THE RISE OF EXETER PHOENIX – EXETER’S HUB FOR THE ARTS, MUSIC, AND CULTURE


We were grateful to squeeze in a catch-up and a coffee (a lovely latte from the cafe bar) with Christina, Exeter Phoenix’s Marketing and Press Manager, to talk all things Exeter, events and emerging artists.

In the heart of Exeter, Exeter Phoenix stands as a beacon for the arts, music, and culture. But this venue rises above any typical arts centre.

Its myriad offerings, indie bands, folk singers, reggae sound systems, jazz, and its committed support of the best new music talent illustrate the depth of its cultural impact and mission to nurture artistic development and support vision. The venue’s dedication to diverse programming and community engagement (not to mention quality sound!) makes it an icon for Exeter’s cultural and artistic scene.

What’s coming up this year?

Exeter Phoenix will celebrate 25 years of ‘the weird and the wonderful, the visionaries and the risk takers’ throughout 2024; there will be a range of special events, stories and opportunities to mark this milestone.

May this year has already seen some sell-out shows, with Johnny Flynn returning to Exeter Phoenix, this time with his friend & collaborator, Robert Macfarlane, as they announce their new album, The Moon Also Rises.

And Newton Faulkner, “Just a man with his voice and guitar doing some old fashioned diddly-diddly-diddly-bap-bap!”

Image Credit: Chelsea Branch 

But you can still bag yourself some tickets to some of these fantastic events and take a look at some of the Involving Music team’s recommendations below.

Team IM Recommends:

In March, The Cuban Brothers grace the stage with their sexy, soulful music, jaw-dropping b-boy action and riotous comedy.

Trash-trad group NoGood Boyo produce a sound similar to if you locked Enter Shikari, The Prodigy and Meredydd Evans in a room. In April, you’re invited to go loud or go home, boyo.

Remember the all-female Japanese trio from Kill Bill? See them live in October in an explosive double bill with the 5.6.7.8s and The Masonics.

Last but not least, the venue’s monthly, thoughtful, inclusive New Band Showcase event is well worth mentioning.

Image Credit: Exeter Phoenix 

Proudly supporting the best new music talent, the free event showcases the most exciting new artists and bands from the South West and welcomes talent of all ages and backgrounds.

Christina shares that the venue actively seeks bands and artists, creating a platform for voices yet to be heard in the music world.

Memorable musical moments

Reflecting on memorable events, Christina reminisces about performances by Arctic Monkeys, Idles, and The Vaccines, marking significant milestones in the venue’s history.

The post-COVID return with The Vaccines in September 2021 was particularly noteworthy, and not through the irony of the band title, but the performance was part of the Music Venue Trust and The National Lottery’s #ReviveLive initiative, underscoring a commitment to reinvigorating live music following the pandemic.

Too many to mention?

Exeter Phoenix’s event timeline reflects the eclectic, diverse and wonderful range of acts, including (but certainly not limited to) The Magic Numbers, Mr Scruff, Wild Beasts, Idlewild, Patrick Wolf, Wire, the Orb, Biffy Clyro, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Willy Mason, Mr Scruff, Joan as Police Woman, and, Martha Reeves.

Signature delights and unforgettable nights:

Signature events like the Mad Dog Mcrea weekender and the infamous NYE parties showcase the venue’s flair for unforgettable gatherings.

Exeter’s 7-piece, groove-explosion Electric Spank and retro-pop three-piece Pattern Pusher are familiar faces from the local music scene, often coming together to create unique experiences that reverberate with attendees long after the night ends.

Exeter Phoenix recently held a hugely successful (queue-out-the-door) event, the ‘South West Showcase.’

Video Credit: Jacob Dersley Media 

The evening showcased the best new bands in the South West, curated by Daniel Pascoe of BBC Music Introducing.

The venue recommends :

Eats before beats:

Exeter Phoenix Cafe Bar
For pre-show drinks, a mid-gig bar dash, a meal with friends, or coffee and cake.

Image Credit: Chelsea Branch

The Flat – 142 Fore Street
Vegetarian & vegan pizzas & desserts in a rustic restaurant featuring wood-panelled walls.

Al Farid – 3 Cathedral Yard
Get yourself down to the Cathedral yard for an exclusive Arabian fine dining experience along with a traditional Hookah/Shisha Bar.

Red Panda – 29 Gandy St
Exeter Phoenix cafe closed?  Head to Red Panda for the best, most delicious, nutrient-packed Asian street food ever.

Image Credit: Chelsea Branch

Tyepyedong Noodle Bar -175 Sidwell St
Spartan contemporary noodle bar with communal wooden tables, serving scrummy Chinese and Japanese dishes.

A caffeine fix before the music hits:

The Exploding Bakery Cafe – Central Station Buildings,

Crankhouse Coffee Shop – 130 Fore St

Grow Coffee House – 70 South St

Z’s after melodies

The Bendene Townhouse 15-16 Richmond Road
A few minutes walk from the buzz of the city centre yet a tranquil retreat after the buzz of a gig.

Townhouse B&B 54 St Davids Hill 
Book direct and save on Brekkie!

Mercure Rougemont Queen St Exeter Luxurious, comfortable and convenient – the perfect combo.

Hotel Indigo 3 Catherine St
A stunning, boutique hotel in Exeter, located in the heart of the historic city centre.

Exploring Exeter:

Beyond music, Exeter Phoenix encourages exploration of the local area, with attractions like McCoy’s Arcade (Bookbag Bookshop and the specialist tea shop, The House of Hope & Mercy in the Jungle, were  Christine’s personal recommendations), and the stunning and historic Quayside, offering unique-to-Exeter experience and an excuse to visit Topsham Brewery.

A plectrums throw away is the quirky and Instagram-worthy Gandy Street. Harry Potter fans take note. This cobbled street is said to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley, as JK Rowling went to university in Exeter.

Nearby on Queen Street, you will discover Exeter’s world-class museum and art gallery. “An exquisite jewel box of a building; a Venetian casket. One of the most appealing treasures in Britain.

The venue’s proximity to Exeter Central railway station and local bus routes ensures easy access for all.

FYI, some of the Marketers at Phoenix get their nails done at the Secret Garden boutique.

More about the venue:

Image Credit: Exeter Phoenix
Image Credit: Chelsea Branch

Capacity: 510 capacity Auditorium Exeter Phoenix accommodates both seated and standing audiences, offering a bar, outdoor seating, and full accessibility. It’s a haven for music lovers and a vibrant spot for an afternoon drink or a night out to see a band.

Cloakroom: Yes

Admission: £Free-£30.

Bar: A great selection of local ales, lagers, and usual spirits and mixers. Hot drinks are available.  A prime spot for a quiet afternoon drink and or a night out to see a band.

Food: If you’re looking for a drink or a bite in a vibrant, creative setting, it’s right in the venue. 10.00 am – 5 pm: Monday – Saturday

Chefs regularly add new dishes, including weekly curry specials, soups, and seasonal favourites. Plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Toilets: Level-access toilets on all floors.

Wheelchair access: Yes. Please see more information on access here

Dog friendly? Guide / Hearing / AssistanceDogs are welcome. If you wish to take your dog to the performance, please let the team know when booking your ticket so that an adjacent seat can be arranged.

Location: Walk to the end of Gandy Street. You will find the venue up the slope on the right.

Parking: Only one space is reserved for blue badge holders; click here for more information on parking in Exeter.

Bike:  There are ample bicycle racks in front of the building.

Train: The closest train station to Exeter Phoenix is Exeter Central train station, which is a 5-minute walk; instructions to reach us. Turn left as you exit the station and walk past the museum. Turn left onto Gandy Street, and you will see the venue up the slope.

Also close by is Exeter St David’s train station, approximately a 20-minute walk.

Bus: Sidwell Street bus station, Exeter’s main bus terminus, is a 10-minute walk from Exeter Phoenix.

We invite you to support this cultural hub as we celebrate Exeter Phoenix and its contribution to independent music, tourism, and culture.

Image Credit: Chelsea Branch

Exeter Phoenix is a registered charity. Each year, they must raise over £ 1.5 million to ensure the people of Exeter, Devon and beyond can access the best contemporary arts can offer.

Click here to learn more about how you can directly support through donating, adopting a seat, volunteering, and sponsorship.

If you’re a music venue, artist or local business based in Exeter, contact us at hello@involvingmusic.com to be featured on our music tourism website.

Chelsea Branch

Chelsea Branch, a roots, rocksteady, reggae and everything in between enthusiast. First gig was to see the Ordinary Boys at the Lemon Grove (Exeter) at 16 after taking a liking to their Ska-inspired track 'Rudy's in Love' (and the frontman, Preston). After University, she spent seven years in brilliant Bristol, revelling in its dynamic music scene—a move very much inspired by a first-time visit to St Paul's Carnival. She now lives in Exeter alongside her partner Bev, embracing Devon country life and swapping sound systems for sea swimming and scriptwriting. Though her 'All the Reggae' Spotify playlist remains pinned, she believes exploring music genres is essential to a good life. Currently, she's turning the volume up for a real mix of artists and genres, from Idles to Olivia Dean, Jack Johnson (albeit his ''In Between Dub'' album) to Julia Jacklin. Her passion for music and local knowledge of Exeter supports Involving Music in amplify emerging artists' voices and celebrating grassroots music venues.

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