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Bristol’s SWX gets £3.2m redo after arson attack

SWX Bristol, a 1,800-capacity venue in the southwest of England, is to reopen just over a year after an arson attack damaged the building.

Following the incident, Electric Group, which has owned and operated the venue since 2017, gave the Nelson Street venue a £3.2 million reconstruction.

The restored venue is due to reopen on 9 September with a show by metal band Gloryhammer, followed by club night Far Fetched.

Electric Group said the focus of the rebuild was on restoring the previous infrastructure with upgraded tech. The refit involved the fitting of an L-Acoustics Kara II PA, all new lighting, motors, and a Fiend Productions’ LED wall.

Among the most notable changes are the double-height foyer, a reinstated feature from the Top Rank Suite-era, and a wheelchair-friendly lift that opens up access to all three floors for people with a disability.

The venue closed 13 months ago when an arsonist, who was said to be obsessed with lockdown measures, set light to a petrol-soaked towel and posted it through the SWX letterbox.

“We are already ahead in Q4 and Q1 [2023] in terms of show counts from pre-pandemic”

Artists slated to play at SWX this year include Banks, Rema, Young T & Bugsey, Sugababes and Black Midi.

“The response has almost been overwhelming,” says Electric Group head of music Mike Weller. “We are already ahead in Q4 and Q1 [2023] in terms of show counts from pre-pandemic. On almost a daily basis for nearly a year I’ve been asked, ‘Is the diary open? When will you be back?'”

Electric Group CEO Dominic Madden said, “The fire, product of an arsonist’s obsessive concern with lockdown and Covid legislation, was started at 4 am and raged for 27 hours. Our original sprung dance floor lives to tell the tale but not much else.

“Among the reconstruction we have fitted electric shutters at all entrances to ensure nothing like this can happen again.

“While our priority was to retain the essence of the venue’s success, updating facilities to ensure that SWX would serve the requirements of artists and audiences for another 50 years, I was really pleased to take this opportunity to make the venue fully disability friendly.”

Alongside SWX, Electric Group also runs London’s 1,700-cap. Electric Brixton (formerly the Fridge), and owns O2 Academy Newcastle (operated by Academy Music Group) and the Leadmill in Sheffield.

 


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TEG announces formation of TEG Europe

Australasian live entertainment powerhouse TEG has announced the formation of TEG Europe, consolidating the company’s UK-based operations into a single entity.

Based out of London and Bristol, TEG Europe comprises five different divisions: TEG Live Europe, TEG Venues, Propaganda, Ticketek and Ovation.

TEG Live Europe includes the former TEG MJR touring business, which has worked with artists including Snoop Dogg, Sia, Hans Zimmer, 50 Cent, Tom Jones, and Culture Club.

TEG Venues includes 10 owned, operated, co-promoted, and programmed venues throughout the UK, including Tramshed (cap. 1,000) in Cardiff, XOYO (800) in London and The Mill (1,000) in Birmingham.

Propaganda, the UK’s leading indie rock & roll nightclub brand, includes fifteen weekly events across the country, as well as promoted events in the US, Australia, Brazil and Ibiza.

Ticketek, which has 40+ years’ experience ticketing major international events and partnering with some of the world’s best venues, was introduced into the UK in 2020 and already works with some of the country’s premier venues.

“Today’s news represents a crucial milestone in the expansion of TEG and positions us for further growth across Europe”

And Ovation, TEG’s data science and analytics business, provides sports organisations, venues, promoters, content creators, media and tech partners with analytics, data science, research, personalisation, and advanced digital marketing.

TEG already has a significant presence in the UK and Europe, having acquired Bristol-based promoter and venue operator MJR Group in 2019. According to TEG, the company already promotes more than 2,000 shows annually in the country and on the continent.

TEG CEO Geoff Jones says: “Today’s news represents a crucial milestone in the expansion of TEG’s successful integrated live entertainment model into the vibrant UK market and positions us for further growth across Europe.

“By combining these businesses into a single customer-focused operation, we are well positioned to work with new and existing industry partners in the UK and Europe to help grow their businesses while continuing our own growth in the region.”

Concert promotion, ticketing and technology firm TEG operates out of seven countries worldwide with offices in Australia, New Zealand, south-east Asia and the UK.

The group includes TEG Live, TEG Sport, TEG Experiences, TEG Dainty, SXSW Sydney, TEG MJR, TEG Van Egmond, Laneway Festival, TEG Rockefeller, Handsome Tours, Qudos Bank Arena, Ticketek, Softix, TicketCharge, TicketWorld, Ticketek Singapore and Ovation.

 


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AEG links with Team Love for Bristol festival

AEG Presents has teamed with events company Team Love to launch new 30,000-cap metropolitan festival Forwards in Bristol, UK.

Taking place in Clifton Downs from 3-4 September, Forwards will be headlined by Jamie xx and The Chemical Brothers, with other acts to include Little Simz, Roisin Murphy, Khruangbin, Fred Again, Kojey Radical, Caribou, Self Esteem, Kae Tempest and Shygirl.

The two-day festival aims to create positive change through social initiatives and a space for discussion and debate.

In addition to two main music stages, it will feature The Information – a space “driven by activism, examination, debate and understanding on today’s current affairs and cultural issues, plus challenging the role of music festivals”, including a programme of experts, disruptors, artists, writers and thinkers from “across the social and political spectrum”.

Working with associated partner Big Team CIC, Forwards will offer work experience, shadowing and paid job placements across the festival for people who have “historically been excluded from and are under-represented in the festival and events industry”, supported through partnerships with local youth organisations.

“Now, more than ever, it’s important that our events invite debate and challenge the audience to do more to make the world a better place”

“We’re proud to be unveiling a new festival for a new era of festivals, in the best city in the world, our hometown of Bristol,” says Team Love co-founder Tom Paine. “Now, more than ever, it’s important that our events invite debate and challenge the audience to do more to make the world a better place, as well as being a place to come together, dance, and make memories.

“Alongside one of the most exciting lineups we have ever brought to Bristol, we’re creating an area called The Information, to provide a space for urgent conversations from some of our favourite activist and political voices. We’re partnering with CICs to nurture new talent, provide community catering at the heart of the festival and give back to our communities through the festival ecosystem.”

As part of its sustainability focus, the festival team will collect data and create a three-year strategy on how to monitor and reduce their GHG emissions, develop a circular, responsible production and consumption ethos while promoting social cohesion.

Jim King, CEO, European Festivals, AEG Presents, says the event marks the next chapter in the growth of AEG’s festival division.

“We are really delighted that this next journey starts in Bristol, a historic city with an important culture and music heritage and spirit,” he says. “Forwards begins a new relationship with our partners Team Love, who we have respected from afar for many years and who epitomise all that this great city stands for in live music and culture. Their vision anchors Forwards to the heartbeat of this great city and all it has to offer.”

Weekend tickets go on sale on Friday (25 February), priced from £75 (€90).

 


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YTL Bristol Arena announces two senior hires

YTL Arena Bristol, a new 17,000-capacity arena in the southwest of England, has announced two senior appointments.

Une Marija Jurkstaite joins the YTL team as head of experience, tasked with growing the arena’s fan database and ensuring each event sells to its targeted full capacity. She will drive the digital user experience across ticketing, food and drink ordering, travel and loyalty programmes.

Jurkstaite joins YTL from her previous role as chief business officer for Žalgiris Arena (cap. 20,000) in Lithuania where she developed a track record for driving fan growth and creating a ‘sell-out’ culture at the venue.

“I am very happy to be joining this world-class new venue,” says Jurkstaite. “I look forward to bringing my passion for customer experiences to ensure every touchpoint across the YTL Arena Bristol customer journey is exceptional.”

Matt Blackhouse will bring his 16+ years of experience in the live events industry to his role as senior events project manager at YTL Arena Bristol.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our operational team, welcoming two talented hires from the industry”

Blackhouse will look after the back of house facilities for all touring artists, promoters and event organisers as YTL Arena Bristol starts its countdown to construction and opening.

His previous roles include events coordinator St David’s Hall and senior events manager at Motorpoint Arena Cardiff.

Blackhouse has managed shows for artists including Elton John, Mariah Carey, Kylie Minogue, The 1975 and many more.

“I am really excited to be joining the team that will deliver the South West’s first-ever purpose-built arena,” says Blackhouse. “I grew up in the region and know how much demand there will be from huge events wanting to come to Bristol, and I can’t wait to get started in helping make this a must-play venue for acts.”

Andrew Billingham, CEO of YTL Arena Bristol, added: “We are thrilled to be expanding our operational team, welcoming two talented hires from the industry. Une and Matt bring a wealth of experience in delivering thousands of live events and will help us enormously. Whilst finalising design and construction elements, we are also looking ahead to doors opening and building our operating team to deliver one of the best arena fan and artist experiences in the UK and across Europe.”

A rival arena, operated by Live Nation and Oak View Group (OVG), is set to open in Cardiff, Wales, in 2025.

 


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GEI Summer Edition saw industry “come of age”

The 14th edition of the Green Events and Innovations (GEI) conference saw the industry “come of age” on the subject of sustainability, according to the organisers.

Thursday’s (16 September) conference, presented by A Greener Festival (AGF) and the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), was the first-ever Summer Edition of GEI, with the virtual event supported by a raft of sponsors including Ecotricity, Live Nation, Res, Ticketmaster, Solcell and The Virtual Venue.

The event followed a hybrid model, with some speakers coming together at PYTCH’s Virtual Venue in Bristol, powered by 100% renewable energy. Others joined from their homes and were broadcast live to delegates from around the world.

“We had such a great time delivering the first hybrid GEI Summer Edition. Live speakers connected with powerful and inspiring individuals and organisations from all around the world, and a truly international interactive audience,” says AGF co-founder Claire O’Neill.

“Considering the crucial topics that GEI addresses, this global collaboration is heartwarming and hopeful, to say the least. With 14 years of GEI under our belts, it feels like the industry is coming of age on the subject of sustainability and the next step is to use our unparalleled power of communication connect these messages with the masses.”

“The next step is to use our unparalleled power of communication connect these messages with the masses”

The speaker line-up was packed with industry titans including Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme), Dale Vince (Ecotricity/Forest Green Rovers), Dave Ojay (NAAM Festival), Amber Etre (Christie Lites), Fay Milton (Savages/Music Declares Emergency) and Celia Palau Lodge (Cooking Vinyl Records).

Samm Farai Monro (Magamba Network), Meegan Jones (Sustainable Event Alliance/Great Ocean Race), Stuart McPherson (KB Event) and Jamal Chalabi (Backlash Productions) also topped the bill.

Highlights from the Summer Edition included an exclusive first look at LIVE Green’s declaration and voluntary charter and a follow-up discussion between John Langford (Live Green/ AEG Europe), Stuart Galbraith (Kilimanjaro Live), Clementine Bunel (Paradigm), artist Sam Lee and Chiara Badiali (Julie’s Bicycle).

Also featured at the conference was a presentation of a new roadmap for greener events, following the recent publication of research conducted by scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research under commission by Massive Attack.

The wider programme included panels on greener arenas and vendors as well as ‘ask the expert’ sessions, a quick-fire innovation round and deep dives on carbon removals and value chain planning for events.

AGF is now looking towards returning to live events with the next GEI Conference set to take place in March 2022. Find out more about the work of AGF at agreenerfestival.com.


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Organisers of AJ Tracey Manchester gig fined £10,000

The organisers of a surprise AJ Tracey gig have been fined £10,000 after huge crowds gathered in a park in Manchester to see the rapper perform.

In a video posted on Twitter afterwards, the British rapper said that he hadn’t expected so many people to turn up to Platt Fields in south Manchester yesterday (18 April) afternoon.

Photos and video footage show hundreds of people standing around basketball courts inside the park, with police appearing to monitor the situation.

Greater Manchester police have now confirmed a £10,000 fixed penalty notice has been issued to the organiser for breaching coronavirus legislation, the Manchester Evening News reported.

AJ Tracey in the building – showing love to Manchester! 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾

Big up ✅✅ 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾

Posted by Kemoy Walker on Sunday, April 18, 2021

 

The British rapper was reportedly in Birmingham beforehand and had planned to visit Bristol afterwards but has now cancelled the mini tour.

“Big love Manny [Manchester] and Brum [Birmingham], thank you for coming out. […] It’s not going to be safe for me to come to Bristol. I didn’t expect that many people to turn up in Manny and genuinely, yeah man, this is not okay for me to go ahead. I’m gonna head home to London,” AJ Tracey said in the video.

It is not known whether AJ Tracey performed in Birmingham, but he was spotted signing CDs of his new album Flu Game at record shop HMV.

 


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UK venue consultancy Ghostwriter adds Motion Bristol

Richard Maides and Carl Bathgate’s Ghostwriter Consultancy & Events has added Motion in Bristol to its UK venue portfolio, announcing a five-year agreement to oversee and operate all live music events at the venue.

The 1,350-capacity warehouse venue, recently named the second-best club in the UK by DJ Mag, is the latest venue partnership for Ghostwriter, which also recently announced long-term partnerships with Eventim Olympia Liverpool (1,930-cap.) and Arena Racing Company, which runs a number of the UK’s best-known racecourses.

Ghostwriter was founded by former Academy Music Group and VMS Live directors Maides and Bathgate in 2019 and offers services including venue management, concert promotion/production, venue marketing, ticketing, health and safety compliance and event management.

Upcoming Ghostwriter-promoted or programmed events include Kaiser Chiefs at Ffos Las Racecourse in south Wales, Bath Racecourse and Doncaster Racecourse in May and June 2021, Jess Glynne at Newcastle, Lingfield Park, Doncaster and Windsor Racecourses in July and August, and Peter Hook and the Light at O2 Academy Leeds (2,300-cap.) in early 2022.

“We firmly believe [Motion] will present a strong, viable option for touring artists when visiting Bristol”

“I’m delighted to be able to share some much needed positive news for 2020,” says Motion director Martin Page. “Having worked closely over the summer on funding projects we are proud to announce our new partnership with Ghostwriter. Together we are excited to embark upon a fresh new chapter of live music at Motion and [1,600-cap. sister venue] Marble Factory.

“We will be working closely with the Ghostwriter team across a number of exciting projects both in the venues and across Bristol. This is fantastic news for team Motion, Ghostwriter and the city of Bristol.”

“Motion is an award-winning independent venue renowned for electronic music. We are very much looking forward to working with Martin and his team to better position the venue to attract a wider variety of events,” adds Bathgate. “We will be focusing on improving the technical offering for live events and redeveloping the backstage area in order to enhance the experience of touring artists.

“Motion and Marble Factory are already great spaces to watch a gig from a customer’s perspective, and with the newly improved facilities we firmly believe they will present a strong, viable option for touring artists when visiting Bristol.”

 


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Live to play key role in Covid-19 vaccinations

Venues and festivals across Europe have offered their services as vaccination centres as the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine nears roll-out.

The vaccine is now approved in the UK, with the first vaccinations starting next week, and the EU and US are expected follow suit in the coming weeks. According to its makers, the vaccine is more than 90% effective against Covid-19.

In Germany, Dusseldorf venue company D.Live is establishing a vaccination centre in sports and entertainment venue Merkur Spiel-Arena, the 66,500-capacity stadium which serves as the ground of football team Fortuna Düsseldorf.

The centre, which will serve Dusseldorf, the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, will stretch over 8,000m² across two storeys and have the capacity for up to 2,400 immunisations a day, with the potential to expand if necessary.

Patients arriving at the stadium will first visit one of 12 check-in counters, before making their way through a one-way system to a waiting area, and then on to one of the ten boxes which are being converted into vaccination rooms.

Local guidelines dictate that the vaccine be made available gradually to the entire population on a voluntary basis, starting with vulnerable groups, including hospital staff and patients and carers in care homes.

Covid-19 vaccinations could start in the 27 EU nations before the end of December

Authorities in the UK are similarly requisitioning stadia and other event venues, with the 27,000-seat Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, the Etihad Stadium campus in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey and among the sites identified for mass vaccinations in England.

The Bristol facility reportedly has the capacity to deliver up to 110,000 vaccinations a week to residents of the city and the surrounding areas, starting next week and continuing until April 2021.

In Belgium, meanwhile, newly formed Wallonian festival association FFMWB (Fédération des Festivals de Musique Wallonie-Bruxelles) is offering up its members’ sites and services to help the Belgian government achieve its goal of eight million vaccinations (around 70% of the country) when the vaccine is approved there.

“Our sector has been at a standstill for many months, and our many staff are eager to bring their creativity and dedication to the fight against coronavirus,” says Dour Festival’s Damien Dufrasne, president of the FFMWB.

FFMWB’s 11 members include Les Francofolies de Spa, Les Nuits Botanique and Brussels Summer Festival.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said last week that said Covid-19 vaccinations could start in the 27 EU nations before the end of December. The EC has agreements with six suppliers that would allow it to purchase more than 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine.

 


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Drive Nation: LN UK unveils 2,100-cap. drive-in shows

Live Nation has announced a series of live drive-in concerts across 12 venues in the UK this summer, featuring acts including Dizzee Rascal, Gary Numan, Beverley Knight, the Streets, Sigala, Lightning Seeds, the Snuts and Kaiser Chiefs.

Drive-in concerts have proved to be a popular feature of lockdown life, with concertgoers getting their live music fix from the safety of their cars in countries including Germany, Denmark, the US, Lithuania and the Netherlands.

Now, the format is allowing the UK live industry to step back into the driving seat. Live Nation’s Utilita Live from the Drive-in series, which kicks off in mid-July, is more live music-focused than previously announced UK drive-in events, hosted by the likes of Mainstage Festivals and Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster.

The 300-carpacity (© 2020 IQ) concerts will be able to accommodate up to 2,100 people, with tickets available for two to seven people per car. Standard or premium tickets, which include guaranteed location in the front three rows and priority exit at end of show, will be available, with prices reportedly ranging from £25 to £100 per car.

Differing from many other drive-in shows and in a similar vein to Italy’s proposed bike-in concerts, concertgoers will be able to enjoy the performance through the full sound system – rather than car radio – in a dedicated area next to their vehicle. Fans are encouraged to bring folding chairs if they wish to sit during the gigs.

“The drive-in format is a thoughtful and fun way to safely bring one million Brits out of ‘entertainment lockdown’”

The shows will take place across 12 sites, including in the grounds of venues such as Birmingham Resorts World Arena and the National Bowl in Milton Keynes; at sports complexes including the University of Bolton football stadium and Cheltenhem and Newmarket racecourses; at airports in Bristol (Filton Airfield), Leeds (Leeds East Airport) and Teesside (Teesside International Airport); and various other outdoor event locations including the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh, Lincolnshire Showground and Central Docks Liverpool Waters.

Live Nation also plans to announce the London venues, as well as more artists and dates in due course.

“We are excited to bring Utilita Live From The Drive-In to fans across the UK,” comments Live Nation’s Peter Taylor. “This outdoor concert series was created as a way to reimagine the live music experience during a time of social distancing by allowing fans to enjoy concerts in the safest way possible.

“Each event will comply with all official government guidelines in order to protect fans, artists, crews and staff. We look forward to announcing some of the biggest names across UK music and bringing these fantastic artists to a city near you.”

“As we find new ways to navigate today’s world of social distancing,” adds Utilita CMO Jem Maidment, “we believe the drive-in format is a thoughtful and fun way to safely bring one million Brits out of ‘entertainment lockdown’ this summer 2020.”

Tickets for Utilita Live from the Drive-in go on sale at 10 a.m. on 22 June here. Further information on performers, entry prices, on-sale dates and restrictions can be found here.

 


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Bristol Ticket Shop closing after 30 years

Independent UK-based ticketing company Bristol Ticket Shop has announced it is closing down, citing overdue payments from a debtor.

Launched in 1987 as a concession in Virgin shops and then in record retailer Our Price, Bristol Ticket Shop later found its own home in the centre of the UK city of Bristol. With a focus on supporting the local music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop also sold tickets to events such as Glastonbury Festival and Download Festival.

“After more than 30 years being part of Bristol’s incredible music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop is sadly closing,” reads a post on the ticketer’s Facebook page.

“All the staff here are devastated. The list of incredible events we have supplied tickets for is overwhelming. There are so many regular customers, old and new, that we have really enjoyed talking to over the years and we will miss you all dearly.”

“After more than 30 years being part of Bristol’s incredible music scene, Bristol Ticket Shop is sadly closing”

The management team owes the closure to “news that a debtor owing a large amount of money was unlikely to be able pay in a timely manner”, as well as to the illness of the company’s owner, which has “had a large impact on the resilience of the business”.

The company states it is instructing a third party to negotiate with promoters in order to ensure that “there is as little impact to the customer as possible”. Although the ticketer aims “to honour tickets for future events”, it notes this may not always be possible, in which case refunds will be issued.

Bristol music fans have responded to the “sad news”, showing support for the ticketer, which formed a “huge part” of the local live scene.

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2019, the primary ticketing business in the UK is “incredibly competitive”, with major international companies including Ticketmaster, See Tickets, AXS, Eventim and Eventim taking a large share of the market.

Many local independent outfits, such as Manchester’s Ticketline, Birmingham’s the Ticket Factory, Leeds’ Ticket Arena and Nottingham’s Gigantic – now majority owned by DEAG – also perform well.

 


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