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From its humble beginnings at an abandoned brewery to packing out the 10,000-capacity Depot — Manchester’s The Warehouse Project has set the bar for what a great party can be.
New documentary short: Blueprint: The Warehouse Project, explores how WHP grew from a little party up north, to influencing the global clubbing sphere. Filmed over the course of five years, it includes interviews with founders Sacha Lord and Sam Kendal, long-time resident Matthew Krysko, DJ and broadcaster Annie Mac, Bonobo, Jayda G, Giles Peterson, Midland and Hot Since 82.
Filmmaker Ben Carey, from production studio YoungOnes, was first approached to create the documentary after pitching to film around the party’s former home on Store Street. “Then they asked if I wanted to start filming content in their new venue [Depot Mayfield],” he says. “Obviously when they showed me I was completely blown away by the space.”
Carey had never been to WHP before but had heard stories: “I went in to see what they created and it was kind of crazy. The guys running it, they’re clubbers and they feel like they’re part of the fans.” His first show, Aphex Twin live in 2019, had “blown him away.”
From the experience, Carey had wanted to create a film that represented the “people, DJs and punters” and his appreciation of the Warehouse Project ethos “it doesn’t intend to be around forever” he says. “It is meant to represent a moment in time. People should appreciate it while they can.”
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The film starts out with Kendal detailing how it all started; in 2006 off the back of a long weekend at Sankeys – the club he had helped revive in 2000 alongside Lord – he realised that the venue was at its best in the last three months of the year — so having a standalone party operating just in that time frame made sense.
“At the time nobody had really run with that kind of format in the UK, and we made the decision early on that every night should feel completely unique in the run, like a collection of unique moments.” Kendal says. “Luckily as WHP has developed and grown in recent years that idea is still very much at the forefront.”
The disused Bodington’s brewery in Strangeways was the location of the first ever party, though it didn’t get off to the slickest of starts. In the film, Kendal recalls Modeselektor describing the inaugural edition as a “nightmare.” “We were way out of our depth,” he says. “We didn’t even give them a table to set their gear up on.”
Despite this, Bodington’s had been an ideal location for the new party concept — a non-residential area, a large warehouse complete with cavernous halls and a cracking soundsystem. But, it was the venue’s proximity to the local prison next door, Strangeways, that led to issues for the early WHP team.
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“We were getting letters from the prison to our office saying: ‘It was great last Saturday, we’ve been on the website — can I have a CD?” says Lord in the film. “You could feel the bass from the prison, none of us had ever thought of that.”
Lord and Kendal made the decision to move to Store Street, a massive complex of tunnels — formerly an air raid shelter — beneath Manchester Picadilly Station. It was here The Warehouse Project transformed from “that rave everyone’s talking about” to a full-blown nightlife event.
“When we started The Warehouse Project weekly club culture was still front and centre,” says Kendal. “People used to enjoy going to the same venue week-in-week-out which was a golden period for club culture. It’s now much more event-driven which I don’t think is necessarily better or worse.. just different. I think the weekly clubs in the UK that have maintained through that transition, like fabric and Sub Club, have really become all the more legendary.”
WHP has switched venues a number of times — to both the delight and disappointment of its loyal supporters. After just five years at Store Street, the party moved to the Mayfield Depot in 2011, and then three years later in 2014 back to Store Street. Finally, in 2019, moving back to a newly-renovated — increased capacity Mayfield Depot, or simply the Depot.
“From the beginning [The Warehouse Project] has been about changing and moving with the times,” says Matthew Krysko production manager and long-time resident at WHP. “There was Boddington and then we did a stint with Store Street, and at that time the events leant more to the residents — there were a couple of us, to begin with, and then it grew a little from there.”
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The documentary covers everything from the design of WHP’s iconic logo to posters — even the manner in which it announces an upcoming season. Though, many of the film’s interviewees agree, The Warehouse Project’s biggest strength is its line-up curation. Bringing the biggest names in underground music to the city as well as championing up-and-comers.
DJ and BBC Radio 1 host Jamz Supernova, who is interviewed in the film says her biggest draw is the sheer variety on offer. “There is something magical about not having a clue what room you are in and who is playing in front of you. It’s like being in a labyrinth and everywhere you turn there’s something exciting.”
Blueprint: The Warehouse Project has now premiered on Mixmag. Ahead of the release, we asked creator Ben Carey what he hopes people will take away from his film, he said simply: “For people who have been to WHP, It should finally tell the story.”
“I guess for the people who haven’t been there before, I hope it gets them up to Manchester! In terms of clubbing, it is definitely one of the best experiences you’ll get in this country — and it’s up there with the greats of Europe. Especially at Depot Mayfield!”
Watch How The Warehouse Project changed clubbing forever below.
Megan Townsend is Mixmag’s Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter
Written by: Tim Hopkins