Magnetic Attraction: The Return of The Magnet
From Roy Ayres to Andy Weatherall, Gus Gus to the, ahem, Courteeners - the Magnet's constantly been the source of evenings that are as eclectic as they are entertaining. So, says, Stephanie Heneghan, its return couldn't be better timed.
We definitely don’t have a shortage of bars in this city. So it might seem that the closure of an establishment will be quickly swallowed up by the appearance of a new hotspot, the fickle nature of punters easily swayed by flashy PR campaigns and drinks offers.
But whilst this might be true for the majority, there are always those venues in the city that leave a gap in the locality with their disappearance. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on marketing or gimmicks, it’s impossible to create a rich musical history without actually having put the leg work in first. These reputations take years to cultivate and grow and the closure of such locations are met with genuine sadness.
A case in point is The Magnet, an unassuming venue located at the top of Hardman Street which you could easily walk past without realising the significant part its played in Liverpool culture. With the décor similar to that you might find in a New York dive bar – all moody lighting and intimate booths it was effortlessly cool and an easy place to while away the hours. A trip down the stairs into the basement was a bit like peeking into the Tardis, definitely bigger on the inside. And with better fish.
When it opened over 50 years ago as one of the cities first black music venues, the upstairs bar was known as the ‘Rumblin’ Tum’ with the more exclusive ‘Sink Club’ in the basement and it built up a reputation across the North West for putting on soul nights that provided a welcome alternative to the Beatlemania consuming other areas of the city. Offering a platform for many upcoming bands, with a place in musical folklore firmly cemented by a performance from a band called Ibis, regarded as many as an early incarnation of Queen with Freddie Mercury and Brian May playing together for the first time.
But rather than trading on past glories and turning into a Queen theme bar, The Magnet’s standing at the forefront of the local scene continued and after undergoing a renaissance in the late 90’s it played host to a new generation of club nights and musicians whilst still keeping the authentic feel that it became famous for.
However last year it inexplicably closed without warning, the rumour mill touting gossip that the owners had done a bunk to South America. Whatever the reasoning, a fantastic venue that offered something a little bit different from the norm was now lying dormant, frustratingly closed to the public indefinitely,
One of those who shared this feeling of frustration was Richard McGinnis, the promoter behind Chibuku and Circus, both nights which had taken advantage of The Magnet’s 24 hour license to hold afterparties. On a more personal level he’d been a regular there since the 1998 relaunch and after dipping his toe successfully into bar culture with launch of The Shipping Forecast, the opportunity to take on The Magnet seemed too good to pass up.
With a certain degree of synchronicity involved and Richard admitting that “We didn’t really go after The Magnet, it sort of came after us”, his plans for the bar don’t involve an overhaul and new look but rather renovating it back to former glories. “We’re planning on restoring it back to its prime, creating a great bar to come and hang out in. It’s definitely a restoration job, however it will be brought up to speed with a new soundsystem – our partners Tokyo Industries have got their hands on a Function One which we’re installing. We’ve worked with Johnny Mellor, who is the original owner and long term friend of ours and his input on everything from the wallpaper to the buttons on the booths has gone into the refit.”
As a project, The Magnet will benefit from the experience Richard has gained from launching The Shipping Forecast last year, “we found at The Shipping Forecast that the door makes the venues, so as long as that’s controlled well the rest will fall into place. We want to create a similar kind of safe haven for people to go and have a drink, feel safe and get good quality service, music and sound. We’ll be building the programme as weeks move on, with The Ship it took us a year to get the programming right but there’s some amazing ideas on the table already”
“Ideally we want to create somewhere that you can settle into, feel comfortable and stay for a while. There is a great scene now with Santa Chupitos, The Ship, Studio2, Mello Mello, and Bier emerging in town – independents that provide an alternative to the horrendous chain pubs. We’ve put in place a great bar team who will provide good drinks served well, something it definitely lacked previously and we’ve addressed the issue of the toilets which will be completely refitted!”
With a small private launch tonight for friends and family, The Magnet will open its doors to the public once again on Saturday with the mighty Norman Jay gracing the decks followed by late night/early morning revelry from the Chibuku Afterparty – a fitting new beginning for a enduring stalwart of the local scene.
Opening party featuring Norman Jay, Sat 1 Oct
The Magnet, Hardman Street, Liverpool