Clash explores the final night of the venue's opening season...

Three months after the opening party gleefully stoked the fading embers of London’s club culture, Printworks’ final bash resembles more of a victory lap than a fond farewell, and it’s certainly deserved. As the mighty Ben Klock and Marcel Dettmann contort and deform the jagged edges of their trademark sound in the main room, we sit in the stretch of offices that occupy the immense belly of the venue, endless corridors that extend as far as the eye can see, and buried deep enough as to not catch any of the thundering set kicking off nearby.

It’s a welcome moment of tranquility for Paul Jack and Bradley Thompson, co-founder of LWE and Managing Director of Broadwick Live respectively, two prominent figures in making this debut series such a resounding triumph. “Everyone has been saying “oh my god, it’s your last show” and I think actually, give me a week or two and I’ll probably think ‘fucking hell, we pulled it off,’” Paul grins. “At the moment, it’s been week in, week out, non-stop.”

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The incessant pressure of making Printworks a success in its opening run has all but dissolved and yet, unbelievably, the team perhaps face an even trickier task in the coming months: no longer portrayed as the new kid on the block and with the dust very much settled, how do you keep crowds eagerly returning? Both seem keen to use the space in all manner of ways.

“Obviously we’ve got the electronic music series, but we do want to focus more from the arts and culture perspective and integrating food elements,” Brad confirms. “There’s also the live element, which it’s not particularly set up for at the moment, but I think bands that want to take a bit more of a risk are open to playing here as well.”

“It was never meant to be a nightclub,” Paul reveals. “It was possibly the easiest thing to launch it as because clubbing is inherently based around alternative spaces and people want to engage with that and it’s a bit more flexible. Live touring and cultural events are much harder to put into what is a unique space so it’s taking more time to do that, but this was never meant to be a nightclub.”

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At the opening party, it was easy to be overwhelmed by the scale of it all, the towering ceilings and electrifying arsenal of pyrotechnics predictably burnt onto frenzied retinas and lingering long in hazy memory. But on repeated visits, it’s the venue’s ability to adapt to whichever event it’s hosting that becomes its most impressive feature. Tonight, Printworks transports us to a dizzying world of widescreen, rib-shattering techno, while somehow delivering it with a crippling sense of claustrophobia and presenting its case to be considered alongside the most notorious sweatboxes around the world. A room this vast has no right to provide an experience so gloriously intimate, but everyone’s having too much fun to care.

Paul is well aware of the site’s flexibility, surely a tantalising prospect for all involved when mapping out future plans. “Everything you see in that space tonight will be pulled down. It’s sat here for fifteen weeks in a row and, after this, Printworks becomes a blank canvas again. What we’ve decided to do is, where we’ve got these runs of shows, we’re doing the first part of the year and we’re looking at the tail end of the year for the next run, and for the other shows we’re working with third party promoters to provide additional alternative content. It makes it less about being one-dimensional for us and makes it a canvas for other people.”

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Watching the mix of people dancing in the audience was incredible.

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At first glance, it appears as if Printworks owes much of its success to its most feverishly discussed components: a masterful social media strategy, diverse lineups, perhaps its astounding production capabilities. It’s safe to say these shifted tickets, but Paul and Brad, as seasoned clubbers themselves, find more importance in forging a raw, human connection with attendees, stressing the significance of crafting a collective experience. “One of the reasons I think we managed to sell the volume of tickets that we did is that we opened up the demographic we’re selling to. When people get older, they don’t hate clubbing, they just can’t be arsed standing in a nightclub at five o’clock in the morning. Watching the mix of people dancing in the audience was incredible. I think we described it as human experiment. It’s fucking weird.”

Brad nods in agreement. “You’re touching different people. I think as the lineup evolves and gets more diverse it opens it up to a lot more people. Sometimes the shows can feel a little bit daunting but it’s going to be much more accessible as we move forward. The people I expected to see here I haven’t necessarily seen but the people I know that turn up, I’m like “what the fuck are you doing here?” It’s almost like this secret rave brings everyone together from all walks of life.”

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It’s not just those inhabiting the dancefloor that have felt it, either. Billed as Printworks’ resident DJ and tasked with providing a suitable introduction for both an expectant crowd and lofty headliner, William Djoko shouldered a first impression heftier than most. If those making solitary trips managed to form an emotional attachment to their surroundings, it appears William was truly immersed and has nothing but glowing praise for the place as a whole. “It's great to see an initiative like Printworks give an overwhelmingly positive influx in the party community, being welcomed by many and attracting a new found love for our scene,” he enthuses.

“What's really enjoyable was walking through the venue after each show and having people come up to you saying they're ready to give it their all the rest of the day because of the set you've played and it’s a very rewarding feeling. It's like receiving the energy you've just given right back, a straight blessing if you ask me.”

The final show of a grueling run, Paul and Brad are in reflective mood. “When this first got announced, you had a reaction of eighty per cent positive and twenty per cent of people that still wanted to slag it off,” one recalls. “I really hope we change people’s thoughts on what Printworks is.”

Perhaps it was naïve to claim, in the aftermath of the opening party, that this space was simply rejuvenating club culture in the capital – Printworks is allowing us to examine and savour the music, arts and culture we adore in utterly unique ways, unrivalled by anywhere else in the world.

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Words: Lee Wakefield

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