South West’s Euro 2028 snub only adds to exasperation felt by gig-goers in Bristol

‘Why should we have to travel great distances and book expensive overnight hotels’
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Peter Kay, The Cure, Ricky Gervais, Pulp and Lewis Capaldi - just five of the big names missing out Bristol on tour and playing shows in Cardiff instead this year. Now we’ve learned no city/town in the South West has been included in the UK and Ireland’s Euro 2028 bid.

The National Stadium of Wales in Cardiff is the closest stadium to Bristol where football fans might be able to see England in five years’ time. And the frustation felt by football fans in South West is something gig-goers in Bristol have experienced for some time.

With the completion of the YTL Arena at Filton still pencilled in for 2024 and the seemingly never-ending transformation of the former Colston Hall into The Beacon not expected until November 30, major artists are missing Bristol off the list for tour dates, with the exception of Arctic Monkeys and Ricky Gervais.

It’s 20 years since I saw Peter Kay live in Bristol and it will certainly be a long time before I hear the shouts of ‘garlic bread’ in the city again. We just don’t get the big stars in Bristol anymore.

Bands too big for the still-popular 02 Academy are now booking The Forum, a converted 1930s cinema a short walk from Bath railway and bus stations, which makes it especially convenient for people living in Bristol.

Forthcoming gigs in the diary at The Forum include Suede, Mogwai and Jack Whitehall, all of whom always played Bristol on tour previously. This week, Dexy’s Midnight Runners announced their comeback tour dates and, yes, they’ll be playing The Forum, not a Bristol venue.

The Forum is an excellent venue, too, so many bands may even decide to return there in the future despite the slightly larger Beacon launching.

Of course, Bristol has seen some large gigs over the past year thanks to shows at Ashton Gate - people will still be talking about Elton John’s two sell-out nights and the memorable show from Killers - and at the Harbourside amphitheatre, but these tend to me more summer events when the weather is more likely to be kinder to uncovered fans in the open air.

The only silver lining is that when YTL Arena finally opens, it should be up there with some of the UK’s biggest indoor venues. With a proposed capacity of 17,000, it will be smaller than Manchester Arena (21,000) and Arena Birmingham (16,000) but larger than arenas in Leeds, Liverpool and Cardiff Motorpoint, which has space for 7,500 at standing gigs or 5,000 for fully seated events.

The YTL Arena will have a capacity of 17,000 - but that is still smaller than Manchester Arena (21,000) and Arena Birmingham (16,000) The YTL Arena will have a capacity of 17,000 - but that is still smaller than Manchester Arena (21,000) and Arena Birmingham (16,000)
The YTL Arena will have a capacity of 17,000 - but that is still smaller than Manchester Arena (21,000) and Arena Birmingham (16,000)

But even at 17,000, Bristol will never attract the biggest bands in the world so anybody expecting to see the likes of Coldplay, Blur or Ed Sheeran return to the city will have a very long wait.

And it’s not just gigs. For the grounds in Euro 2028 bid for UK and Ireland, Bristol or the South West didn’t get a sniff. Ashton Gate is too small and so the closest grounds in the running are, again, Cardiff, or Aston Villa’s ground if you fancy a Midlands trip.

For a city the size of Bristol, and with such a rich cultural and sporting history, it’s frustrating, annoying and downright embarrassing that we are missing out on so many big tours and events.

Why should we have to travel great distances and book expensive overnight hotels just to see our favourite artists who can’t perform in a city that hasn’t got its act together like the rest of the UK?