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Sankey's Soap - A Dirty Experience

Published on December 20th 2005.

The thing with clubbing, is that promoters and venue owners can get so complacent. Once something works, when they find the “magic formula”, they stick with it ‘til the end. For some clubs in the locality, that's a good thing. Years of hard work has brought out a tried and tested formula that sees a brilliant crowd, amazing music and a genuine feeling of being part of something; week in week out they're somewhere you want to go. In the place of Sankey's Soap however I'm afraid they've been sucked the other way entirely.

My history with Sankey's hasn't always been the best one, with trips there often going wrong at some point or other. It's a good while since I last went down though, so I thought I'd try my luck last Friday; a whole heap of people I know were going to be there, the flyer had the Plump DJs and Hybrid playing – it was going to be an amazing night.

Going to be, but wasn't. The first downside came when my friend Tom dropped out. A last minute illness had seen him leave a restaurant early and head home for bed, but that was ok, it was only half ten. I could arrive on my own and meet people in there, all would be good so off I went.

Arriving at the venue I stepped out of a taxi at about 11:10pm and was greeted by two queues, one guestlist and the other ticket only. Both were equally sized and speaking to people waiting neither seemed to know how long it'd be before they got in or why they were waiting. That was at 11pm, a time in my head when you should be more or less able to walk straight in, it was immediately clear that this wasn't going to happen.

Neither queue had form to it, occasionally a lone bouncer would appear and explain it's sold out, ticket only, go home if you're not on the list. The other bouncers seemed to be waiting for people to get to the front of the queue before telling them that if they had tickets they should join the other queue, and no, they couldn't f#$king come in that way. I didn't get it, I've been clubbing a lot, door staff do a fantastic and much needed job, but waiting in line listening to them laugh about strip searching people, well I found that a little disturbing, and intimidating. All my times clubbing the bouncers were the people you knew you could go to if something went horribly wrong, these guys just didn't foster a feeling of being safe. I waited in line for my turn, quietly, just after the stroke of midnight I walked through the gate and heard the person behind me told the guestlist had finished at 12, sorry, go home.

I was in though, brilliant. I could hear bass pumping through the walls into the courtyard, smiley faces ahead of me and for a moment or two it didn't feel so cold. I'd waited a while but getting through the main door and into the club didn't look like it'd take more than 5 minutes, sorted. Then I realise; my jacket. And that's when I spotted another long, long line of people.

Sankey's cleverly keeps its cloakroom in a separate building to the club itself, limiting the amount of people stood around inside with nothing to do and I suppose it makes closing much easier at the end of the night. However with a tiny hole and what appears to be one person inside; putting your jacket away isn't a quick affair. The size of the building could easily accommodate an opening with 10 people at it taking coats but no, there's just one tiny hole. No covering either, not so bad in the summer but it rained on Friday, as it does fairly often in Manchester. From where I was stood the line of people waiting disappeared far around the corner, I put my hood up, lit a cigarette and joined them, it couldn't be that long of a wait surely!?

Reports from inside were sketchy; over crowded, too hot, terrible bar service. Did you make it in?

Turned out I was in that queue for another hour. At the half way point I could see the front, and the queue to get into the club itself, which had been small when I'd started waiting to put my jacket away. It wasn't small anymore, it was looking like it was going to match the queue I'd been in outside, and I was still waiting for the cloak room (which incidentally was taking FAR longer than the queue to get in the venue in the first place).

I finally gave up when it hit 1am, having arrived at 11pm I really didn't expect it to take two hours to get into the club, after midnight I was only standing around out of bemusement and a vague curiosity of how long it might actually take, but Sankey's appeared to be so viciously oversold, so not about what I thought clubbing was. I just didn't want to stand around outside any more.

All of the people waiting had paid in advance, had tickets, had already waited an hour to get in and with the cloakroom queue snaking off into the shadows I bet they had to wait a couple hours to get rid of their jackets as well. I didn't have it in me to last it out, so I gave up. Friends of mine actually made it into the club, I won't tell you what they said of the night, it wasn't very complimentary and to be honest, hearing how full it was inside I was glad I didn't make it in.

If you see this, take a moment and double check you're going the right way

To be honest I was surprised I gave it 'til 1am; I'm more surprised that so many people put up with it after paying. I've been to clubs all over, to so many different nights and writing it off saying “It's a busy night” just isn't good enough. As I waited I counted 200 people that didn't have a chance of getting onto the dance floor before 2am, at £10 a head that's £2,000, and the owners of the night obviously know that. I'd avoid it unless you really want to go. Seriously, there are better things to do with your time.

Tristan Welch

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