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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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Electric Brixton owner takes over Bristol’s SWX

The new owner of UK venue SWX is to work with local and national promoters to bring more live music to what it calls “the best 1,100-capacity room in Bristol”.

Electric Group, which also runs London’s 1,700-cap. Electric Brixton (formerly the Fridge) completed a deal for SWX last month after being impressed with its atmosphere, production and sightlines.

Backed by box-office and marketing support from TicketWeb, Electric Group will manage the SWX live diary from Brixton under its head of music, Mike Weller.

Dominic Madden, Electric Group co-founder, comments: “We operate with an independent mindset, shaping an easy and collaborative culture for promoters to embrace SWX with as few financial strings attached as possible.

“We are focused on providing a perfect platform for shows so we can help promoters smash ticket sales”

“Having invested substantially to make the venue production complete, we are focused on providing a perfect platform for shows so we can help promoters smash ticket sales.”

DHP Family and local promoter MJR have put several profile acts into SWX this year, including Thee Oh Sees, Ride and Django Django, with Aldous Harding, Saint Etienne and Beans on Toast and Skinny Lister coming up over the next few weeks.

SWX, on Nelson Street, is the latest incarnation of a music venue that started life as a Top Rank ballroom, hosting performances by luminaries including the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and The Beach Boys. As well as live shows, it also hosts DJ nights (upcoming sets include Clean Bandit, Sigma and Sigala) and club nights, the latter of which attract more than a quarter of a million Bristol students to the venue annually.

“A venue’s success depends on the people that work there,” concludes Electric Group, a joint venture between Dominic Madden and River Island owners the Lewis family. “Electric Group is picking a team to underpin the live element of the business and support the fantastic staff already in place, led by a GM who has been at SWX for eight years.”

 


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