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What makes a great venue

Words by DICE

What’s behind the success of a great venue – its values, its physical space or its event programming? We dig deeper.

Over the past few years, venues have become increasingly important. They’re where a city’s culture is built, and where fans get to lose themselves in live experiences – after all, nothing beats watching your favourite artists perform live. With the advent of new digital tools changing what fans expect from live experiences, venues are keen to adapt and build spaces that give fans what they want from a night out. So, what makes a great venue?

A unique space

Reclaiming space for venues and building community are just two ways that venues can set themselves apart. Take Grand Junction at St Mary Magdalene’s: following a £6 million refurbishment, the London Paddington church has been transformed from an ageing building into a multi-use space that offers cultural and music events alongside worship. From ceilidhs to live comedy, there’s a wide variety of events available for fans. Building on the original mission of the church, the venue encapsulates the concept of opening up a space: it gives people from different backgrounds a reason to come together and spread joy in their community.

Lespecial live at The Sultan Room

Over in the US, The Sultan Room – part of The Turk’s Inn – operates out of Bushwick, but the original venue was in fact a supper club in Hayward, Wisconsin. Starting in 1934, The Turk’s Inn ran for 80 years under its original owners, and was a beloved space in the community until its closure in 2015, following the death of the founders’ daughter. But The Turk’s Inn had amassed such a loyal following that two fans weren’t ready to let it go: Tyler Erickson and Varun Kataria bought the entire contents, transporting them to Brooklyn where the venue was reborn. Today, music and performance go hand-in-hand with fine dining and cocktails in a classic venue updated for the modern world.

Ethos and values

A strong purpose and set of values are often the guiding principles for venues, and they ultimately shape the ways in which it serves its community. The fans it attracts reflect those values back at it, and that’s what makes a great venue: love and loyalty.

London’s favourite kink and fetish night, Klub Verboten, originally built and established its community without a permanent venue, but recently found itself a home at E1. Klub Verboten’s ethos – that kink should be enjoyed in a safe and consensual space that centres LGBTQIA+ people – is echoed in the bespoke environment that the team creates for its nights. Everything is considered, from the volume of the music and the temperature of each room, to the soft furnishings and play spaces.

The Jago

The Jago in Hackney, meanwhile, maintains its authenticity through diverse programming in an intimate, grassroots spot. With community and wellbeing at its heart, owners Salma and Kwame have designed a space where culture, music and ideas become a shared connection, and where artists and fans feel at ease.

Event programming

The live acts that venues book allow them to carve out their niche and curate the energy and crowd. Brooklyn’s Cafe Erzulie, named in homage to the Haitian voodoo spirit Erzulie, hosts everything from global music nights and dancehall DJs to lowkey jazz performances and book launches. As a Black-owned venue, it celebrates the best of Black excellence: well-known among jazz-lovers and Brooklyn’s queer community alike, everyone who attends a night at Cafe Erzulie gets a strong sense for the owners’ vision.

The crowd at Cafe Erzulie

Firmly ensconced in Camden’s metal scene, The Underworld has a reputation for drawing the best acts from around the world, including Amon Amarth, Ghost, Bad Religion and Smashing Pumpkins. Interestingly, The Underworld and The World’s End (the pub that it’s part of), choose not to talk about the history of the venue, instead its legacy is built in real-time as it attracts fans with its curated programming.

Tell us: what makes a great venue?

Everyone’s got a venue that they return to time and time again – we want to hear about your favourites and what makes them unique.

Become a partner

Nurturing a venue’s growth and building its community means really seeing it, understanding its challenges and identifying its opportunities – something the DICE team are experts in. If you’re wondering what we could do for you and your venue, get in touch with us today.

We’re on a mission to get people out more