As reported earlier, Manchester’s Sankeys – a stalwart of the city’s clubbing landscape – is to close its doors in May.
An initial statement from proprietor David Vincent confirmed rumours that the venue was winding down its UK operations while a follow-up message elaborated to highlight an increased need to focus on its sister club at Playa d’en Bossa, Ibiza. Vincent stated that it was “impossible to run two clubs at the same time the way I want to”: an admission that prompted further speculation about where this leaves another Sankeys offering that has been tipped to open in New York this year.
“Nothing there has changed,” Vincent tells FACT. “Both Manchester’s and Ibiza’s Sankeys are clubs that I own but the new ones are essentially franchises. The other venues around the world are going to be operated by other people that I trust to develop something driven by the original spirit.”
It could be argued that this Sankeys’ spirit has been misinterpreted by many commentators over the last week. Much of what has been written has defined a space on the outskirts of Manchester’s city centre in terms of its big name guests. With that selective history often headlined by Daft Punk and coupled with its glossier peripherals including bespoke wallpapers, custom typefaces, extensive cocktail menus and shimmering LED light shows, it can be difficult to suppress a particular image. Yet it’s probably more accurate to view Sankeys’ real contribution not in terms of visiting superstars and glamour but, instead, as a place that helped to establish emerging dance-floor talent. And for its real fan-base, any mythology has to be rooted in the relatively glitz-free combination of a raw industrial space and powerful sound system.
While this more rough and ready quality might not have always been given the media attention it deserves, it’s interesting that Vincent does see the real value in it. And even with talk of ‘franchises’, he’s aware that his club’s future success is unlikely to be as a key corporate player in the bloated global ‘EDM’ market. In fact, while entering its third season, his Ibiza project looks set to actively work against what he sees as things getting “a bit too showbiz”.
“The capacity of some clubs means that promoters are now scared to take any risks,” he insists. “So it has been getting safe and based far too much on tried and tested big names. Because we’re smaller, Sankeys Ibiza has already started changing that by offering an alternative with about 60-70% of our bookings having made their debut on the island with us.”
As he enthuses about working alongside labels like Hypercolour and Dirtybird, it feels far removed from where Vincent was as the Ibiza season ended last year. Returning to Manchester in October he found his first-born in what he describes as “a poor state: just being run in a way that was detrimental to what Sankeys is about”. Yet making the difficult decision to put the original venue on hold appears to have provided some renewed energy. The final weekend’s events have unfolded to reveal the likes of Sasha, Joris Voorn, Todd Terry, Dyed Soundorom, tINI, Enzo Siragusa, Darius Syrossian, Finnebassen and Hot Since 82 playing as part of a seven party/50 hour farewell. And it’s expected that this chapter will be brought to a close with a record attendance of 10,000 in the space of four days.
“I just feel like I’ve done it now,” the club owner says. “The club will finish on a massive high – which is what I always wanted. I’ve accomplished what I needed to do. I ran that club successfully pretty much for every week for 13 years. Who else can say that? But it hasn’t been easy. It’s not like doing a monthly night or a series of events: it’s constantly trying to entertain and keep things fresh. For a while it’s been especially difficult; it’s been about distributing resources and it’s not always been possible to do that evenly.”
“It’s like when you see those nature programmes and an animal only has so much food for one of its young. So it has to make this choice: let one go and nurture the other as best as it can. It is heart-breaking, but you have to ensure that something survives.”