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Manchester's New Century two months into it's big re-birth

dBs Manchester is located in the basement of the incredible New Century, which was re-opened to the public two months ago. We caught up with Venue Manager Sam Litten to find out how the first two months have gone.

Manchester's iconic New Century venue was born almost six decades ago in 1963, playing host to some of the biggest names in music throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. In September 2022, it was re-born as a creative hub in the heart of the city's NOMA district with a stunning music venue, independent kitchen and dBs' newest higher education facility in the basement!

Although still in the early stages of its development, New Century has already put on some amazing shows from icons and burgeoning acts alike. We caught up with venue manager Sam Litten to find out how the development of the venue is progressing and how dBs will enhance the building.

New Century has been open for two months now. Congrats! What feedback have you had from punters, musicians and the food vendors who have come to the venue so far?

SL: So from a promoter side of things, feedback has been extremely positive. We've had some big reps from the likes of S.J.M and Kilimanjaro come in. Generally, the feedback has been really positive about the whole venue. I've run three different music venues now and this is such a treat to manage because it's so clean-cut and it's really easy! The place looks great and it's all brand new. You haven't got toilets falling apart anywhere or anything like that. But then also, the room itself just lends itself to the events we've put on. It's nicely staged, the lighting package is incredible and the sound is incredible. Then, it just is all topped off with the ceiling, which is kind of like the icing on the cake. People love it. All good venues have like a certain signature to them. The Albert Hall in Manchester has got that old church, classic feel and look. Printworks in London is an old printworks. It's got all the old infrastructure still in there, and it's all highlighted to make the place look incredible. We've got the ceiling, which is really cool.

New Century Hall Venue (FBTwit)

What have been some of the highlights so far?

SL: So we had Gabriels play two weekends ago. They played on Saturday and Sunday which was phenomenal. I don't think they'll ever play in a venue this size again, or at least not for a long time, because they're such an incredible talent, and have blown up massively. It was two sold-out shows. With a lot of gigs, you expect a certain audience. Whether that is a certain age or a certain gender, but with this show, it was such a mixed demographic. That was quite special. You had a lot of older people, young people. It was just really nice to see loads of people from all different kinds of backgrounds and age groups all in one room together. So, that was a really good gig. For me personally, Bembona last week, which was a Warehouse Project co-promoted show with Live Nation, was really good. It was a really good way to see the sound system at its fullest. It was quite bassy, it had lots of high frequencies. It was really cool. Visually, it looks stunning. It was a super simple LED backdrop, with some surrounding lights, but yeah, it just looks fantastic and sounded incredible. The set went through all different kinds of moods. It was quite melodic and house, to begin with, and then it went towards harder techno through the middle. With Warehouse Project shows, you kind of expect it to be sort of a young 20s to 30s demographic, very male-heavy and it wasn't at all. I think actually 25% of the audience were 45+ on that show and it's just nice to see how music and events can bring people from all these different backgrounds together.

It sounds like there's a great variety. How much of a spread will there be across different genres at New Century?

SL: I mean, tonight we've got Fozzy and Escape The Fate. Escape The Fate is quite a classic emo band and Fozzy is quite hard metal. At the beginning of October, we had Future Shock Wrestling and we had a wrestling ring built in the middle of the hall with seats around it. We had the Manchester food and drink festival the following weekend. We've had Toro y Moi. We had a Graham Coxon book reading and signing last week as well. We're generally trying to be super broad with what we offer. We're not trying to be really cool. We're not focusing on just putting on bands, we're not just focusing on DJs, we're just looking at doing everything and offering something for everyone.

New Century Outside 2

How do you think New Century fits in with the rest of the circuit and the culture of live music in Manchester? 

SL: Culturally, I think we will very soon be very relevant. I think it's still early days at the minute and we still need to build some trust amongst certain promoters. Albert Hall, for instance, has a full calendar of something like 200 events a year and they're super busy. But that hasn't always been the case. That's taken maybe six years for them to build that trust and their relationship with promoters. We're a brand new company. It's not like we're a promoter that started this venture that has already got loads of contacts. We're literally a brand new company and a brand new set-up. So for promoters to put their trust in us and into our booking team to put on these events, we're very thankful for that. The only way is if we keep doing a good job and keep getting the good feedback that we're getting. If we do that, the busier we'll get and we'll get better profile shows as well. We're very much an up-and-coming artist's venue - or a venue for artists that are having come-back tours. People that have been away for a while, and they're just dipping their toes back in and coming back. 

Obviously, the venue is integrated with dBs in the basement via fibre cables. What are the initial plans for how that connectivity can be used in the future? 

SL: I think there are already talks about dBs being involved with the programming of the stage in the kitchen. We've already discussed with the Centre Manager [Ebrahim Akudi], that we're completely open to them using the space and giving the students a bit of experience with venue management and production management. It's just about having people that come forward and say that's what they want to do. 

New Century is almost like a little creative hub. You've got food, you've got music, and then you've got creative students in the basement downstairs. How does all of that enhance the offering of the whole building?

SL: I think it's pretty cool. It depends on who's looking at it, but I think it's something that's quite special and it gives a lot of magic to the building as a whole. It is a centre of education and talent, and it's a platform for people to grow. Because of the type of venue that we are, we're not for people that are at the top of the charts. They will be going to stadiums and things like that. But what we hope to see - I think this is Adrian's dream [Adrian Armstrong, Director of ACC] - is a student downstairs playing a gig in the kitchen, playing a couple of shows there and then, one day, they would be big enough to play in New Century, sell out New Century and then go off and do stadium tours. That's the kind of stepping stone that we are. Where there's a buzz about a band, like Gabriels for instance, they went on sale and sold out the first day instantly so they had to put a second day on straight away. We know next time Gabriels play somewhere in Manchester, they're going somewhere bigger. They might be going to Victoria Warehouse, or maybe even bigger. So it's pretty cool.

Students in Pro Stuido

What are the broad aims for the future of the New Century?

SL: For me as the venue manager, I think our aim is to hit the gig season next autumn and winter with a full calendar. We've got loads pencilled in already through September, October and November, and some big ones as well. It's just about getting them confirmed. I think as our reputation grows, word spreads more and more, and we keep getting good feedback from promoters, people will be more likely to put their acts on here.

FIND OUT MORE:
New Century: connecting our students to Manchester's newest venue!
Food for thought: dBs Manchester campus New Century Hall announces first independent food traders
Manchester’s game & tech boom is good news for dBs Manchester


If you want to see our amazing campus in Manchester in the flesh, visit us at one of our forthcoming open days!

A photo collage including a eurorack synth, a female student wearing a Playstation virtual reality headset, two students using a Ableton Push 2 controller, a tutor and students using a mixing console and a student behind a Korg MS-20 synth