Puffin Box

Manchester, UK, is a city renowned for its mischievous approach to nightlife and innovative club culture. From the after-dark discos tucked away in the city’s most Southern suburbs that played a pivotal role in its development of black culture, to the acid house movement of the ’90s that radiated from the sweat-soaked walls of the Hacienda, Manchester has created one of the most vibrant club scenes in the world.

This legacy has continued to grow throughout the 21st Century, too, as the city continues to see multiple venues and events appear, offering a real vending machine of cross-genre club nights that bring together some of the city’s most compelling creatives. However, fast forward to 2020, and this ingenuity was suddenly brought to a halt, as nightclubs across the world closed their doors due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With no real end in sight, many venues started to draft new measures for reopening, including layout changes, strict cleaning regimes and a high standard of PPE for staff. For the nightclub sector however, some of these changes proved impossible.

Kat Warburton and Natalie Lea, founders of Puffin Box, were both working for some of Manchester’s most exciting clubs when the pandemic hit. “We were struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so we started brainstorming some ideas about how we could get people out dancing and enjoying nightlife again, but in a safe environment,” explained Kat. “Working in the events industry, a lot of our friends and colleagues are also out of work, so we wanted to create something really cool with a great musical offering, that also gave jobs to our industry peers.”

Puffin Box is a ‘mini’ club experience located in the basement of creative community hub, Hilton House, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The venue is made up of five socially distant geometric pods that can accommodate up to eight people at each time. Each pod has its own drinks corner, seating space and, most importantly, dancing space that guests can book for up to 90 minutes. “We wanted the space to look like a green room, with a ‘behind-the-scenes’ afterparty kind of vibe. I think it fits in well with us being located below the office block – there’s something quite exciting and unsuspecting about the venue being here,” said Nat.

Puffin Box’s layout is unique for a nightclub. Instead of having the DJ at the front and centre of the venue, playing directly to a crowd, they’re placed in the middle of the five boxes on a rotating plinth, meaning that each box gets around 15 minutes with the DJ playing directly into their box. This new layout had to be taken into consideration during the design and implementation of the audiovisual technology inside Puffin Box. “We still want people to get that goosebumps feeling when they walk into the club, so we were not messing around when it came to the light and sound in Puffin Box. We knew that because of the venue’s design and placement, we needed to get the best of the best to help us with that side of things,” furthered Natalie.

Read the full article in our latest issue!