Influential Sunderland music venue Independent reopens

Ben Wall and Paul Smiles

Ben Wall and Paul Smiles

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AFTER months of waiting – Independent is back. Wearside’s most influential music venue shut up shop in January after a demolition order was placed on the building due to the development of Holmeside.

The owners and staff ploughed their efforts into renovating the derelict Van Mildert store opposite the original venue.

Ben Wall and Paul Smiles

Ben Wall and Paul Smiles

A week after it was originally planned, the new Independent will welcome its first punters this weekend.

A preview event will take place tomorrow for invited guests and will open to the public on Saturday with a set from DJ Nicola Bear, from Ibiza Rocks.

Promotions manager Ben Wall, said: “It’s taken a little longer than expected, just like a good episode of Grand Designs, everything went wrong at the right time, but we’ve made it and we hope people like what we’ve done with the place.

“We’ve pretty much upgraded venues from the old Independent, with three rooms instead of two, giving double the capacity we used to have.”

Over the years, Independent has brought the likes of The Klaxons, Alt-J and Spector to the city, while helping foster the careers of local talent such as Frankie & the Heartstrings and The Lake Poets, by providing a place to debut their sound.

Tens of thousands of pounds have been ploughed into converting the former Van Mildert, which has stood empty since 2010, but Independent has kept costs down by using bricks and timber from the old bar.

Ben added: “We’re not one of those luxe bars. We are entertainment-led. People know what we do. I don’t think anyone else in Sunderland offers what we do.

“We have been able to invest more in this venue though as the last one was on a one-year rolling lease.”

Downstairs will be a 500-capacity main room, while up-stairs, which used to house a hairdressers and vintage clothing business, will feature a more intimate 110-capacity room and dressing rooms for the acts.