Britain’s Best Small Venues: Get To Know The Shortlist (Stoke-On-Trent, Norwich, Ramsgate)

In this year’s search for Britain’s Best Small Venue in association with Jack Daniel’s, you voted in your thousands to shortlist 11 awesome venues across the UK. There’s not long left to cast your final vote and have your say in who should be crowned the ultimate best small venue in Britain, we hear why the venues have such a special place in the hearts of some of the bands who’ve played them. Find out more about Stoke-On-Trent Sugarmill, Norwich Arts Centre and Ramsgate Music Hall below, and check back over the next few days to read more about the other venues on the shortlist.

The Sugarmill
Capacity: 400
Opened: 1994
Recent Gigs: Wolf Alice, Pulled Apart By Horses, The Wytches, The Strypes
Big Moment: “Over the years, we’ve hosted hundreds and hundreds of bands, many of whom have gone on to massive success, like Coldplay, Muse, Daft Punk and The Libertines.” Danni Brownsill, promoter

Wolf Alice say: “The first show we cut our teeth on outside of the big smoke was at Stoke’s renowned Sugarmill. We showed up being taken care of by the legendary Dave Danger (The Holloways’ ex-drummer and all-round incredible man). At the time, we played to a room bigger than our comprehension. We were probably pretty rubbish but the crowd were both lovely and forgiving of our inability to work a small guitar amp.
The Sugarmill is a brilliant sized venue. Its sticky floors are filled with fans of The Amazing Snakeheads through to Wheatus. It sounds great, has a massive seedily lit dressing room and is staffed by genuine and passionate people who are helping to keep decent venues from being overrun by mobile phone moguls and dickheads. Growing up in London, I’ve been spoilt for choice with diverse small venues. However, I reckon if I’d grown up in Stoke then a venue like The Sugarmill would be the lifeline connecting you to modern music in the best possible way. It’s venues like these that we should celebrate, not faceless, shapeshifting academies. In the light of Leeds Cockpit’s closure, I hope we see more Stoke Sugarmills appearing all over the country.”

Norwich Arts Centre
Capacity: 290
Opened: 1977
Recent Gigs: Peace, Mystery Jets, Micah P Hinson, Wild Beasts
Big Moment: “Too many great moments to count! But the current staff have picked out Gruff Rhys, Tinariwen, Ghostpoet, Liars and The Pharcyde. We’re also proud that half of this year’s Mercury Prize nominees were artists who had played NAC within the last year.” Grace Jackson, front of house and marketing.

Peace say: “Norwich Arts Centre is the only venue in the UK that the Peace Christmas rider was met with full respect. This means a lot to us because when you’re touring straight through the festive season, you will often find that a lack of cranberry preserves, decorated trees and maids-a-milking can make for a very distressing period. Fortunately, the great people at Norwich Arts Centre absolutely met all of our demands and went full grotto on the dressing room. Next time we’re in Norwich, the nog’s on me. What a glorious, glorious place to be.”

Ramsgate Music Hall
Capacity: 120
Opened: 2014
Recent Gigs: Cate Le Bon, Honeyblood, The Amazing Snakeheads, Perfume Genius, Woman’s Hour
Big Moment: “Our official launch party with Cate Le Bon will go down in memory. The place was brimming and the feedback was bonkers-ly positive. After what started as an idea on a long drive back from ATP, it had actually become a reality!” Julian Bigg, owner

Honeyblood say: “Ramsgate Music Hall is an awesome little venue! It’s only been open six months and it seemed like the audience that night were quite new to the place; most were shocked they hadn’t visited it before. The sound was great and there was a brilliant atmosphere in the bar upstairs too. Also, they had egg wallpaper in the loos, which was a nice touch. Proper lovely staff who really seemed to care about the space doing well, which made the show so much more enjoyable for everyone involved. I can see this place becoming a true gem of a venue.”

Play with heart. Drink with care.

Drink Aware

© & ® JD 2014