After six years in which it’s established itself as London’s most ambitious and visually impressive new venue for electronic music, post-industrial superclub Printworks – a hulking 6,000-capacity complex in Canada Water, once home to the printing presses of the Daily Mail and Evening Standard – closed its doors for the final time on Monday night.
Like countless inner-city club closures in recent memory, this was a decision prompted by the commercial demands of gigantic property developers: over the next four years the 53-acre site in which Printworks sits will be flattened and rebuilt by developers British Land and AustralianSuper, transforming it into a glittering array of upscale shops, restaurants, offices and luxury flats.
But unlike most other shuttered clubs, Printworks is – potentially – coming back. Just before a surprise headline set from Bicep at Monday night’s closing party, the venue’s operators Broadwick Live announced a provisional deal with British Land for a revamped Printworks to reopen on the redeveloped site in 2026.
Simeon Aldred, co-owner and head of strategy at Broadwick Live, says he’s heard a lot of “the classic gentrification narrative the last few weeks: terrible landlords closing you down, those kinds of negative vibes. But to be honest, British Land invited us in, [the creation of Printworks] was as much their idea as ours. So I want to give them some credit for that. We can’t announce that [the reopening] is definitely happening, we haven’t signed any contracts, but the shape of the principles for a deal are there, and we’re going to be putting in for planning permission in the next few weeks.”
This include Printworks’ cavernous main hall being retained in something like its original form – Aldred says he has architectural mockups which he could show me, but for his insistence on sharing them with local community groups around Canada Water before making them public.
Club promoters and property developers, it’s fair to say, do not normally make for such amicable bedfellows. Printworks’ opening in 2017 followed a decade in which the UK lost half of its nightclubs, and London over a third of its grassroots music spaces, in many cases because the buildings they occupied were sold off or redeveloped.
Broadwick Live’s business model has flipped that conflict on its head: by teaming up with developers rather than opposing them, they’ve been able to operate a succession of cultural venues on a “meanwhile” basis, in the gap between a site being acquired by developers and the bulldozers moving in. It’s a symbiotic exchange: dancers get temporary access to otherwise impossible spaces, while the cultural capital they bring with them helps to lay the groundwork for the surrounding area’s eventual redevelopment.
This approach has been wildly successful, at least financially: Broadwick’s endeavours with Printworks have seen around £200m of investment flooding in from developers across the UK, along with injections of capital from Grand Theft Auto makers Rockstar Games. With that backing, Broadwick has amassed a portfolio of more than 25 venues around the country, from the 10,000 capacity Depot Mayfield in Manchester, home to the Warehouse Project, to new venture The Beams in east London’s Royal Docks.
It has also, as anyone who’s visited Printworks in its six-year run can attest, created spectacles of unparalleled scale and excellence, with dance music fans treated to consistently stacked lineups, pummelling sound and dizzying visuals. In particular, the venue’s thin, vertiginous main room, with a three-storey video screen placed behind the stage and spotlights dancing over its vertical layers of exposed metal and concrete, feels like clubbing redesigned for the TikTok age: as Róisín Murphy shimmies her way through an amapiano-tinged re-edit of Sing It Back on Monday’s closing night, countless dancers around me hold their phones up portrait-style to capture the moment.
What’s proved trickier, it seems, is ensuring that these spaces endure beyond a 15-second social media high or developer-imposed cycles of demolition and reconstruction. “We always knew it was going to be an experiment,” says Aldred, “But as soon as it started getting successful, we started talking to British Land about what the future might be.”
This was clearly not a straightforward conversation: when plans were submitted to Southwark Council in 2021, the provision of a cultural space akin to Printworks was notably absent. When the venue’s intended closure was announced in 2022, Aldred and Broadwick had to bite their tongues as angry tweets rolled in and “Save Printworks” petitions circulated, unable to reveal that they were already engaged in highly sensitive behind-the-scenes talks for the venue to return in some form. “British Land have a responsibility to the redevelopment of the whole site,” Aldred explains, “so what they can’t do, to be fair to them, is just preserve this massive sacred cow for me, and our narrow audience. They have a job to do.”
What that audience might look like when Printworks (hopefully) reopens in 2026 is another question. Those who go clubbing to escape from or defy the ceaseless pull of global capitalism might already find Printworks a little too sanitised for their tastes: surround it with a glossy utopia of luxury flats, boutique hotels and exclusive eateries, and the people who feel invited to or excluded from the party are bound to shift even further.
“There are probably people who are more radical than us around dance music,” admits Aldred, nodding to the growing trend for sex-positive clubbing as one example. “Would I do sex-positive parties in our venues, given our landlord relationships? Probably not, because there are younger groups doing that really well already, in kind of niche gaps. But would we take some of those people and amplify them and help them step up to bigger spaces? Absolutely.”
While Printworks’ financial returns are evident, its cultural impact is perhaps harder to parse: when I speak to Ajay Jayaram, Broadwick’s head of music, the question of its connections to and relationships with London’s wider club culture feel even more pressing.
On the one hand, Broadwick’s economies of scale make it a hugely valuable partner for promoters, labels and DJs. “One of the benefits of working with us,” explains Jayaram, “is that we alleviate a lot of the burden of putting on an event at this scale, in such an unusual space. You have to know your way around [the space], you have to have incredible attention to detail. And most of the partners we work with don’t want to deal with those elements of production or security or health and safety, their aptitudes are elsewhere. So we take what they do, and put it in this wonderful space, which is a massive benefit: when the stars align, it just works.”
One counter-argument might go: Broadwick and Printworks’ success has annexed huge swathes of London’s dance music market, centralising and homogenising it. Is it healthy for a city’s clubbing ecosystem to rely on a venue that, by its very design, was always doomed to close?
Jayaram speaks with sensitivity around Printworks’ impact on the capital’s wider dance music scene. “During one of our seasons, yes, it’s more difficult for other people to put things on,” he admits. “Because a lot of people know about us, your more casual electronic music fan is more likely to come here than perhaps something smaller that they’ve not heard about. But for us, those more unknown, alternative or underground nights are the lifeblood of the scene, so it’s really important to us that they stay healthy.”
Part of this has involved Broadwick loosening the exclusivity clauses that big promoters often use to surreptitiously prevent their competitors from booking the same talent. “Once we’ve sold out, we’re very happy for people to play other parties; generally speaking, if people get in touch then we’ll remove exclusivities, so we quite often have people doing unofficial afterparties.”
Aldred says something similar, arguing that Printworks’ primary focus on daytime rather than late-night events – initially mandated by its licensing conditions – has in fact created additional demand for clubs, rather than eating into their market, on the basis that people leave the print halls at 11pm eager for the rave to continue. “When we started, people were like ‘you’re really going to hurt this brand’, or ‘you’re going to be eating tickets from that club’. But as far as I’m concerned, I’ve only seen Fabric, Ministry of Sound, Fold and all these other venues booming. We’ve never had any intention to damage anyone or compete with anyone.”
Halfway into Monday afternoon, during a pummelling set of syncopated club bangers from Ahadadream in Printworks’ second room (a grubby low-ceilinged space which feels far more like your typical basement club than the cavernous main hall, and which Broadwick assures me it is equally committed to retaining in the new venue) a robotic voice rings out over the music: “Make space … make space … make space.” It feels telling: a loaded, ambiguous phrase which nonetheless embodies some of the cautious optimism Printworks’ potential reopening might inspire in dance music fans across London and the UK.
Aldred tells me that despite receiving three to five calls a day from developers offering meanwhile-spaces, Broadwick is now turning down any which don’t offer at least some possibility of being turned into a permanent home for the culture from which they have leveraged such extraordinary success. “What I’d love in the future is for our punters to go into the surrounding development,” he says. “This is what British Land and AustralianSuper want as well: go and have dinner in one of the amazing new restaurants, maybe stay in a hotel, come and see some electronic music, or an orchestra or ballet, then go and have a cocktail. People ask me if the context around [a reopened Printworks] will be more difficult, but for me it’s the opposite. I actually think it’s going to be richer.”