SWX Bristol reopens its doors

Out of the fire: SWX Bristol reopens its doors 13 months on.

Nelson Street venue SWX Bristol is primed to host its first events since an arson attack stopped the calendar in its tracks 13 months ago; fire, smoke and water damage requiring owner/operator Electric Group to undertake a complete refit.

Power metal band Gloryhammer play on Friday 9 September followed by club night Far Fetched, highlighting the breadth of purpose SWX provides for.

The technology has been upgraded. There’s an L-Acoustics Kara II PA, all new lighting, motors, and a Fiend Productions’ LED wall. Swish dressing room suites backstage wait for the weight of performers set to play SWX: Banks, Rema, Young T & Bugsey, Sugababes and Black Midi to name just an autumn handful. 

Reaction from promoters/agents to the news that SWX is on the map again underlines the venue’s value to the city’s coveted nightlife model.

Mike Weller, head of music at Electric Group, commented: “The response has almost been overwhelming. 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 bought SWX in 2017, committing to bring more live music to the mix at “the best 1,800 cap venue in Bristol” and the focus of the rebuild has been about restoring the infrastructure rather than radically rethinking it. So, the extraordinary sightlines and acoustics, synonymous with the SWX experience, are intact.

Through the entrance, the most marked change is the double height foyer, a reinstated feature from the Top Rank Suite-era, which brings a new ‘wow’ to the space and demonstrably cuts queue times on the ingress. 

The bars are stylish, in keeping with the SWX design, and eminently functional – again reducing customer wait time. Crucially, the remodel also features a wheelchair-friendly lift, which opens up access to all three floors for people with a disability.  

Dominic Madden, CEO at Electric Group, said: “The fire, product of an arsonist’s obsessive concern with lockdown and Covid legislation, was started at 4am 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.”