The nostalgic pictures showcase the venue’s eclectic spirit, featuring everyone from Alex Beresford to Timmy Mallett
A former DJ has shared memories and nostalgic photos of SWX after the iconic Bristol city centre venue was damaged by fire.
The Nelson Street nightclub was a week from reopening when the blaze started in the early hours of yesterday (July 13), prompting nine fire crews to attend and surrounding roads were closed for much of the day.
SWX’s team said they were “devastated” by the fire, the cause of which is not yet known. Damage is still being assessed but owner Dominic Madden has pledged “the show will go on”.
Tim Shires, a resident DJ there from 2000 to 2018, said: “To see this venue go for good would be to see a piece of Bristol’s history go too.”
The 1,100-capacity gig venue opened as the Top Rank ballroom in the 1960s and has gone through a series of name changes, but always retained a place in Bristolians’ hearts.
You can scroll down to see some of Tim’s favourite photos from the last two decades.
“Anyone who has lived in Bristol over the last 60 years who has been for a night out has probably visited 15 Nelson Street at some point,” said Tim.
“But chances are, you’d have known it as Top Rank, Romeo & Juliets, Papillons, Odyssey, The Works, or more recently Syndicate and SWX.
“Not many cities can boast a venue with such a history. There will be people out there who met their husbands or wives in the same building their own parents met a generation before — and, maybe, young couples in the early stages of relationships who have themselves met in the very same building in the last couple of years.
“That’s potentially three generations who are linked from under the same roof. It’s unique.”
Tim has no shortage of fond memories there. He recalls hours spent queuing for an under-18s Odyssey night in 1996, when he was 14 or 15, then later becoming a resident DJ on and off for 18 years.
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He said: “If you told people now that once upon a time, in that building, there was a bar which would turn completely around, a massive ball which would run through a tube across the entirety of the club, and the stairs to the upper level of the club on both sides of the dance floor would lift up and down — unless they ever got a chance to see it — they wouldn’t believe you.
“But in 2000, when The Works opened, that’s what happened.
“I remember seeing Blue get booed off stage on their debut performance — only to get to UK number 1 the following week and become the most requested song of the night. The Wurzels on a student night absolutely rocked the club in 2001. Prince Harry took over VIP in 2007. Danny Dyer made an impression with a DJ set in 2010.
“Some of the world’s biggest DJs have graced the decks in recent years: Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, Pete Tong.
“[There were appearances from] Timmy Mallett, Rainbow, Ian Van Dahl, Gala, Phats & Small, S Club 7, Steps, Spice Girls. I’m not sure how many venues in the UK can claim to have this completely eclectic mix of acts perform live on stage in their lifetimes.”
Scroll down to see some nostalgic photos and let us know your favourite memories of the venue in the comments.