As the team behind the Kazimier launch the Invisible Wind Factory, Getintothis’ Adam Lowerson and Simon Lewis talk to the creators and reveal an exclusive look behind the scenes.
It’s just over 100 days since Liverpool’s musical epicentre The Kazimier closed its doors for the final time. The spectacular New Year’s Eve Escape to Planet Kronos party signalled the final chapter of nearly a decade of live music, flamboyant parties and an array of weird and wonderful events. It didn’t just go out with a bang, but with a giant heron jousting a robot.
Now we’ve gone just over three months without a night at the Kazimier, and on the face of it, not too much has changed for Merseyside’s live music scene. The busy stream of gigs continues to bubble on in the city’s other venues, events such as FestEVOL are planning for the future with the next instalment taking place in its new home of Camp and Furnace, and promoters have made use of new spaces such as the Buyers Club for their shows. Life still goes on, and it always will. But there is something missing.
That little bit of magic that the Kazimier brought is gone. That feeling that you could turn up to a show on any night of the week and bump into friends hasn’t quite carried over to other venues. Nowhere else, as yet, feels quite like ‘home’.
Walking through Wolstenholme Square today is a completely different experience to how it was just a few months ago. Yes, the big multi-coloured ball thing is still there, but everything feels grey. The iconic nightclub Nation has been bulldozed to the ground, the barriers which used to keep queues of dancers, party goers and music lovers in order feel like a distant memory, and the looming inevitability that all that will soon be left of the Kazimier will be £75,000 apartments. The buzz in the air, that feeling that something magic was happening on the other side of those walls is no more.
As much of the Liverpool’s alternative cultural community struggle to retain a foothold in a city centre that has mercilessly offered itself unashamedly to faceless corporate commercialism we can take reassurance that change is in the air.
Change forged in the most unlikeliest of places.
As modern, prefabricated and uninspiringly characterless new buildings emerge all over threatening to suck the soul out of the city’s heart, it is a delicious irony that artistic rebirth is happening in the very buildings that symbolised the wealth and prosperity of the Empire’s second city. A new cultural hub for Liverpool’s arts scene is on the horizon amid the dark and desolate Victorian grandeur of Liverpool’s northern docks.
Having been squeezed out of the city, you’ll be reassured to know the Kazimier team are the creative forces behind it. And in an almost wicked twist of fate their new home is in a place that symbolises a time when wealth was generated by making things of purpose rather than being used to line the pockets of exploitatively avaricious absentee landlords.
As the rebuild Liverpool’s city centre embraces homogeneous blandness, what better place to celebrate the city’s indefatigable spirit of cultural vibrancy than a symbol of the city’s vital past. An area once filled with energy and bustle, where the buildings provide ample evidence in their architectural scale of the city’s once limitless ambition. For a city that holds great store by its grand cultural events its neglect of organic home-grown culture is striking; its lack of vision and purpose feeling at odds with the city’s history.
A lack of ambition that could never be levelled at the team behind the Kazimier.
Centred around a former wind turbine factory in Liverpool’s north docks, The Invisible Wind Factory, a huge warehouse venue we were introduced to back in December 2014 with the spectacular revolving stage performance by Dogshow, is back, and is re-launching with the next chapter in the Kazimier’s story. Omphalos – Energy Eternal.
Being described as ‘the spiritual successor to the Kazimier’, the Invisible Wind Factory offers a significant increase in capacity, giving the creative team a chance to put on some spectacular events, beginning with the immersive experience of Omphalos on May 19, with performances going on for four days.
The event, which will be used to unveil phase one of the Invisible Wind Factory venue complex, introduces the audience to ‘the enigmatic group of researchers and practitioners known as IWF, who have provided the following statement: “IWF operatives welcome you on a guided tour of the new research facility, and to a showcase of our recent experiments. Commencing in the Visitor Centre, you will learn of our story and voyage of scientific discovery – the pursuit of the elusive “Invisible Wind” – an Unseen energy travelling through the ether.’’’
The four day event will feature performances at 8pm on each night, with an additional 2pm slot on the Saturday and Sunday. There will be the option of a dinner and show experience on Saturday evening, where for one night only there will be an in-theme dinning event in the setting of the show. The show costs £25 a ticket, with the dinner/show event costing £25.
Although the Kazimier team remain suitably guarded when it comes to the specific details of Omphalos, there is enough there to capture the imagination and suggest that this could be the Kazimier‘s most ambitious project yet. When speaking to the team on the upcoming event, Sam Crombie kept his cards close to his chest. “This show has been nearly a year in the making, and it contains a huge amount of research, depth and development.
“Audiences will be taken through the IWF visitor centre, witnessing experiments and interactive scientific displays – then onto the Omphalos, a towering chamber which is an axis between worlds. Without giving too much away, we’re hoping the audience will feel like they witnessed the inside of their own soul.”
Only time will tell what plans are in place for Omphalos, and the only way to witness what the team have spent so long putting together will be to buy a ticket for one of the performances. What we do know for now however, is that this is just the beginning, and that the Invisible Wind Factory is set to become a big part of Liverpool’s cultural landscape.
It’s not the Kazimier, but a continuation of what the team created and we all grew to love, as Sam Crombie explained, “It’s both a continuation and a new start. The ‘Kazimier’ name will also continue, although this time not the name of the building but the artistic umbrella under which the Invisible Wind Factory exists. It’s just the next stage of the journey.
“The IWF programme will begin in a similar way to how The Kazimier began – a vessel for our own shows and unique events that feel special. Omphalos will be our introduction, the first stamp on the space and will help shape it with some dramatic architectural changes – like the early days of the Kazimier we’ll be changing and adding to the building continually.
“We hope the programme will offer something that Liverpool doesn’t currently have – a home for concerts, exhibitions, experiences and performances that will have the benefit from the extra production and workshop facilities – working collaboratively with promoters, festivals and organisations rather than just dry hiring them a huge room. Every event needs to be exceptional else we’re not adding anything to the existing cultural landscape.
“Going to IWF should feel like you’ve embarked on an expedition – a commitment to an experience or adventure where you might lose yourself for an entire night.”
One thing we’re certain of is that the size and scale of the warehouse which houses the Invisible Wind Factory has massive potential. Its huge, cavernous walls and sky high ceiling mean the Kazimier team have room to bring their biggest ideas to life, perhaps something that the old Kazimier didn’t allow them to do.
As Crombie explained, “The Kazimier was in many ways the perfect size. Especially for gigs, where larger bands felt its intimacy and smaller acts felt like they were playing a big gig. But as producers of shows, we personally had become restricted by its size – quite early on. IWF is not restricted by space.
“There are many events happening in warehouses now, in Liverpool and across the country – what we plan on creating is an environment where you can feel disconnected from the reality of this kind of the building altogether and feel real immersion, intimacy and scale at once.
“We’re interested in Wonderlands, labyrinths, theme parks, utopias – not empty warehouses. It also gives us a chance to host different events that can really benefit from its size – for example one of our own events in the summer will be a Krunk Olympic Games party where we can go wild with AV spectator sports, and our own opening ceremony!”
The location of the Invisible Wind Factory on the North Docks sees a big move away from the city centre, a slight distance from the most popular nightlife spots, other venues, and perhaps most importantly, train stations. It’s a similar move to Sound City‘s relocation to the docks back in 2015, one which has met criticism from some corners of the Liverpool music scene. It’s around a 15 minute walk from Moorfields station, and about 20 from Sandhills, meaning that it will never have the luxury of being to make a quick dash for the last train from Central that the Kazimier did, and that a bit of forward planning might be needed.
But along with the Invisible Wind Factory, Sound City‘s new site and Vessel Studios, plus the new North Shore Troubadour (See pictures from secret All We Are show in the gallery below) venue just next door to the Wind Factory, the North Docks are starting to build a bit of a buzz, and are taking advantage of some great unused spaces. It’s for this reason that Sam Crombie believes the move is a risk worth taking. “We were looking for a space big enough to house our workshops, electronics lab, studios, future outdoor garden, venue and anything else we might imagine. And that space didn’t exist in the city centre any longer. The docks has a different atmosphere – there is a community of the old and new helping each other out, loaning equipment and support – it’s a productive and exciting part of town.
“Initially people will question whether they want to walk an extra 15 minutes to an event. But we believe as soon as they do, people will realise it’s actually very close – the stigma will be gone. There was a similar preconception with the Baltic and as a city grows people also have to travel a bit more. We will have a bike park here and hopefully the council be introducing cycle paths within the next year or so.
“The city centre is now a wholly commercial area. When we started in the Ropewalks eight years ago, cheap space meant there was little of the financial pressure enterprises are now faced with. It’s inevitable that except for the existing arts institutions, non-comercially focused organisations will find they have to move away from the city centre. For us it’s a new opportunity, but with all the positives development brings, the city centre will slowly become a bit sterile.”
Whether the extra walk will put people off visiting is not yet clear, but with some of the events in store, we think it will be worth it. With Omphalos, a Parquet Courts show and plenty more in the pipeline for 2016 in beyond, the Invisible Wind Factory is shaping up to be a major player on Liverpool’s arts scene. It’s a new beginning, not just for the Kazimier team, but a whole area of the city that has previously been underused, but is starting to a similar buzz to that of the Baltic Triangle. One thing’s for sure, the future is in the right hands.
“There are some exciting events this year, culminating with a Invisible Wind Factory NYE. Then we imagine 2017 to be very busy. We imagine IWF as a tourist destination of the future where people can come for a day-out. There are plans for Virtual Reality floatation tanks, an AV Sauna and treatment centre, gardens, workshop tours. A recent field trip to Nantes (home of the giants) was particularly inspiring.”
Pictures by Getintothis’ Simon Lewis and Martin Saleh.