Video: As Norwich Arts Centre wins Britain’s best small venue - what’s the secret to its success?

12:22 20 November 2014

Norwich Arts Centre celebrate winning NME's national best small music venue prize. Arts centre director Pasco-Q Kevlin(centre) with music bookers Ian Carrell and Rosie Arnold and some of the team.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Norwich Arts Centre celebrate winning NME's national best small music venue prize. Arts centre director Pasco-Q Kevlin(centre) with music bookers Ian Carrell and Rosie Arnold and some of the team. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Archant Norfolk.

It’s a small Norwich venue that’s making a big impact on the UK’s music industry - for Norwich Arts Centre is celebrating being crowned Britain’s best small venue by NME magazine.

Big names at Arts centre

• Norwich Arts Centre has established itself as a major venue for live music in the region, popular with artists and audiences alike for its intimacy, friendliness and commitment to arts and entertainment.

• Among the music acts who have performed there are Ed Sheeran, Mumford and Sons, Frank Turner, Editors, Kasabian, Libertines, Coldplay, Nirvana, Oasis, Muse and The Manic Street Preachers.

• Stage performers include John Cooper Clarke, John Hegley, Roger McGough and Little Britain stars Matt Lucas and David Walliams.

• Other top comedians who have graced the stage are Mark Lamarr, Johnny Vegas, Mark Thomas, David Baddiel and Rob Newman, Frank Skinner, Peter Kay, Dylan Moran, Al Murray, Jack Dee, Jenny Éclair, Alexie Sayle, Sue Perkins, Dave Gorman, Ross Noble, Simon Day, Alan Carr, Alan Davies, Sean Hughes, Josie Long, Stewart Lee, Jerry Sadowitz, The Mighty Boosh, Daniel Kitson, Lee Mack, Russell Howard and Mark Watson.

• Norwich Arts Centre actually first started out in the late 1970s as a music venue in an old carpet factory in St Benedicts Street before moving just along the street to its present home, St Swithins Church, in 1980.

The popular St Benedicts Street centre has beaten venues across the country to win an online public vote and be named Britain’s Best Small Venue by NME in association with Jack Daniel’s.

And to celebrate, NME will be hosting a free gig at Norwich Arts Centre on Sunday, December 14 with indie rockers The Maccabees as the headline act.

The national accolade comes after the venue has won the regional best small music venue category many times, and has also won a host of other awards in recent months.

Pasco-Q Kevlin, Norwich Arts Centre director, said: “It’s a massive deal for a little venue like us. We’ve come first in the regional category for East Anglia for the last four years including this year, and then this year the readers have just really got behind us and the supporters across the city have really made a massive effort, and we are here now claiming best small venue in the UK.

Art centre’s year of awards

Being named Britain’s Best Small Music Venue by NME in association with Jack Daniel’s is the latest in an impressive line of awards that Norwich Arts Centre has scooped this year.

Prior to winning the national prize, it also won the East Anglian category of the NME award for the fourth year.

At the Norfolk Arts Awards in October, the music venue was once again put in the spotlight when it won the EDP People’s Choice Award for best small organisation.

Yet another award – this time for Best Venue Team Work – was presented to the team at the Live Music Business Awards in London in October.

Norwich Arts Centre also produced and part-funded the multimedia extravaganza KlangHaus – created by Norwich band The Neutrinos and Great Yarmouth artist Sal Pittman – which wowed critics at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was presented with the ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award.

“By small we are talking less than 1,000 capacity, and considering we are less than 300 capacity we really our punching above our weight. It’s a big deal. It will help us attract new artists to come through, when you have got that sort of an accolade people really line-up and want to play in your venue.”

He said one of the keys to the venue’s success was making sure that both the audiences and the performing artists have a unique and great experience when they come to the centre, and he paid tribute to the dedicated Norwich Arts Centre team that makes sure that happens.

“The fact that we have had this amazing series of achievements this year, I think the secret to that really is about the team that are working here. They are stunningly committed to what they do,” he said.

“We’re really ambitious. We’re a little venue but we are really ambitious. We like the fact that we are trying to make our mark on the county and beyond.”

The centre’s music programmers Rosie Arnold and Ian Carrell are passionate about creating an exciting programme for audiences.

Rosie said: “I’m very proud of how NAC continues to be at the cutting edge of new music, curating and priding itself on presenting the most exciting new artists often before they have more widespread success. Our in house new music night Pony Up presents only the most exciting new music to packed audiences every month, all willing to take a chance and try something new.”

Ian added: “Norwich Arts Centre has a great history in hosting up and coming bands at the start of their careers who have later become hugely successful and particularly memorable gigs in my time here have included early shows from Kasabian and The Libertines. Being in a converted church, Norwich Arts Centre has wonderful acoustics, and some of my personal favourites have been the quieter shows from acts such as First Aid Kit, Regina Spektor, Daughter, and The Low Anthem, which work perfectly in the space.”

And he said Norwich Arts Centre was looking forward to welcoming back The Maccabees next month.

“They played here I think in their first headline tour so it will be really good to get them back again. I think that was a sell-out show and this will definitely be a sell-out show. We are really excited to have them back here again.”

• For more about the NME gig at Norwich Arts Centre featuring The Maccabees, including how to get tickets, visit

• Is your Norwich arts organisation celebrating a special achievement?

Email arts correspondent Emma Knights at


  • Val Doonican must have appeared at some point as Ian seems to be wearing the pullover he left behind!.....LOL,In all my appearances at the N.A.C. my favourite Norwich Venue Ian has given me excellent help and service

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

  • Well done, Norwich Arts Centre - greatly deserved. Another success story for the Norwich Lanes.

    Report this comment

    Rich Hartt

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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