathe. It is hugely important to us that the festival retains its intimate feel.”

The location for the new park-and-ride car park – which replaces a parking area situated on a floodplain – will be revealed in early 2017.

No line-up has yet been announced for 2017, although tickets go on sale this Thursday (17 November). Hot Chip, Bastille, Super Furry Animals and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds headlined in 2016.

Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters, Nürnberger Nachrichten/Günter Distler

Foo Fighters will play their only Scandinavian show of 2017 at Roskilde Festival next summer. They last played the non-profit Danish event in 2005.

Roskilde’s head of programming, Anders Wahrén, says: “Foo Fighters [are] undoubtedly one of the biggest rock bands in the world, and we have wanted them back for a long time. We’re thrilled that it finally panned out so we can welcome them back to Roskilde Festival for their only Scandinavian show next summer.

“They are a perfect act for the Orange stage with their unique ability to create a sense of togetherness and excitement. Their concerts the past few years serve as further proof that they are as vital as ever before.”

Dave Grohl and co will also play Rock Werchter, NOS Alive Madrid’s Mad Cool in 2017. (Photo by Nürnberger Nachrichten/Günter Distler.)

Steve Tyler, Joe Perry, Aerosmith, Daigo Oliva

Aerosmith are the first act confirmed for Hellfest, playing their last-ever show on French soil at the metal festival in Clisson on 17 June.

The American rock veterans recently announced the Aero-Vederci Baby European farewell tour, which will also visit Sweden Rock Festival, Download Festival UK, Firenze Rocks and Rock Fest Barcelona.

“After having completed a series of sold-out shows in South America, Aerosmith will come to Clisson at Hellfest for its last show ever in France!” reads an excited statement from the festival. “The band choose Hellfest to perform for their last farewell date, and it’s with […] pride and a huge joy that we welcome them for the second time after an unforgettable gig three years ago.” (Steven Tyler/Joe Perry photo by Daigo Oliva.)

Arcade Fire, Paléo 2006, Jérôme Jacquin

Other notable developments since the last instalment of Festival Focus:


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Cars ‘still marooned’ at flooded Festival No6

Around 150 cars were reportedly still stranded at Festival №6 this morning after becoming stuck following widespread flooding at the Welsh festival.

The BBC reported earlier today that many of the remaining vehicles were abandoned by their owners and are expected to be collected later in the week.

Gynedd councillor Jason Humphreys has called for an inquiry into why the festival’s park-and-ride car park was allowed to be situated on a known floodplain. “Forecasters gave ample warning of torrential rain on Saturday,” he tells the BBC. “But once again flood management agencies failed in their duty as they seem to be completely unaware of the dangers to people and property.”

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) counters that festival promoter Broadwick Live was made aware of flood warnings and took the final decision to use the Porthmadog site for the car park.

“We invested heavily in extra infrastructure at the site, but ultimately the extreme weather was beyond our control”

A spokesman for Broadwick Live tells IQ: “We have used the park-and-ride site at Porthmadog Rugby Club effectively and without incident for the last four years and did so again this year with the guidance and support of the authorities and Safety Advisory Group.

“We were aware that the site had flooded previously, however we were advised by the landowners and knew from experience that the land drained well. At the time the decision was made there were no advance flood warnings and no intervention from other agencies. We contacted Natural Resources Wales and arranged preventative measures, as well as investing heavily in extra infrastructure at the site, but ultimately the extreme weather was beyond our control.

“At no point over the past five years have we been advised not to use Porthmadog Rugby Club for the festival park-and-ride operation. We strive to deliver the best customer experience for all our guests and are genuinely saddened by the outcome of this weekend.”

Noel Gallager’s High Flying Birds, Hot Chip, Bastille and Super Furry Animals headlined Festival №6 2016, which was held from 1 to 4 September in the seaside village of Portmeiron.


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