The story so far
The Exchange story is rooted in a love of live music, and a belief that grassroots venues are important.
In 2012, three music-lovers - Matt Otridge, Peter Wright and Paul “Fat Paul” Horlick - had built up a popular venue, The Croft, playing host to likes of The Arctic Monkeys, Ed Sheeran and Bastille, among others. But rents in Stokes Croft were going up, and much-loved venues like The Junction were closing.
To stay one step ahead, the team looked further afield. They found a great opportunity to keep their project alive: a three-floor building at 72-73 Old Market. In April 2012, Matt, Peter and Paul won a bidding war against a wine bar to buy the building and open it as a venue, Exchange.
Sure enough, The Croft closed shortly after, but as the years passed, the team forged a new legacy at Old Market. Acts like IDLES, Jungle, The Melvins, Diplo, The Pop Group, Four Tet and The Lovely Eggs came to play. In the six years since, that spirit of freedom, creativity and togetherness has been kept alive. People have danced, drank, pogoed, been surprised, fallen in love with new favourites and had nights to remember (as well as nights they can’t remember).
And it isn’t all about the nights. A change was in the air, as people started to wake up the fact that music venues can have real social and cultural value. Exchange embraced this, first opening a vegetarian coffee shop within the venue and then becoming a Community Interest Company in 2017. This gave it a firm footing to get involved in positive community-based initiatives that support marginalised groups and to make sure that people know that Exchange is a safe and supportive space for all.
Today, Exchange is a great asset to Bristol, but it’s still not plain sailing. The venue just about breaks even, but largely because the owners are willing to give up a lot of time for free, working on other projects to make ends meet. Enthusiastic staff have also gone above and beyond. This has kept the wolf from the door, but it’s not a sustainable plan for the future.
The owners have determinedly held on because they love what they do and have always felt like there was something better coming around the corner. But the time has come to make a change.