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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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Burgess named ambassador for ‘biggest IVW yet’

Following in the footsteps of Wolf Alice, Frank Turner and Colin Greenwood of Radiohead, The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess has been appointed ambassador for Independent Venue Week (IVW), which returns for the fourth time from 23 to 29 January 2017.

Described as the “biggest Independent Venue Week yet”, the British event, which aims to promote and celebrate the UK’s grassroots music venues, will see 30 new venues taking part for the first time, including the John Peel Centre (250-cap.) in …, the Roundhouse (3,300-cap.) in London, the 200-capacity Bungalow in Paisley (which has since reopened after closing in March) and the 18-cap. (not a typo) … Unity in Halifax.

“Independent venues are where every band starts and where music fans get to see emerging talent,” comments Burgess (pictured). “Without them bands would not get a chance for their all-important first hometown gigs and subsequent tours. These venues and bands need our support and the best way you can do that is by having a night out. Lots of venues are closing – we definitely need to stick together and stop this happening. […]

“These venues and bands need our support and the best way you can do that is by having a night out”

“I worked with Independent Venue Week organisers last year on a gig in Manchester. It was an honour to accept their offer of being this year’s ambassador – I’ve picked some of my favourite bands to play in England, Wales and Northern Ireland… Hopefully see you at one of the shows.”

Details of gigs will be announced closer to January, with confirmed performers including Richard Hawley, Simian Mobile Disco and Martha Wainwright. Promoters and labels behind the shows include Kilimanjaro Live, Bugged Out, South by Southwest and Domino Records.

“What’s so exciting about this year is just how many people are now involved in Independent Venue Week,” says founder Sybil Bell. “The support means grassroots venues are benefitting from brilliant artists, promoters and media who are helping to start the year off with some amazing shows. Last year, nearly 40,000 people went to gigs during IVM, [providing] a huge boost to venues and a great way for people to kick the January blues into touch.”

 


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