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Music lovers set to open unique new venue in Newport

01 Dec 2023 6 minute read
L-R: Emma Jones, Eleri Grey, Elisha Djan, Sam Dabb, Stacey Alford, Emma Stowell-Corten. Credit: Nicholas Moylan Photography

David Owens

A new music venue is set to open in Newport next year in one of the city’s historic buildings.

The Corn Exchange venue is the brainchild of a group of music lovers who have formed a plan to return the building to its original use – as a place for the community to gather, right at the heart of the city centre.

The founders of the venue are Le Pub Operations Manager Sam Dabb, city councillor and ex-Voice magazine editor Emma Stowell-Corten, along with a group of like-minded Newport music lovers – Stacey Alford (Press Play With Stacey), Zac Mather (Chroma), English and theatre student Eleri Gray, music promoter Elisha Djan and financial controller Emma Jones.

Corn Exchange Newport

The plan is to turn the building into a 500-capacity live music venue, that also offers space to the city’s community groups, a central location for businesses and groups to hold conferences and meetings, and for other events such as weddings and celebrations.

“There are no other venues as agile as this in the city centre,” said Sam Dabb, Chair of the Corn Exchange’s volunteer steering group. “And Newport is so ready for it.

“In terms of live music, the Corn Exchange will be unique in south east Wales – there are no other mid-size venues like this, meaning that the area is losing out on a whole raft of touring bands, and tours from more established legacy bands,” Sam added.

“I see in Le Pub just how popular Newport is for gigs with people from not only the city, but the wider Valleys and Welsh borders area to see live music, and we know from our research that a bigger capacity venue will compliment Le Pub’s offering perfectly.”

Corn Exchange and the team pulling it together have some big-name backers, with BBC 6 Music’s Huw Stephens being one of many throwing his support behind the venue.

“Newport and South Wales as a whole would benefit massively from a new 500-capacity venue,” said Huw.

“Music fans across south Wales need more large-scale shows promoted locally, with brands often calling in Bristol but with no venue with an adequate capacity in Newport these events can’t come to South East Wales.

“Sam and Elisha have made a name for themselves as excellent venue operators and would be ideally placed as a part of the team of guardians of a 500-capacity venue near the already highly reputed Le Pub.”

At a time when grassroots music venues are closing, Newport is fighting back.

Over the last year, more than 130 grassroots music venues have closed across the UK, this is the second venue opening in Newport in recent months, taking the city’s total to four.

The Corn Exchange in Newport

Also backing the venue is Newport rap legend Rhys from Goldie Lookin’ Chain, who said: “Newport is so ready for a venue of this size dedicated to live music.

“Since the leisure centre and the Riverside Suite are no more, this venue has come just in time – a dedicated live music venue with properly engineered sound and a proper backstage area for bands run by people who really care about music and the ‘Port is going to be mega safe.”

With community set to be at the heart of Corn Exchange, the venue is also launching the Corn Exchange Community Share Offer, where members of the public and businesses are invited to become shareholders in this exciting new project.

“It’s important to us that this building is not only returned to its original use as a space in the centre of Newport for people to gather but that as many people as possible can be a part of it too,” said Zac Mather.

“Which is why we’re asking anyone who can, to get involved to help us to get this off the ground at a high standard and to help us build this amazing space right in the heart of Newport.”

Emma and Sam recording All Ears Podcast with Rhys from GLC

Anyone interested can find out more at one of the steering group’s drop-in talks on the venue and its future over the coming weeks – these will be advertised on social media. There will also be a live music showcase day in the coming weeks – which will be shared on socials.

The venue founders say there is a lot to be done before the first band is planned to take to the stage at Corn Exchange on March 2nd – the date that Caldicot indie rock kids, The Bug Club, are set to play, but the whole team and their collective of supporters are up for the challenge.

“Corn Exchange has the potential to create another something that’s very special at the heart of Newport,” Emma Jones added. “I’m so excited to be part of the team bringing it to life.”

L-R: Emma Jones, Eleri Grey, Elisha Djan, Sam Dabb, Stacey Alford, Emma Stowell-Corten. Credit: Nicholas Moylan Photography

The story of the next chapter of Newport’s Corn Exchange is set to be an exciting one for the city and the whole Welsh music scene, and Sam, the Emmas, Stacey, Zac, Eleri and Elisha hope that people from all over Newport, Wales and the world will be up for joining them on the journey.

“Newport has a strong musical identity and heritage, which is reflected in a music community that is crying out for events and facilities that can continue this rich history” added Mark Davyd, CEO and Founder of Music Venues Trust, a leading industry figure and grassroots venue champion.

“A new 500-capacity venue in Newport is a fantastic opportunity to support the local music infrastructure and put the city on the touring map. The opening of such a venue will significantly strengthen the local venue ladder and support the growth of Welsh talent.”

To find out more, to support the project, to buy tickets or to enquire about the facilities that are planned whether you’re a business or community group, visit: cornexchangenewport.com

For the latest news and live announcements, the Corn Exchange Instagram account will be updated regularly – @cornexchangenewport

– A new podcast – All Ears – is set to launch on December 3rd. Offering behind-the-scenes content, information, and updates, as well as the odd special guest, it’ll take everyone along on the Corn Exchange journey over the next few months.


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Doctor Trousers
2 months ago

good on them, this is what we need, people who are first and foremost motivated by live music, because the profit motive just isn’t cutting it when it comes to providing for art and culture.
the money men would sooner see our venues turned into more city centre luxury flats, despite the rapidly shrinking pool of people who can afford to live in them.
I dream of a day when I go to see a band and can say “isn’t this venue great? it used to be a block of yuppie flats”

Chris
Chris
2 months ago

Great to see this in the ‘port. Let’s support it – you knows it makes sense 🙂

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