The best small independent venues in the UK
Windmill Brixton

Independent Venue Week (26 Jan – 2 Feb) is a nationwide celebration with the aim of getting people off their bums and out to sample some fantastic gigs in small venues around the country.

Whether you’re down South, up North, Eastbound and down or strictly West-side – there is a venue near you involved in this seven-day celebration of audio goodness.

Here we offer a guide to the best independent venues near you.

Yorkshire & the North East

Featured venue: Trades Club, Hebden Bridge

Trades Club

The picturesque West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge is probably the last place you’d expect to find one of the UK’s best small venues. But, in the shadow of Midgley Moor, you’ll find a venue with real character and a great reputation. The Trades Club is one of the country’s best known stop-offs for folk music, but among the acoustic shows you’ll find plenty of louder rock shows to satisfy your ringing ears too.

Holme St, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8EE, 01422 845 265 website / listings

Featured venue: The Leadmill, Sheffield

leadmill sheffield
Dan Cook

Sheffield’s longest running music venue has been entertaining tight crowds since 1980 and has been the stage for home-grown talent such as Pulp, Arctic Monkeys and Richard Hawley, as well as a host of huge names in music. Once described as a ‘right of passage’ venue by Franz Ferdinand, it’s clear that the Leadmill’s sentimental value runs deep for a lot of acts.

6 Leadmill Road, Sheffield S1 4SE, 0114 272 7040, website / listings

Other venues to try:

The Harley, Sheffield
334 Glossop Road, Sheffield, S10 2HW, 0114 275 2288, website / listings

The Hop, Wakefield
19 Bank Street, Wakefield, WF1 1EH, 01924 367111, website / listings

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
33 Queen’s Road, Leeds, LS6 1NY, 0113 275 2411, website / listings

The Library, Leeds
229 Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 3AP, 0113 244 0794, website / listings

Fibbers, York
3 Toft Green, York YO1 6JT, 0844 477 1000, website / listings

Fruit, Hull
62 Humber Street, Hull HU1 1TU, 01482 221113, website / listings

The New Adelphi Club, Hull
89 De Grey Street, Hull HU5 2RU, 01482 348216, website / listings

Diamond Live Lounge, Doncaster
Wood Street, Doncaster, DN1 3LH, 01302 965040, website / listings

The Lincoln Imp, Scunthorpe
Gloucester Avenue, Scunthorpe DN16 2EA, 01724 840891, website / listings

The Georgian Theatre, Teeside
Green Dragon Yard, Stockton-on-Tees, TS18 1AT, 01642 393939, website / listings

Independent, Sunderland
27-28 Holmeside, Sunderland SR1 3JE, 0191 514 2229, website / listings ,

The Cluny, Newcastle
36 Lime Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2PQ, 0191 230 4474, website / listings

North West

Featured venue: The Kazimier, Liverpool

Kazimier
Chilanga Cement

Liverpool is obviously a city very proud of its musical heritage (why shouldn’t it be?), and that’s reflected in the abundance of great venues and the ever expanding Liverpool Sound City festival that takes inspiration from SXSW in Texas. The Kazimier is just one of a number of great small venues in the city, and its diverse array of upcoming gigs are sure to present you with plenty of bands you’ve not heard of (yet).

4-5 Wolstenholme Square, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 4JJ, 0151 324 1723, website / listings

Featured venue: Soup Kitchen, Manchester

Soup Kitchen

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is dotted with amazing small venues (see also: Night and Day Café, Band on the Wall, Castle Hotel etc etc), but this one takes the prize as our favourite. The name is entirely literal, with the upstairs eatery serving a wide array of soups and chunky bread, among other body warming treats. It’s downstairs in the basement where the musical action takes place, and while the room may be dusty and bare, that’s exactly how we like our ‘underground’ venues. It seems every hot new band passes through here on their way to the top, so you should too.

31-33 Spear St, Manchester, M1 1DF, 0161 236 5100, website  / listings

Other venues to try:

Band on the Wall, Manchester
25 Swan Street,  Manchester M4 5JZ, 0161 834 1786, website / listings

Night & Day Cafe, Manchester
26 Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JN, 0161 236 1822, website / listings

The Ruby Lounge, Manchester
28-34 High Street, Manchester M4 1QB, 0161 834 1392, website / listings

Lomax, Liverpool
34 Cumberland Street, Liverpool, L1 6BU, 0151 236 1834, website / listings

The Zanzibar, Liverpool
43 Seel Street, Liverpool L1 4AZ, 0151 707 0633, website / listings

Midlands

Featured venue: Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

hare and hounds birmingham

A little south of Birmingham City Centre in the Kings Heath area, you’ll find the Hare & Hounds. With great club nights and impressively scheduled live acts – the Hare & Hounds is the right amount of ‘hip’ as well as being a regular haunt for Brum locals. The venue has been standing in it’s current condition since 1907 and has the feel of a venue steeped in history. One of the Hare & Hounds most notorious claims to fame includes it being the site of the first ever UB40 gig, back in 1979.

106 High Street, Birmingham, West Midlands B14 7JZ, 0121 444 2081, website / listings

Featured venue – The Coal Vaults, Coventry

Cole Vaults Coventry
covpix

Previously known as Taylor John’s, this historic city venue has been taken under the cultural umbrella of the good people of The Tin Music and Arts, who are looking to bring some creativity back into the West Midlands’ second city. Tucked away in Coventry’s renovated canal basin area, the venue continues to promote live and local acts in a city which is often ignored for its music, in favour of bigger neighbour Birmingham.

Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 4LY, 024 7623 0699, website / listings

Other venues to try:

Glee Club, Birmingham
The Arcadian, Birmingham, B5 4TD, 0871 472 0400, website / listings

Tower of Song, Birmingham
107 Pershore Road South, Birmingham, B30 3EL, 0121 486 1300, website / listings

The Roadhouse, Birmingham
Wharfside Leisure Complex, Lifford Lane, B30 3DZ, 0121 246 2273, website / listings

The Dark Horse, Birmingham
145 Alcester Road Moseley B13 8JP, 0121 449 6300, website / listings

The Labour Club, Northampton
95-97 Charles Street, Northampton NN1 3BG, 01604 636254, website / listings

Glee Club, Nottingham
Castle Wharf, Canal Street, Nottingham NG1 7EH, 0871 472 0400, website / listings

The Victoria Inn, Derby
12 Midland Place, Derby DE1 2RR, 01332 204873, website / listings

The Musician, Leicester
42 Crafton Street West, Leicester LE1 2DE, 0116 251 0080, website / listings

The Cookie, Leicester
68 High Street, Leicester LE1 5YP, 0116 253 1212, website / listings

South West

Featured venue: The Louisiana, Bristol

The Louisiana Bristol

An iconic part of Bristol’s live music scene for the past 25 years, the indie venue has played host to a number of huge names on their way up the fame ladder, including The Strokes, The Libertines, The White Stripes and Muse. A true institution of modern music history in the South West, and long may it continue.

Wapping Road, Bristol, BS1 6UA, 0117 9265978, website / listings

Other venues to try:

Exchange, Bristol
72-73 Old Market Street, Bristol, BS2 0EJ, 0117 930 4538, website / listings

Chapel Arts Centre, Bath
St James Memorial Hall, Avon, Bath BA1 1QR, 01225 461700, website / listings

Tiki Bar, Plymouth
8 Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon PL4 8AQ, 01752 226305, website / listings

Cavern, Exeter
83-84 Queen St, Exeter, Devon, EX4 3RP, 01392 495370, website / listings

South East

Arts Centre, Norwich

Norwich Arts Centre

A recent recipient of the NME’s Best Small Venue award, the refurbished church beat other famous venues such as Bristol’s Thekla and the Hebden Bridge Trades Club to capture the gong. The venue will often stage performances by smaller bands in the bar area alongside the main auditorium’s headline acts – a perfect place to discover some new music.

Norwich Arts Centre, 51 St Benedicts St, Norwich, NR2 4PG, 01603 660352, website / listings

Other venues to try:

The 1865,  Southampton
Brunswick Square, Southampton, SO14 3AR, 023 80 222 605, website / listings

The Joiners Arms, Southampton
141 Saint Mary Street, Southampton SO14 1NS, 023 8022 5612, website / listings

The Horn, St. Albans
Victoria Street, St Albans AL1 3TE, 01727 853143, website / listings

The Purple Turtle, Reading
9 Gun Street, Reading, RG1 2JR, 0118 959 7196, website / listings

Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
147B Albert Road, Southsea, Portsmouth PO4 0JW, 023 9286 3911, website / listings

The Cellar, Oxford
Frewin Ct, Oxford OX1 3HZ, 01865 244761, website / listings

The Stables, Milton Keynes
Stockwell Lane, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, MK17 8LU, 01908 280800, website / listings

The Dog & Whistle, Hertford
112 Fore Street, Hertford SG14 1AB, 01992 552274, website / listings

Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking
Friends Life Social Club, Pixham Lane, Dorking, RH4 1QA, 07415 815784, website / listings

Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton
9-12 Middle Street, Hove, Brighton, BN1 1AL, 01273 749465, website / listings

The Boileroom, Guilford
13 Stoke Fields, Guildford GU1 4LS, 01483 440022, website / listings

Jericho Tavern, Oxford
56 Walton Street, Jericho, Oxford OX2 6AE, 01865 311775, website / listings

Forum, Tumbridge Wells
The Common, Tunbridge Wells TN4 8YU, 0871 277 7101, website / listings

London

Featured venue: Birthdays, Dalston

Birthdays, Dalston

Located in one of the capital’s most trendy suburbs, Birthdays is a residential block  renovated into a thriving music venue. It covers two floors and  is a rough and ready location to catch some new music. In the past few years, it’s played host to the likes of Mac Demarco, Yung Lean, Balam Acab and NTS Radio.

33-35 Stoke Newington Road, London, N16 8BJ, 02079231680, website / listings

Featured venue: Windmill, Brixton

Windmill Brixton

You know it’s an interesting live music venue if even the founders are admitting they pretty much fell into it. This backstreet Brixton bar has become a prime spot for live music in London, through word of mouth and a groundswell of support that has stretched across the city. If you’re looking for a location as memorable as the music they play, then look no further.

22 Blenheim Gardens, London SW2 5BZ, 020 8671 0700, website / listings

Other venues to try:

Surya, Islington
156 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JL, 020 7713 6262, website / listings

The Islington, Islington
1 Tolpuddle Street, London N1 0XT, 020 7684 1577, website / listings

The Monarch, Camden
40-42 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8BG, 020 7482 2054, website / listings

Our Black Heart, Camden
2-3 Greenland Place, London NW1 0AP, 020 7428 9730, website / listings

Purple Turtle, Camden
65 Crowndale Road, London, NW1 1TN, 0207 383 4976, website / listings

Dingwalls, Camden
11 Middle Yard, London NW1 8AB, 01920 823098, website / listings

The Village Underground, Shoreditch
54 Holywell Lane, London EC2A 3PQ, 020 7422 7505, website / listings

The Macbeth, Shoreditch
70 Hoxton Street, Shoreditch N1 6LP, 020 7749 0600, website / listings

Royal Albert Hall/Elgar Room, Kensington
Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 2AP, 020 7589 8212, website / listings

Notting Hill Arts Club, Notting Hill
21 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3JQ, 020 7460 4459, website / listings

The Bedford, Balham
77 Bedford Hill, London SW12 9HD, 020 8682 8940, website / listings

The Good Ship, Kilburn
289 Kilburn High Road, London NW6 7JR, 07949 008253, website / listings

The Shacklewell Arms, Dalston
71 Shacklewell Lane, London E8 2EB, 020 7249 0810, website / listings

Sebright Arms, Bethnal Green
31-35 Coate Street, London E2 9AG, 020 7729 0937, website / listings

93 Feet East, Tower Hamlets
150 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, 020 7770 6006, website / listings

The Social, Westminster
5 Little Portland Street, London W1W 7JD, 0207 636 4992, website / listings

The 100 Club, Westminster
100 Oxford Street, London W1D 1LL, 020 7636 0933, website / listings

The Half Moon, Putney
93 Lower Richmond Road, London SW15 1EU, website / listings

Wales

Featured venue: Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Clwb Ifor Bach

One of the best small music venues in the whole of Wales, Clwb Ifor Back is a favourite of Radio 1 DJ and ‘champion of all things new music’ Huw Stephens, who regularly hosts some of his favourite new bands under the banner of “Huw Stephens Presents” at the venue. The venue also plays an integral part in the city’s Swn Festival, and hosts live music nights nearly every night of the year.

11 Womanby St, Cardiff, CF10 1BR, 029 2023 2199, website / listings

Other venues to try:

Buffalo Bar, Cardiff
11 Windsor Place, Cardiff CF10 3BY, 029 2031 0312, website / listings

GwDiHŵ Cafe Bar, Cardiff
6 Guildford Crescent, Cardiff, CF10 2HJ, 029 2039 7933, website / listings

Hobo’s Music Venue, Bridgend
10 Queen Street, Bridgend CF31 1HX, 01656 769576, website / listings

Scotland

Featured venue: King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow

King Tut's Glasgow
Michael Gallagher / Flickr / CC

Glasgow has a rich history of  being the epicentre of music in Scotland, and King Tut’s has been a driving force behind that in the past 20 years. The venue has seen a massive number of music icons grace its stage, including Radiohead, The Strokes and The Verve, and was famously the place where Alan McGee first saw (and subsequently signed) Oasis in 1993. Tut’s has firmly planted itself on Britain’s musical map by being a stage for up-and-coming talent.

272a St Vincent St, Glasgow G2 5RL, 0141 221 5279, website / listings

Featured venue: Electric Circus, Edinburgh

Electric Circus

Perhaps not the most obvious choice for a list of best small venues for live music (Electric Circus’ club nights and mixology masterclasses still outnumber its gigs), but when bands do grace this Edinburgh space the sense of occasion is palpable. Keep a close eye on their listings for live music dates and expect to see one or two future stars passing through here.

36-39 Market St, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF, 0131 226 4224, website / listings

Other venues to try:

Broadcast, Glasgow
427 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow G2 3LG, 0141 332 7304, website / listings

Audio, Glasgow
14 Midland Street, Glasgow, G1 4PP, website / listings

Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
73 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1JW, 0131 225 1757, website / listings

The Moorings Bar, Aberdeen
2 Trinity Quay, Aberdeen AB11 5AA, 01224 587602, website / listings

Northern Ireland

Featured venue: Limelight 2, Belfast

Limelight 2 Belfast

It might be one of the bigger venues on our list, but the Limelight in Belfast is no less intimate. Ensuring those on the Western side of the Irish Sea get their fair share of up-and-coming bands for 30 years now, Limelight 2 is part of a bigger entertainment complex, with the purpose-built Limelight 1 opened fairly recently for those in search of more household names.

17 Ormeau Ave, Belfast, BT2 8HD, 028 9032 7007, website/ listings

Other venues to try:

Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast
15-21 Gordon Street, Belfast, BT1 2LG, 028 9031 0845, website / listings

Find out what’s happening during Independent Venue Week at www.independentvenueweek.com

More music tips:

An introduction to the Glasgow music scene
An introduction to the Edinburgh music scene
An introduction to the Leeds music scene
13 cool record shops you have to visit in the UK

What’s your favourite small venue in the UK? Tweet us at @wow247music

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