Independent Venue Week: The Sugarmill, Stoke-On-Trent



Independent Venue Week returns once again this year, from Monday 27th January - Sunday 2nd Feb 2020, dedicated to showcasing the very best independent and grassroots venues in the UK; the venues at the very heart of every city's music scene.

At See Tickets, we are proud to work with some of the most important spaces for arts and culture across the country, providing support in the most crucial venues for nurturing up-and-coming artists.

Recently, See Tickets has been selected as primary ticket agent for new Manchester venue YES, which becomes the 50th in its portfolio of independent venues.

We have long-standing relationships with independent venues across the country including Alexandra Palace, Albert Hall Manchester, EartH, Lincoln Engine Shed, Chalk (formerly The Haunt), Omeara, The Leadmill, Village Underground, Electric Ballroom and The Brudenell.

In the first of our Independent Venue Week series, we caught up with The Sugarmill in Stoke-On-Trent. Opened in 1994, The Sugarmill has sat at the core of Stoke-On-Trent's music scene and has since become a much loved icon in Staffordshire for providing music fans with the opportunity to see their favourite acts close to home.

Danni Brownsill, Head of Promotions, tells us about The Sugarmill and her role within this independent venue.

What makes an independent venue stand out amongst a sea of other music venues across the country?

The great thing about independent venues, is that they’re run by small teams of genuinely passionate music fans, not huge corporations who only care about bottom line profit. We see the bigger picture and support communities and artists at a grassroots level.

Summarise, in your opinion, the importance of independent venues in a local community and what the future holds for them:

Independent venues are the spaces where local communities can get access to quality live music, without having to travel. They are the rooms where bands get to perfect their craft and become the arena artists of the future. They’re the venues with the best stories, legends and anecdotes. They are the spaces with character and history and are absolutely vital in propping up the wider music industry.

Without the support of these venues in the early days, artists can’t grow their audience. Without these promoters, the industry doesn’t know where the buzz is. Financially, it is a challenge – there isn’t much profit at a smaller level, but hopefully the industry will continue to support and trickle support back down the pyramid to keep these essential spaces alive.

What does your average day to day look like as part of an independent venue?

Because we are an independent venue, our team is small. As well as liaising with agents to book artists, I’m responsible for all ticketing, finance, marketing, PR, website, social media, production management, as well as organising rotas for our tech team, arranging maintenance of equipment and anything else that crops up along the way. One minute I can be putting a slam dunk sell out show on sale, next minute I could be unblocking toilets. It’s not all glamourous, but it keeps the doors open.

What's the most rewarding part of working in an independent venue?

It’s great seeing artists grow from pulling 100 or so people, to selling out our venue, to bigger rooms and then on to headline festivals. It’s a privilege to work on those ‘I Was There’ shows – it’s an enormous source of pride for us.

What are some the most iconic moments to ever happen in your venue?

Yannis from Foals swinging from the lighting rig made for some fairly heart-stopping footage. Frank Carter’s acrobatics jumping from the balcony at every show he’s ever played here. Johnny Marr doing an underplay show here was pretty iconic too.

What’s the strangest rider request at your venue?

We get asked for things like framed posters of Tom Hanks. We got asked for a dolphin toy by one artist. One band asked us to adopt a puppy for them – we didn’t do that one. We do get asked for some odd things, but to be honest, the main thing that makes a rider seem odd is the rare artist that DOESN’T ask for hummus. I’m fairly sure the music industry keeps the hummus industry going.

What can we expect from your venue during Independent Venue Week?

We have a monster line-up planned on 29th Jan – Warmduscher with support from some great local bands – Psyence, Filth and Lysander. We’re expecting a really busy show – IVW is always a great start to the year!

What's the best show you've personally seen in your venue?

It’s hard to choose one. Favourites include Foals, Johnny Marr, Idles, Biffy Clyro, Glassjaw, letlive.

Name some of the most famous acts your venue has hosted to date:

Coldplay, Kasabian, Muse, Foals, The 1975, Bring Me The Horizon, Catfish and The Bottlemen, Elbow, Daft Punk, Biffy Clyro.

What's the most exciting show coming up in 2020 at your venue?

Apart from our show with Warmduscher, I’m really looking forward to having The Orielles back, Working Men’s Club, The Academic. Got plenty more up our sleeves for the rest of 2020 too!

Find tickets for all upcoming shows at The Sugarmill, Stoke-On-Trent below!

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Or, find tickets for Independent Venue Week shows right here...

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Sarah is the Digital Marketing Manager at See Tickets, and a Journalism graduate from the University of Portsmouth. Life-long music lover, cat fanatic, and advocate for the physical format, you'll often find her front and centre at gigs and festivals across the UK and beyond.

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