showcasing the best of the south west
Top 10 Venues in the South West

Top 10 Venues in the South West

The Eden Sessions, Cornwall

How could we not begin with the Eden Project, home to the Eden Sessions, a series of one-off gigs held throughout the summer, including this year Lionel Ritchie, Tom Jones and Jess Glynne. Described by The Guardian as ‘like watching a gig on the moon,’ there is nowhere like this in the rest of the world let alone the West Country. Think big name bands up close and personal in this small capacity venue (6000) with a spectacular backdrop of those iconic biomes. Extraordinary light shows, brilliant sound and the natural amphitheatre of this converted clay pit will spoil you for watching outdoor music events anywhere else.

The Electric Palace, Bridport, Dorset

This wonderful, atmospheric art deco picture house stood empty for decades until an enterprising local family, the Hitchins, took it on. Head here for everything from film premieres to gigs to book readings to comedy nights. Recently PJ Harvey took up residence here for a month-long pre-tour rehearsal. Johnny Marr, Lee Mack, Reginald D Hunter and Russell Howard have all taken turns at the Electric Palace, as well as an eclectic sweep of bands ranging from The Kills to Grandmaster Flash. A beautiful traditional building with quirky art on the walls (including, bizarrely, a portrait of Bob Hope) and a 5 metre screen depicting Alice through the Looking Glass by Ralph Steadman, a patron.

Colston Hall, Bristol, Somerset

Bristol’s infamous Grade 2 listed concert hall, built in 1867 but with a brand new sleekly modern foyer (think state of the art glass box), this is one of the best places to see live music, whether it’s rock, jazz, blues or classical. The acoustics are fantastic and the whole experience is deeply civilised, swerving mainstream concert hall naffness completely.  A huge range of artists have played here from Robert Plant to The Libertines. Big names from the past include Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Ella Fitzgerald and Elton John. A legendary venue that still delivers.

Bath Moles, Somerset

This famous underground club dates back to the 70s, a boutique venue that has hosted big acts like Radiohead, The Smiths, Oasis and more recently Mumford & Sons and Bastille. It was ravaged by fire a couple of years ago but reopened at the end of last year, back with a pristine new look, a regular series of club nights and gigs featuring most genres from rock and metal to ska, emo and punk. Coming up soon eccentric duo The Correspondents.

Thekla Bristol, Somerset 

The first thing to say is that it’s a club on a boat so on uniqueness alone the Thekla already gets the highest score.  Club nights cater to the student scene – DJ Marky, the Bristol Soul Boat, Pressure and Bump & Grind to name just a few. There are regular gigs too, the current line up swinging wildly from Banco de Gaia to The Alarm to Turin Brakes. They’ve had some incredible acts here - Band of Horses, Jamie T,  The Horrors, Stephen Fretwell, Mark Ronson, Mystery Jets, DJ Yoda, the list goes on. A cool and credible venue in Bristol’s East Dock and definitely one for the bucket list.

Sundowner Sessions, Lusty Glaze, Cornwall

An amphitheatre right on the beach that hosts acts such as Grammy nominated Newton Faulkner and Elbow’s Guy Garvey. Combine a sunset, credible music, cocktails and one of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches and you’ll see why Lusty Glaze ticks all the right boxes. New for winter are the Woodburner Sessions, live jazz, blues, folk and country held in the beachside restaurant every week which, by the way,  also serves fantastic food.

The Cheese & Grain, Frome, Somerset

A great big barn of a place at the top end of Frome’s main car park, so not the most salubrious setting but we love the Cheese & Grain for its consistently interesting listings. You’ll find all sorts here from the annual tattoo convention (featuring some of the best tattoo artists in the UK and the Lady Ink competition), a monthly farmers market, a vintage bazaar selling clothes, fabrics and homeware alongside club nights, gigs and a roller disco. It’s always worth checking what’s on at this social enterprise and community hub – the Cheese is an institution, Frome wouldn’t be the same without it.

Sixty Million Postcards, Bournemouth, Dorset

Quirky venue hosting live bands, DJs, hip hop and Dirty Soul nights, Sixty Million Postcards is popular with the student fraternity and older locals. The décor is great – think granny chic, rickety tables, bashed up sofas and fringed lampshades, providing a homespun, atmospheric vibe alongside good music. Fantastic food here including 13 different kinds of burgers (well it’s a student town) and top knotch mojitos.

The Minack Theatre
, Cornwall

Extraordinary natural amphitheatre cut into the cliffs at Porthcurno, the Minack Theatre is one of the most spectacular arts locations in the world. Mainly theatre is shown here but there’s opera and musicals too, story telling, comedy and occasional live music (Seth Lakeman last week).  The Minack was created in the 1930s by Rowena Cade who lived in Minack House at the top of the cliff and wanted to a make a space for a performance of The Tempest. It’s an incredible space, so wrap up warm, pack a brolly and a hip flask and get down there. Performances for this year include The Mikado, The Crucible, Peter Pan, A Winter's Tale and Midsummer Night's Dream. For sheer atmosphere and a soundtrack of waves lashing against the cliffs, this is unsurpassable.

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