The Story behind The Warehouse Project

Established in 2006, The Warehouse Project’s founders Sacha Lord-Marchionne and Sam Kandel set out to create a unique event that was “more than any normal club night.”  Influenced by acid house events, and a desire to continue Sankeys and Haçienda’s legacy in Manchester, this article is an exploration of WHP philosophy, its aesthetics and how Store Street has left its mark on Manchester.

Tuesday 9th October saw the opening of a month long “WHP18 END OF STORE STREET EXHIBITION” in collaboration with Design Manchester’s festival of creativity and design.  I was lucky enough to attend the exclusive launch party that took place at PLY in the Northern Quarter.  WHP resident DJs Krysko, Greg Lord and Will Tramp provided the soundtrack for the evening which fitted PLY’s edgy interior.

The Q&A event was hosted by Crack Magazine and featured WHP co-founder and Director Sam Kandel, original photographer Sebastien Matthes, graphic designer Paul Hemmingfield and resident WHP photographer Pippa Rankin for a series of discussions.  The evening of talks and complimentary wine (thanks PLY!)  focused on creative highlights from WHP history, philosophy of the company and reflections over the past 13 seasons.

“Acid house spirit”

Sam Kandel (co-founder and director) explained the objective of WHP was to establish an exciting and anticipated event, something different to a “normal club night” incorporating  sci-fi and futuristic elements, with a look to the past by conveying an “acid house spirit.”

Its first season in 2006 took place in the disused Boddingtons Brewery in Strangeways and then moved to Store Street, underneath Piccadilly Station in 2007.  Victoria Warehouse hosted for both 2012 and 2013 seasons, before moving back to Store Street. WHP18 serves its last season here.

Aesthetics: the WHP philosophy

The dove that has become the symbol of WHP has been used since 2008. The dove, as a symbol of purity and peace, was chosen as it was a symbol of 90s acid house raves.  To delve further into the company’s creative philosophy, 2007 season saw the launch of a huge marketing campaign.  Paul Hemmingfield, original graphic designer explained the colour coding campaign in which a colour corresponded to a letter, then spelt a word.  To give an example: on the dove the colours you see running down the wings spell ‘warehouse’ and along the bottom spells ‘project.’  2007 was Store Street’s first season and given that it was an air raid shelter during the Second World War, the team wanted to create a type of enigma code that would reflect the venue’s history through its brand identity.

Sebastien Matthes, original WHP photographer from 2006 discussed the aesthetics and goals of his photography.  His vision of WHP was to capture images that were abstract, atmospheric and raw.  In complete contrast to glitzy shots of people drinking cocktails, the collection of photographs displayed around PLY show some of the best WHP images.  A lot of the visuals capture silhouettes  surrounded by  brickwork in an abstract underground setting.  One of my favourites was a 2009 photograph of a couple sharing an intimate moment. Everyone around them is ecstatic but this image reflects another Warehouse aspect of being together to enjoy music.  It tells a story and captures a beautiful moment of their WHP experience, something that is different for everyone but universally incredible.

Intimate moment at WHP, 2009

Even in its 13th season, the grittiness and edginess of WHP’s image hasn’t changed, apart from the growing social media presence that requires a massive team to promote its image.  This has gone from posting photographs weekly on MySpace to the daily upload of top-quality images on social media.

Photographs from WHP history on display in PLY

“For twelve weeks this city is ours”

The quote “for twelve weeks this city is ours” explains its hold over the people of Manchester and the success it has accumulated.  Captivating a new student audience every year with its limited seasonal approach, ‘original ravers’ are also attracted due to the continued legacy of Sankeys and Haçienda.  From 2010, WHP has organised Parklife Festival that takes place in June and continues to grow every year.  I believe WHP has a hold over the city all year.

“Million-dollar question.”

To finish the talk, there was an opportunity for a question and answer session. I posed a question to the Director, Sam Kandel.  In light of WHP’s final season at legendary Store Street, where it has been since 2014, I wanted to know would the change in venue change the atmosphere and dynamic of WHP or has the brand become so much more than just Store Street.

He replied: “Well… that really is a million-dollar question.  The truth is, we don’t know what it’s going to be like.”  Likewise, they didn’t know back in 2006 just how successful it was to become.

When asked would WHP expand to any other UK city, the director and designers were quick to establish the fact it would remain solely in Manchester.  The crowd cheered at this.  Linked inextricably to Mancunian culture and nightlife, the people of Manchester and beyond are proud and love all that WHP has done for them, hosting the biggest names in techno and drum n bass music every autumn weekend.

It may be the end of Store Street, but it’s most definitely not the end of The Warehouse Project.

Vic x

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