The man behind the regeneration that's reinvigorating a long forgotten part of the city...

From a desolate and forgotten area to Manchester's most exciting music venue - how Jon Drape has put Depot at Mayfield on the map.

By Ciara Martin | 10 December 2019

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From the Haçienda to the new home of WHP19. We sat down with Jon Drape, the man behind it all,  to discuss how Depot at Mayfield is restructuring the Manchester music scene and reinvigorating this forgotten part of the city.

Jon Drape, born and bred in Manchester, started his career in the late eighties as a lighting technician at The Palace Theatre. Jon continued his career at the iconic Haçienda amid Manchester’s Acid House explosion, initially working and touring with bands such as Stereo MCs, Inspiral Carpets and the Happy Mondays until 1991 and later as the production manager until its closure in 1997.

Since then, Jon’s esteemed career has seen him deliver numerous outdoor shows and festivals, with clients such as Parklife, Bluedot, Kendal Calling, Lost Village and the Commonwealth Games. New to the agenda, is The Warehouse Project and Depot at Mayfield.

Recently becoming the new home of The Warehouse Project – the astonishing Depot at Mayfield, which has a capacity of 10k, has become one of the most popular venues in Manchester and is bringing a sense of community back to the Manchester music scene in an otherwise forgotten about area.

The WHP19 calendar has been extensive, with Depot at Mayfield seeing performances, sets and immense shows from the likes of Skepta, Homobloc, Mura Masa, Peggy Gou, Feel My Bicep and more. WHP has also given slots to new and emerging artists, such as Manchester’s Black Josh and Yung Omz.

We caught up with Jon about all things Mayfield, Manchester and his career through the years.

What impact do you think Depot at Mayfield has on Manchester?

Manchester is ever-evolving, and I think that Mayfield is the next part of that evolution. What we’re doing with Mayfield is very ambitious – but providing 24 acres of regeneration within the city centre will hopefully provide great opportunity for those such as The Warehouse Project to utilise a unique space within the city.

Cultural regeneration has been at the heart of Manchester’s wider regeneration for decades. Manchester in the 80s was a grim place – but with cultural regeneration schemes such as The Bridgewater Hall and The Haçienda driving the movement, the city has evolved and allowed for the wider regeneration of Manchester in a way that feels authentic.

We’ve spent £800k on Mayfield to make it event friendly. Manchester is my home city, to be able to do something in my own town on this scale is fantastic and is certainly a career-defining moment for me.

The Warehouse Project season ends at the close of the year – what are your plans for the venue after that? 

We are working with a number of different people next year. Currently, we are working on the plans to establish a more fixed-music venue to come through next year. We have Manchester Pride coming through next August and we’re also working with several food operators to provide a street food offering. Lots of conversations going on. Watch this space!

Depot at Mayfield attracts so many types of people – what do you think it is that brings everyone together? 

The Manchester music scene is constantly changing and evolving. Manchester has lots of different Tribes and an amazing sense of community. Delivering events such as Homobloc Festival was amazing – Mayfield was a perfect venue. Run by Manchester’s Homoelectric, the festival ran a LGBT+ charity initiative with human rights group All Out and raised funds on the night.

The feedback from Homobloc has been incredible. It’s all about the building – everyone loves it here at Mayfield. It’s a place that brings everyone together.

How important is it to you to have ‘smaller’ artists performing?

The booking team at The Warehouse Project have a great creative vision for the music programme – they are committed to bringing new artists through. We need new artists so that in 5 or 6 years we have new headliners.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to let that happen. Not just the record labels or agents. Promoters are equally important in providing a platform to young and emerging artists, and The Warehouse Project, in particular, is committed to doing that.

Broadwick Live now has Depot at Mayfield, Printworks and The Drumsheds and you have been called venue ‘disruptors’ – what does that mean to you?

We take on buildings that other people might not even look at. We started with Printworks London, where we saw a huge opportunity in Canada Water. We’re placemaking – people may not of known the areas and now we’re driving hundreds of thousands of people there and activating the space.

Activating these spaces for a short amount of time can be incredibly powerful for their development and establishing the area. It feels authentic. It gives feeling of place. Mayfield is now on the map, people know where we are. We’re up for taking the risk and doing it in the short-term with a view of getting tenure for the long run. Hopefully, we’ll still be at Mayfield in 20 years time, in some shape or form.

How important is your team to the success of a venue?

Team is at the heart of everything we do and having the right people around you means you can deliver things that are quite exceptional. That goes for the festivals as much as for Mayfield – we’ve taken an awful lot of our learnings from our numerous festivals into the way we deal with venues.

We use a lot of the same skills, and the same people, so that team ethic and communication translates well. With Mayfield – what we’re delivering is a small festival – 10k people, 3 stages. The only difference is that it has a roof over its head and 4 walls!

What has been your favourite year so far?

I’ve had some fun this last decade I must say. Starting Parklife was fun and building that festival. I suppose working and playing at the Haçienda was really good fun – but I was in my 20s and I didn’t get as bad of a hangover. However New Year’s Eve there always seemed problematic. One year, the New Years Eve pyrotechnics set £5k in cash on fire behind the main bar and another year the firework detonator failed and I was outside the club at 11.55pm trying to get a car battery out of a car to use… I made it with seconds to spare.

What are the next few years looking like for you?

We have Mayfield for the next 5 years so I’m very excited about the opportunities that will give, the people we’ll be working with and the types of events we can deliver. I’ve also restructured my production business Engine No.4 which was previously Ground Control.

With 3 new business partners, we’re just at the beginning of a new journey and looking forward to the opportunities that will arise. Manchester feels like a really interesting time for music at the moment – with so many breakthrough artists coming through. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for the city musically.

Over the next decade, The Mayfield Partnership will turn Depot at Mayfield into a thriving neighbourhood that will reinvigorate this forgotten part of the city centre. Stay tuned. 

The WHP19 season ends at the close of this year. See below for their lineups and closing parties!

WHP Calendar