Sweet Harmony Warehouse / Art Edit is the first exhibition of art and photography to take place in a venue widely considered to be the new home of UK rave. It takes visitors from the days of Acid House and The Hacienda, right through to the movements and collectives that are keeping that legacy alive, and will continue to do so for generations to come. Tickets are free and available to reserve now. Sweet Harmony Warehouse / Art Edit is presented in collaboration with, size? and The Warehouse Project. 

In 1992, Thomas Watts left his family home in the picturesque North Yorkshire town of Harrogate for the bright lights and even brighter sounds of Manchester. The prospect of an undergraduate degree at Manchester Polytechnic was little more than a proxy for the seductive culture that was really the thing that lured him westward.

At that time, the youth of the UK was enraptured in rave. A dispossessed generation of young people, communing every weekend in front vast sound systems in clubs, warehouses, and other abandoned industrial spaces: Self-medicating with melody and gut-rumbling bass: Inducing a euphoria that left the devastation of post-Thatcher Britain in the dirt beneath their trainers.

Manchester was at the beating heart of it all.

John Shard - Flesh at Hacienda
John Shard

Tales of the legendary Haçienda club reverberated across county lines and generational divides. From Lancashire to London to Yorkshire, and to Thomas Watts and his mates, who were barely old enough to buy a pint down at their local pub. Something special was still happening in Manchester, and Thomas needed to be a part of it. 

Almost 30 years on, the unique, idiosyncratic spirit of Manchester rave lives on, no small part in thanks to The Warehouse Project — the seasonal party series approaching its fifteenth year, famed for their commitment for bringing disused industrial spaces to life. This year The Warehouse Project moved into their new home of the Depot at Mayfield — which we recently put through to the test with Northampton rapper, slowthai.

Dave Swindells - Stone Roses 'Fools Gold' at Spike Island, 1990
Dave Swindells

The vast industrial complex, formerly a train depot owned by Royal Mail, is the biggest venue they’ve ever operated. Its capacity of 10,000 not only allows them to rekindle the feeling the pure ecstasy compounded by that many sweaty bodies moving to the same beat, but also demonstrates that in 2019, there still exists a ravenous appetite to experience it. 

When Thomas moved to Manchester, he did so with an instinctive awareness that he was in the midst of a landmark cultural moment: Something intangible which urged him to document and memorialize the places he was going, the people he met, the trainers he wore, and of course, the raves that he attended. So he kept it all. Every last bus ticket and dog-eared event flyer, his favorite Kappa jacket and each pair of sneakers that he had two-stepped into near oblivion.  

Thomas kept all of it, and we’re showing it to the world.

Ewen Spencer - Happy Hardcore
Ewen Spencer

This year for the first time, we have partnered with The Warehouse Project on a joint show celebrating what we feel represents a bold continuation of Britain’s proud rave legacy. On December 7, we’ll be heading to The Depot to host a number of artists each with a key standing in the current golden age of contemporary alternative music, including: Fredo; a West London rapper making drill accessible to the masses. Mike Skinner; frontman of The Streets, and a figure largely credited with the popularization of rap in the British working class vernacular. And slowthai, the Mercury Prize shortlisted rapper from Northampton, and the voice of the dispossessed youth in Brexit Britain. 

And this is what brings us back to Thomas. Beyond our music programming, we wanted to further explore the cultural remunerations of British rave culture, the parallels between then and now, and the ways in which the country’s empowered youth unintentionally shaped ‘streetwear’ and sneaker culture as we know it today. In order to do so, and to make the most of the beautiful industrial spaces of the Depot at Mayfield, we have partnered with size? and Sweet Harmony to present an immersive exhibition of photography, art, sculpture, sneakers and of course, music. 

Sweet Harmony Warehouse Art / Edit is a special pop-up exhibition, built into a space that embodies what rave means today: In the same venue where slowthai, Fredo and that all-star cast of the next generation of British rap will perform at the biggest Highsnobiety Soundsystem show to date.

John Shard - Flesh at Hacienda
John Shard

Curated in collaboration with Saatchi Gallery, following the immense success of their initial Sweet Harmony exhibition in London this summer, the free exhibition celebrates Thomas Watts’ kleptomania for what it really is; invaluable ephemera that distills the excitement of what it was to be a young person in ’90s Manchester, and how that excitement is stronger than ever in 2019. To expand this theme to also explore the vital influence of UK rave culture on now global trends in sneakers and sportswear, we reached out to size? — who, as the UK’s preeminent purveyor of footwear since 2000, have been supplying gear to ravers and those inspired by the scene for almost two decades.  

Alongside Thomas’ personal archive and valuable sneaker insight provided by size?, this landmark exhibition at the intersection of rave culture, sneakers, sportswear, and contemporary music will include works by some of the most influential artists and photographers in the scene, from Manchester and beyond.

 

We’ll be taking a deeper dive into Thomas Watt’s personal collection, and the heritage of Manchester’s trainer culture in our upcoming editorial. Head here to register for free tickets to Sweet Harmony Warehouse Project, presented by Highsnobiety, Size?, and The Warehouse Project. 

Sweet Harmony Warehouse Art / Edit
Presented by Highsnobiety, The Warehouse Project and size?

The Depot at Mayfield, Manchester, UK,
Sunday December 8th – Wednesday December 11th
Midday – 7pm
Free Entry – Ticket Required
All Ages Welcome

Contributors A-Z:

Al Baker – Underground Mancunia

Brian Cannon – Twisted Wheel

Conrad Shawcross – Golden Lotus (Inverted)

Dave Swindells – Fool’s Gold – Stone Roses at Spike Island 1990

Dominic From Luton – Shoes Off if You Love Luton

Elspeth Mary Moore – Leaving WHP, Church at Leeds

Ewen Spencer – Happy Hardcore

Jay Chow – Hidden Salford

James Alec Hardy – Totems

Jon Shard – Flesh at Hacienda

Lauren Jo Kelly – Homoelectric

Mark McNulty – Manchester, Liverpool, 1990s

Sebastian Matthes – Warehouse Project Histories

Thomas Watts – Manchester 1992, A Personal Archive

+ More to be Announced