“Better go to Manchester”, an approach to Preston’s Live Music Scene

Publicado originalmente en Senses Mag

September 2015. A foreign student arrives to Preston for a new academic year. Completely lost in an alien environment, the innocent newbie asks to Dave – the Bed & Breakfast’s reception guy where he is staying, about a place to enjoy some live tunes and drink something. No matter what – either music style and drink type, as long as its contains alcohol. The answer was as graphic as hopeless; “if you want live music, better go to Manchester”.

Well, Manchester is a worldwide music mecca. So, clearly, the reception guy had a point. But, what about the Lancashire’s capital?

On a first approaching, music venues scene in Preston doesn’t look as dramatic as Dave’s view could suggest. Has seen Preston music scene better days? Yes, of course. During the 70’s and the 80’s, such a relevant and iconic bands like Joy Division or Led Zeppelin played in the town. But it’s also truth that the whole music world has seen better days. So, talking about the present, there still a few pubs and clubs struggling to offer a place to go an enjoy while a band is doing their thing at the stage. And they deserve a go.

Obviously, or maybe not so obvious, who knows, there isn’t any massive venue on the city to host the biggest names in the industry. So yes, if you are only interesting in big bands or some Lady Gaga alike showbiz product, better go to Manchester. Or even London, actually.

The biggest venues in Preston are the Guild Hall, at Lancaster Road, and 53 Degrees, in Brook Street, with a capacity of 2,034 and 1,500 respectively. In fact, maybe not enough to hosts mid-size bands nowadays. This could be the reason why both of them have been threatened to close doors recently. The Guild Hall was sold to a local investor by 1 pound by the Preston City Council about one year ago. Meanwhile, 53 Degrees – which depends of the UCLAN’s Student Union, reconsidered it’s original decision of closure after a last-minute deal with HD Concerts, a gig promotion company.

Ben Latham, Student Union President at that time, explained the close down option this way: “Like many students’ unions, civic and high street venues; 53 Degrees faces the challenge of changing leisure habits and student demographics, developments in the music industry and the recent recession”.

Probably, young people is not as much interested as used to be in live music. Or, at least, they select more where and when they attend to a gig. Only four years ago, an article published on ‘Preston blog’shortlisted four music venues of what it described as a “vibrant and diverse scene”. Nowadays, only one of them, The Ferret, located in 55 Flyde Road, still open and celebrating gigs regularly. An authentic local institution, its small capacity creates an intimate atmosphere being the place to be in Preston for sure.

Fortunately, The Ferret it’s not alone on its mission of fulfill Preston’s nights with live music. The Continental, in South Meadow Lane, offers a wide range of gigs every weekend, being a great option for those ones which still searching for some fun while a band is playing. Also, nightclub Blitz, has re-opened in Church Row after its first localization was demolished during the past year.

Summarizing, The Ferret, The Continental and Blitz, are the three wheels of Preston’s live music scene tricycle.

Just in case someone is wondering about what happened with that lost student who wanted to know about. Well, he headed to Deepdale and watched North End being beated by Derby County, 1-2. Then he decided to investigate by his own.

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