. Sankeys | djmag.com
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#2010

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DJ Mag Staff

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Sankeys

Address: Manchester, England
Capacity: 1150

"We are building the best club in the universe... failure is not an option," declared the sign that David Vincent stuck up in the club's office on taking full control here back in 2006. Irrepressibly enthusiastic, it's often easy to take Vincent's maddening passion and infectious, motor-mouthed rantings with a pinch of salt but the proof is now in the pudding. Only last month, Laurent Garnier emailed personally to gush about how his recent Sankeys gig sat in the top five of his career - a sentiment echoed by The Chemical Brothers after Bugged Out!'s 15th birthday here. Amidst a backdrop of poisonous recession, last year's attendances were 25% up on the previous - the vibe under those famously low, LED illuminated ceilings has been absolutely apeshit just about every single weekend.

Yet for a venue that has been the lifeblood of Manchester's clubbing community since 1994, one vote of confidence speaks loudest - that of the thousands who pledged their allegiance in our first clubber-voted Top 100 Clubs poll.

"The venue would be nothing if the crowd was shit and in Manchester we've got the best you could have," believes adopted Manc' Vincent, born and brought up in East London. "In a lot of cities, you go to a club and noone knows each other and you can really feel that. But it's like a village community at Sankeys - most people kind of know each but anyone's welcome."

Rather than a faceless corporate entity, Vincent's Sankeys is a club in the truest sense of the word, a rite of passage for anyone who has clubbed in this city and a true labour of love for him and his team - almost all of which have been clubbers and then regular faces here before signing up for duty. But it's taken more than wildly hedonistic crowds and bottomless passion to get Sankeys recognised as a true worldbeater.

A vastly different beast from the raw, rough 'n' ready basement that Vincent inherited, Sankeys has grown organically to become one of the most technologically advanced and comfortable clubbing experiences on the planet. While his team's ludicrous sense of humour is famous (just check youtube for their ridiculous 'Dragon's Den' mock-up), a serious, clubbers-come-first attention to detail is intrinsic to everything that Sankeys now represents with the crystal-clear Phazon system, Disco Panel LED lights, outdoor cinema, Amnesia-style Megatron nitrogen cannons (the only of their kind in the UK) and queue-eradicating barcode entry system, all making for unique, innovative touches that make Sankeys more than just your standard Saturday night out.

But no matter how many tweaks, upgrades or improvements it undergoes, Sankeys never loses its root essence as an intense and debauched hotbox of rave.

"It's electric, it's live, it's raw and there's passion running through every aspect of the club," says Greg Vickers, who worked his way up from flyer boy to established resident DJ (at one point he played every weekly Tribal Sessions for three years) to his current role as Vincent's right-hand-man.

"There's no posing, people just get involved right from the off and get on that floor. It's a really welcoming place to go clubbing."

"It's always instantly intense and it's just so easy to get a party vibe going in there - it's loud, open and up for it," agrees Laidback Luke.

"It's also more of a hands-in-the-air vibe," adds Vincent. "I always remember going to a club in London. When me and my mates put our hands in the air everyone looked us like we were mad. The more north you go, the more hands you get in the air."

Indeed, acid house culture has a habit of disappearing so far up its own ass that it becomes unrecognisable from the inclusive and wholly hedonistic ideals it was born on, but never so at Sankeys and their programming is now more diverse than ever.

"Maybe in the past, when we had Tribal Sessions every week, we were guilty of being a bit snotty about other styles but we've opened up totally now," he explains. "Rather than just being this techno and progressive house club, we've got the full spectrum. One week you might have Bugged Out! with the Chemical Brothers, the week after that DJ Marky and Grooverider, the week after Circo Loco, then Garuda with Ferry Corsten and Gareth Emery."

Just don't expect the restlessly perfectionist nature of Vincent and his crazy clan to stand still for long.

"It was always about - and it will still be about - making the venue better and better and better. Just two weeks ago we moved our soundsystem about and it now sounds 20% better. Some people might have said, 'why are you changing it, it sounds amazing as it is?' but if you know you can make something better why not do it? Why rest on your laurels."

Why indeed.