Village Underground at 15: From burnt-out cars to a champion of grassroots music

Arlo Parks at Village Underground

Arlo Parks at Village Underground - Credit: Michael Fung

A month of parties are lined up this September to help a Hackney venue celebrate 15 years of independence. 

Village Underground will host live music and club nights spanning genres. 

Shows by Gwenno, Salute, DJ Nobu, Paula Temple, Two Shell, Optimo, Wu-Lu, Oli XL and Channel One Sound System have all been announced, along with collaborations from Eat Your Own Ears, Jazz Cafe, Loud & Quiet, Slow Dance, Parallel Lines, Percolate, Krankbrother, and Touching Bass.

Riz Ahmed on stage at Village Underground

Riz MC (Riz Ahmed) on stage at Village Underground - Credit: Wyatt Dixon

Looking back on the venue’s beginnings off Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, founder Auro Foxcroft: “We cleared burnt-out cars and years of fly-tipped waste, sandblasted walls, laid concrete over the mud and planted a meadow for our roof.

"There was no plan; we just saw an opportunity to do something and took it. In the early years the never ending possibilities of London's creativity ventured through the doors and sowed the seeds of Village Underground to come, gradually taking shape as a grassroots music venue.

“The last 15 years has been a kaleidoscope of artists from around the world, with living legends like Alicia Keys, A$AP Rocky, Blondie, Charli XCX, Jeff Mills, Lee Scratch Perry, Mulatu Astatke, Pixies, Stone Roses and Underworld – sharing the stage with new artists from the underground, emerging scenes and global cultures – and this is the true heart of Village Underground.”

Village Underground

Village Underground - Credit: Beth Crockatt Photography

As well as putting on emerging artists, the VU15 programme will see familiar faces returning to the renovated warehouse, including Paula Temple who is returning to Village Underground for the UK debut of her Noise Manifesto party; Optimo, celebrating their 25 year anniversary; Channel One Sound System; and DJ Nobu, who brings his and Haruka’s Future Terror club series to the UK - the night’s first outing outside Japan. 

Managing director Amelie Snyers said: “The one good thing about the pandemic is that it forced us to slow down and spend some time thinking about what Village Underground had achieved by then – the good and the bad – and what needed to change. A lot of these changes are reflected in the VU15 programme – it also offers clues to what is coming next: more diverse and engaged programmes, making the most of our independent status, working with all sorts of interesting, fun, new promoters, collectives and artists and finding ways to support each other as we all slowly recover from Covid.”

Jorja Smith at Village Underground

Jorja Smith at Village Underground - Credit: Chiara Melchior