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Worker Bee: meet James Cohen, the director of Victoria Warehouse Group


If you’re a gig-goer in Manchester, it’s very likely you’ll have been to the Victoria Warehouse. The venue has been host to huge names like Hardwell, Nicky Romero, Afrojack and Laidback Luke. They’ve recently announced that Wolf Alice, DMA’s and Architects will be performing there, too.

It’s just been rebranded O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester as part of a new lease agreement with Academy Music Group Limited (AMG), the UK’s leading owner and operator of nationwide live music and club venues.

The lease agreement is for the large music and conference space which occupies about a third of the massive 300,000 square foot building. Because the Victoria Warehouse is much more than a music venue.

It hosts a full calendar of corporate, social, music and sporting events and is particularly popular with the automotive and retail sectors for conferences, entertainment and exhibitions.

This huge building on the edge of Trafford Park industrial estate started life as two huge warehouses built as a cotton storage facility for the Liverpool Warehousing Company, whose name is still visible on the building.

How did you get into your line of work?

We’re essentially a property company so we have commercial real estate mainly across Manchester city centre and we came across Victoria Warehouse in 2009. We picked the venue up off the bank because it had been repossessed and then we developed it to what it is today. That’s kind of where we started it. It was always a vision to basically create one of the most iconic music spaces in Manchester. So that’s where it all started and how we go into this line of work.

Who have been your biggest influences?

The market leaders would probably be my biggest influences. If you look at SJM, Metropolis Music, Live Music Entertainment and even AEG – if you look at those guys and what they produce up and down the country, they would be the people to aspire to in this field.

What is your proudest achievement?

We’ve not achieved everything yet that we want to achieve but just developing the venue to where it’s at now. We’ve got a great corporate business, a great music business and everything is flowing nicely now. This is a decent level to get to – now we’re just looking at developing the rest of the site. We’ve only got 90,000 square feet sorted, so it’s now about getting the other 210,000 developed and producing income basically. A height of my career is our recent collaboration with Academy Music Group and our partnership for O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester.

What does a typical day for you involve?

A typical day can be in London, can be in Manchester, could be in Amsterdam – it’s basically quite an international business. Most of the time, on a day-to-day, I’m at Victoria Warehouse headquarters and just driving between there.

What do you do to relax on your days off?

On my days off I enjoy going to the gym and travelling. I try coordinate work things around leisurely things I want to do. For example I’ll tie in Miami Music Week, enjoy a bit of time in Miami, whilst doing a load of meetings, or I’ll tie in going to LA visiting the agencies to look for international talent but do some travelling as well – basically it’s mixing business with pleasure.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.

If things hadn’t have worked out this way, what would you have been doing?

I was supposed to be a corporate, straight-laced person in commercial offices and I took a complete U-turn into the music industry.

Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to hear…

I’m actually a huge tennis fanatic.

Red or blue?


Name your three favourite places in Manchester.

My favourite places are the Radisson Edwardian, Hotel Gotham and probably San Carlo.

If you could change one thing about Manchester, what would it be?

I’d like more international restaurants.

Finally, what do you love most about Manchester?

I love the culture and the people – it’s just a great vibe. It’s completely different to London or anywhere else.

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