Well curated line-up? Powerful sound system? Lively crowd? All key ingredients for a good night out, but not always enough for a great one.
The right venue can make all the difference, and here in Leeds we get to party in some truly individual spaces.
The city’s industrial past is to thank for many of them. There really is something special about being in an old building not intended to be a club space. It’s hard to put your finger on, but you get a sort of sense of privilege to be able to enjoy it for that purpose. And promoters can have so much fun with the production, using the building’s character as inspiration before getting creative with the décor, the lighting and maybe the VJing. (Or equally, leaving the space untouched lets it work its own magic).
Then of course every city needs the classic club spaces, blank canvases for promoters just starting out and a reliable weekly night out for the dedicated party people.
But going too often to the same place takes the novelty away, so it’s lucky Leeds has a whole load to choose from. To save you some time, here are our top picks. So grab your old trainers and enjoy.
Reliable city centre hotspots
Wire, HiFi and Mint are renowned venues for quality dance music and are purpose-built venues done right. Down some steps at the top of Call Lane, Wire is considered one of the UK’s best small clubs. It’s a dark and smoky room with a legendary Funktion 1 sound system and the bookings span all genres, so suits all underground events. It also has air con (of course not a deal-breaker but a blessing if you’re out in long sleeves). HiFi has a similarly intimate feel with its single room set-up, and hosts events playing soul, hip hop, dancehall and afrobeat. It’s the cosiest of the small city centre venues and it’s all about the feel-good vibes. Then there’s Mint, with its weekly club nights that are always a hit and a reliable mid-week blowout. It’s dark and sweaty, has an iconic flashing ceiling and bookings range from newcomer promoters to dance music heavyweights. Distrikt has to be mentioned too. A bar rather than a club, the guys who run this hidden gem just off Duncan Street throw a load of free entry nights including some big names – how they make these bookings without charging us is anyone’s guess, but let’s pray they don’t stop.
The city of warehouses
The pricier events happen on the outskirts of town. The big three venues – Mint Warehouse, Canal Mills and Beaver Works are all around 1k capacity and events held here are often a sell-out, bringing in renowned international DJs and residents to watch out for. These feel more like an occasion than just a club night and most promoters will hold events here once a month at most. Mint’s big sister venue Mint Warehouse covers two floors with its three rooms and mega smoking area which is a real hive of activity. Canal Mills was originally a textiles mill built a few hundred years ago in Holbeck. It’s stripped back and still feels totally industrial, with three rooms of varying sizes (it’s cold though, so take a jacket). Beaver Works is probably the dingiest but in a brilliant way. A night out in this Victorian warehouse becomes a bit of an adventure, with six rooms to explore and loads of nooks and crannies. And the chillout areas are as vast and as fun as the building itself.
Intimate, arty, characterful
Tucked away between car showrooms in the centre of Chapeltown, Leeds West Indian Centre’s cramped surroundings and simplistic setup breed an authenticity missing from many mainstream clubbing spots. It’s known mainly for the iconic SubDub as well as one-off events. Then there’s Freedom Mills, Duke Studios and Studio 24, which all opened recently as multi-purpose arts spaces. Expect small one-off events in tasteful surroundings with surprisingly killer sound systems. Beautifully intimate parties that won’t come around often.
Save that taxi money
Hyde Park Book Club hosts tiny events from local promoters, many of them students. A genuine social experience to be had here. Finally, The Faversham can be found on campus, a handy location if ever there was one. Their terrace hosts brilliant outdoor events in summer and their indoor space is a simple no nonsense club.
This is by no means a conclusive list and venues pop up left right and centre, but this should give you a good head start.
Check out our Clubbing Guide for the promoters to and events to know.
Feature Image: canalmills.com
Other Images: facebook.com/wireclub, facebook.com/goodlifetld, facebook.com/subdub1