'I want to find the next Ed Sheeran in Wakefield': Music venue Warehouse 23 set to reopen as Venue 23

Wakefield's biggest music venue is rising from the ashes, six months after it was forced to close.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 6:14 pm
From left to right: Karl Johnson, handyman Ian Broadhead and Black Horse landlord Tony Padgett are all involved in the revival

Warehouse 23 shut in April, apparently for good, having been badly hit by the Covid pandemic.

But its doors are set to open again following a revamp, under new management and a new name as well - Venue 23.

An Oasis tribute act will be the first performers at the revived setting, on Smyth Street in the city, with a gig on October 29.

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Mr Padgett and Coun Johnson say they're excited by the venture.

Karl Johnson, a Freddie Mercury tribute act, music teacher and local councillor, is the man who's stepped in to rescue it.

"Wakefield needs a live music venue," Councillor Johnson, who bought the property for "around £400,000", said.

"It'd be an absolute shame for people not to have something like this.

"We want to keep live music alive in Wakefield and we want to make this area around here a proper night out."

Warehouse 23 has played host to some of the UK's biggest acts in years gone by.

Coun Johnson said part of his ambition is to tap into the musical potential around the area. He suggested that offering a unique place for young acts to perform will help unearth some hidden gems.

"I want to find the next Ed Sheeran in Wakefield, 100 per cent," he said.

"I think there's a huge chance of something like that happening.

"Look at Sheffield, where they produced Human League, Def Leppard and ABC. Why can't you do that in Wakefield?

Work is underway to bring the Smyth Street premises fit for public use again.

"We want to give up-and-coming talented people a chance to play on the stage they wouldn't get anywhere else."

In days gone by, Warehouse 23 played host to the likes of Joy Division, Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and New Order founder Peter Hook.

But ahead of the revival, Coun Johnson said he wanted to host a wide range of musical acts and bands at Venue 23.

The new management team say they eventually want to open the venue "four or five days a week".

He explained: "It's not just going to be about one genre. We're trying to make the place much more modern (than it was).

"There's going to be pop bands, unsigned bands, events. We've got tribute nights, a festival at Christmas.

"We'll have indie nights, student nights, rock nights and a retro night, which Wakefield's not had for many years.

"We're going to try to keep the ticket prices as cheap as we can, but you'll still be seeing quality."

Partnering Coun Johnson to help with the venture is Tony Padgett, who owns the nearby Black Horse.

The pub has gained a cult following of its own with its live music sessions on Sundays, and Mr Padgett said there was "definitely" an appetite for a dedicated music venue post-pandemic.

Can "the next Ed Sheeran" be found in Wakefield?

"This will give Wakefield a breath of fresh air," he said.

"Even a small venue like The Black Horse, when we put live music on we’re full to capacity and we’ve had to turn people away at times.

"This is going to be a venue where any band would want to come and play, because they’ll have fantastic kit.

"The quality of the equipment we’re putting in - the sound and the lighting - will be fantastic.

"We've already been contacted by loads of bands from Wakefield and from all over the place, expressing an interest in performing."

Work is well underway to make the venue fit for public use again, in time for its opening night.

A takeaway kiosk selling late-night food will be located within the premises and there are plans to host sit-down comedy nights in future too.

The new management team envisage Venue 23 eventually being open "four or five nights a week, rather than just one".

Mr Padgett said the city's nightlife will also be massively boosted by the reopening.

"This will benefit all of Wakefield," he said. "The pubs, the clubs, the takeaways and the taxis. It's a venue that's close to the station and so it's accessible.

"It's very exciting."

Local Democracy Reporting Service