Ahead of Drumsheds’ second music season, Broadwick Live director of strategy Simeon Aldred speaks to Access about the impact the new cultural space has had so far, as well as Broadwick’s ambitious plans for the future.
Since opening last October, Broadwick Live’s Drumsheds venue, located in an old IKEA store warehouse, has had a significant impact on London’s cultural landscape.
While nightclubbers far and wide have been drawn to the 15,000-capacity venue’s booming sound system and stunning AV displays, Broadwick director of strategy Simeon Aldred stresses that the venue is a cultural space, and not a club or ‘superclub’ as many in the mainstream media have referred to it.
The 608,000 sqft venue, which has so far held shows by artists including Bicep, Girls Don’t Sync, DJ EZ, Todd Edwards and Hot Since 82, will also host set builds, fashion shows and brand activations across its three rooms. The venue picked up widespread acclaim for its hosting of the first-ever live show by British music collective SAULT, which offered attendees an immersive theatre-style experience alongside the show.
“It really isn’t a club, it’s a hybrid venue,” says Aldred. “Broadwick has never owned any clubs. Places like Printworks – although super famous for electronic music and voted among the best clubs in the world – did more conferences and photo shoots than it did electronic music shows.
“I acknowledge that we are part of the electronic music ecosystem, but I also think it’s important to understand that we’ll be doing as many exhibitions, conferences and car shows at Drumsheds as we will be hosting amazing electronic music.
“That concert format is something that we really believe in – a safe concert, arena style show environment. We finish at 10:30 and then people can go off to a London club if they wish.”
Aldred adds, “We’re trying to create a positive place for electronic music and electronic adjacent arts and broader culture to express themselves at scale. There are some amazing clubs in London but what we’re trying to do is slightly different. We want that international scale for London which is what the city deserves. That’s where we see ourselves in the ecosystem.”
Drumsheds has welcomed more than 150,000 guests through its doors since opening. The venue in North London’s Meridian Water zone is Broadwick’s “most ambitious to date” for its scale and speed of activation, says Aldred. The company said goodbye to Printworks earlier this year, but it also manages venues such as Manchester’s Depot Mayfield and The Beams in London.
“We took [Drumsheds] from a store to open in 10 weeks, which for an arena-sized venue is quite a challenge. That was licensing, planning, logistics, site meetings and then the build.”
Broadwick is following on from its previous 10,000-capacity Drumsheds space in Enfield, North London, which closed last year – three years after the company procured it on temporary lease to host events such as Field Day Festival.
“The original Drumsheds worked well at scale up here, but because of Covid we never really got a clear run of it. IKEA selling the property at the same time as us moving out of Printworks gave us that opportunity. The transport and our relationship with the community has worked really well.”
As for keeping the Drumsheds name, Aldred says, “We’re all about continuity. We talk about taking venues that are meanwhile into permanence. Printworks started as a temporary thing, and subject to contract and planning, it is going into permanence. It’s the same with Depot Mayfield – we’re in deep talks with the landlord there to take that into permanence.
“With Drumsheds, we started with an experiment next door, this current venue will run for a couple of years then who knows what the future will be for this site and how we can rightsize the culture up here and maybe be part of a masterplan.”
Unlike Printworks which was long and thin with a portrait screen, Drumsheds’ main room – the 109,813 sqft X Room – has a wide 48-metre jumbo landscape screen, alongside the 5,000-capacity Y Room and 1,000-capacity Z Room.
“There’s certain clients that want to do landscape and there’s nothing better than that 40-metre screen we have,” says Aldred.
He says Broadwick has taken its “family of suppliers” to Drumsheds, including Manchester-based production company dbnAudile, Wi-Fi supplier Noba, Field Vision Bars, Last Mile on traffic management, and Showsec and ResponSec on security.
“People wonder how Broadwick venues are so clean and operate so well, it’s because we’re a bit of a gang and we move together.”
Drumsheds has also partnered with United Visual Artists (UVA) which will create, curate, and deliver the creative concept for the venue.
Characteristically, Broadwick has left features and the layout of the unique warehouse intact. Upon entering the venue and travelling up the escalator, guests can see the old lift shafts, loading bays, sprawling floors and machinery.
Says Aldred, “That familiarity is a positive thing and we’re pushing that re-use, change and use, taking temporary into permanence. We’re working on multiple masterplans around the world because Printworks has become so famous and landlords have realised that what we do is positive in terms of wash-over into their masterplans.
“What we’re going to see over the years is a bit of a modern industrial revolution where cultural industries are going to take over. It’s nothing new – in Germany it’s been happening for about 50 years where they take industrial space for cultural reuse.
“With the decarbonisation and embedded carbon in these buildings, we’re going to see more reuse. All the landlords we’ve been talking to around the world are trying to work out how to reuse structures instead of knocking them down and spending all that money on steel and concrete again. That’s going to be a real trend globally and we’re lucky to be right at the forefront.”
Aldred says Broadwick will work with the local authorities on outreach to support the surrounding community with employment in the new venue, as well as schemes such as free tickets for previous employees of the space.
“It’s an obligation from our landlord IKEA that we engage with the community and provide jobs. To run a Drumsheds show there’s up to one thousand event industry jobs available – we’re really proud of that. The infrastructure around any big venues is really important for our industry to maintain the supply chain.”
Elsewhere, Aldred says Broadwick has a focus on acquiring more spaces in northern UK cities as well as branching out to the Americas, with a new site in New York and South America to be announced soon.
Drumsheds newly announced SS24 season lineup features long-term Broadwick affiliates including promoters Worried About Henry, The Hydra and Drumcode, along with fresh faces such as Craig David’s TS5.
The venue’s second music season will open with a sold-out show from Chase and Status on 23 February and will conclude on 27 April with Meduza and James Hype Present: Our House.