NDML Talks To Sacha Lord
The Night Time Economy Adviser to Greater Manchester and Co-creator of The Warehouse Project and Parklife festival, Sacha Lord lifts the lid on the current condition of the UK nightlife sector. While within The Warehouse Project venue, we discuss the industry’s post-COVID revival, government support, ticketed events as well as valuable advice for new nightlife operators.
Meeting Sacha Lord
We greet Sacha outside The Warehouse Project venue, only a stone’s throw from Manchester Piccadilly station. He takes us into the bowels of the Tardis-esc space, where we see his team setting up for this weekend’s set. The WHP calendar is currently in full swing, with headliners of Jamie XX, Little Simz and Fred again… no doubt close-by preparing for the evening’s performance. The huge space of The Warehouse Project is eerily curious by day, only the bar zones and giant speaker systems giveaway its true purpose.
Sacha Lord takes us through to the quiet staff area backstage, he explains in detail his mission for the business:
“You hear the word culture, and automatically think the museum or the opera house – I’ve spent the whole of my life trying to break away from that to say this is culture.” He indicates to the Mancunian bare brick walls and exposed pipework. He admits to probably upsetting a lot of people by saying this is a more popular culture. “Over the last two and half years, we’ve seen bars, restaurants, nightclubs taken for granted. Now people really do understand the importance of them, and maybe one positive coming out of COVID (bearing in mind there are no positives of COVID) that we’ve seen the public’s perception realise how important our industry is.”
“The high street is potentially dying across the UK, and now culture – my sector – is more important than ever before.”
Q: Is the nightlife economy in a better or worse position now than it was during the pandemic?
“I’m not being overdramatic by saying right now as we speak, we are in a worse position than during the pandemic. There was some phenomenal support during the pandemic – furlough, business rates relief, bounce back loans, VAT, pavement licensing; all these things that were expedited were great. Now we are sat in a completely different situation, as we speak today there isn’t really any support at all.”
“We’ve got people having to pay back all those loans, the cost of living is coming in now, so footfall will not be as good as it should be. We’ve seen a surge in energy prices, we’ve seen rocketing inflation that’s unheard of; there is massive uncertainty in the sector. I’d say now I’m more concerned than I was during the pandemic.”
Q: How has the staff shortage affected hospitality?
“For The Warehouse Project and Parklife last year was incredibly tough. Three weeks before Parklife, we couldn’t find enough security, enough bar staff, and we managed to pull staff from all over the country and get them there. I don’t blame anyone for leaving the sector, you’ve got to pay the bills, pay the rent, put food on the table. Why would you work in a sector where there is such a lack of confidence at the moment, so people left to take other jobs on. My job was to try get them back into the sector, along with industry leaders Mike Kill from the NTIA and Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality. Now we are seeing again, the sector is hitting another cliff edge.”
“By making [the nightlife industry] a more welcoming environment, a better paid environment, then people will stay in the industry. You can do what you want in this sector as long as you stick to it. If anyone is watching this and is unsure about it, come back to the sector!”
“We are going to register with the Guinness Book of Records”
“For me, I’m a Manc, and for my city to have the biggest nightclub in the world, that’s a big statement! It’s taken since 2006, and a lot of hard work from the whole team.”
“In 20 years I’ll probably be in a leather chair, watching Loose Women, but I’ll be able to say at one point I was the co-founder of the biggest nightclub in the world.”
Q: Do you feel that you have a responsibility to protect nightlife and hospitality?
“I’ve always been extremely passionate about my industry; during COVID I saw how badly it was treated. I think the whole of the UK saw when Andy Burnham stood on those steps and said ‘Why is the rest of the UK getting X amount of money, but Manchester’s only offered 67%?’ “
“It was that moment I could see a few of the things that were wrong in the industry. The 10pm curfew for example, and when Matt Hancock introduced the scotch-egg-substantial-meal rule. So, I took the government to court and the high court ruled that I was right. And I’ve just felt since then I’ve been on a roll, punching well above my weight, but I can’t sit back and let the industry be treated the way it is. Sometimes it hard to put your head above the parapet; I think it’s another three year battle if I’m being honest.”
Q: Do you believe we are seeing an increase in ticketed events at nightclubs?
“I think we are definitely seeing a pattern emerging now. When I was going out, many moons ago, you’d go to the same nightclub every Friday, every Saturday, you’d pay on the door and meet the same friends in the same corner. I think it’s changed now because people are looking more about where they are spending their money. It’s more about the big moment. Almost as if you are going to a gig, buying a ticket a month in advance, and I think we are going more towards that area now.”
“I do think the days of the chains on the high street are going to have to evolve very, very quickly. You have to offer more… I do think we are going toward ticketed events.”
Q: What do you love most about the nightlife sector?
“Someone just mentioned to me the other day that their friend met their partner in The Warehouse Project and they are getting married in a few months’ time. We’ve made memories and that is really, really special. Sometimes I can be out minding my own business and someone will say to me I met my girlfriend in The Warehouse Project in 2008, and that means so much to me. Some people thank me for what I did during the COVID period – it makes it so worthwhile; the fact that it’s made a difference, what I’ve done what the NTIA have done.”
“We saw during that period we all came together, we pulled together. Strength in numbers.”
“I will tell you Andy Burnham said to me, after being re-elected – he had a little BBQ at his house, he makes the best bruschetta it blew my mind – we were talking and he said, ‘it’s much better to work with people than against people.’ That has registered in my mind.”
“Let’s work together, and let’s get this sector back to where it should be.”
Q: What advice would you give a new operator in the night-time and hospitality industry?
“If you want to achieve everything don’t be scared of failing, because you will fail. Learn from those mistakes and make sure you don’t do them again. If you get a kicking, look at the reasons why that happened, don’t do it again and move on… Just crack on and throw yourself at it.”
What is NDML’s mission?
NDML has made it their mission to protect, safeguard and provide guidance to businesses in the hospitality and leisure sector. With inside information, case studies and up-to-date information on policy changes, NDML is a broker who cares about a business’s welfare and will celebrate their growth.
Our #WeAreNightlife campaign aims to provide a sound board for industry leaders to share their own unique experiences of British nightlife. NDML’s goal, alongside the NTIA, is to nit the UK nightlife scene back together after the turbulent COVID years and deliver steps to get the industry back up to full throttle.
NDML is the UK’s number one broker in the nightlife sector. We offer exclusive tailor-made policies and have decades of expertise. Our award-winning service is built upon genuine relationships, and that’s why projects, such as #WeAreNightlife, are so important to us.