By Dave Bushnell
Founder of What’s On Hub
Hull’s first dedicated concert venue will be opening in Summer next year, and today, I had the opportunity of a sneak peak inside to see the progress that the Hull Venue is making before it’s grand opening in 2018.
Many questions have been asked about Hull’s legacy beyond City of Culture 2017 and although some criticism has been levied at the council in the past, for building a venue with a capacity of just 3,500, it’s clearer for me today how the Hull Venue is going to play a big part in continuing Hull’s cultural legacy beyond this year, and here’s why:
It’s being managed by SMG Europe
We can’t accuse Hull City Council of going on the cheap this time. When it came to building the new Venue, the council could have decided to manage it internally. Not that it’s such a bad thing, after all, City Hall and New Theatre are both managed by the Council’s Hull Culture and Leisure company, and in my opinion do pretty well in bringing top shows to the city, especially for the size of venues that they both are. We regularly have west-end touring acts at the theatre, and even Gary Barlow is coming to City Hall next year!
However, this council clearly recognise the huge importance of Hull’s cultural offering in the future. It’s important for tourism, economic growth and prosperity for the city. By that, they’ve invested heavily in the Venue, but also taken the next step by investing in SMG Europe to manage it instead of themselves.
“What’s the big deal” you ask? Well SMG manage hundreds of stadiums and arenas wordwide – 10 in the UK alone including Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. Hull will be it’s 11th. That means they’ve got the right connections and know what’s required to get these acts here.
I was chatting with Hull Venue’s general manager, Dan Harris, who said: “We have the experience, contacts and capability to deliver. It’s a live music venue but so much more…”
“We operate globally, nationally, so we have a really good network of contacts and they know us already. We’ve delivered elsewhere and we have that confidence and that relationship with many promoters that stretches over decades. There’s a good trust and a good strong relationship. That’s what we’re bringing, a very healthy black book and industry knowledge and experience. “
Although Dan couldn’t confirm any acts performing next year (they’re set to make an announcement in January), he was happy to assure me that the acts coming are significant and are on the scale of Manchester’s Apollo. In fact, it was even mentioned in conversation, that one act in particular that is likely to come, will do it as part of their arena tour. I found that quite surprising that acts performing at venues of around 10,000+ are looking to come to Hull and perform here, despite being much smaller capacity.
It’ll mean more acts coming to Hull
One of the questions I had was about the line-up for Hull, in general, after the Venue opens. Will it just take shows from City Hall and New Theatre, leaving them void of the shows they now attract or will it actually add to the line-up that Hull in general, has to offer?
Dan assured me that the Hull Venue, although will no doubt have a little crossover with those venues, will add to the entertainment offering rather than just move acts from one side of ‘town’ to the other. And with the promoters they work with already, they can pass shows to City Hall and New Theatre that are ideal for them, and so ultimately we’ll have more acts, adding to the bigger picture.
“We’ll add to the offer that’s already here. Clearly because of the way the building has been designed, there are certain shows that won’t come here because the production hasn’t been designed for that, or simply [Hull Venue] is too big. In which case, they’ll go to City Hall, New Theatre, etc. and we are talking to those venues, so we’ve already had enquiries that just aren’t right for here, so we’ve passed them straight onto them. It’s about Hull, it’s not about this venue or any other venue, it’s about the offer for Hull.”
The view and acoustics are suited for gigs
General Manager Dan said: “The building has been designed and built as a gig venue – a venue for stand-up comedy, family shows, sports shows, entertainment in general. It’ll also be a venue for conferencing and banqueting. That could also be anything from food festivals, national conferences, etc.”
“We’re talking to a range of promoters from across all music styles and more. They’re very interested in the building and many have already pencilled dates in already. It’s about getting the programme to cater for as many different types of people as possible.”
From the photos you can see that it’s still a building site, but when you’re in there, you can see how the size of this place is really going to make it the best place to watch concerts in. It’s really Hull’s first proper venue for bands. Yes we’ve got the Ice Arena and City Hall – great venues, but the acoustics just aren’t that great for gigs.
Plus the fact that the seating is tiered so that you’ll get a great view right to the top. There will also be dedicated floor space which is likely to be used for standing tickets if you prefer it.
It’s a step in the right direction
Yes, we’d probably all love to see a bigger arena built in Hull and let’s face it, this new Venue won’t bring any Stadium tours to the region (gigs attracting around 25,000+). But for now, this seems to be a huge step in the right direction for a city only just getting some decent coverage in national press this year.
As much as I love this place, Hull is out on a bit of a limb, geographically, so investment into a big arena would be difficult to justify. As long as this journey continues in the right direction, who knows in the future? But for now, the Hull Venue looks like it’ll certainly play it’s part. I guess only time will tell.