Back in the day (my ‘day’ being the 1980’s), for those interested in a night of shaking your backside to very loud music and bright lights, there were a few locations around Bristol that would tick all the required boxes. One of the most prominent venues was a nightclub in the centre of the city that has undergone several names over the course of time. In the 1980’s we knew it mostly as ‘R & Js’ and ‘Papillons’ (known affectionately to us Bristolians as ‘Paps’). However, the club originally opened back in 1964, as a Top Rank Suite concert venue, starting with the Beach Boys and The Faces.  By the 1980’s and ‘my day’, it was primarily a nightclub, although I do have fond memories of seeing live acts there, such as the phenomenal soul legend, Edwin Starr. In 2017, the landmark club in Nelson Street was acquired by Electric Group, with the aim of once again establishing the building as a leading touring standard concert venue with a focus upon a programming policy combining production-led major weekend club events, with a stellar live concert calendar. 

Sadly, in July 2021, the building was closed after an arson attack and a major fire. However – with a renewed focus on reimagining the very best of the venue – a new, state of the art, fully refurbished SWX club will reopen on Friday, September 9th, 2022. Along with its stylish reopening, a superior range of live shows and club nights will accompany its brand new interior. The owners have invested in world class P.A. systems and lighting, ensuring that the venue is substantially disability compliant. With a respectful nod to the past, the original 1960’s Top Rank Suite entrance has been reinstated, along with a double height ceiling, and increased capacity. With all new facilities, including beautiful new toilet blocks and bars, new booths with plug sockets and WIFI, the comprehensive refurbishment upgrades the space and comfortability for both concert goers and artists, and at the same time celebrates some unique features including the iconic sprung dance floor. Backstage, there are brand new dressing room suites and a new disability-friendly lift.

So, what events are coming up at SWX over the autumn months?  Highlights include the opening show of the recently announced Sugababes tour. The reformed band – Siobhan Donaghy, Mutya Buena and Keisha Buchanan – will be heading out on their first UK headline tour in over 20 years in October, kicking off here at SWX. Other performers confirmed this Autumn include Banks, Animal Collective, Poppy, Joey Bada$$, Black Midi, Julia Jacklin, Half Moon Run, and The Horrors. A massive international DJ line up will soon be announced to underpin its quintessential FarFetched and Codec weekend club events. 

A statement from the CEO and co-founder of Electric Group Dominic Madden reads: “I’m delighted to announce the reopening of our beloved SWX music venue.  SWX has been an integral part of the musical fabric of Bristol since the 1960’s and we are very excited to share our exciting vision and reimagination of SWX following the devastating arson attack which so badly damaged our venue. We have used this opportunity to reimagine and upgrade the venue (for example making sure that the venue is more DDA compliant such as installing a disability compliant lift and generally making the main room far more accessible), whilst retaining many of the things that are so loved.  Our vision is to create a 21st Century club and gig venue which music fans and artists will embrace for the next 50 years. I would like to thank all of those in Bristol who have provided so much support to our vision of reopening SWX in the face of many obstacles”.

Find out more on The SWX Club’s official website

Article by Kev Milsom

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