"We want Bedford to be proud of Esquires": Owner's rallying cry as venue is named one of UK's best

Bedford Esquires is in the final three of this year’s Live Music Awards for the best music venue under 800 capacity in the UK.

Tim Burgess at Esquires. Picture: David Jackson
Tim Burgess at Esquires. Picture: David Jackson

Nominations and voting recently took place for the event which is run by the publisher of music industry magazine Live UK.

Esquires will face off against The Boileroom in Guilford and the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds in a category which was last year won by Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms.

Esquires owner Gareth Barber said: “It’s nice to get some recognition from the industry, something that’s not happened in all the years I can remember putting on shows in town.

Bodega at Esquires. Picture: David Jackson

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    “I feel we’ve definitely had our strongest year yet since I took over in 2016.

    “The plan from the start was to try and make the venue one of the best in the UK, so to reach the final is an achievement in itself and a vindication for the original plan and the money and time spent building the venue back up.”

    The Live Music Awards recognises excellence and talent among promoters, venue operators, festival organisers and agents, through to managers, tour managers, show producers, brand impact and record label partnerships.

    Mr Barber added: “We’re up against two amazing venues. Anything that sheds a positive light on the work grassroots music venues do and highlights the people that work within them is good for the venue and the larger community as a whole.

    Black Honey at Esquires. Picture: David Jackson

    “We want people in Bedford to be proud of having Esquires, so things like this are a welcome distraction from the day to day grind.”

    This year, Esquires has hosted gigs by some of the best up and coming acts from across the country as well as established names.

    Last week The Murder Capital played a sold-out gig at the venue with the likes of Bodega, Pottery, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Kate Tempest all having headlined the venue this year.

    In recent years, acts including Idles, Ash, We Are Scientists, Dream Wife, Sleeper, Honey Blood and Don Broco have played.

    Promoters The Pad Presents, The Roar Club and Club Biscuit are all regularly putting on gigs at the venue.

    Despite sold out shows and gigs by some of the best emerging acts, Mr Barber explained it can be tough to bring bands to Esquires because the town is viewed as a ‘secondary territory’ by many agents.

    “We often have to fight quite hard to be able to bring in bands, whether that’s through bigger offers than a city venue would pay or trying to get the agent to buy into our vision.

    “It helps that myself, along with a lot of the other promoters that work here have been doing this a long time. We’re constantly trying to be ahead of the curve.”

    Other award categories in this year’s Live Music Awards include best stadium, arena, theatre, campus and venue over 800 capacity.

    The Stables in Milton Keynes is in the final of the best Arts Centre category, against The Junction in Cambridge and Band on the Wall in Manchester.

    During the nomination and voting process, The Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes was also nominated in the ‘Best Venue under 800 capacity’ category, with promoter Jason Hall also in the ‘Indie Promoter of the Year (local impact)’ category.

    Mr Barber admits running an independent music venue is challenging and sometimes there are "criminally under attended shows".

    He urges people from Bedford who are not regulars to check out its gig listings and to support the venue alongside those who also travel from across the region and internationally to Esquires.

    Picking his favourite gigs of the year at Esquires, he said: “We’ve had so many good gigs this year, it’s hard to choose just one.

    “From a personal point of view, Tim Burgess during Independent Venue week was special as we had Steve Lamacq and BBC 6 Music here.

    “If I had to be pushed, I think The Murder Capital will be hard to beat, with Kate Tempest back in May still the show of the year. You could hear a pin drop and she was just lovely too.”

    Looking ahead to forthcoming gigs, he added: “Mallory Knox are playing their last ever show here soon, HMLTD has the potential to be in the top five shows on 2019 and Feet just released an amazing album.

    “As a music fan first, it’s hard not to get excited about more than just one show.

    “My advice is please check out the socials and website for upcoming listings and keep supporting grassroots venues, wherever they may be.”

    The winners will be announced on Wednesday, October 30.

    For more details, visit livemusicawards.co.uk and bedfordesquires.com