Manchester's Rising Star: Chicken Shop Events
From the outside looking in, Manchester’s dance music prowess is often judged by its biggest nights – from the now disbanded Warehouse Project to WAH, Metropolis and Parklife festival. However, the largest Northern city boasts one of the most active underground scenes in the country. In fact, with well established and long-running venues such as Soup Kitchen, Hidden, South, 256 and CUBO, not to forget the tragic recent closure of Antwerp Mansion, a new student raver wonders where to start.
So here’s a hint – Chicken Shop Events. Since the winter of 2017, Chicken Shop have thrown more than their fair share of nights across the aforementioned venues, all to critical acclaim. The imprint could be considered relatively new, but for the current crop of students in the city, it’s beyond doubt that Chicken Shop’s offerings are not to be sniffed at. Over the last two years, the imprint has provided for pretty much every underground dance genre in the book – pulling serious talent like Benny L, Champion, Conducta & Skeptical, alongside a showcase of Manchester’s ever-promising stash of local resident DJ talent.
For an imprint with no external financial backing, the above is damn impressive. What is startling, however, is that Chicken Shop haven’t peaked. In the coming months, Manchester ravers are being treated to three killer events, featuring Drum & Bass legend Randall through to UKG up and comer Higgo – before rounding off October in collaboration with the firmly established and highly respected imprint ‘Hit N Run’, bringing SWAMP81 & DMZ veteran Loefah to town for a mind-boggling three-hour-long set.
Surely, they have exceeded their limits, you ask? Wrong. Chicken Shop has begun setting its sights on the rest of the nation, soon to be bringing the infamous Serial Killaz to Nottingham’s ‘Trade’ nightclub.
It is no wonder that we were so eager to sit down with Chicken Shop founder, Cornelius Self, to discuss his contribution to such a competitive and ever-expanding scene.
What inspired you to start organising events? Was there something you perceived to be missing from the Manchester student scene?
'After playing a few gigs here I felt the scene here wasn't missing anything at all actually. There are so many great promoters pushing loads of different underground sounds here like Hit & Run, Warped, Kodiak sounds, DNB sessions and loads more. It was more the fact that I wanted a slice of the action myself! For me, it's about curating the best night in my mind with the best DJs at my favourite venues and sharing that with people. There something so amazing about looking out into the crowd, seeing so many people having a good time, and thinking you've created that for them.'
What’s your favourite out of the events you have thrown, and why?
So hard to pick one, each night has a different thing that I've really enjoyed. I really enjoyed the collaborative event with ‘Warped’. We did a huge space-themed makeover at Cubo with loads of mad decor, lights and props. This made it something really different and despite not having any headliner, all the residents smashed their sets. Cubo is a pretty intimate venue so it was great seeing so many familiar faces just enjoying themselves.
Which aspect of an event, from the décor to the DJ, do you view as the most important in leaving an impression?
I think in order to get people to an event in the first place, you need a good headliner. But for me what can really set a night apart is the décor, because there are so many good nights in Manchester with top DJs. At South, the lights and set up they've got there already works perfectly, so I focus more on getting a top DJ to headline. Whereas at 256, there is a lot of scope to make it something different so I'll get in a load of lights and décor.
However, when a DJ takes you on a journey with loads of unreleased, unknown tracks on a great sound-system it's really something special. Nothing quite beats hearing a crazy tune for the first time.
What are your thoughts on the state of the Manchester underground rave scene currently?
I think it's really healthy, you've got loads of great nights on, all doing their own thing. You've also got loads of new DJs and producers coming through all the time across all genres - Channell and Zar on liquid, Sl8r on jungle, Mattik on UKG and Cartridge on 140. I think the lack of medium-sized venues is the only thing that's holding back the scene at the moment, and a lack of venues that are keen to put on interesting nights, rather than just make money.
I think you've also got a trend across the country with students going out less, and being less open-minded with the nights they go to. With event promotion moving towards social media rather than flyers or posters, people won't just turn up to a club and try it out, but instead only go to nights they are sure they will like. This leads to less and less people discovering more underground genres, making it harder to not only put on nights but also to book more interesting headliners.
Where will Chicken Shop be in a year’s time? What’s the goal?
I'd like to see Chicken Shop expand nation-wide. We've already got shows lined up in Nottingham, Manchester and Frome, but hopefully will expand to Bristol and other cities by next year. Manchester will always be our home though, and I'd like to see us move onto bigger events there with even more fresh talent and big headliners.