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By The Drum, Administrator

December 12, 2002 | 5 min read

TheCircle, Manchester’s only members’ club for media, creative, marketing and cultural industries, celebrates its first birthday this month, and is fast becoming the Soho House of the North West.

Manchester is now home to around 250 media and creative companies, employing approximately 15,000 people, including Granada TV, the BBC and the Guardian Media Group, making the city the second largest media centre outside London.

Dominic Apenteng, a local entrepreneur, is founder and co-owner of the club. He identified a need for a sector-specific private club in the city, and subsequently invested a substantial amount of money creating a sophisticated, stylish members’ media facility, complete with lounge, bar and restaurant.

“TheCircleClub is a unique proposition and we are the first club to be granted a late licence in 25 years,” says Apenteng. “We had to convince the authorities that our target sectors had a need for this type of venue and that there were enough of them to justify us opening! It was not easy but with help from founder members we managed it. In creating TheCircle concept, the need for a late licence was always fundamentally important. It sets us aside from the general market, provides for a community that invariably works outside normal licensing hours and certainly reinforces our USP.”

Now with more than 900 members, response to the club has been positive, with new members joining every day, says Apenteng. The club’s philosophy is simple – deliver a quality product in a quality environment, with the focus being on the needs of the customer and the overall aesthetic, rather than the till.

Apenteng says: “We have created a relaxed, industry-focused environment for like-minded people to network, entertain clients, or simply socialise with friends.”

“The city is full of bars that justly deliver a very general product, to the general market. TheCircle is a real alternative to mainstream bar culture; we offer full remote office facilities (including a wireless ADSL network), a private dining room, full private hire for events, a gallery space, and a forum for those who share the same passions and needs. We offer a select, intimate retreat that provides an escape from the usual loudness of most city centre bars. No-one in Manchester has ever provided these facilities within a hospitality environment.”

The secret to success is establishing the right reputation for the club within the media and creative communities. As Deepa Parekh, the Circle’s development manager, explains: “With a club like this, an overt campaign for members wouldn’t work, simply because we needed to establish our reputation first; we deliver on our promises and the club grows organically. Member acquisition is based on reputation and word of mouth. We want members to assist in the propagation of the brand, by referring new members and colleagues. This helps to maintain the personality and intimacy of the club. The members know each other, and recognise that there is an underlying need to network and, in essence, we want the members to choose the people they want to network and socialise with. We are not being elitist, just ensuring like-minded people mix in a comfortable environment. We had over 200 members before we opened, which reflected the obvious need for this kind of venue in Manchester.

“In the first year the club has already played host to a number of high-profile events in the city, including being the delegate venue for The Commonwealth Games, The Commonwealth Film Festival and In the City, which demonstrated that the target industries were very receptive to the proposition. In a short space of time we have become part of the furniture, so to speak.”

But, the proof is in the pudding.

Michael Barrington, joint MD of Barrington Johnson Lorains, recently joined. He said: “We've only just joined and, judging from the quality of the food and the service on our first visit, regret not joining sooner."

Roz Hughes from the North West Institute of Public Relations is another advocate of TheCircleClub: “Manchester has needed a club like this for a long time. It’s a great place to take clients or colleagues, bump into people from the industry or simply chill out after a stressful day.“

She added: “The food is fantastic and the staff make you feel so welcome. It is very refreshing to be able to go somewhere where you know you’ll get good service and be treated well, particularly important when you have a client in town.”

Dave Bell from CheethamBellJWT is one of the founder members of the club: “We’ve got an opportunity for a great club in Manchester, its success depends on the creative community and that’s why I’m supporting it.”

The club now offers an increasingly busy industry events programme, including CircleArt, CircleFilm, CircleMusic, and also hosts live performances, DJs, artists and musicians, with Friday and Saturday nights now becoming the hottest ticket in town!


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