Picture the scene: Enfield. A cloudy Tuesday. An industrial estate close to the motorway. A whiskery old man steps out of a beat-up van and seems unsure how to react to the group of hipsters gingerly stepping round piles of rubble to save their Air Force 1s.
I’m taking a tour of The Drumsheds, London’s biggest new music and cultural venue and the surprising new location of Field Day, the genre-spanning alternative music fest which previously took place in Hackney’s Victoria Park and then Herne Hill’s Brockwell Park. An abandoned Enfield gasworks isn’t necessarily the first place you’d expect to find a major culture and nightlife destination but Broadwick Live, the developers behind both this and Canning Town’s Printworks, have huge plans – four giant interconnected warehouses, ten acres of space, a huge field out the back...all that, and there’s an Ikea down the road.
The warehouses are vast. There are four linked together where the organisers hope to throw clusters of late-night events, rather than regular weekly club nights, and they estimate they can fit 10,000 punters in at a time. And because it’s indoors, previously open-air events like Field Day can run into the small hours –Field Day has a 3am license, for example – saving revellers the effort of finding somewhere to carry on the sesh nearby. Also good to know: it’s close to Zone 3’s Tottenham Hale and new Overground station Meridian Water, which is due to open in June. It adds up to a more European approach to festivals, compared to the early curfews we’re used to here in the UK.
Admittedly, the warehouses are pretty basic right now: big, empty halls that make the Aphex Twin barn at Field Day 2017 look like a garden shed, with cranes and wall rigging still in place. ‘We’re leaving them pretty much as is,’ Broadwick Live MD Bradley Thompson tells me, before hastily adding: ‘Aside from, obviously, making them safe.’ It’s the same design approach that the team took to Printworks, where killer programming and inventive lighting among the printing presses have helped to create a shining beacon of London nightlife. But before opening The Drumsheds, they’ll need to move the hordes of pigeons currently squatting in the warehouses.
Field Day will be the first event to take place on this gargantuan site, but it doesn’t really have an actual field yet, more a scrubland with ideas above its station. ‘The second stage will be over by that pylon on the left,’ a rep helpfully explains from our vantage point on the main stage – currently a pile of earth out behind the warehouses. He’s making some fairly hefty asks of my imagination but it just about works – I can picture rolling lawns, 75-metres’-worth of bar front, bag checks over by the River Lea and even experimental hip-hop band Death Grips echoing out between the diggers.
Seasoned festival-throwers and venue-redevelopers, the folks at Broadwick Live know the importance of toilet provisions too. Thompson agrees that if you don’t have enough loos, you’re screwed. Noise is another major problem for London venues, and The Drumsheds has made the canny move of avoiding residents altogether. The nearest homes are currently 1km away and with the venue at the heart of the Meridian Water redevelopment plans, one would hope problems like these can be avoided even as more housing is built (although quite how that will work, no one is sure). But for now, I’m excited by the possibilities. Huge outdoor gigs, proper parties, cultural events, a late-night London venue that’s actually opening rather than closing – and minimal loo queues. Walking into the warehouse on a Tuesday morning I swear I hear a distant thump of bass, a harbinger of things to come.
Field Day is at The Drumsheds, Meridian Water, on Jun 7-8.