The team behind the Warehouse Project have never been the types to shy away from a challenge. As the biggest thing to happen to Manchester's nightlife in decades, the club has changed the face of the city's nocturnal landscape over the past seven years, through their pioneering approach to pop-up clubbing.
So when, a couple of years ago, they went to view a derelict, overgrown warehouse on the outskirts of Manchester city centre that hadn't been touched for decades - they immediately recognised its potential. "Inside was like a forest", explains Co-Director Kirsty Smith. "It had just lain there for so many years. But it just felt so… Warehouse Project. We were blown away."
The team - made up of Kirsty Smith, Sam Kandel, Sacha Lord and Rich McGinnis - set about securing the dilapidated venue and transforming it into a behemoth nightclub, the likes of which the city has never seen before.
And in one month's time the historic warehouse will ready itself for a 12 week siege of festival sized dance music events, which will see over 10,000 clubbers a week pass through its doors. "We're working flat out, it's our biggest risk to date", admits Kirsty. But with many shows already sold out and more on their way, it looks once again like a risk that's paid off.
This risk-taking ethos is one that Smith and her fellow directors have embraced from the start when, seven years ago, they decided to launch a series of raves in the former Boddingtons Factory. "The feeling was that it was either going to succeed, or fail miserably" says Kirsty. "Luckily it succeeded, and people really bought into it."
In 2007 the club moved to a new home, in the now iconic car park deep in the bowels of Piccadilly Railway Station. The Warehouse Project remained there for five years - although Kirsty explains that this was unintentional. "The plan was always for it to be a nomadic, evolving series of events. We never expected to be there for five years".
As well as feeling that migratory pull, Kirsty explains that the confines of the underground car park were starting to pose limitations on the shows that they could produce there. With changes in dance music culture meaning that so many DJs were touring with large scale live shows and all heavy production, they were struggling to squeeze some of the acts into Store Street's Victorian arches. "I think we'd just naturally outgrown the space", says Kirsty.
And space is something that certainly won't be an issue at the new venue. At more than 3000 sqm, the warehouse holds 5000 clubbers across three rooms. In short, it's absolutely huge. The main room, which in itself is twice the size of Store Street, is a triumph of production, featuring lasers and specially developed visuals. "The Warehouse Project as a brand screams lasers," says Kirsty, "and this is the first time we've been able to have them."
The WHP are upping the aesthetic ante even more by working with new visual artists to create "interesting installations" for each night - ensuring that each event offers a different clubbing experience. Lasers, lights, LED displays and smoke machines will all work together to create a completely different ambience at each event, so that "if you go to three or four Warehouse Project shows, you'll get a really different experience every time."
As well as the awe-inspiring main room, the venue also has two further rooms - a second, brick columned space for 1500 which Kirsty says has "turned out to almost mirror the main room at Store Street" - and a more intimate third room where new, up and coming acts will be showcased.
With each night boasting a staggering (in both quality and quantity) line-up of acts and commencing much earlier in the night (doors open at 8), the Warehouse Project seems to be moving away from straightforward club events into dynamic new territory which recalls a more European, day-and-night style of clubbing.
"I think the real change is that at Store Street the Warehouse Project was perceived as more of a club night, but this new venue is really turning it into an event - more like going to a festival. It starts at 8, finishes at 4 or 5, and it really is taking it quite far away from a normal clubbing experience. People can really get lost in there."
As well as the three rooms of music, the venue also features a large chill out room and an outdoor courtyard with food vans. "In terms of someone's experience over a night - you've got your work cut out!" laughs Kirsty.
It's clear that the change of venue for The Warehouse Project is about so much more than size. With warehouse style raves now very much du jour in the UK, the move offers the opportunity to keep ahead, develop the clubbing experience down bold new avenues, and continue to push boundaries - no matter how risky that seems.
And it all begins on September 28th, when the Warehouse Project opens the doors to a new era in its ever evolving story.
Words: Jayne Robinson
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