Summer of Love: A new festival for Manchester in an abandoned warehouse

With all restrictions now lifted and nightclubs open at full capacity, the live music industry is slowly getting back on its feet. Many have welcomed the return of queues outside bustling clubs and the chance to see their favourite artists on stage. For others, it’s all a bit too soon.

Festivals are representative of the uncertainty which still hangs over the entertainment industry. Houghton Festival recently joined Boomtown and Beat-Herder in postponing their events for another year.

I spoke with Olli Ryder, the co-founder of Manchester-based promoters Animal Crossing, about their upcoming Summer of Love Festival which is still going ahead. This August will be the festival’s first year and the promoters have booked DJs like Raresh, Praslea and Rhadoo to headline. Still new on the scene, Animal Crossing have gained a reputation for putting on events in unconventional locations including underground bunkers and railway arches.

The promoters have a range of partners including Gottwood, Cheetham Hill’s Smolensky Gallery and Manchester Mind which they hope will bridge the gap between music, arts and wellbeing. Olli attributes these partnerships to the belief that you grow quicker together and by doing so attract the right kind of people.

“The first thing we did as promoters was reach out to all the other promoters in Manchester [which is typically] unheard of,” Olli says. He remembers calling up You & Me, the promoters behind Hide & Seek Festival at Capesthorne Hall in Cheshire and telling them what Animal Crossing was about. “They’re at our parties, we’re at their parties and its similar when it comes to the festival: even though [Summer of Love] is two weeks before Hide & Seek, they’re still buzzing for us.”

Summer of Love is taking place at warehouse somewhere in Manchester. Olli is elusive as to where exactly the warehouse is but confirms that it’s no more than ten minutes outside the city centre and has never been used as a music venue before. “It’s the créme de la créme,” he says.

A shot of the venue’s atrium ceiling | Photo: Animal Crossing

“When you [combine] the line-up with the venue and the creatives [involved], and the spirit and emotion of this recent period, it just gets me excited every time I think about it,” Olli says.

Many of the DJs booked for Summer of Love are French or Romanian such as Raresh, Petre Inspirescu and Rhadoo which is exciting, but does raise some questions about their potential availability given foreign travel restrictions. Olli tells me that most of the artists are doubled-vaxxed and that they “are in constant conversation with agents and artists.”

“We’re all in the same boat: we’re waiting for updates but we’re positive the solution will be there,” Olli says. At the time of writing Covid-safe requirements for attendees are still to be announced, but Olli seems cautiously optimistic that it won’t cause too many problems.

Festival line-up | Credit: Animal Crossing

As well as music and food, Summer of Love is also a festival of wellness and art. Northern Quarter fitness studio Blok is running yoga, fitness classes and experimental breathing workshops and the mental health charity Mind has its own tent which festival goers can listen to talks or have a chat. The Smolensky Gallery is showcasing local artists over the weekend and will be running art sessions for guests.

Olli clearly wants Summer of Love to be more than just a run of the mill music festival, especially given this is its first year. “We want it to be interactive, we don’t want it to just be music in a venue, because that’s what makes a festival a festival,” he says.

“Music and arts are two worlds which collide so well,” he says. “That’s what the Animal Crossing experience is about.”

Summer of Love is a two-day music, arts and wellness festival taking place on 21-22 August.

Weekend and day tickets are still available to purchase.