Sankeys closure: Another step into the grim future of the underground scene?

Sankeys' door, closed for the final time.
Sankeys’ door, closed for the final time.

As iconic Manchester nightclub Sankeys closes its doors in favour of a greedy developer, The Waveform Transmitter asks whether this is the future that the underground scene has to look forward to.

Unfortunately, on the 13th of January, 2017, the mecca of the Manchester club scene, Sankeys, closed its doors at Beehive Mill to the clubbing community.

For years, Sankeys has held a steadfast position as one of Manchester’s most popular nightclubs. Sure, we’ve seen the introduction of the likes of Joshua Brooks and Hidden, amongst many other long established nightclubs – but Sankeys has pushed the boundaries since day one, bringing some of the world’s biggest and best underground dance acts to the city. Indeed, Tribal gathering was spawned there – one of the most popular nights the North has seen.

Once again, it seems, property developers are gaining the upper hand as the building that houses the nightclub has been sold by its owners to make space for yet more apartments, meaning the club is no more. Tony Hill, who runs Radius Security – the team that manages the club – said the following:

“It has become apparent that the reason that [the property management agents] haven’t issued a new agreement is due to the fact that the entire building has been sold to a residential property developer who intends to turn it into apartments. On behalf of the directors and management team can you please pass this message on to those that it affects and apologise for how suddenly the change in circumstances has taken place.”

It has been promised that Sankeys, as a brand, will continue to function. It is, however, the case that the club will cease to exist. This seems like yet another nail in the coffin of our underground community. We can’t help but wonder where it will all end.

A very wise friend pointed out to me recently that this kind of thing happens on a constant basis, and he was dead right. Local councils will quite often grant licenses to venues owners in order to popularise an area. As soon as said area becomes fashionable, the tables are opened to developers who quite often have no interest in the city they will be building in, paying more attention to their golden egg.

Once this has been achieved, they force the bars and clubs out, with noise pollution being the general reason for their closure – although drug use is also called upon as a scapegoat. It seems to be the attitude of developers and local councils that those living in the areas can’t do so comfortably due to the encroachment of sound into their swanky apartment. Well how about we look at the flipside to that – if you don’t like the noise, don’t move there in the first place. It is a simple concept. Perhaps other forces are at play…

We have seen that very situation occurring in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle area also. 24 Kitchen Street and Constellations have both come under fire from developers and council execs recently. We can only hope that the outcome is positive for both venues as they play an important part in the cultural integrity of the area in which they reside.

The likes of The Kazimier, a venue so forward thinking that its organisers potentially have access to a Delorean, and Cream, Liverpool’s most iconic dance venue, have suffered at the self-same council’s hands that are a threat to the Baltic Triangle. Their wonderful venues were torn down, only to be replaced by a Tesco Metro selling overpriced Toblerones, and more (yawn) fucking apartments.

This prompted a move by the owners of the Kazimier to go full steam ahead with the Invisible Wind Factory, and quite rightly they haven’t looked back since, although from speaking to punters at a recent event, it is obvious that we all still look fondly back on The Kazimier and the great things it brought to Liverpool. Invisible Wind Factory is an excellent venue, there’s no doubting that, but anyone who frequented The Kazimier knows how special it was – it is sorely missed.

Only last year did Fabric come up against similar issues. Eventually, they managed to have the decision to close their doors overturned, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this was still an attempt by an overbearing Islington Council and property developers to monopolise the market in the fashionable suburb of London.

Fabric quite rightly saw support flooding in in droves against this injustice – industry bods worldwide were shocked to hear of the initial decision. So much so, that a fundraising CD was released. The ‘#SaveFabric’ CD featured artists from far and wide, including Planet μ’s μ-ziq, Coldcut, and Mr.C, with his track ‘Stand Up’, which is specifically written about the dampening of our culture.

So, it is fair to say that our club culture – that which so many of us hold dear – is gravely under threat. Councils are going to continue to pressurise our favourite venues out of the four (or more) walls that they inhabit, simply to line their own pockets.

It may well be that we can blame government austerity measures for financially overstretched councils taking such drastic action, selling buildings and land with aplomb. I mean, historically, governments have disliked the idea of a bunch of like-minded individuals coming together in a united cause. Rave culture has felt the impact no differently to any other – many governments, and particularly our own, despise it due to the perceived rebellion it exhibits.

It is more important now than ever, to show our support for the venues we love so much, because before long we’ll have nowhere left to go, and staying in is shit.

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