Music venues in Swansea have described the "uphill struggle" they are faced with by easterly trains not running late enough at night, with customers having to head home before the main act even begins, and one band even having to cut their set short and "run out the door" themselves to make the last service.

The Swansea Music Venues Working Group has been assembled to campaign to preserve the city's vibrant music scene, with venues joining forces to address the "critical situation" that the Music Venue Trust (MVT) warns could result in 10% of grassroots music venues closing in the near future.

Following the hugely successful Swansea Arena House Party, which raised £10,000 for the MVT, the group is now petitioning the Welsh Government to improve the late-night transport into and out of the city. Most transport links east currently finish before 11pm, meaning music fans attending events closing any later have to make the difficult choice to either drive, or miss the last hour of the event. Find out about the latest events in Wales by signing up to our What's On newsletter here.

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The Bunkhouse is a popular venue in Swansea for live music
Many bands have performed there through the years

Jordan McGuire is owner of The Bunkhouse Bar and Music Venue in Swansea city centre. He said the situation facing venues like his was "extremely difficult". He added: "Swansea is the second biggest in Wales. We can't, as a night time economy, facilitate people from Neath Port Talbot, and further afield like Bridgend without them having to stay for the night. Usually in music venues, the headline band will be on about 10pm. What we've found is a lot of people outside of Swansea have to leave by about 10pm to be able to get public transport home, missing the main act.

"We get a lot of e-mails from people outside of Swansea asking what time the headline act will be on because they have no way of getting home. We are finding it difficult to outreach outside of Swansea. I'm a Swansea boy and I've seen the changes in the city through the years, and at the moment it's a great time to be a business owner in the city because we've got so much going on and to look forward to, but we can't expect to just rely on people from Swansea, we want to be a tourist destination, and we can't be, because it's easier for people from Neath Port Talbot to watch a gig in Cardiff than it is to watch a gig in Swansea.

"In this day and age we are being told we've got to rely more on public transport, but the public transport infrastructure is not there for us in Wales. It is affecting us, because unless people are willing to rely on getting a taxi home, which is very expensive, or rely on someone to drive, it's difficult. A lot of people don't want the stress of that and want to go out and have a night out. It is affecting around 20 percent of ticket sales, and has a knock on effect with national promoters as well, we've tried for so many years to work with national promoters and prove to them that the M4 doesn't stop in Cardiff, and we have brought in bigger names to Swansea, but a lot of promoters have said they know they will earn more money in Cardiff than Swansea because the infrastructure is better, so we're being shunned that way as well. It's an uphill struggle, to be honest.

"I've been promoting in music for about 15 years, and it is a struggle that I've had for many, many years. You've got grassroots music venues, up to the likes of Swansea Arena, which are having the same issues. We've seen a lot more investment in Swansea in recent times than I've ever seen, and it is a very exciting time to live in Swansea, and our city is a better night out than Cardiff. I have people who prefer coming to Swansea for a night out, however the Welsh Government does need to back us as well. There's only one way the city will develop and that's through tourism."

Hippos is the closest music venue to the train station, along High Street, but is suffering similar problems. There was even one incident last week of one of the bands themselves having to "run out of the door" in order to make the last train home.

Inside Hippos
A band performs at the High Street venue

Stuart Ackland, managing director at Hippos, said: "I can give you a prime example from this Friday just gone. We had three bands playing, and one of the bands, The Epileptic Lizards, actually had to cut their set short to get the last train home. The change over took a bit longer than usually planned, and there was no leeway then with things like that. The last train was 10.32pm, and they had to cut off the last couple of songs and literally ran out of the door.

"This issue most probably affects a lot of businesses that we don't know about as well, because most people won't come by train, and won't drive, so they won't plan to go out in Swansea as you normally would because they can't get back. I can do it the other way round, I could go to Cardiff and come back, because there's trains back at 11.20pm, another around 12, ones at 1.30am as well, so you've got a lot more leeway and a lot of the gigs in Cardiff finish at around 11pm. They had the same problem as us around 10 years ago, and then there was a lot of pressure from their venues and they put on later trains.

"It's definitely costing us sales, we're getting at least one person a week calling in and asking what time things are on, and they realise they can't even stay for the second band. It's a lot more expensive if you have to find somewhere to stay. On the weekend you're talking an extra £100 on your night. I would like to see the Welsh Government sit down with Transport for Wales and work out some sort of system to get one or two later trains on and then advertising it in places like Neath, Port Talbot, Bridgend, Cardiff, that the trains are to be constantly running and give people time to learn that they are back running. Even if it is just at the weekends in the beginning to see if there is an uptake with that service would be a start.

"The music scene in Swansea can only go so far if everyone has got to go home by 10pm. It means you'd have to put the gigs on earlier and lose any trade afterwards, and it would most probably stagnate after a period of time, when people getting fed up of either being stuck or not being able to go there in the first place, and bands from outside of Swansea might not want to come into Swansea because they are having the same issues."

Swansea Arena's venue director, Lisa Mart explained how concerns around the state of public transport infrastructure into and out of Swansea had been fed through to the venue since well before it opened in March 2022. She said: "These concerns were shared by a large number of the team who were from Swansea and the surrounding areas. It quickly became a common source of feedback across our social media from interested individuals who couldn't justify travelling to Swansea for a show, as it either required driving, paying for a hotel, or leaving a show early to ensure they caught their train home.

“Early on in our venue working group discussions, it became apparent that it was a shared problem between ourselves and the local grassroots venues. There is real difficulty in growing and maintaining audiences when the audiences themselves can't rely on the means to get home after an evening out. We feel this petition can work to ensure that venues of all sizes in Swansea have the support they need to thrive, develop and most importantly allow audiences to engage with and readily access new and emerging culture in the region."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “As part of our commitment to improving rail services across the Wales and Borders network, we have longer-term aspirations to add later services from Swansea to Cardiff. These changes are subject to obtaining the required access rights from Network Rail, to make sure later trains don’t adversely impact overnight maintenance of the railway. The provision of GWR services on this route is a matter for UK Government.”

Currently on just over 3,000 signatures, the Group has until May 7 to get the petition’s figure to 10,000 and qualify for consideration for debate. Swansea Arena, with support from the local grassroots music venues, has penned an open letter to the government to state their case and is encouraging people from Swansea and beyond to sign. If you wish to sign the petition. You can do so by clicking here. Get the best user experience with WalesOnline’s Premium app on Apple or Android.