Last month, Kieran Hebden AKA Four Tet expressed concern that London’s club culture is “miles away” from what it used to be. Bemoaning the initial closure of fabric and what he perceived as the community’s lack of urgency, his words were downbeat rather than damning: “What worries me is nothing’s being done fast enough.”
If his bleak viewpoint could easily be applied to Printworks’ stuttered unveiling (a November opening was pushed back to this month), the delays no doubt sent anticipation rocketing into the stratosphere. Greeted by vast, looming ceilings and breathtaking expanses of rusted walkway and factory equipment, stepping inside certainly feels like a momentous occasion for the city and, perhaps more meaningfully, anyone with a passing interest in club culture.
- - -
- - -
It’s difficult to pinpoint what’s more extraordinary; the lighting rig, splashing a kaleidoscopic array of vivid colours across swaying crowd members, framing their contorting bodies, or how forcefully the crunching soundsystem reverberates and shudders through each onlooker in its vicinity. And while, admittedly, an old printing press doesn’t represent an immediate quick fix, the celebratory scenes witnessed at the launch party are at least a step in the right direction and rousing proof that some figures are still willing to fight for our nightlife.
Not that one of those individuals, Printworks booker and LWE founder Will Harold, is allowing the significance of it all to get to him. “It has been a difficult period, but I think historically our whole culture was born out of these sort of tough times,” he admits. “As Keith Reilly of fabric once said to me ‘we do our best work when we’re in the trenches’ and I think it’s that sort of spirit that has not only pushed our whole culture forward, but it’s also the reason fabric is still here after all they have been through.”
He appears resolute, calm in adversity, but not allowing it to cloud his judgement either. “I've tried not to think too deeply about how important Printworks could be culturally to the city. I feel incredibly fortunate to find ourselves with such an incredible space to present, but it does come with a substantial burden of responsibility. I mean, on paper, it should never be possible, yet here we are with a blank canvas upon which to make our mark. I hope we do the building justice.”
It becomes quickly apparent that Will speaks about the space with genuine warmth, describing their immense plans for it in great detail. “The Printworks is a series of four huge warehouses and the press halls where the printing machinery was housed,” he outlines. “It’s the press halls where we’ll focus most of our attention. It’s not a conventionally proportioned room, so this has taken much thought and deliberation on how we use the space. Its one of the creative processes I think we all like the most - starting with a space and then working out how it’s going to brought to life, but also under-pinning that with robust operating plans.”
“It’s totally unique,” he confirms. “I’ve been looking for spaces in London for more than a decade and I’ve never even seen another space like this, let alone been able to get my hands on it, and then license it.”
- - -
- - -
To those that have already sampled LWE’s previous parties dotted across the capital, it will be of little surprise that Will and his team are treading the same, exhilarating path. “I think we have really built on the foundations of what we started at Tobacco Dock, where we built our reputation as promoters, operators and producers. Together with the Junction 2 site at Boston Manor Park, we are extremely lucky to have exclusive use of three of the best and most unique music spaces in London.”
Despite Will’s mix of experience and towering ambition proving infectious, taking on a venue of Printworks’ magnitude wasn’t without its complications. “It’s always a bit of a leap into the unknown. There has been so much to do to transform the space from an industrial place of work to a safe environment for a party. We are able to leave all the production in for this run of shows and it’s meant that we have been able to really push things technically. The combination of this extra level of production and such an incredible space will be ridiculous.”
Unsurprisingly, the DJs were as keen as the punters to be involved, as Will recalls: “Pretty much everyone who has come to see the space has wanted to be a part of it and perform. It’s the first time we have put on a series of events so we were very conscious of the flow of the program from week to week. Given the fact it’s a new and unproven project, I am really happy with the line-ups and the direction. I think the proportions and dynamics of the venue steered the way in which we approached the bookings.”
Geddes, drafted in to kick proceedings off from behind the decks, is similarly enthusiastic about Printworks. “I think any new venue opening in London is significant for our culture. London is at the forefront and always has been, but recent times have been challenging with authorities not really understanding the impact clubs have on London’s nightlife.” Krankbrother, also charged with christening the new place, are sure the venue is in the right hands, enthusing how LWE “consistently take risks to try and create new experiences for clubbers in London.” They’re right: from within those ominous walls, it’s unlike anything the capital has ever witnessed.
Nevertheless, nobody that relished the Printworks launch is claiming the fight’s been won. If anything, it feels like a rallying cry, a call to arms, an epic rejuvenation of the masses. “It may be a little nostalgic, but I like the idea that this space has historically been filled with an almost deafening, rhythmic, industrial sound,” Will Harold tells me, “and in our own small way we’ll return it to that.” And that’s why Printworks feels like a cause for optimism: a new breed of venue that nods affectionately to the past, but is unafraid of forging a completely unique identity.
- - -
- - -
Follow Printworks online HERE.
Words: Lee Wakefield