Rachel Horne interviews co-owner of Doncaster Warehouse Lewis Walker.
IMAGE: Warren Draper
RH: The Warehouse is a notorious Doncaster venue, but what’s the backstory?
LW: The Warehouse was originally opened in 1988 by a Doncaster businessman. He opened it as a nightclub, but the local authority would not give him a drinks license, so he decided to open anyway and let people bring their own drinks. It became well known as the ‘BYO’ – Bring Your Own. In the early days he struggled to get people to come, but then the rave scene kicked off and so he decided to go that route. Again struggling to get it off the ground, he eventually booked house and techno DJ Carl Cox and bingo – full club. Another name that came from The Warehouse is DJ Mzone, a Doncaster miner who at the time was doing weddings as a DJ. He is one of the founders of the Euro trance scene, a massively well-respected DJ who still plays at the Warehouse to this day and was with us on NYE.
RH: The club scene was pretty booming then. How have things changed?
LW: Yes, it was massive back then and as you probably know, yes, it has changed drastically now. It is much harder to attract people to dance clubs, as it is all so mainstream these days. Also, the smoking ban didn’t really do us any favours.
We concentrate on mainly the dance scene, i.e. Dizstruxshon, TFI, new wave, but we also offer the club to other promoters to rent, who bring in their own brands.
RH: Can you explain a bit more about Distruxshon and TFI?
LW: Dizstruxshon was probably one of the biggest events in our area going way back to
1992. It was a local event started at Howden near Goole, and moved around the area: Henry’s Mexborough, the Dome, Camelots (now Diamond Live Lounge). It has been going 25 years this year and is probably the longest-running event of its kind that has a continued to operate throughout. All of the lads that worked at Dizstruxshon went off and started their own event, TFI. So Dizstruxshon, BYO and TFI are now mixing the old genres with the new, still attracting people from the 90s and today’s youth also. We have a mix of happy hardcore and trance, right through to today’s harder styles of dance music. It is a good mix and even today’s young dance enthusiasts like the older styles from the 90s.
These brands and mixed genre events tend to be our best attended. As the Warehouse is out on a limb, people that come from other areas are coming straight to the club and don’t tend to go into town. So like its predecessors – Northern Soul, for instance – these people come to Doncaster because we provide what entertainment they require in a specialised, safe and secure environment.
RH: Over the years a lot of clubs have opened and closed. You’re becoming an endangered species…
LW: Granted, we are not the most aesthetic-looking club in Doncaster, but what we offer inside is different to all other clubs in our area. The fact that the club has been operating for 30 years in 2018, with just two operators over that time, speaks for itself. Never shutting its doors, even though its roof burnt off and it was destroyed again in the floods of 2002. When the recession hit again in 2014, it was very tough.
RH: You guys have the marketing budget to tell your story, promote what you do and have done more commercial venues. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you seem to get quite a lot of bad press.
LW: Yes, unfortunately over the years the venue has had bad press. An incident at the
Warehouse will reach the front pages, but any incident in town does not seem to have the same press interest. People can only view it from their own perspective, and that would be by trying us out. If you don’t attend the venue because of hearsay then you are only depriving yourself if you have a love for dance music. No other venue in Doncaster can offer what we do. We offer the only the best music, covering many genres in one event, all played by DJs from all over Europe. It is a safe environment. Granted, we have incidents, but no venue is immune from them. We have a very good
relationship with the local licensing officers and have regular visits to discuss how we operate. I can safely say they go away happy every time.
It is only on rare occasion that we have to ask for assistance from the police. Mostly they are tied up in town. The people that attend the Warehouse are all coming for the same reason, to dance and have a great time socialising with their friends. We are always happy to see new faces at the club and everybody is welcome. We have also had a drinks licence for the past 15 years, so I’m afraid the BYO days are no longer in operation, even though we do still get people turning up with a carrier bag of cans.
RH: What have you guys got coming up?
LW: 2018 is a big year for Doncaster Warehouse. There are not many venues that can boast 30 continuous years of operation, especially in the entertainment industry, and even more so as an underground dance venue. So we have some big plans going into the new year.
We hope to feature a lot of old brands and artists too. We don’t think 30 years can be celebrated in just one night, so we will stage events throughout the whole of 2018, starting on Saturday 17th February with a BYO Reunion charity event organised by a local Doncaster business, Anarchy Hair. Tracy Grayson, the business owner, wanted to put the event on to raise money for charities SSAFA & Yorkshire Air Ambulance, so all proceeds will go to them. There’s literally nothing else like it in the region, so why not come give us a try? You might be surprised. See you on the floor.
Click HERE for the link to the Facebook event page.