The team at Bedford Esquires have been celebrating this week after reaching the finals of this year’s Live Music Awards.
The venue is down to the last three in the ‘best music venue under 800 capacity in the UK’ category at the event which is organised by music industry magazine Live UK. The winners will be announced on Wednesday 30 October.
Just this year, Esquires has played host to Kate Tempest, Gaz Coombes, Bedford’s very own Tom Grennan, Tim Burgess of the Charlatans, Bodega and a sell-out show last week by the Murder Capital.
Past headliners have included Elbow, Muse, Idles, Coldplay and Royal Blood – proof positive that on any given night you could be watching stadium-fillers in the making.
The Bedford Independent spoke to Esquires’ owner, Gareth Barber about what this means for Bedford, what he’s most proud of and what he’d like Esquires’ legacy to be…
What does it mean to be down to the last three in the Live Music Awards, up against The Boileroom in Guilford and the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds?
It’s come as a bit of a surprise to be honest. We don’t really tend to get involved in stuff like this or put ourselves forward for awards and such, so even getting into the previous long list was quite humbling.
The two venues we are up against are not only great, but very well established within our industry, so I’m not sure what will happen on the awards evening. We’re the little guy, just happy to be involved, haha!
What would it mean to win the award?
It would obviously be an honour. It’s rare to get recognition in any job, but to have it come from the industry and be a national award is hopefully a reflection on how far we have managed to take the venue since I took over in 2016.
Even if we don’t win on the night, it’s quite nice that we’re getting noticed and appreciated.
Professionally, what are you most proud of?
That’s a hard one to answer as there isn’t one single thing that stands out over the others and it can change depending what I’m working on at any time.
I’m proud that The Pad stood there for 15 years and went out on its own terms, which is probably the single biggest reason I became a promoter.
Also, of the space we’ve created at Bears & Tales to working with local artists like The Scruff and Sara, taking them to major festivals and getting national radio play.
Also of course Esquires, which I want Bedford to in turn be proud of and claim the venue as a positive.
I don’t really tend to think of things that happened in the past, so that threw me a little – everything we do is ‘what’s the next thing’.
Back in January, Esquires was chosen by BBC 6Music as one of their Independent Venue Week locations and now you’ve been nominated for this award. Has 2019 exceeded your expectations?
It definitely has so far at Esquires. This year has been very kind to us in terms of the artists we’ve been able to attract to Bedford – we tend to punch well above our weight and there have been some incredible shows.
This is the first year that we haven’t had a period of time where we thought we might go out of business, so that’s a positive in itself!
We are lucky to have alot of support from our customers and the town in general, as well as from entities like The Clanger and Bedford Independent who spread the word on what we do here, so thank you for that too.
What does 2020 have in store?
Well, unless it’s already announced I can’t really say too much about future shows, but there are some treats in the pipeline.
Next year is Esquires’ 30th anniversary year and we want to make that as special as it can be and go even bigger than 2019.
In terms of the venue, we want to continue to grow and improve it and make some changes to the building. Boring things like installing (long overdue) air con and replacing all the flooring and bathrooms are things that bug me on a day to day basis – hopefully we have a good Christmas and have some left over funds in January.
What would you like Esquires’ legacy for Bedford to be?
That’s something I hadn’t really thought about. I have always understood that I’m just a custodian for this venue at this given time, so I want to be able to look back when it’s over and not have any regrets.
The venue wasn’t in a good way when we first went in and we’ve improved alot of things already. It’s a big, old expensive building so I don’t know if it will ever be the finished article I had in my mind when we first took on the lease.
I guess as long as the venue is still standing and stable for the future, and everyone had a good time, that’s all I can ask for!