This week between Monday 28 January and Sunday 3 February, the UK’s music scene will be taken over by Independent Venue Week.
IVW is the UK’s leading celebration of its independent music venues. These venues give upcoming artists some of their earliest experiences of playing in front of a crowd and music fans the chance to discover artists in an intimate and unique setting.
TickX has decided to celebrate these venues by awarding six venues across the UK our new Independent Venue Award. Each day this Independent Venue Week, we’ll chat with staff from each of the venues we’ve selected to explore the venue itself, highlight the work it does in its local music scene and look at the events it has in store this week.
And the winner is…
Our first Independent Venue Award goes to a venue in TickX’s home city of Manchester, a city which is blessed with tons of live music venues. Last year, we found that Manchester’s small venues have the most impressive output of rock and indie events in the country, leading us to crown Manchester the UK’s rock and indie capital.
We have decided to give the award to Gullivers, a fantastic bar and live entertainment venue in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and one of a triumvirate of venues with The Castle Hotel and The Eagle Inn. Our statistical analysis found that Gullivers is the 10th most active rock/indie venue in Manchester and the 54th busiest in the country.
What is Gullivers like?
Gullivers is located on Oldham Street in Manchester’s bustling Northern Quarter. Easy to spot thanks to its iconic green tiling, Gullivers is believed to have been founded in 1865 before it was bought by J. W. Lees in the 1970s. Having previously served as a jazz club, Gullivers has now become a vital site for independent music fans in Manchester.
Along with the main bar downstairs, Gullivers has a small acoustic lounge and an upstairs ballroom which boasts a standing capacity of 150. Hosting live music and entertainment from local and breaking acts, Gullivers’ main performance space has previously welcomed acts such as InMe, Snail Mail and Ghostpoet and has hosted shows for festivals such as Dot to Dot Festival.
To find more about Gullivers’ role in Manchester’s music scene, we checked back in with Adrian Brian Thompson, Venue Manager for the venue.
Hey Adrian! What role do you think venues like Gullivers play in Manchester’s music scene and the wider musical ecosystem?
I like to think that there’s a special place for Gullivers and its sister venues at the grassroots of Manchester’s vibrant music scene. Being an intimate venue with an eclectic and accommodating booking policy, and being a space that’s reasonable to hire too, we’re in a great position to support and showcase up and coming bands and the next generation of promoters in Manchester and beyond.
Venues like ours are vitally important in my opinion. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and we can give newer promoters or bands who are just starting out somewhere to try things out and find their feet. Before I started working here, I put on some of my first small gigs at Gullivers and without a venue that was willing to take a chance on something new and a bit different, I’d probably have never ended up with a career in the music industry.
We don’t just work with newer promoters though – we’re lucky enough to work alongside an array of established local and national promoters too, many of which will work with amazing bands at the beginning of their careers to help build them up to performing at larger venues across the city.
What’s the most memorable event you’ve seen at Gullivers?
I’ve always been an avid gig-goer and have been going to gigs at Gullivers off and on for over 7 years. Personal favourites for me have been finally seeing Bauer a couple of years back, having been a fan of them for years before and somehow missing every local show they’d played, and recent chap hop antics with Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer who not only puts on a great show, but really showcases the sheer variety of musical offerings available at the venue.
What impact does being involved with Independent Venue Week have on the venue?
This is the first time we’ve been involved in Independent Venue Week and it’s having a great impact already. Firstly, it’s a great avenue for promoting our venue and the wide range of shows on offer here – that’s always hugely appreciated and valuable.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it’s a great reminder that as a grassroots venue you’re part of something bigger and incredibly important. The UK’s grassroots music scene is vital to the country’s cultural industries – I’d even go as far as to say that it’s important on the world stage too, if you consider that most of the country’s big musical exports started their careers playing venues just like ours. Remembering that you are part of that community and that you’re not alone is really important, especially in such challenging and uncertain times.
Which event are you most looking forward to at Gullivers this Independent Venue Week and this spring?
I’m excited about everything to be honest – we’ve such a diverse array of bands and artists performing at Gullivers over Independent Venue Week that it’s hard to highlight just one show.
I’m personally looking forward to Shout Louder Festival on 2 February though – it’s a whole day of punk and alternative music curated by a brilliant local webzine and I reckon it’s just what I need to shake off the winter blues.