ASK a Warrington musician where they would most like to perform and the Parr Hall is probably high on their list.

It is the biggest venue in the town where the likes of the Rolling Stones, Stone Roses and Arctic Monkeys have played and – through the likes of youth music gigs – numerous bands in the town have had the chance to step on the stage and dream.

But now one of Warrington’s most promising emerging groups has the chance to headline the 1,100 capacity hall as part of Independent Venue Week, a celebration of the UK’s small music venues and a nod to the people that own, run and work in them. Birchwood’s Man and The Echo will be taking to the stage on Saturday, February 3, after releasing their acclaimed debut album just over a year ago.

Frontman Gareth Roberts, a former Birchwood High student, said: “It’s a nice way to kick off the year. It’s something we always had on a wish list of things we wanted to do – a big hometown show.

“We’ve struggled to play in Warrington. There’s never been a venue that’s been quite right.

“Generally when you’re touring you have to do a big venue in Manchester and Liverpool and so our Warrington fanbase tends to go to one of those. But we’ve always wanted to do the Parr Hall. I think I sang on stage there with a school choir when I was about nine. We’re really excited to do it. It’s a great space. I was there watching Reverend and the Makers before the General Election when they did a Labour gig.”

Man and The Echo will be joined by Pacific, Delphina Kings, Weekend Wars and The Ambersons at the Arts Council England supported gig.

Gareth, whose band is championed by the likes of Billy Bragg and 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, added: “Everyone knows the Parr Hall so it’s quite a coup to say we can do that.

“It’s a prestigious venue and it’s great that we’ve got so many Warrington bands doing it. It’s a great opportunity for all of them to say: ‘We’ve done that stage’.

“Hopefully it will kick-start a bit of enthusiasm for the music that is coming through in Warrington.

“We know the Ambersons from way back so it’s going to be fun to see them again. I haven’t seen them play live for years.”

Independent venues may reflect a town’s cultural vibrancy.

But Gareth reckons they are just as important in terms of providing opportunities and a training ground for musicians.

The 32-year-old knows that better than most as a gig at London’s 100 Club – set to be his last – was where the band met their manager.

Gareth, who performed at RivFest, said: “That 100 Club gig was a moment where things changed for us. It wasn’t a particularly good gig but there was someone there who said: ‘Let’s work together’.

“You’re never going to get spotted like that unless there’s lots of venues.

Independent Venue Week in numbers

  • 22 smallest capacity venue – Grayston Unity, Halifax
  • 46 number of locations where there is only one venue
  • 65 venues taking part for the first time
  • 147 years – oldest venue – Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall
  • 160 venues taking part
  • 3100 biggest capacity venue – The Troxy, London

“We’ve played to empty rooms and struggled to get gear and transport together for many gigs but you need to get road tested. You need to get used to looking past the problems and glitches that flair up.”

A lot of Gareth’s favourite small venues have now closed which is another reason he is keen to shed light on Independent Venue Week.

He added: “The majority of places we play, be it Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool or London, they’re all grassroots, locally-run venues that generally do a brilliant job. The fact that so many of them are closing is worrying really because it limits the opportunities for emerging musicians. So it’s really important that people support these venues.

“WA1 in Warrington was like my outlet. I was doing a gig every other week there and used to DJ on a Thursday night and run a night with Joe (Forshaw, bassist).

“Then there were places like the Roadhouse in Manchester. When I was 18 or 19 that was my first proper Manchester gig supporting a band at that sweat box venue. That’s gone now.

“That had that real feel of ‘you’re doing a gig in the city’. You get your pass and everything and there was this little backstage room. It makes you feel like you’re doing it when you get in the door of those venues. I think it’s important to preserve them as much as possible.

“Arena shows are so expensive and to be able to pay a fiver and see a quality performance of something that’s got some imagination in a small venue is an incredible thing.”

Chris Persoglio, venue and events manager at Parr Hall, said: “Independent Venue Week is a fantastic nationwide event that celebrates the music industry at regional level.

"We are always eager to support Warrington talent so we are delighted to be hosting the event here at Parr Hall next month. With five talented bands on the bill, this gig is an absolute must for music fans across the area.”

  • Man and The Echo are headlining the Parr Hall for Independent Venue Week on February 3. Tickets are £5 or £7 on the door. Visit

Gareth Roberts talks through his favourite independent venues from past and present


All you can drink for £10. Occasional Clint Boon or Bez. A field of Toni and Guy Cooper Temple Clause haircuts.

Obligatory Morrissey and Ian Brown canvases. Thursday night raffle giving a Swiss roll as the raffle prize.

WA1 was the archetypal 21st century indie disco, a place for pretentious little posers like me to swan around in, pretending I wasn’t enjoying myself and that everything was beneath me.

They let kids like me DJ and run nights because there was no one else to do it and we were going to be there anyway.

It belongs to another time, to another town, to younger lungs and limbs. But I stand by the raffle idea, if we’d done that in Shoreditch they’d have been all over it...


A small intimate venue with a high, brightly lit stage, and staggered seating at the back, so it feels like the setting of a proper concert, rather than a club gig.

The pink stage décor with butterfly motif gives the impression that artists are performing from within a giant, magic lampshade.


A dank basement hot box, claustrophobic low ceilings, the heat generated by no more than 100 bodies causing paint to peel from the walls.

The Roadhouse was essentially the gig equivalent of a panic attack.

The blast of cold air when you left was like taking a shin pad off. It was a fantastic venue and it is missed.


A wide, crumbling amphitheatre.

When empty, sound checks can feel as though they are taking place within a tuba.

Instruments are indistinguishable from one another. And then the venue inevitably fills with eager faces, you hit the first note and somehow everything is clear – just like the soundman said it would be.

You give him the nod and get on with it: this is going be a good one.


The landlord (Glenn) had turned a typical satellite town boozer into a real gig venue, achieving this feat miraculously without losing any of the qualities possessed by the former.

Gigs were often disrupted by someone hitting the jackpot on the bandit.

Playing there was chaos, and it taught anyone who did a set about how to cope with a tough crowd.

There was no price of admission but the guy paid you properly. Playing The Tap was the moment we knew that a lot of promoters and venues are bilking the talent.

If he could afford to pay us, everyone could. It’s important that artists and performers realise what they do has value.