'We help bands break through' - why acts are flocking to Norwich

Bradley Glasspole, head of programming at Norwich Arts Centre says the city has become very attractive for bands

Bradley Glasspole, head of programming at Norwich Arts Centre says the city has become very attractive for bands on their way to stardom. - Credit: Adam Maizey/Norwich Arts Centre

From the Manic Street Preachers to Nirvana, Norwich Arts Centre is a hotbed for hosting the latest acts on their way to the top. 

But what is it about the Fine City that draws them in?

The venue has been a springboard for legendary acts including Britpop favourites Blur and Pulp for more than 40 years and now head of programming and general manager Bradley Glasspole is hoping to attract a new generation of rock 'n' roll stars.

Mr Glasspole says his aim is to bring bands to the arts centre who are just beginning to make the breakthrough from indie darlings to radio regulars, which according to him is "the most exciting time to see a band".

Bradley Glasspole is the man bringing the latest upcoming acts to Norwich.

Bradley Glasspole is the man bringing the latest upcoming acts to Norwich. - Credit: Norwich Arts Centre

Current indie favourites Wet Leg played the city last year  and return at the venue in April - and Yorkshire's Yard Act are set to take the stage in May. 

He said: "I listen to a lot of music and also reply to emails from promoters who've got an act they'd like to fit in one of our free dates, we also get promoters looking to hire the venue to bring a band over from abroad and promote them here.

"We operate on a five day week because we can't bring the same genre every night, we're always looking to offer variety while thinking of our audience.

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"If you came to our venue each night, we'd like to think you'd see something different every time.

Technicians working in the auditorium of the Norwich Arts Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Technicians working in the auditorium of the Norwich Arts Centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

"We also make sure we're promoting diversity and inclusivity, we do more than just music, we have comedy, theatre, poetry."

Mr Glasspole says the venue has built a loyal following after decades in the game leading to tickets selling out in a flash.

Wet Leg perform at The Waterfront in Norwich on Thursday night.

Wet Leg perform at The Waterfront in Norwich on Thursday night. - Credit: Casey Cooper-Fiske

He added: "Wet Leg was a big one, it sold out in a day, James Bay was another, that sold out in three minutes obviously having someone that size in a 300 capacity venue.

"With Wet Leg the promoter came to us and we instantly knew we had to have them - they're that good, so we snapped them up."

In other instances, Mr Glasspole will follow a band for months before landing his target.

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana performing in Norwich. Credit: Dack/Supplied by Norwich Arts Centre

Kurt Cobain donned an L7 t-shirt as Nirvana played Norwich Arts Centre in 1989. - Credit: Archant Eastern Daily Press

He said: "With Yard Act I'd been listening to them since June 2021 and thought this is something really fresh and original and new that would be fantastic to host.

"That's a gig that in a year's time we possibly won't get them again.

"We like to look at those breaking through."

He said the venue had an open door policy when it came to suggestions for acts, with everyone welcome to suggest their favourites from the box office to bar staff.

Dry Cleaning play Norwich Arts Centre.

Dry Cleaning play Norwich Arts Centre. - Credit: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Mr Glasspole added: "We're all music fans and we listen to everyone's opinion, people say have you heard that and very often we'll say great let's put them on."

But he said acts wanting to play the venue would have to fit in with the arts centre ethos of "create, nurture, engage" meaning the venue would never book an act on their popularity alone.

The booker said Norwich had become more attractive to artists in recent years, with the city developing its own music scene and becoming trendier with rows of independent shops allowing it to draw talent back from big cities like London.

Snapped Ankles play Norwich Arts Centre. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske

Snapped Ankles play Norwich Arts Centre. Photo: Casey Cooper-Fiske - Credit: Archant

He explained: "Norwich has a big catchment area, we're looking at a 30 mile radius around Norfolk, with people from the north Norfolk coast to Beccles coming to watch performances here, so if acts come here then their fanbase in the east is pretty well-served.

"Norwich has got history in music and people who once moved to London from Norwich are now doing the opposite because of how attractive the city has become.

"We've had a history of bringing big acts to the city before they're famous, acts as recently as people like Tom Walker and Loyle Carner who have both played here."

Norwich Arts Centre during the daytime.

Norwich Arts Centre during the daytime. - Credit: Adam Maizey

Mr Glasspole added that the venue had earned a reputation across the country for being trustworthy saying acts and promoters knew they would get "a good rider and a clean and tidy venue with a great atmosphere".