Venue Spotlight: Fightback Bristol 2019

If you've not already heard, the Music Venue Trust is in Bristol for the next two weeks for Fightback Bristol 2019.

Currently taking place until the 18th February, Fightback Bristol is a new campaign that will encourage audiences to visit their local grassroots music venue and promote Bristol's emerging and existing musical talent, which will include live music every day throughout the festival at a whole range of venues across Bristol.

Proudly promoting the development of artists and the preservation of the UK's phenomenal live music venues, here's an insight into just a few of the venues that we've featured so far in our Venue Spotlight Series, who are taking part in Fightback Bristol 2019.

Don't forget, if you're partial to a pint, keep an eye out for Fightback Lager at some of the participating venues (draught and cans). Each purchase assists in supporting the great work that the Music Venue Trust is doing for our beloved Grassroots Music Venues.


EXCHANGE

Vital stats

  • Exchange, 72-73 Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0EJ
  • Established: 2012
  • Capacity: 250

See full listings for Bristol's Exchange here >>

What led to the decision to become a community owned venue?

We have been running small Grassroots Music Venues (GMV) now for almost 12 years and during that time we have put on some amazing bands, made some great memories, and forged lifelong friendships.

However, like a lot of small to medium sized independent GMVs, it has often proven to be a struggle to keep our heads above water. Although things have started to change for the better in recent years since the Music Venue Trust started lobbying on behalf of venues like ours, we looked into the future and realised that what we are doing is unsustainable in the medium to long term, as all three of us get older. We can't rely on people coming into replace us as directors, who would have both the skills and the time to give up for free, in order to allow the venue to keep on existing as is. So at the start of the year, we decided we needed to come up with some long term strategy to ensure the venue's survival. It was at this point that I was invited onto a BBC Introducing round table ahead of Independent Venue Week, and I met the guys from Komedia who had recently become a Community Benefit Society. They were so enthusiastic about it all, and the model just made sense to me - particularly for a creative forward-thinking city like Bristol. The investment from the Community Share Offer would allow us to address the significant changes required to make it more profitable. But, what excites us just as much is the community engagement, is being able to bring ideas to the table from our new co-owners and the wider community, which will allow us all to manage the longer term succession of the venue.

I truly believe that live music venues are cultural assets, and they shouldn't face the threat of closure just because a director chooses to move on - that wouldn't happen at an opera house or a theatre.

THE MOTHERS' RUIN

Vital stats

  • The Mothers' Ruin, 7-9 St Nicholas Street, Bristol, BS1 1UE
  • Established: 2007
  • Capacity: 100 main room / 40 cellar room

See full listings and get gig alerts for The Mothers' Ruin here >>

Photo: Doctor Awesomesauce.

Tell us a little bit about the venue...

The Mothers' Ruin was the vision of Marc Griffiths, who wanted to open up a party bar in Bristol's city centre back in 2007. It soon began to flourish with clubnights and live music, and has become a Bristol staple ever since.

Now, nearly 12 years later, it hosts the Free For All Festival, a month-long free entry event that hosts over 100 bands; Stagfest, a 4-day music spectacular over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, plus numerous gigs and alldayers throughout the year.

THEKLA

Vital stats

  • Thekla, The Grove, East Mud Dock, Bristol, BS1 4RB
  • Established: 1984
  • Capacity: 400 main room (600 across two floors)

See full listings for Thekla here >>

Photo: Theo Cottle (http://www.theocottle.com)

Has your venue ever been threatened with closure? If so, what could have been done to prevent it/support you?

Yes, last year we announced that there was a potential threat of closure due to a new development across the river, and that threat is still there. Now, it's just a matter of waiting and seeing what happens once the new flats have been built, as the planning application has been approved.

When we announced the potential issues we were facing, the public support was amazing. We also had lots of offers of help from others who had been through similar things, particularly from the Save Womanby Street campaign in Cardiff. However, there needs to be more support for venues from a higher (government) level, as they are the people who are in a position to make a difference. Things like Agent of Change, which has just come into force, are great, and should hopefully start to prevent this kind of thing happening, but for many venues, it's too late.

Has the venue ever been threatened with closure? If so, what could have been done to prevent it/support you?

In 2017, we ran a successful crowdfunding campaign which has supported the venue's integration with the local community, and we've seen lots of positive changes including partnerships with local organisations, increased ticket sales, and a general awareness about the importance of alternative mid-scale venues.

THE LOUISIANA

Vital stats

  • The Louisiana, Wapping Road, Bristol, BS1 6UA
  • Established: 1987
  • Capacity: 140

See full listings for The Louisiana in Bristol here >>

Tell us a little about the venue...

The Louisiana used to be The Bathurst Hotel, which was built around 1805. It's been a home to music for over 100 years, and we've run it as a music venue for 30 years.

Has the venue gone through any major changes since it opened (location, renovation, style of music, etc)?

The venue has gone through lots of changes. Mostly forced on us due to noise complaints from a previous neighbour. We had to sell our house due to the high costs of having to soundproof the room. We have recently redesigned the stage and added a new mixing desk. We are (as far as we know) the only venue in the country that has a full sized EMT Plate reverb plumbed in.

THE FLEECE

Vital stats

  • The Fleece, 12 St Thomas Street, Bristol, BS1 6JJ.
  • Capacity: 450.
  • Established in 1982.

See full listings for The Fleece in Bristol here >>

Any infamous stories related to your venue you can tell us?

Fact 1: We often have film companies hiring the venue for location filming for programmes such as Being Human, Don't Tell The Bride, Tattoo Disasters, etc.

Fact 2: The Fleece is located on the ground floor of a building called the Wool Hall, which was originally a sheep trading market when it first opened in 1830 (hence the name The Fleece!).

Fact 3: There is a massive water storage tank located directly under the sound desk. Our in-house engineer once brought in a frogman suit and took a waterproof torch down there and went for a swim around!

Be sure to get involved with Fightback Bristol this year by supporting your local live music scene and venues!


Work or run your own venue and want to know more about being featured in our Venue Spotlight Series? Just contact backstage@ents24.com.