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Worker Bee: Meet Sacha Lord, co-founder of Warehouse Project and Parklife Festival

The Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester shares his love of Corrie, David Bowie and Man United. But most all, his sense of civic pride...
Sacha Lord

Sacha Lord’s knowledge of Manchester’s nightlife goes back over three decades. He started with his very own club night at the famous Hacienda club and has gone on to produce some of Manchester’s most successful club nights and events like the Warehouse Project and Parklife Festival.

That’s probably why he was named Greater Manchester’s first ever Night Time Economy Adviser back in 2018.

“People don’t regard the night-time economy as important,” says Sacha, who was born and bred in Wythenshawe, “but when it employs that many people and it’s such a big industry, it is vital.

“People don’t give it the respect that it’s due. I wanted to change that. Because people see going out as a as bit of fun they don’t treat it as seriously as they should.  My aim is to deliver plans to develop the city-region’s nightlife, making it a stronger and safer place to be.”

Sacha is a man who clearly loves Manchester, he’s buzzing with excitement about the new developments stretching out across the city.

“I think it’s exciting, when I drive into work and look at the skyline, it’s littered with red lights where the cranes are, you can tell something special’s happening. When you look at MediaCity and the things that are going on in Salford it is incredible.”

Sacha Lord has recently released his new book Tales from the Dancefloor, telling plenty of stories from his 30 year career and adding another bestselling title to the must-read Manchester books that will fill you with civic pride.

What got you started in your field of work?

“I went to a really good school but it clashed with the peak of Madchester. I just lost interest in all things academic. I was more interested in music. Especially the Smiths and New Order. I started going out more and hanging around in the Hacienda, spurring me on to start my own night at the famous venue. Things just went on from there really.”

Who has been your biggest influence in life?

“I take my biggest inspiration from David Bowie. I’m absolutely obsessed with him. He was an all round genius, rereleasing himself so many times. Somebody who orchestrated his own show on how he died. On his birthday he released an album, never told anybody he was ill apart from his closest friends and then two days later he died. To do something like that – I mean what an incredible showman.”

What has been your proudest achievement so far?

“Being Night Time Economy Advisor has got to be up there. Although when I was at school I spent a lot of time in the Hacienda. I never actually got A levels or went to university. I flunked school. I felt like a bit of an embarrassment really. Some of my school friends were heading off to Oxford and Cambridge and I went to work in a clothes shop, did a few market stalls and then started work as a promoter. Now I am asked, quite often, to go back to school and speak to the kids. My photo sits there in the hall of fame. So that’s quite nice. I like looking back on that one.

“When we went into lockdown Andy [Burnham] was very conscious that people were locked up in their houses. I thought, ‘well, we’re in lockdown, I can hardly put up a stage in Heaton Park to entertain people,’
so I did some search and came across a concept called ‘United We Stream’ where they put a DJ in an empty club and stream it. I thought we could do something like this in Greater Manchester but on steroids.

“Over a 10 week period I had every major artist play for me free of charge; Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Fat Boy Slim, New Order loads of huge names played for me. It was free to watch and I said ‘if you can afford one or two pounds please make a donation.’ It went viral not just for Greater Manchester, we reached 20.4 million people and raised £612,000 for various charities.

“Lockdown put me in the public frame really, I received countless messages for advice from people struggling to keep afloat during the time. Literally for about 18 months it was just firefighting on a daily basis.”

What does your typical day involve?

“I am up at 7am everyday. I work right the way through to about 9/10pm. I do try and get to the gym most days but mainly it involves a lot of stress. Planning and stress.”

How do you relax on your days off?

In true worker bee fashion, Sacha declares he isn’t one for chilling out. But he does enjoy going out for a nice meal or popping to the cinema. He laughed telling us he’s recently enjoyed ‘Back to Black’ and Wonka: “I’m going to get killed for this but it’s brilliant, Hugh Grant is so funny in it,”

“I have changed. The places I go to [these days] aren’t that lively. When you’ve got Warehouse Project and Parklike, I like to go somewhere that’s quieter when I have a day off.

“Weirdly, the gym is a nice place to go to relax because I am off my phone for an hour or so. Also, I was persuaded by my wife to try yoga. I would never have put myself down as a yoga person, but I’m really enjoying it. We get someone round on a Sunday to do an hour and a half of yoga and I absolutely love it. It’s ashtanga yoga. It’s more intense than people think. I actually feel that on my muscles more than I do from a gym session.”

What’s the best advice you have ever been given?

“I think the biggest piece of advice anyone has ever said to me – that changed the way I operate – was from Andy [Burnham] who said ‘it’s much easier to work with people than against them.’ It’s something he said to me at a barbecue once. That’s something that I’ve really stuck with.

“And the other one is my art teacher at Manchester Grammar School, Mr McGuinness. Everybody dressed exactly the same, they were all a little bit geeky, even I had one of the black brief cases with a gold combination lock, and he said to me ‘Why are you conforming like everybody else?'”

We owe Sacha’s art teacher plenty of thanks, as he pointed Sacha Lord in the direction of the Hacienda, where Sacha would later begin his career.

“I do try and give good advice to other people, especially when I go round to schools, colleges and universities. That advice is – when you are at that age do not be scared to f**k up!  At that age most people don’t have a mortgage or kids, or the responsibilities of paying bills etc. If you have a passion, go out there and follow it. What is the absolute worst that can happen? Live and learn from your mistakes.

If things had worked out what could you see yourself doing?

“I wanted to play for Manchester United but, the problem was, I was never very good at football. I was desperate to be a part of their team. But seriously, I think if I hadn’t gone down the promoter route, I would have ended up in the music industry somehow. I was always obsessed with music. I was really lucky enough to be able to go clubbing in the whole Madchester period. The likes of New Order, The Smiths, James and the Happy Mondays. I think I would have definitely taken a path within the music industry. That was always my passion.”

Red or Blue?

“Definitely Red.

“Over the last ten years, we’ve seen Alex Ferguson leave, and I think as a united fan my proudest moment has to be meeting the best manager we’ve ever had in English football.”

Tell us one thing about yourself that people might be surprised to hear

“I love Coronation Street. I’m a huge Corrie fan.

“I’ve watched it ever since I was a young kid, since the age of probably 5.

“I’d definitely do a cameo on Corrie! That would be great, just sat in the rovers. Well, ITV, you heard it here first…

“And one of the biggest curve balls that surprises people is the fact that I am not a very big fan of the music that we play at Warehouse Project. I like house music and disco. But not techno. It often gets a bit too heavy for me. I prefer bands. If I was to go on a night out, I would not go to WHP or listen to that kind of music.”

Name your three favourite places in Manchester

“The building that amazes me the most is Manchester Central. When it’s empty, go in and look up at the roof. It’s incredible. So so beautiful. Old Trafford has to be one of my favourite places too, being a Red.

“I’ve recently had one of the best meals I’ve ever had! It was at Another Hand. It was amazing. It’s in the Great Northern Warehouse. It was the best food I’ve had in a long time and also very reasonably priced!”

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

“It would be to sort out the homeless situation.”

What do you love the most about Manchester?

“The people. I spend time in London and loads of different cities and it sounds really corny but the people of Manchester have got this absolute passion for the city. They are just down to earth. You can get on with anybody in Manchester. In desperate times the whole city comes together. It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed, a lawyer, a Red or a Blue, doesn’t matter what diversity you come from or what origin you are from. It’s incredible. Nothing beats it. I am fortunate enough to be able to choose where I want to live but I chose to live in the city of Manchester. I wouldn’t ever move.”

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