Some time ago, cab drivers were surprised to drop off passengers at 31 Nyzhnoyurkivska Street, near the passageway of the former ribbon-weaving factory. Now most of them are sure that your destination is the Closer Club, which is often true, but not always. Firstly, Closer is not only and not so much a club as an art center. Secondly, so many projects have settled here for a long time and the factory has become a cultural cluster.
There’s a theater, a container radio station, a photo studio, and more recently a tattoo studio, plus, of course, several spaces where concerts and parties are held. In short, a real rabbit hole, where you can fall down for the whole weekend. DTF Magazine tells the about the ecosystem of Nyzhnoyurkivska Street
Ribbons have been sewn here since the 1930s, but the Kyiv ribbon-weaving factory started acquiring its present appearance as an art residence in 2013. By that time, production had fallen into disrepair, the space was rented for various offices or studios, but there had been no notable cultural projects here yet. So the four friends, who were looking for a venue where they could make music, found the location still rather uninhabited and quiet. Well, almost.
«In front of the checkpoint there was a hangar where some parties took place. It was a scary place. Sometimes we’d go to Nyzhnoyurkivska Street and watch dudes crawling out of there, literally crawling out. We thought: Hmm, it’s a weird neighborhood, but okay»,
— this is how Vova Korolyov, one of the founders of SHOOM space, recalls his first months on Nyzhnoyurkivska Street.
Note from DTF Magazine: The parties in the hangar in front of the checkpoint were once played by, for example, some of the current Closer residents, as well as Slava Lepsheev, the band «Lyudska Podoba», and others. You can see posters of those parties here.
The new tenants made repairs and moved into the former factory shop. In fact, they did it all so that their drummer could finally move out of his parents’ house, and finding a regular apartment would not be as interesting. They turned the space not just into a place to live, but into a studio where they started recording music lives — they dreamed of making videos, like the From the Basement project.
The drummer moved out after a year and a half, leaving SHOOM to his friends. But the rule that you have to take your shoes off in the studio is still in effect. The location is often rented out for apartments, birthdays, and other events, but they don’t hold open parties, so people know far less about SHOOM than their famous neighbor.
Vova has only been to Closer parties twice. He says he liked it: there is a great atmosphere and audience, it’s just not his format of music. So he goes to clubs in the neighborhood just to talk to acquaintances. He shows up more often at jazz nights at the «Lesnoy Prichal».
The space where Closer is now was also looked at by other tenants of the factory, the Loft 31 photography studio. But the side turned out not to be sunny, so the place was chosen in another part — so two projects were formed almost simultaneously in neighboring courtyards the same year.
«We live like neighbors. We can come to Closer for chairs, they come to us after the party for tea. Often we have, for example, a music video shoot, they shoot everything by midnight — and go to the party at their place», Anton Sofiychenko, co-founder of Loft 31 tells. And the halls of photographic studios are often rented out for private parties.
The co-founder of Closer, Serhiy Yatsenko, says that they have been looking at this location for a long time. He recalls that when they first came here, undertakers were still renting spaces here:
«A long time ago, when we were still looking for space and they were sitting here, we thought, ‘Well, how can we build Closer, and next to us they will make coffins? Then we came again about a year later, and part of the space was already vacant»
Eventually the undertakers moved out, and the Closer team settled here seriously and for a long time. At first, they arranged the Lesnoy Prichal, only the terrace-deck at that time, without all the additions and superstructures, which it has grown over the years. And we finished renovating the space and launched Closer in the fall of 2013.
Along with parties, exhibitions of local artists began to take place here. Then another space on the third floor became available, and the gallery moved there. However, the third floor serves as an additional dance floor, where dark and hard music is played at festivals and large parties. And the «lighter side» of Closer, the Sofa Store, appeared in place of the first gallery space.
Closer Records Store
The history of the Sofa Store began with sofas, the same ones everyone loves to sit on at parties. Serhiy Vel, another cofounder of Closer, and Dina Bagaeva were looking for them at European flea markets. They decided to launch a project to find and sell vintage furniture after countless questions from acquaintances about where to get one. But in the end they turned the Sofa Store into something much more than a sofa store.
Firstly, here you can buy not only vintage furniture, but also interior items and decor from Ukrainian designers, and secondly, you can work as in a co-working space. In addition, master classes and small parties were held here together with the Closer Records Store, which moved into the same space. It’s a vinyl store opened by Closer resident Andriy Shakolin.
By the way, when Closer announced the launch of their own label, Clommunity, many people found out that they had their own studio for several years. Residents and musician friends of the art center work there.
Another important Closer project is Savage Food, which has transformed from a courtyard cafe into a full-fledged restaurant with vegetarian food and a bar list. It was invented by resident Alex Savage. The interior design was done by Sofa Store founder Dina.
After the restaurant was launched, many joked that the only thing left to open on Nyzhnoyurkivska Street was a hostel. And now Serhiy Yatsenko confirms that there really are plans to make a hostel, we just need to wait until the factory has the necessary space. And there are a few more ideas waiting for free square meters. So far there is nowhere to expand: there are already two festivals, which were originally born in the ribbon-weaving factory, namely Brave! and Black! Factory, which the Closer team holds on the territory of Kyivmetrobud plant now. But you can wait for new projects as soon as someone moves out.
Read also: 40 hours of music: how was the third festival Brave! Factory in Kyiv
This was the case, for example, with the space that Euthanasia Tattoo Studio and Tsaptsarap Gallery occupy now. The Closer team immediately rented it as soon as the print shop moved out.
Serhiy Yatsenko wrote on Facebook that he was looking for options to fill the new place. Among others, Slava Kononov, the founder of Euthanasia Sport, responded. Many of the team have known Slava for a long time, so this collaboration was a foregone conclusion. And the space was used as another venue at Strichka festival in May before the opening of Tsaptsarap.
In general, Strichka has long been something like a festival of the entire Nyzhnoyurkivska Street, because for this event they rent almost all available spaces in the courtyard, namely Otel’, Mezzanine, and now Metaculture with Euthanasia Sport. Even SHOOM has been involved for the last three years: they don’t make a stage here, but a tea and chill zone because the location has a completely different format.
In the summer of 2014 a Ukrainian designers’ showroom 24:00 opened right next door to Closer, which also works at night during parties. When Lada Nerezova, the showroom’s founder, moved in, she found a bricked-up door that led to a space behind «Lesnoy Prichal». The next summer, friends helped to make an exit and improve the terrace garden: they made a bridge over the moat, hung swings, put benches, and planted various plants. We created a kind of oasis, which we called Lada Garden.
«I used to do day parties there, then I started doing yoga and getting interested in tea, so the „Lada Garden“ turned into a tea house. I’m transforming — and it’s changing with me. And if last year the garden was noisy and bright — there were costumes, sequins, different people — then this year it became as quiet as possible»
The story of Mezzanine began shortly after Closer appeared. At the time, two concert organizations were looking for something like an art office. They were recommended a free space on the third floor. Eventually the guys moved in and held their first party with Closer on New Year’s Eve. They didn’t start out as an office, but rather as a bar.
«When we opened, everything changed in the country, the Maidan began. Then many foreigners refused to go to Ukraine because no one understood what was going on. We switched from the foreign market to the local market, we started having local bands perform, we started having parties — that’s how it started», Taras Khimchak, one of the founders of the space recalls. Now Mezzanine hosts concerts with both local and foreign musicians, parties, film screenings and lectures.
Pasha Dergachev and Zhenya Kostenko looked for a rehearsal space at the end of 2013. They didn’t know about «Lesnoy Prichal» and SHOOM, but they liked the location and the atmosphere, and the landlords were loyal, so in November they rented the place, which everyone knows as Otel’ now. The name comes from the word «boiler room», which used to be located here.
Dergachev and Kostenko did some basic repairs themselves: they poured the floor with concrete, removed the tiles with streaks from the walls, bought the sound. And at that point the money ran out. There was no clear plan on how to turn all this into a rehearsal base; there was only a desire. But friends from Pute-fute suggested holding a party called «Nepohano». Then Slava Lepsheev came to Otel’, he was just looking for a place for his new series of parties. So the first Cxema was held at Otel’.
As in the Mezzanine story, the Otel’ format took shape by itself. We didn’t think about the rehearsal base anymore, we started to hold parties all the time and to finish the repairs at the same time.
«At first I had thoughts of decorating the place somehow, of doing all these lantern lights, but then I realized that it was all a load of nonsense. It’s a factory, and that’s the fun of it. I want it to still be a factory, with that weird checkpoint and those guys who are always watching TV there. I wanted there to be a moment of contrast that made everything that happens here look even more intense. I wanted it to be like the VDRZ — I mean, I wanted people to come in here and feel like they’re not in Kyiv anymore. It’s like you have a club somewhere in the mountains but in the center of the city».
PostPlayTheater is not the most obvious neighbor of Closer, Mezzanine, and Otel’, many party-goers still don’t know about it, even though it’s been here since 2015. It is an independent theater founded by playwrights Dan and Yana Humenny and directors Halyna Dzhykaieva and Anton Romanov. It positions itself as a «critical», that is, it focuses on acute and even painful topics. For example, it started with the play «The Militiamen». Now there is a school of street theater and performance art, as well as a school of playwrights, and soon there will be a school of directors.
And PostPlay put on a sleep performance at the last Strichka — on Sunday, the actors walked between the dancers and laid down to sleep wherever they could.
Viktor Yankauskas, the theater’s communications director, says the theater fits perfectly into the atmosphere of Nyzhnoyurkivska Street: «I hate the word „underground“, but everyone here is a kind of marginalized people from their own spheres. Globally, we’re not here to make money, but to speak out, to share our ideas. You might think that theater is something more sublime than a club, but I strongly dislike this division — we’re all about art here. The wording „cultural cluster“ is very good, because we actually complement each other».
Another not-so-famous, but important location here is the UGA cinemaworkshop. Costume designer Yulia Havrylova moved into the factory on the advice of friends from Closer four years ago. She says she had about 10,000 items of clothing and accessories when she moved in; how many she has now is hard to count. Some of the costumes can be seen at masquerades at Closer and also on TV, as Yulia collaborates with many TV shows.
She and Lada from 24:00 recently launched a joint project called Smart Wardrobe, which is located right here in the cinemaworkshop. The idea is that you can turn to stylists who can help you sort out your closet.
The yard next door to Loft 31 has always been much quieter, but the guys from 20ft Radio have brought it to life, especially when they made a terrace near the online radio in a container last summer. By the way, not only the radio is housed there, but also the showroom of a backpack brand called Pilsok.
20ft has been here since early 2017, so its founders could see the factory settling in more and more over the past few years. And they’ve done a lot for it. Now people have started coming to Nyzhnoyurkivska Street before parties, listening to open airs to which both local and foreign DJs and producers are invited.
The team members periodically go to their neighbors’ parties, see who’s playing, and invite interesting artists to their broadcasts. They plan to do a party at Mezzanine one day. They say there’s a mutual help, everyone helps each other out and lends each other things, ranging from a screwdrivers to a subwoofers.
«Each formation is individual and unique, ranging from the airy Mezzanine to the earthy Otel’. It’s just that everyone here is working on their own piece, from which one big thing emerges».
art space, club
Metacultura is another newcomer to the factory; the project was launched here only in spring. The cultural center was opened by Frenchman Anton Bangura and his partners. It hosts exhibitions, lectures, and parties. Anton recently announced that he wanted to get away from the nightlife a bit and threw the last party at the Metaculture. He says the space is not closing and will continue to function as an art center, but with a different team. He promises to give more details soon.
And this is not all of the projects and businesses that inhabit the factory. Sometimes it seems bottomless. For example, a recycling shop recently moved into a small space near Closer. The art center doesn’t have enough space to expand, so now they’ve decided to fix up the attic where they store decorations from parties and festivals. They are also thinking to make a greenhouse for plants there, because they have been seriously involved in landscaping of «Lesnoy Prichal» for a long time. The plan is to rent out the decor. By the way, Closer has several small workshops where they produce all this.
All this time, the territory is replaced by art or recording studios, rehearsal bases, as well as offices and projects that cannot be classified as art. For example, a rather serious tennis club «Gurman» has long been firmly established in the factory.
Also someone literally lives on the territory periodically ranging from electricians to the founders of all these creative studios. For example, Ivanka Havluk of the Closer team recalls the period of life at 31 Nyzhnoyurkivska Street as one of the most productive, but also challenging. «You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. For example, at one time I was studying how light refracts from different materials. And I built a two-meter structure out of metal and plastic, there were some boxes, teapots. It’s hard to do that in an apartment, but there’s a loft in the basement. And you can listen to music at any time. But at some point I wanted the usual comfort».
The courtyards here already have a life of their own. The one next to the Closer is the one that hosts flea markets and tennis tournaments by 4Fingers, small parties, and becomes a full-fledged dance floor during the Strichka. Or it becomes a catwalk and a stage, like at the opening of Euthanasia.
It is possible to catch someone here outside of all the events. It’s true that not everyone thinks it’s a good place to relax. «There are parking lots everywhere in the factory, shattered asphalt, dust, trash, and no landscaped chill-out areas except for a few benches under the chestnut trees. So far, unfortunately, there’s nothing to do when there are no parties except paint the walls. We need everyone’s interest in the development of the factory as a holistic art cluster so that you can spend time here pleasantly and profitably», the guys from 20ft say.
For example, this year the residents of Nyzhnoyurkivska Street were united by the initiative «Make way for the young» invented by DJ Oleksandr Zelenko. The idea is to raise money and repair the pavement at the entrance to the factory. The city has not yet helped with this, and overcoming the last meters to the checkpoint, where there are potholes, is becoming increasingly difficult. So they held several charity parties on Nyzhnoyurkivska Street and hope to solve this issue with crowdfunding.
In general, the residents of Nyzhnoyurkivska Street define their relations as good-neighborly and even friendly, albeit with inevitable compromises.
«After all, we all feed the same cat, only there she is Nastya, and we have Mykhailo Yuriyovych», Vitya from the RostPlayTheater notes.
By the way, the cat Nastenka, a permanent resident and a real legend of Nyzhnoyurkivska Street, can really be found not only in Closer, but almost at any location of the factory. And recently another red cat appeared here, so maybe this cluster will be inhabited by two mascots already. Although, the guys from Euthanasia also have a snake. But the animal world of Nyzhnoyurkivska Street is another story.
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