Proposal to expand the Barbican ‘could bring bigger bands to York’

York Barbican. Photograph: YorkMix

A city centre venue could be expanded – so that bigger bands and artists will come to York.

Cllr Dave Taylor said that if the capacity of the Barbican on Paragon Street was increased by 300 – to 2,000 – it could attract more famous performers.

He said there were plans to extend the venue when it was taken over by SMG Europe (now named ASM Global) – but that they had “faded”.

Speaking at a council meeting, Cllr Taylor called for more to be done to support live music in the city. He said:

  • The city is rather short of music venues of any size and a lot of young people and probably many older people as well very often travel to neighbouring cities in order to access larger concerts – such as Cher, which I went to earlier this year, and The Prodigy.

    I remember when the Barbican was taken over by SMG Europe.

    They suggested that they might increase the size of the Barbican. Its capacity is only 1,700 and there’s a cut off of 2,000 – bands over a certain size will not play venues smaller than a capacity of 2,000.

    Since they took over control of the Barbican that idea that they proposed seems to have just faded and if the venue could be increased by 300 it means that York could attract much larger acts to play.

He asked if the council could work with the Barbican to make that happen.

Cllr Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, said he “completely gets the point” and that he has already spoken to the venue about making the building greener.

A spokesman for the Barbican said: “We have a great relationship with the City of York Council and would be interested in working alongside councillors to discuss the potential options available in order to enhance opportunities to deliver high calibre event to the community of York.”

Asked how the capacity could be increased and if the building would have to be extended, the spokesman said he could not comment at this stage.

‘Very little difference’

‘Fibbers is a greater loss’ – Sleaford Mods play the venue in March. Photograph: Marc McGarraghy / Yellow Mustang Photography
Chris Sherrington from The Fulford Arms, a member of the newly formed York Music Venue Network, said at a capacity of 2,000 the Barbican would not compete with destinations like Leeds Arena – which has a capacity of nearly 14,000.

He said:

  • I welcome any discussion about improvements to York music venues i also feel that he addition of 300 to York Barbican’s capacity would make very little difference to it’s programming ability particularly as this is governed by SMG.

    The bigger failing in venue capacity comes in the gap from 260 to 1,700 capacity, as we have no venue to replace the loss of The Duchess and Fibbers in recent years.

    This poses a real threat to the future of York’s music scene as bands have no venue to develop into and as a result we lose this talent to Leeds.

He added that independent venues face more threats than national chains.

Harkirit Boparai from The Crescent Community Venue added that he would like to see more investment in smaller music venues.

He added: “In terms of capacity, a range of venue sizes is needed.”

York Barbican underwent a £2m renovation in 2011 after SMG took over.