Photography: John Biddle /

Given the rude health Liverpool’s music scene is in at the present time and the explosion in new music in the city, it seems only right we should have some new venues to enjoy it in.  Step forward then, The Kazimier, The Static Gallery, Mello Mello and the most recent addition, The Shipping Forecast. Opened in May this year, the ‘Forecast is the only music venue in the city that can claim to serve Sunday lunch as well as put on gigs. BIDO LITO dug the waterproofs out of the locker, spliced the mainbrace and set sail for number 15 Slater St to chat to co-manager and co-founder Lewis Boardman about what the club’s prospective patrons can expect.

Created and managed by Lewis and Rich McGinnis, the duo behind the wildly successful Chibuku, the success the night has brought them over the past ten years inspired them to set up The Shipping Forecast. A radically different proposition, existing as a live music venue and club as opposed to an event, the club is part of the 580 network of venues across the UK.

“The 580 have now got 12 bars that can host live music so DJs and bands playing at The Shipping Forecast can go on to play all of them” explains Lewis. New Young Pony Club are one of the acts who have recently done this. The circuit includes the splendidly named Spanky Van Dykes, the ultra-hip Camden Lock Tavern, Sheffield’s Bungalows and Bears, and the especially memorable A Nation of Shopkeepers (Napoleon’s description of the English race), in Leeds.

On the subject of the club’s decidedly different names the origin of The Shipping Forecasts’ moniker is a matter of some dispute. “Er, I can’t remember who came up with the name actually”, states Lewis, looking momentarily perplexed, “I told my parents what it was and they’re reaction was ‘That’s so stupid’, and I thought ‘Yeah, but it’s so stupid it’ll work’.’’

The name gave the Liverpool based arts collective Mercy, the creative talent behind the venture plenty of scope for the décor and overall theme of the venue.  Given the ability to create a space that chimes in with the venues’ name you do wonder what the interior of Spanky Van Dykes could look like.  The nautical feel of the club including the fixtures and fittings, even down to the menus and flyers give the venue a uniformed sea-faring look.

Given the (hopefully temporary) loss of Korova, The Shipping Forecast has stepped into that venue’s shoes to some extent, albeit with a greater emphasis on live music.  As Lewis says, “Hopefully we’re filling the gap where Korova was, breaking new bands and new DJs.” In addition to music, the venue also has affiliations with other organisations in the city.  “In terms of art we’re working closely with Bluecoat Chambers, and we’re also working with FACT.  We’re going to have artists come in once every three months to do installations that will constantly changing throughout the year.” In view of the artwork that is displayed in the venue, The Shipping Forecast is hoping to establish itself as a creative hub, promoting the talent the city has to offer.

“The kids who are in the know come straight in, it’s like a New York loft, Speakeasy-type secret bar. The back door idea was a good touch, having the secret door on the same street as the FACT and round the corner from The Peacock, people’s perception of the place changes.” Lewis Boardman

Lewis states regarding the interiors of the club, “The vibe of the venue was to keep it pretty raw, we’ve been working bars and clubs over the past ten years with Chibuku and Circus.”  The design of the venue was partly drawn up by the same team who oversaw the re-design of the Magnet. The club’s opening night featured a DJ set by Gilles Peterson, a long-standing friend of Rich McGinnis who gave the club his seal of approval.  On the live music side the club hosted a brace of gigs for this year’s Sound City, an event Lewis hopes will return to the venue next year.

The focal point of the ‘Forecast is The Hold. A cool subterranean basement reminiscent of The Cavern (the original one that is). The stage lies level with the dancefloor, bringing the band and the patrons eyeball to eyeball. The room also harks back to the late 1980s and the era of warehouse parties when the likes of The Stone Roses began to play venues markedly different to theatres and Academies. Originally a “dirty, stinking cellar”, according to Lewis, the low ceilings and the Function One Sound System make the noise from the PA inescapable.  This combined with sweat running down the walls, (‘the sign of a good club’ reckons Lewis), makes The Hold a memorable location.

In terms of a grass-roots aesthetic the club will welcome new and independent promoters to host events there. As Lewis states, “If we can agree on the direction of where they’re going, the music, the artwork, the clientele they’re going for, then we’re all for independent promoters in the venue.”  He goes on, “There’s a lot of good local promoters in Liverpool at the minute. Breaking new bands, supporting new bands is definitely important for us, as well as DJs.”

The combination of dancefloor and mosh pit within the same venue also physically demonstrates how the gulf between dance and rock, once seemingly insurmountable is now just a short hop. A journey that began in the mid 1980s when a bunch of rock fans attended some club in Manchester called the Hacienda in search of cheap beer, the sight of bands performing DJ sets is now totally commonplace. Bands such as LCD Soundsystem on DFA, cited as a favourite by Lewis further prove how this synergy is alive and well.

As for the clientele the venue is hoping to attract Lewis says, “The door policy’s pretty strict; we’re here for the arty kids, and the music kids, but it’s a place where everyone can feel comfortable.” Further to this he is at pains to emphasise the importance of the ‘back door’ entrance to the venue that opens out onto Fleet St, used of a weekend.  :The key thing when we started this was to have a secret door.”  Lewis nods, “Thursday through to Saturday, as soon as the sun goes down we close the whole front of the venue.  The doors, the blinds the windows are all shut, from the outside you can’t even see in, it’s a total blackout.  If you didn’t know you’d just walk past it, you wouldn’t even know what it was.”

He continues, “The kids who are in the know come straight in, it’s like a New York loft, Speakeasy-type secret bar.  The back door idea was a good touch, having the secret door on the same street as the FACT and round the corner from The Peacock, people’s perception of the place changes.” A feature that was included in the architects’ plans for the re-design of the club when they originally acquired the building, it ensures that everyone who attends the Shipping Forecast feels comfortable.  The chances of a Hen Night staggering in through the door at 1AM are highly unlikely!

The Shipping Forecast…outlook: sunny.

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