How The Pickle Factory became east London's favourite neighbourhood club

Words by Kate Menzies
Photos by The Pickle Factory and Justin De Souza

The Pickle Factory’s Toby Wareham and Ross Melinn chat about the venue’s growing legacy, what sets it apart from other spaces, and what’s in store for the rest of the year.

You’ll never guess what The Pickle Factory’s first incarnation was. That’s right, before it was a venue, it was a pickle factory. After its briny beginnings, it was a medical supplies warehouse, eventually becoming a venue in 2015 with a name that reflects its industrial origins. Today, it’s affectionately called Pickle, and you get the feeling that it’s a cherished friend to all who know it. 

The Pickle Factory’s run by the team behind Oval Space. Both venues are blank, open canvases, adaptable for any artist or event. But where Oval Space is bigger, bringing in well-known dance and techno artists, The Pickle Factory is more contained, a space where experimental sounds reign supreme and artists connect with fans more intimately in a 200-capacity space. But what makes it different from other London venues? To find out, we sat down with The Pickle Factory general manager Ross Melinn, and booker Toby Wareham.


It’s the little things

First and foremost, Pickle is small. But this limited capacity is actually a benefit to the team: it’s the perfect space for up-and-comers and experiments. “The size of the venue is an advantage in terms of crowd engagement. DJs often love being closer to their fans and you don’t really get that at larger venues,” says Ross. 

“It keeps the essence of grassroots venue culture. People know they have a safe, intimate venue to forget about the world for the six hours they’re dancing, and they can let themselves go without judgement. That experience is like medicine for the soul.” 

Thanks to its reputation as an intimate venue, it often attracts emerging artists. “Pickle has been at the start of some soon-to-be very prominent artists, hosting the first live shows for Greentea Peng and PinkPantheress, so that feels purposeful. It’s always a highlight working with some of our promoters like Secret Sundaze and Percolate, but I also really love our jazz nights and would love to explore more there,” says Ross.

That chance to get up close and personal with underground artists is important for fans, too. “I think people crave that connection with the artist and vice-versa. That is how we punch above our weight. Artists and performers know that every person in that room is truly engaged in that moment.”

When the good vibes go both ways

Beyond the music, there’s another draw for fans: the vibe. Pickle’s size helps keep things low-key, which brings in fans who aren’t looking for a big one. “It’s nice to have that small, easy night where you can just go out, maybe stay up till three, four in the morning, get a few drinks, and not feel too horrible the next day. That’s the club that we are,” says Toby. “I think that when you live in a city, it’s great to have a regular neighbourhood club night.”

Toby gives us a hypothetical for the average Pickle Factory fan: “You’ve gone out for dinner on a Friday night and you’re kind of feeling it a little bit. You don’t want to go home and there’s a party just down the road that’s only a tenner for a ticket. And a couple of people you know might be there.”

Toby’s also noticed in his six years at the venue that the fans who come to Pickle are only there for a good time, which means the security team can focus on keeping events running smoothly. “We attract really nice crowds. They don’t need to be treated like they’re up to no good – they’re just there to have a good night.”

Even when things aren’t quite going to plan, the crowd tends to be chill and sympathetic. “One night, nothing was going right: we had tech issues, Oval Space was in operation too so I was running between both places and the DJ was stuck in traffic so we were spinning ambient records until he arrived. Luckily, the crowd were understanding and good as gold,” says Ross. “I realised that these people are just in pursuit of pure hedonism and most of them ended up having a night they probably hardly remembered with people they’ll never forget. Pure Pickle!”


What does 2022 sound like for Pickle Factory and beyond?

Pickle’s mostly known for its underground electronic and techno programming, which is thanks to Toby. “I’m still trying to stick to my guns and create a very diverse programme that’s a bit of everything, and a bit of something for everyone. But subconsciously, or consciously, I’d say the in-house programme is starting to mirror my own tastes more in 2022.”

The team has also hosted some important charity events in the space recently. “We did a couple of fundraisers for Ukraine a few months ago. They really captured Pickle Factory at its best, they had a real intimate community sort of vibe,” says Toby.

In terms of booking acts, “Truly Madly, Gene on Earth, and Sugar Free are all really close mates of mine,” says Toby. “So it’s easy to book them because they’re friends, and I know they’re going to sell the venue out. And luckily, the little scene that I’m part of is enjoying a moment in the sun.” This moment in the sun is reflected in the booking decisions of bigger venues, too, with Toby and co more in demand than ever. “I know this because other clubs that never used to be interested in that sound are suddenly trying to throw their hat in the ring and book in because they can smell what sells.”

What about the sound of 2022? “It’s hard to define because really it’s just house and techno, but it’s like deep cuts, specialists, niche, mostly older records from the ’90s. And what separates this sound is that DJs will take extra care and attention to find that music,” says Toby. 

“Personally, I prefer DJs who are utterly dedicated to their craft, and will haul a huge bag of records around the world and get sore backs because of it. But they don’t give a fuck because that’s the how that’s how they want to present their music. And that is everything to them. And it’s beyond the job – it’s their passion and it’s their life.”

And looking at Pickle’s 2022 roster, there’s a lot of exciting names. Ivan Ave, Body Meat, Sunda Arc and residents Hamish and Toby are just some of the artists playing. More will be announced throughout the year, but we’re sure that whatever they’ve got planned, it’s going to be pure Pickle.

Interested in working with DICE and The Pickle Factory? Get in touch with our team. We’d love to hear from you.

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