“Supporting local venues keeps the community alive” – What’s on this Independent Venue Week in Stoke-on-Trent

Stoke-on-Trent is gearing up for a week of diverse music, immense talent and much-needed support as it joins the nationwide festivities of Independent Venue Week. 

Now in its eleventh year, IVW, running from Monday, January 29 to Sunday, February 4, 2024, continues to champion the vibrant culture of grassroots venues across the UK, shining a spotlight on the crucial role they play in nurturing local talent and fostering a sense of community.

While for all grassroots venues, every week is independent venue week, the collective initiative is considered to be a shot in the arm for the industry. The campaign aims to get people into venues, discovering the wealth of talent on their doorstep, and celebrate the people that own, run and work in the industry, raising awareness of the challenges these essential spaces face day in day out. 

Over 200 venues have signed up to IVW this year, one of which is Hanley’s Captain’s Bar. Venue manager Scott Evans has been working hard to curate a week’s worth of live music, hosting 22 bands and artists from Monday through to Sunday.

He told The Leopheard: “This is an important week for Captain’s Bar as it really celebrates what we are about, which is supporting grassroots music of all genres. We have fully embraced the week and have seven days of gigs covering as many genres as we can, we wanted to create an almost festival type feeling for the week and we hope gig goers will embrace that.” 

Throughout the week, Captain’s Bar will play host to Staffordshire and Cheshire favourites such as Christian Music, Koala and Formal Sppeedwear, as well as getting in acts from further afield, too.

Christian Music at Lymelight Festival 2023

“We are in a lucky position in so much as we are a small enough venue to give artists their first go at performing live but we can still host bigger artists as well,” said Scott. “In terms of the line up we are pleased that we have got artists from Liverpool, Manchester and the Shropshire area joining some of the best Stoke artists. 

“We are also very happy to have partnered Big Condo Records who essentially take over the venue on the Saturday to showcase their roster of rap, hiphop and soul artists. We just hope gig goers will take a chance to come and see some of the amazing artists we have lined up – 22 bands over seven days, it’s going to be incredible.” 

Kris Halpin, the Midlands representative for Independent Venue Week, has shared his excitement about the event’s growth in the Midlands. He explained that the week is an opportunity to showcase the buzzing music scene in the Potteries and its surrounding areas, adding: “It’s great to be putting venues like Captain’s Bar on the national IVW map and getting behind the rich and varied music scene in Stoke.” 

Here’s what’s you can expect at Captain’s Bar this Independent Venue Week:

  • Monday, January 29: Christian Music and Millie Milner & The Deadnames
  • Tuesday, January 30: Koala, Guns for Girls and Dunning
  • Wednesday, January 31: Stingray
  • Thursday, February 1: Podgy Hodgy, Leisure Theory and SAY
  • Friday, February 2: Formal Sppeedwear, Accident Group and Ox Scapula
  • Saturday, February 3: L.F.E, Miss Stykie, Donno and Royzy Rothschild
  • Sunday, February 4: Barracuda, Death Berry, Contemporary Nightmare and Vibration Road

Stoke-based ‘abstract rapper and producer’ Podgy Hodgy, headlining Thursday’s show, has urged locals to get involved to ‘keep the community alive’. He said: “Being a part of the Stoke music scene attaches you to the grassroots venues in the city. They allow you the space to be creative and to engage with other creatives. 

“Not only that, but they’re an important part of the general community that ties Stoke together. Especially if you’re not a musician, you get to see all of the crazy and marvellous talents of what your city has to offer. Supporting local venues keeps the community alive.”

Three-piece band KOALA – who release their latest single Ceramic on Friday, January 26 ahead of their gig – added echoed a similar sentiment of ‘use it or lose it’, explaining how independent venues have been a huge part of their journey. They told The Leopheard: “We’ve been really fortunate to play at some great shows in various places but we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without grassroots music venues providing us with a place to showcase our music. 

“We’ve seen the phrase “use it or lose it” around social media recently and it’s so true. As people we need those places that allow us to express ourselves and the world would be a whole lot more boring if there wasn’t somewhere you’d be able to watch a band” 

KOALA at Lymelight Festival 2023

Meanwhile, eight-piece party music collective STINGRAY (previously Captain Stingray’s Groove Machine), will be bringing a fusion of Afro, Reggae, Latin, Funk and Rock to the mix, telling gig goers to ‘make sure to bring your dancing shoes’. 

“STINGRAY have performed all across the UK at various Grassroots venues. These places have given us the opportunity to share our music with audiences who are interested in exploring the weird and wonderful, without the pressures of having to sell large amounts of tickets or compromise what we want to do with our sounds. 

“Since running Pilgrims Pit to Captain’s Bar, Ash and STINGRAY have rehearsed, performed and attended shows and parties at these venues, seeing first hand how much they are appreciated by the community and artists alike. It’s special how much love is out there for the grassroots music scene and visiting these venues really allows you to see it first hand”

Tickets for IVW at Captain’s Bar are priced between £5.50 and £8.80, available here on See Tickets.

Over on Morley Street at The Underground – one of Staffordshire’s oldest grassroots venues – there’s not just gigs, but quizzes, too. During the pandemic, the team had the genius idea to get bodies through the door while remaining socially distant by hosting a quiz. It proved so popular that they’ve continued to run them, and will be hosting The Big Slap Dash Quiz Of The Year on Tuesday, January 30. 

Costing £2 entry per person, there’s five max to a team and quizzers have been told to ‘expect weird and wacky rounds of questions that come in all shapes and sizes’ – and of course, there will be a prize for the winning gang.

On the gig front, though not officially part of IVW, the weekend will kick off with Pale Red’s headline on Friday, February 2, with support from Pasa and Back Street Balling. On Saturday, Julia Mosley will return to The Underground with support from Kez Liddle and Crowspeak for an epic female-fronted show. Tickets for both shows will be £5 advance.

Here’s what’s you can expect at The Underground this Independent Venue Week:

  • Tuesday, January 30: he Big Slap Dash Quiz Of The Year
  • Friday, February 2: Pale Red, Pasa and Back Street Balling
  • Saturday, February 3: Julia Mosley, Kez Liddle and Crowspeak 

And finally, at The Sugarmill, who also aren’t officially participating in IVW this year, their Friday night Malevolence gig – with support from Pain of Truth and Rough Justice – has already sold out. But there are still tickets available for their Kazabian vs Arctic Monkeyz show on Saturday, February 3.

Here’s what’s you can expect at The Sugarmill this Independent Venue Week:

  • Friday, February 2:  Malevolence, Pain of Truth and Rough Justice
  • Saturday, February 3: Kazabian vs Arctic Monkeyz 

From starting out in 2014 partnering with 17 venues, to surviving the pandemic, building a globally-recognised community that has now hosted almost 5,000 individual shows and helped sell more than a million tickets, Independent Venue Week continues to open new opportunities for artists, audiences and backstage workers. 

A spokesperson for IVW added: “Independent Venue Week allows artists, audiences and the wider music business to recognise the vital role these hundreds of independent-owned venues play in the industry and local community across England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. Not only do they give artists their first experience of performing live, and fans somewhere to discover and watch their favourite artists locally, they also provide those wanting a career off-stage the chance to learn their craft in a safe and secure environment.”

From fostering emerging talents and providing a space for established artists, to creating local jobs and opportunities, these venues are the lifeblood of our music scene and play a crucial role in maintaining the cultural fabric of the community. Support local artists, support grassroots venues and support Independent Venue Week. Find out more about the nationwide initiative and what’s going on around the country here.

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